Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cessna 182 Speed Enhancements

As I consider a trip to the East Coast this summer, speed enhancements come to mind again. It will be a long trip and any reduction in time would be great. Reduction in gas would be nice, but I know that would be minimal.

Along with a speed enhancement, I would want to make sure that I did not hurt my current STOL performance. Hmmm... Is this possible? Well at leaset with removal of fairings when need be, it might be. Things that cannot be removed have to be carefully considered.

With high gas prices, people have wondered if some improvements would make economic sense to go faster. But most of the improvements only gain you a little bit and cost a fair amount of money. Maybe the time difference is really not much either. But I can dream or try to find the best bang for the buck.


If you C182 needs a lot of rudder trim when straight and level, you might want to seriously look into this. Or if one wing tip seems to want to be lower to fly straight. Mine seems pretty good to me, so I think I am ok there.

Wheel Fairings

Wheel fairings can make a decent difference. Although the stock ones do not do a tremendous amount. From what I hear, the nose wheel fairing makes the biggest difference. There is not much to gain over the stock main gear wheel fairing.

On the nose wheel, the scissors and the exposed nose strut cause a lot of drag. The stock fairing covers the wheel but does not do much for the strut. The cowling does not do much to help either; it does not help split the air flow to the sides of the strut. There are three alternatives that I have interest in.

With all the costs, you have to make sure you include enough for installation and of course painting. I would guess matching colors could be problematic as well.

Horton/Siebel Flight bonus speed mods

If you do all their modifications, it can add up to somewhere around $6000 of just parts. They agree that the best improvements are for the nose grear. They claim a 7 mph (6knots) improvement. I think the nose gear price is much lower, but I do not have the number. Maybe $2000? Their system changes the scissors and makes them be more streamlined and also not extend as far when off the ground. The stock strut extends a long ways when unloaded. Check it out sometime... They also do modifications to the cowling to help split the air flow around the strut. It looks like a pretty decent system, but the most expensive of the three. I also wonder if the changed scissors are a concern for landing on rough backcountry strips.

Here are some links to find out more information on them:


Another one is made by Knots2U. It has had some good reviews on the Cessna Forums. It retains the standard scissors, but has improved wheel and cowl fairings to improve the air flow around the strut. They two are sold in separate pieces, but I would think you would want both. They claim 4-9mph (3.5-8knots) for all their pieces and and 3-4mph for their cowl piece and indicate that all improvements are not additive. I do not see it separated out for the nose gear fairing.

I found two links regarding these fairings:

They charge currently $895 for the nose gear fairing and $525 for the Cowl change. The comment on the nose gear fairing being in two pieces which makes it easy to assemble/disassemble.

Fancy Pants

The last is branded Fancy Pants. It is the cheapest and appears to do similar things. From the descriptions, it is all done in the nose gear fairing. But the fairing has a telescopic effect which goes up to the cowling. Actually, this system is an add-on and used in conjunction with the stock fairing. They claim a 5-8 mph (4-7knots) gain.

Nose wheel fairing add-on $275. In their FAQ section, they claim it can be taken on and off in 5 minutes. I have seen some comments to watch out for the tow bar hookups to make sure you get what you want. Something about the size of the tow bar hole sometimes being excessive.

The link for more information on this one is:

Exhaust Fairings

The same place that sells the Fancy Pants also sells exhaust fairings. In some places, I saw people wondering if it would help speed. But it appears to not do much for speed, but help with the cooling of the engine. This can of course be very good for the life of your engine, but does not help our speed quest.

Flap gap seals

Flap gap seals can be a great way to gain speed and not be too expensive. They do need painting, so make sure you consider this in the plan.

One other thing to consider is that I have heard that it can degrade the STOL characteristics a little. The air flow between the wing and the top of the barn door flaps will be reduced and I hear can increase the stall speed. Another spot claims that flap gap seals will reduce your stall speed, so I am not sure what to think.

Here is a link to one offered by Flight Bonus:

They claim a 1.5mph increase in speed from flap gap seals.

Engine upgrades

This will get you speed, but not much for gas savings. But as I mentioned gas savings are probably minimal anyways.

One other problem with engine upgrades is that you are trying to speed up a plane that is already draggy. The improvement may come in climb rate, but maybe not as much in cruise speed.

Larger Engine

The two I would consider at an Engine overhaul are: PPonk conversion Texas Skyways conversion.

