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The Cessna 182 is a single-engine piston plane, great for both training and seasoned pilots. It’s a fan favorite with a well-received legacy.
Skylanes have been in production on and off since 1956. These aircraft are powerful and versatile while maintaining reliability and accessibility to a range of pilots and flight missions. A Cessna 182 Skylane can get you where you need to go and get you there comfortably. But that’s not to say that they don’t have their own set of faults or trade-offs.
Cessna 182s are strong, well-rounded aircraft without achieving exceptionalism in almost any area. They are good but not great, yet come through as a popular favorite for pilots from a variety of backgrounds with different utility preferences. Skylanes are contenders for “best decent plane.”
Skylanes have seen major changes throughout history, some more incremental than others. By diving into the history of different models as well as the specifications and features of these aircraft in production today, we can see how this overall average plane has become such a go-to for so many varied flight missions and pilots at different performance levels.
Produced by Cessna and sold in the marketplace through Textron Aviation, Skylanes have a robust history of acceptable performance and outshining some of its predecessors, like the Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Many factors have contributed to its changes over the years, including design flaws early on as well as a federal regulation that brought Cessna’s piston planes back from the dead in the 1990s.
Specs and Performance
Let’s take a peek at the specifications for a new Cessna 182 Skylane:
These planes are sleek and durable with Cessna’s tried and true high wing. Mostly composed of aluminum alloy, the high wing design gives it added stability because the center of lift is above the center of mass. The external wing struts can cause some drag, and because the fuel tanks are in the wings, you will probably need a ladder to refuel.
High wings can be sensitive to crosswinds, but at the same time, the positioning of the wings and the fuel tanks help the flow of fuel without a pump, and you have more ground clearance than you might in a low-wing aircraft. You have restricted visibility above you which is a tradeoff for added visibility below.
One variant in particular, the Skylane RG, featured retractable landing gear, which improved fuel economy but increased maintenance costs. The offset wasn’t worth it, and Cessna scrapped that idea with the very next design. Most models, including newer ones, have fixed landing gear that is tough enough for more rugged runways, given proper trimming.
You’ve got a Lycoming IO-540-AB1A5 engine, producing up to 230hp, and a three-blade McCauley constant speed heated prop. This combination screams high performance. If you’re looking for a bigger airplane to work with while sticking to a single piston, this engine and prop make a Skylane worth considering.
The newest 182 cockpits are integrated with Garmin G1000 NXi avionics for a really up-to-date graphical interface. The glass cockpit can be intimidating for someone more accustomed to a six-pack but once you adjust, it is truly luxurious, in my opinion. There are two matrix LCDs for all of your flight, engine, and sensor data. The hardware is stronger than previous Garmin avionics and has additional features that improve situational awareness for pilots during flight. Initially, it can be easy to get lost in the new age of digital readings, so pilots that are unfamiliar may want to take some time to get to know the cockpit before takeoff.
The cabin is comfy enough for a longer flight and seats four total passengers, including the pilots. You’ve got a two-door entry, so you don’t have to climb around, and space for luggage behind the passenger seats in addition to the external baggage hatch. The seats are adjustable and depending on the model, might have dual vent fans or even air conditioning built in for more comfort on those warm summer flights. Alternatively, heat is effective up front but less so for rear passengers.
The wrap-around windshield is big, but you might need to find a nice cushion to sit on to elevate your view forward since the panel is set pretty high, especially for shorter pilots. The side windows are low and can require a bit of a hunch down to see through due to the high wing design. Skylanes also have a steep rear window which gives it an even sleeker look and provides some additional viewing opportunities for backseat passengers.
The high-performance reputation of Skylanes is no joke. These aircraft can get up and go with newer models offering a max range of 915 nautical miles, about the distance from Central Illinois to New York. Its speed tops out at 175ktas, though cruise speeds fall quite a bit lower. With its 87-gallon fuel tank, you can easily fly 6 -7 hours from a single takeoff. Max climb is 924 fpm, which outdoes a Cessna 172 by more than 200 feet.
Takeoff and Landing
A Skylane’s takeoff distance is around 1500 ft with a ground roll of just under 800 ft. Its climb rate is an impressive 924 fpm. Its flight ceiling is about 18,000 ft, making it a high-flier in comparison to most of its competition. It can clear a 50 ft obstacle at around 1100 feet but should be given some breadth on that metric to be safe.
They have decent landing control, except for their tendency for nose-drag, which can put the firewall at risk. Skylanes are notorious for this issue which has spanned its entire lifetime, impacting every model that has come into production. But still, Cessnas, in general, are aerodynamically designed to minimize slip, and the 182 takes that to another level with its power and weight. Still, you’ll want to do plenty of trimming up to and during landing, flares to avoid slamming the nose gear to the landing strip.
