The Cessna 182 has long been my absolute favourite single engine aeroplane for very many reasons and I have spent many happy hours enjoying its great combination of power, speed and carrying capability.
Anyone who has flown the 182 will understand why it has been nicknamed a 172 on steroids as it has exactly the same structure as its smaller sibling, the layout is almost identical and both have been around and extraordinarily popular for many years. But the 182 has power in abundance and is the beefed up, carry a real load Big Brother to the C172. It is a high performance four seat light aircraft, my introduction to which was via a 1960 model proudly purchased by a former student in which to complete his private licence training.
It showed its 40 plus age, not so much in the wear and tear stakes as it was a very tidy unit, but with the old 50s style look; the instrument panel was reminiscent to an old style washing machine control panel, the seats could almost have been straight from a 60s lounge room and the control columns were the aviation equivalent of those oversized steering wheels to be found in vintage cars.
But, of course, all that was cosmetic and the bottom line was its ‘grunt’. Age was not an issue when take off power was applied and the resulting acceleration caused a little bit of a pull back into the seat: an effect we used to exaggerate greatly by pinning ourselves as far back as possible on the take off roll mimicking mega ‘G’s’. Puerile I know…but it made us smile.
That was one of the early ones. First introduced to the world in 1956, the various models have changed very little externally over the years. Production ceased in 1985 but was thankfully reintroduced in 1994 and continues to this day with the familiar shape most impressively augmented by the sophistication of the latest technology. Recently, I was able to see for myself just how very far the 182 has come from those early days and to discover the very latest the Cessna Skylane has to offer.
Although I had progressed to newer models than my old 1960s friend and have flown several of the post 1994 fleet, they had, to date, all contained traditional instrumentation and gauges. So it was time to leap into the 21st Century with a little, much appreciated help from Airflite’s Sean Allen who arranged for me to fly a 2004 C182S belonging to Bruce Harvey. It is a fantastic machine, one of the first 182s to feature the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit and I am extremely envious of Bruce.
Although I was test flying the aeroplane, I was also testing out the G1000 and the literally hundreds of things it can do, show and tell. The gentleman trying to achieve this ‘impossible to do in an hour or so’ mission was Trent Robinson of ‘Unusual Attitudes’. Whilst he can normally be found training pilots in aerobatics, we managed to stay the right way up throughout our flight but with my brain doing loops, barrel rolls and wingovers as it tried to absorb a fraction of what the equipment is capable of doing, showing and telling.
The instrument panel bears little resemblance to previous models although the control columns, even though not vintage car-like, are reassuringly familiar. And tucked down behind them are an astonishingly large bank of circuit breakers and the trusty old, dial type ASI, altimeter and attitude indicator for redundancy (and reassurance at times for this old style pilot).
The master and avionics master switches are found on the left of the instrument panel with the knob style throttle, pitch and mixture controls in their normal centred position, looking strangely old fashioned and out of date in the glamour and glitz of the all glass cockpit. The remainder of the panel is overwhelmingly 21st Century with the 10 inch Primary Flight display (PFD) screen and the 10 inch multi function display (MFD) screen dominating the forward view. Cessna boasts that by replacing the analogue gauges and mechanical instruments with the all digital, large format, high resolution LCDs and integrated avionics, the system will offer additional safety, reliability and affordability. This is no doubt true and helps keep Cessna in the forefront of single engine aviation amongst greatly increased competition from the new generation of composite aircraft.
There is also no doubt that anybody using the G1000 or a similar system must participate in a structured course on how to correctly use all of its features. Gone are the days where the aircraft was the difficult thing to master and you understood within half a minute or so what the various instruments did and said. I now have visions of the forty hour PPL course becoming the 40 hour aircraft course plus the 100 hour glass cockpit course. But the end result would be worth the effort because the system is not only a marvellous VFR tool but presents an ideal IFR platform. Which mimics the 182 perfectly which, as well as being a great VFR aircraft, has enough performance to handle IFR comfortably.
Trent valiantly attempted to show me as many of the G1000’s features as he could in the time we had available – about 10% of which my brain has retained. All the primary flight information, navigation and communication systems and engine data are displayed on the two screens. Initially, on start up, the electronic engine indication system appears on the PFD to be easily checked by the pilot after engine start, although the pilot would be alerted to any malfunction by various beeps and flashing lights. Once the engine indications are checked, the engine info can be ‘flipped’ over to the MFD leaving an uncluttered view of attitude, airspeed, altitude and balance in its modern format. A glance over to the right hand screen every now and then to check power setting, RPM, temperatures and pressures was enough to ensure that all was running smoothly.
The dual nav/comm system is fully integrated and I triumphantly mastered selecting and changing frequencies: probably the high point of my own personal learning curve for the flight. The GPS safely assisted me through the training area but I was happily giving some concentration to flying the aircraft and now have to wait until next time to explore the IFR approach certified glories of the GPS. I should have allowed the fully integrated two axis auto pilot to do the flying (and probably would have if I wasn’t in a 182); not only can the desired altitude be selected, but also the rate of climb you wish to use to achieve the desired altitude – very cool and another bonus in the IFR and/or CTA arena.
It really is a most impressive piece of technology and one which most owners would be delighted to have installed in their aircraft. Whether it’s entirely essential or even necessary depends upon the type of flying that the owner/operator is going to conduct. For IFR operations, IFR training or for VFR advanced or night training the Garmin G1000 and the C182 are, together, a fine combination. For the Day VFR pilot one has to question whether it’s not just a bit over the top. As anyone who has ever learned to fly knows, it is far easier to fly looking outside than by using instruments. Otherwise we’d all be doing our Instrument ratings first. The all glass cockpit dominates the view and is somewhat distracting for pilots supposedly flying visually who may be tempted to spend a fair bit of time with their heads ‘in the cockpit’ instead of outside ‘seeing and avoiding’.
That said, this technology will, and should, increase the C182’s attraction as an IFR tool. This is an enormous benefit for those pilots wishing to operate under single engine IFR who only require four seats but who want the stability and power that the 182 has in abundance and which are sadly lacking in many other four seat singles.
So, as well as receiving an in-flight briefing on the Garmin G1000, I also scored a flight in my favourite single engine aeroplane which served to remind me just why I love it. It’s definitely the power from the 230hp Lycoming IO-540 six cylinder, fuel injected engine with its accompanying constant speed three blade propeller giving it a cruise speed of 140kt at 80% power or 130kt at just 65% power. Others may like the power for the load capacity that results. Although it is possible to overload the 182, as has been proven by others who have done so and have come unstuck as a consequence, it has great carrying capabilities with a useful load of 550kg.
And it is spacious enough to carry that load in comfort – there is no squashed feeling in the 182. Add to that the shortfield take off capability of the plane and what feels like a vertical take off at best angle climb speed and you have a definite performer. A best rate climb of over 900fpm and a service ceiling of over 18,000ft complete the picture. This is a pretty picture from most angles, almost as pretty as the pictures on the MFD of its all glass cockpit. In combination, the G1000 and C182 make a great and probably enduring partnership and, when I’ve done my multi hour G1000 course, I will happily appreciate all it has to offer, not just the 10% that has remained lodged in my memory. But I must admit to the sneaking thought that, even with all the technology and back up power sources, the whole package still has to include the old fashioned, 1960s type ASI and altimeter.