Both are fairly similar and have larger cylinders and more power (34-45 more hp), but not much increase in weight. Another thing to consider is which propeller you can use. If I go with the Pponk, I will have to convert to a 3-bladed prop. I am not sure on the Petersen conversion.

Pponk claims a 13 knot increase in speed at the same MP/RPM settings but higher fuel rates around 6-8k feet. The cost is a little more than an overhaul ($25-30,000?), but where it can add up is needing a 3 bladed prop and spinner which can add another $10,000 or so.


There is a relatively new offering getting good reviews for C182s. It is for a supercharger. There in the past was a turbocharger STC, but it is no longer being made. But the Supercharger seems like it has some interesting benefits. It does not degrade the fuel economy much and does not cause a pressurized exhaust.

They claim a 17 knot increase in IAS before and after at 12k feet. Cost is $19,650 plus installation.

Living next to the Rocky Mountains, this has a fair amount of appeal. I go up to 13k quite frequenly and at times it would be nice to go up to 17k to avoid the turbulence that can happen over the rockies. At those altitudes, the speed goes up quite nicely. It doesn't help at the low altitudes, but I start out at 5k on the ground.

Smarter Flying

Picking the right altitude to fly or altering course north or south for the best winds can go a long ways on a long trip. This may be the best bang for the buck going east. Going west I don't have as many choices due to the altitudes. If I got the supercharger, then more options would probably open up for smart altitudes and directions going west.

Some Cessna Forum links:

If you belong to the Cessna Forums, this topic has been discussed greatly. Here is one link, but it would be recommended to search a fair amount more if you are interested.


On AOPA, I found a list of STCs for the Cessna 182, it might be a good place to get more information as well.

Measuring Speed Improvements

When checking what different people get with their speed improvements, be careful. People will claim certain MP and RPM settings and speeds and compare against the POH. But many times the RPM and MP can be wrong on the guages. Also, rigging plays a big factor. The best thing is probably to try to get before and after speeds from somebody.


If you really want speed, a different plane is probably the best way. My problem is that I want to go slow too. Own two airplanes then? Well maybe if I win the lottery.

Otherwise, I will stick with what I have and do small things (maybe the fancy pants nose wheel fairing) or things when I need an engine overhaul such as a PPonk or the Supercharger.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Review: AnywhereTravelCompanion (ATC)

I have been wanting a device to display weather in the cockpit for a while. I have a Garmin430, so the GPS part was not an immediate concern. The main ones I have been considering the Garmin 496, Control Vision AnywhereMap, and True Flight Flight Cheetah.

All of them seem to have pluses and minuses and most of them expensive.

  • Garmin 496: Good stable device, but not upgradeable and no touch screen.
  • AnywhereMap: Good but not as stable. Upgradeable and touch screen. Interface really needs a stylus. Display is not quite bright enough.
  • True Flight: Good stable device. Upgradeable and touch screen. Interface somewhat needs a stylus. Lots of options. Bright display, faster processor. This was the one I was leaning towards.
Then, ControlVision AnywhereMap came out with a new device: AnywhereMap Travel Companion (ATC). It has improved on many of the concerns of the old system:

  • large on screen buttons that do not need a stylus.
  • Dedicated interface to GPS. The Windows CE interface is hidden which actually helps. Software is permanently loaded by the factory.
  • GPS receiver built in and internal antenna supposedly good enough for no external antenna. This means only one cable for power.
  • Only one bluetooth device for weather.
  • Brighter display than the past.
  • Newer more powerful processor
  • Larger 800x480 screen.
After having this for a week or two, I think this is a winner. It has a few small things to work out, but it is good easy to use, and stable.

Here are some pictures of my system. Only one wire from the ATC system for power.

Here are the connections for the WX box. Not too clean yet, but still fairly managable. It all fits in the side pocket in the plane with the WX antenna up on the visor. I might get the suction cup holder for the WX antenna later.

Large Buttons

So far the soft buttons appear to be very usable without a stylus. Only occasionally do I think about a stylus and even then I can use my finger tip. In light turbulence it is even easy.

Dedicated to GPS Navigation

This has made everything nice and easy and not as convoluted as a Windows interface. I have made a mistake or two and it has recovered nicely. I pulled out the battery and replaced and no big deal. I removed the flash card when I was in driving mode and it caused a long boot time, but came back fine. I hear that previously the programs were installed in RAM and now it is in Flash; I think this helps a lot. Before I think if you did the things I mentioned above, you would have had to reinstall the software using an attached computer.

