Q&A: Data plate issues, pilot supplies for the vertically challenged and replacing and improving flap skins

Written by Steve Ells
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December 2014-

Dear Steve,
I am well versed in matters mechanical. I mention that because a friend told me about a 1961 Cessna 210 that I can get for a very good price. I have heard that the early 210s require more maintenance than the later ones but like I said, I'm a good mechanic and I am willing to—in fact, I'm looking forward to—working on this airplane. I like mechanical challenges.

However, there's one cloud on the horizon. During the initial inspection of the 210 I've got my eye on, my mechanic told me that I should start looking for another 210.
When I asked why, he showed me a spot at the base of the pilot's doorpost. I saw four small holes and asked him about the significance of those holes. He told me that the airplane didn't have a data plate.
What's the big deal?

—Plateless Paul

Dear Paul,
A Cessna data plate is equivalent to a birth certificate. A single data plate is created and attached—riveted, in most cases—to a standardized location inside each airframe during construction. Airplanes manufactured after 1988 have the data plates affixed to the outside of the fuselage.
At first glance a data plate doesn't seem like a big deal; after all, it's just a metal plate that contains information such as the builder's name, the aircraft model designation, the aircraft serial number, the aircraft Type Certificate number and production certificate number.
However, an airplane without a data plate is, in the eyes of the FAA, not an airplane. Even though this 210 you're looking at is identifiable as a 1961 Cessna 210, legally it's not. A data plate is needed to legitimize an airplane.
Let's think about this from an opposite point of view. I've heard stories of airplanes, written off as totally destroyed by insurance companies, that have reappeared because the data plate off the wreck was attached to an airframe made up of wings from one wreck, a forward fuselage from another wreck and other parts from a third wreck. This is prohibited by FAR 45.13(8)(e).
Today the regulations require that each airplane manufactured prior to March 7, 1988 have—in addition to the inside-mounted data plate—the builder's model designation (Cessna 210A, in your case) and the aircraft serial number externally on the fuselage either adjacent to or aft of the rearmost door or near the tail surfaces.
Since it's not in Cessna's interest to have a "hot" data plate legitimize an airframe it had no part in producing, the company will only issue a replacement data plate under certain conditions.
A Cessna data plate replacement letter issued on Dec. 2, 2002 lists three steps to getting a replacement data plate. First the owner must provide Cessna with a notarized letter describing how the original data plate was lost. The owner must also provide a letter from the local FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) that states that the airplane is "as represented."
Applicants must also include a letter from a Cessna Service Center (or a Cessna Service Engineer) stating that the airplane: (a) meets the TCDS and (b) that all mandatory Service Bulletins are accomplished. The letter also states that "Modifications such as winglets, spoilers, STOL kits or any others are not installed." Once these letters are obtained they are sent to Cessna along with a check for $404 and a new data plate will be issued.
If the 210 you're interested in is on your airport and you are planning to do a lot of upgrades and systems maintenance, the time, coordination and expense of obtaining a new data plate may be manageable, but it will add another step to the refurbishment process.

Happy flying.
Hi Steve,
I'd love to be a pilot but I'm vertically challenged at 5 feet, 0 inches. I've sat in a Cessna and it looks like the only way I'll be able to reach the rudder pedals is by putting a pad against the seat back—but then I can't see outside very well.
I expect that if I put pads on the seat and against the seat back I will be able to see pretty well, but then my legs will be too short to reach the pedals.
I've heard about parts that can be put on the pedals to make it easier for short-legged people to fly. Do you know anything about these parts?

—Compact and Curious

Dear Compact,
Don't worry, you're not the first, nor will you be the last vertically challenged person that longs to fly.
The industry has solutions. You can check out a wide range of cushions—both back and seat—at highflyn.com's pilot supplies page. HighFly'n is just one of the many aircraft supply companies that carries a variety of cushions.
Rudder pedal extensions from Sair Corp are approved for installation under STCs and fit models built from 1953 to the present day.
Both rudder pedal extensions and cushions are also available from pilot shops such as Aircraft Spruce and Sporty's.

Happy flying.
Hi Steve,
There are lots of little cracks near the trailing edge of both the left and right flaps on my 1959 Cessna 182. I'm getting ready to send my airplane to the paint shop and I want to fix these cracks. What's the best way to do it?

—Cracked

Dear Cracked,
This is a pretty common problem. It occurs because there isn't enough strength in the joint where the top and bottom flap skins are riveted.
In response to the cracking, in 1967 Cessna started riveting a bulbed reinforcement part between the trailing edges of the skins. The part number for the reinforcement is 0523901-10.
The only way you're going to get rid of the cracks is to install new top and bottom skins on each flap. The Cessna part numbers are 0523901-19 (lower left), -20 (lower right), -21 (upper left) and -22 (upper right).
You'll save a lot of money if you buy new skins as a kit from McFarlane Aviation. The company's kit number for all four skins is SKN-KT-FLP4. Cost is $363.
McFarlane Aviation also manufactures a trailing edge reinforcement that is an improvement over the Cessna part because it aligns better at the trailing edge thus reducing stress on the skins. The part number of the McFarlane trailing edge stiffener is MCI741-79.5. Cost is $57.
If your mechanic doesn't seem interested in rebuilding your flaps or doesn't have the tools, you can probably find a skilled sheet metal technician nearby through an internet search.

Happy flying.

Know your FAR/AIM and check with your mechanic before starting any work.

Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 43 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He's a former tech rep and editor for Cessna Pilots Association and served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and lives in Paso Robles, Calif. with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to .

Resources
Back cushions, seat cushions, rudder pedal extensions
Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co.
aircraftspruce.com

High Fly'n
highflyn.com

SairCorp/Flight Boss Ltd
saircorp.com

Sporty's
sportys.com

Flap skins replacement kit and trailing edge reinforcement
McFarlane Aviation
mcfarlane-aviation.com

 

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