The fixed tricycle landing gear has had room for improvement over the years, and one improvement that has lasted well with many Cessnas is a rugged design that provides more tolerance for soft field runways. This was more of a necessity than anything, given the frequency of expensive firewall repairs after banging the nose to the pavement. Although this problem has persisted throughout the production life of the 182, Cessna has yet to fully eliminate the need for extra caution. However, adjustments made to the landing gear over time, as well as reputational awareness among pilots, have contributed to the gains made by Cessna in this regard.
Handling and Cruising
Cessnas are known for their stability, and the Skylane is no exception. They cruise comfortably and quickly with a max cruise speed of 145 ktas. They aren’t the fastest plane on the market, but they certainly aren’t the slowest. It’s notably difficult, as with all of Cessna’s high-wing designs, to put this aircraft into a spin, and although it may try to overbank on a turn, it’s nothing your average or even training pilot shouldn’t be able to handle.
The three-blade constant speed prop uses a variable pitch to maintain its speed with different levels of power, providing better cruise performance. So, while you still have throttle control, you also have a prop lever that allows you to change the pitch of your propeller to adjust your RPM for consistent and ideal performance throughout the flight.
Another benefit to a constant-speed propeller is that if your engine fails, you can pull the prop lever back to reduce pitch and feather the propeller, which will reduce drag. This gives you more glide time to get yourself and your plane to safety.
Overall, Skylane's handling is forgiving enough to make up for the nose-heavy short fallings. The ease of its cruise is a gift for pilots that just want to get in the air and enjoy the scenery below them and out front.
The Cessna 182 was first built in 1956 as an evolution from the Cessna 180 taildragger with a tri-gear design and some changes to the exhaust and fuel vent systems. The tri-gear landing gear created the nose-heavy propensity that remains with Skylanes to this day.
Cessna gave the original 182s a Continental O-470-L engine with 230 horsepower, which remained consistent by some variation in each Skylane model for 30 years. The first redesign of the Cessna 182 was the 182A which had wider and lower landing gear as well as external baggage. Gross weight increased from 2550 pounds from the original 182 to 2650 pounds for the 182A.
It was in 1958 that the Cessna 182 achieved the nickname Skylane when a deluxe version of the aircraft was put on the market. The upgrade came with wheel pants, standard radios, and a full paint job. New models came out every year with minor changes such as cowl flaps, a rear window, and a stylized swept tail, as well as another lowering of the landing gear in an attempt to mitigate the nose-heavy landing problems, though without much success.
In 1962 Cessna released the 182E, which contained a wider fuselage and a slightly lower cabin, making more room for passengers. It also came with electrical flaps, an updated panel, and a trim tab stabilizer. Gross weight increased to 2800 pounds with the installation of a different engine, an O-470-R, as well as bladders and auxiliaries added to the fuel system. Although these changes only brought the weight of the aircraft up by 10 pounds, climb, takeoff performance, and its service ceiling were all reduced.
Ground handling during landings finally saw a small improvement in 1970 with the 182N, thanks to further widening of the track to 13.5 feet. Gross weight was bumped up again to 2950 pounds with tapered tubular steel legs replacing the spring-steel gear. In 1972 low-speed handling was improved further by adding a leading-edge cuff, extending the dorsal fin, and shock-mounting the cowling. This model (182P) stayed in production for 4 years, outlasting each of its predecessors.
Cessna dropped their problematic bladders in 1978 and in ’81 boosted gross weight up to a clean 3100 pounds. This 182R saw an increase in fuel capacity up to 88 gallons and an upgrade to a 28-volt electrical system. They came out with a turbocharged version called the T-182RII which was powered by a Lycoming O-540 before ceasing production in 1986.
Cessna put an end to all of its piston plane production in 1986 due to liability issues that allowed individuals to sue aircraft companies for issues with their product which resulted in accidents or injury regardless of how old the aircraft was or what sort of maintenance it had undertaken over the years. It was no longer feasible for them to continue production with such liability, especially considering the unpredictable nature of claims on aircraft that were three decades old. They wrapped up production for the ten years that followed until new legislation came into the mix that provided a reprieve for aviation manufacturers.
Congress passed the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, which imposed a statute of limitations on such lawsuits at 18 years, and in 1997 Cessna resumed operations in a new facility in Independence, Kansas, reintroducing the Skylane with some major changes. They switched out the Lycoming O-470 for a Lycoming IO-40-AB1A5 which is a fuel-injected engine and resolved some issues with the O-470 related to carb icing. The interior was revamped with anti-corrosion materials and painted metal instrument panels. Cessna had made their seats more crashworthy and improved the fuel drains as required by the FAA due to issues causing water leaks.
