New paint, new interior and new Plexiglas make John D. Ruley’s 1975 Cessna 182P look and feel like a factory-fresh airplane.
Sometimes, small problems can lead to more complex projects. This Skylane restoration started with a flat tire and fuel leak. The tire was a quick fix, and the fuel leak ended up being straightforward as well (leak at the filler neck). However, a check of the logs showed that N4696K’s fuel bladders were 20 years old—with an expected life of just 10 years. It was time for replacement. (For that story, see “Step-by-step Fuel Cell Replacement” in the January 2018 issue.) Once John Ruley and his four partners caught “upgrade fever,” they kept going.
This month, the Skylane restoration continues with several cosmetic and safety upgrades.
After N4696K’s fuel bladders were replaced in July and early August 2017, we once again had an airworthy aircraft, albeit one whose annual was coming due by the end of August. We elected to paint N4696K, redo the interior and replace the aged Plexiglas windshield and windows. The Plexiglas and glareshield would come first as part of the August annual.
Great Lakes Aero Plastics delivered the Plexiglas parts early, which provided plenty of time to unpack them. Installation was contingent upon receiving back the glareshield that was repaired by Dennis Wolter and the Air Mod team in Batavia, Ohio.
While waiting, the mechanics at Pacific Aircraft Service at my home base of Modesto, California (KMOD), drilled out the rivets that held in the original windshield and popped it out.
Installing the windshield
About a week later, after the refurbished glareshield arrived, the new windshield was installed. It was a three-person job, with Paul Kline and Rudy Valdez on the outside, and Shane Cooper inside. The outside men had to pound on the windshield to force the felt-covered edge into the channel. I made a small contribution to the effort by noticing that the airplane rolled back each time they hit the windshield—the parking brake wasn’t set. Setting the brake and chocking the tires helped.
The process was complicated by using a 30-minute sealant, which forced them to work fast before it set up (evidently the two-hour version was not on hand). Cleco fasteners were placed in all the rivet holes to hold the windshield in place until new screws could be installed.
Fastening the windshield was a two-person job, with Shane on the inside adding nuts and washers, while Paul handled the screws from the outside. On the whole, it was a quick but labor-intensive install. The process took a full day.
The following day, it was time to peel the protective paper off both sides of the windshield. It came away clean and looked awesome—much clearer than the original.
A bit of corrosion
Unfortunately, that same day Shane showed me a nasty surprise that turned up while he was behind the panel attaching screws and washers. A severely corroded area, probably due to factory insulation that trapped water, needed addressing.
The mechanics reassured me that despite an ugly look, it didn’t present any threat to the structure and wasn’t worth the effort to sand and treat with zinc chromate primer. Instead, it was soaked with ACF-50 anti-corrosion oil. Paul warned me that it would stink, but the smell would eventually go away.
While the fuel bladders and windshield were being done, the flaps came off and were sent off to West Coast Wings to replace the cracked plastic skins. Those were reinstalled shortly after the windshield. The rest of the annual inspection was completed and the airplane was returned to service by the end of August.
Repainting the airframe
We delayed installing the other windows until October, just before the airplane was shipped off for new paint and interior work. We knew that the new paint and interior would take time, and delaying until the fall—when the weather gets iffy and fewer partners fly—seemed like a good idea.
Just how long it would take we couldn’t have predicted. Installing the new windows and other prep took the guys at Pacific Aircraft just a few days. The airplane was delivered to the paint shop the first week in November. It finally emerged over three months later.
I’m not going to name the shop, but I will say they were highly recommended and ultimately did a fine job. Unfortunately, they were shorthanded, which led to a serious schedule slip.
That, in turn, delayed the interior work we’d planned to have done by Jeff Belardi in Watsonville, California. Jeff moved to a new location while waiting for the airplane to arrive and had to work us into his busy schedule. He did a fantastic job replacing the old fabric seat covers and cracked plastic trim.
Jeff also installed B.A.S. Inc. four-point inertia reel shoulder harness/lap belts for the pilot and copilot, something I had my doubts about. While the old manual belt and shoulder straps were not ideal, I’ve used updated four-point restraints in other aircraft, and have had trouble getting them on and adjusted.
The ones from B.A.S., however, are easy to get in and out of, comfortable—and could make all the difference in the event of a crash. Compliments to my partner Michael Iocca for insisting on them, and compliments to Jeff, too, for a classy installation.
N4696K flies home
I got a ride to Watsonville from friend and fellow Commemorative Air Force Col. Ron Ramont, and flew the airplane home—with my instructor in the right seat. By the time the aircraft left the shop, I was overdue for a biennial flight review and instrument proficiency check. I hadn’t been in the pilot seat for five months!
The result—as you can see in the photos—is an airplane that looks new and is a genuine pleasure to fly. The new solar gray windshield and windows not only offer a much clearer view than the old ones, but also noticeably reduce the temperature on sunny days, which is a big plus in California’s Central Valley. We couldn’t be more pleased with them!
Beyond ramp appeal and comfort, the airplane also benefits from overdue corrosion treatment and catching up on many minor deferred maintenance items. One of those turned out to have a surprising side effect that we’re still working on, however.
Our new antennas work—too well
I’m a bit of an avionics geek, and pushed for replacing the original VHF navcom antennas, which showed visible wear.
The new ones look great and work perfectly—which turns out to be a problem: the old antennas apparently did not transmit all the energy being delivered from the transmit side of the King (now BendixKing) KX-155A installed in our No. 2 slot. The new one does—and on some frequencies, it now interferes with our Garmin GNS 530 GPS.
I discovered this while doing practice approaches. The GNS 530 annunciated a warning that it had lost GPS position—something I had never seen it do before.
The lead avionics technician at Sky Trek Aviation contacted BendixKing and was told they have seen that before—and there’s no fix for it. The KX-155 series was designed before GPS. To eliminate the problem, we’re going to have to replace our KX-155A.
Fortunately, the folks at TKM Avionics have been working on a slide-in replacement which should work with our exist-
ing wiring, but as of this writing, the MX155 is not yet shipping. In the meantime we’re working around the problem
by changing which COM frequencies we tune on which radio.
There are two other upgrades we plan to do later this year. One will be purely cosmetic: while the new paint and interior work makes N4696K look new from the outside, we still have the same ugly cracked plastic covers on the instrument panel. A custom replacement cover to match the new interior will take care of that problem.
The second is a new transponder for ADS-B compliance. As the avionics geek among the partners, I’ve been tasked to recommend one. I’m leaning toward one of the newer Garmin models, because that will provide an option to display traffic and weather information on the GNS 530 as a backup to the iPads we all carry. (For more on ADS-B options, see Steve Ells’ ADS-B articles in the July 2017 and March 2018 issues. —Ed.)
The main lesson from our experience that may be significant for other pilots is that a restoration takes time—you have to coordinate between multiple locations (in our case, a local A&P, and remote paint and interior shops)—and a delay at any one can cascade through scheduling at the others.
But the result is worth it. N4696K looks and flies like a brand-new Skylane!
John D. Ruley is an instrument-rated pilot and freelance writer. He holds a master’s degree from the University of North Dakota Space Studies program (space.edu) and is archivist for the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) operational history project. Ruley has been a volunteer pilot with ligainternational.org and angelflight.org, two charities which operate medical missions in northwest Mexico and provide medical patient transport, respectively. Send questions or comments to .
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