It was 2006 when Cessna introduced the Garmin glass cockpit, bringing its planes into the modern era with digital tools rather than standard steam gauges.
Purchase cost for a Cessna 182 is definitely a pain point. It can be fairly unobtainable, especially for younger pilots, to find a Skylane that is both affordable and in good flying condition. Be prepared to fork over a pretty penny for one of these planes in comparison to similar aircraft like the Skyhawk. Average cost of the Skylane is going to be around $50,000 more than the smaller 172. If you’re looking for a cheap airplane, the Cessna 182 is not going to be your first choice. Its high cost is justified by its popularity and versatility of flight mission capabilities.
That being said, finding a cheap 182 is both a challenge and a risk. If someone is selling a Skylane for less than $100,000 be wary; it’s likely to have some problems that will require additional investments before it’s flight ready. Even older models can trend above 100K, while newer ones like the 182T can run up to half a million dollars with ease, offsetting its accessibility in flight with inaccessibility in cost. It is a popular club plane though, which can tamp down some of the financial burdens by spreading it among members.
Maintenance, however, is typically more affordable and can offset some of the purchase cost when compared to similar aircraft. Since it’s a smaller plane you can rent a hanger for a relatively low price, and a Skylane in good shape (and being flown properly) isn’t likely to need a lot of frequent repairs. They’re durable and reliable, often going two or more annuals without any issues.
One maintenance complaint, which is actually quite simple, is that the external baggage latch tends to break. While it is easily replaced, Cessna doesn’t sell just the spring which is usually the problem. Instead, they offer an entirely new latch that can run upwards of $2000. This is likely to ensure that the parts don’t wear at different rates and remain compatible over time but can be a really annoying cost for such a simple fix. Duct tape will hold it just fine but stands zero chance of passing inspection.
Pros / Cons
Every aircraft is going to have benefits and shortfalls. The best place for you is going to depend on your mission and what sort of utility you’re looking for. The Skylane is no different; it comes with perks and pits like any other.
- Lycoming IO-540-AB1A5 / 230 hp / McCauley three-blade constant speed propeller
- allows you to go farther, faster, and carry more than its smaller counterparts
- 4-seater and useful load of 1100 pounds
- great for bringing family and friends along
- New models have enhanced ventilation and can be equipped with air conditioning
- This tends to benefit the front passengers more than the rear
- Safety features include airbags in the seatbelts as well as Garmin ESP and USP
- Comfortable cabin
- Firewall wrinkling
- This is a common issue to see with Skylanes, and a result of nose-hard landings
- Baggage door latch is prone to snapping
- Cessna doesn’t sell springs for this latch individually. Instead, you have to buy a whole new latch which can run around $2,000
- Expensive purchasing cost
- Can be nose-heavy
- Noticeable when flaring and can contribute to firewall wrinkling
The biggest difference between a Cessna 172 and a 182 is the added flexibility and performance improvement of a constant speed propeller. The 172 is a great plane, but the 182 is the next tier up when it comes to speed, distance, reliability, and performance. Its engine is much more powerful, allowing for not only higher speeds but also a faster climb. Both planes are commonly used for pilot training, but if you ask around, you’ll find that the consensus is in favor of the 182. While the 172 can be cheaper, the Skylane is an obvious choice for comfort, power, and performance. It is bigger (though only slightly), faster, and stronger than the Skyhawk with more avionics options as well. Cessna is known for their high-quality aircraft and neither the Skyhawk or Skylane are an exception to that rule.
They both offer forgiving controls and can be nearly impossible to spin, due to their high mounted wings. If you’re stuck between the 172 and 182, consider what you’ll use the plane for. If you need a faster plane that goes farther and higher, you’ll want to go with the 182. But if you’re looking for cost efficiency and don’t mind that it’s a bit less powerful, the 172 is an easy choice.
While it outdoes the 172 in nearly every metric, the Skylane is a remarkably unremarkable aircraft that has contributed to its reputation as an all-around good plane. It isn’t the best at really anything, but it is a well-rounded and reliable go-to for tons of aviators regardless of experience. It’s a great hobby aircraft, while also maintaining a great reputation for training and other utilities.
The Cessna 172 is the most popular Cessna aircraft, with the 182 taking a close second. One can only assume that the financial accessibility of the 172 is a contributing factor to taking that first prize ribbon. A lot of pilots may not consider the bigger and stronger nature of the Skylane worth the cost difference, given that it is essentially a sized-up version of its predecessor. The two are neck-in-neck in ratings and pilot preference because they are just very similar aircraft. Cessna executives knew what worked when it came to the Skyhawk and made it bigger and better in the Skylane.