No External GPS Antenna Needed

So far the internal antenna has done very well. Occasionally, it was a little confused finding satellites when I booted. I am not sure about this yet; maybe related to starting the device inside a building and then going outside. I think it is happier when you start it outside. But it does even operate when I am inside my house. I have a Cessna 182 and it does not appear to need an external antenna. One less wire; very nice. In the end, I only need one wire for power and that is it!


I have heard of some problems with Bluetooth and AnywhereMaps. I have not had one, so I am not sure of the details. In this new case with the ATC, there is only one Bluetooth device. At present, you do have to manually connect to the WX box at startup. This is supposed to be solved in the future and be automatic. It is very easy to do, so I do not think it is a big deal. I have had some situations of loosing the Bluetooth connection to the WX box, but I believe I have isolated the problem. If the 1st gen WX box looses power by wiggling the cigarette power adapter for a tiny instant, it drops the Bluetooth. I am sure this can be solved and I might just wire it into my avionics switch and bypass the cigarette adapter; this was done before for a handheld GPS previously in my plane. When being careful to not disturb the connector, it remains connected forever. It is possible the newest 2nd gen Wx boxes are better about this, but I do not know.

Taxi and FBO information

The FBO information seems nice with the latest fuel prices, nearby hotels and restaurants, and full taxiway information. I have not tried the taxiway information yet, but it is supposed to show your position on the airport diagram. My home airport is small so it does not have a diagram. But it is a no brainer to navagatate around. I will be curious when I go to the nearby Class Delta Airport next time.


The display is very bright. I can see it outside in bright sunlight. If you put it in the worst sun glare it gets a little hard, but I think every device have a problem there. Angle a little bit and it is once again very readable.

The 800x480 display seems a nice size and is larger than a Garmin 430 display with much, much more resolution and colors. I really like that the Class Bravo altitudes are displayed on the ATC; this is not the case on the Garmin 430.

Processor Power

So far I have not had any problems with processor power. When you first start the Flying mode, it can take a half minute. But next time you push the power, it is just coming in and out of a standby mode and is very fast.

Refresh rate seems to be about 1/sec for normal GPS with minimal weather. I hear that the rate can go down a bit with a lot of Radar in the picture. Maybe to once per 3 seconds. This 1/sec rate works for me. I purchased this for weather and this rate is fine for me. I think the Garmin 496 is supposed to be a faster update rate, but I have not seen it. I wonder if it slows down with weather as well. The keys respond instantly without any lag. Maybe this is due to the dual processor? After a zoom change, the first refresh takes about 2 seconds.

Driving Mode

So far I really like the driving mode. I saw some complaints about it on-line, but I have not experienced any problems there. Route recalculation is fast and good. If you do not like the route it picks, you can tell it to pick a route "via" a new intersection. This works very well. I noticed one time at the "via" point it told me to go right instead of left and I think that was a strange artifact of the "via" point. Easy to deal with.

I am amazed at the business database it has inside. It has every business I could want in it. Hopefully it is updatable in the future.

I did not read through the manual to figure all the features out, so I had to fumble a little while in some places. But not that I have figured out how to set up start/destination/via and searching businesses, it is very nice.


The battery lasts a little while. Maybe an hour or two. So it is good in emergency or short trips, but other wise use the power adapter which works easily.


The price is pretty unbeatable. I even managed to get it during the introduction period for $695 including the device including GPS and the ATC software. I then got a used 1st Generation Wx Box for less than half price and had it updated by AnywhereMap for $95. So in the end, I had gps and weather in the cockpit for just over $1100 dollars. This is much, much cheaper than other systems; most are $2500 or more. Even if you pay the normal price for the ATC components, I think it would be a good deal.


It is a good solid device. I would recommend getting one. Check around and see other peoples' thoughts. If you do try one, be aware of their return policy; it is a little strict with a 10-15% penalty for returns. But hopefully you will like it and not have that concern.

Some Errata being worked on by AnywhereMap:

There are few minor things to know that are planned to be fixed. Others are just things you need to be aware of. They are minor and I think the improtant ones will be fixed soon.

  • Need to manually connect to weather each time you boot
  • State lines to be fixed. System slows down with them activated.
  • Don't access the USB looking drive from your computer. If you do, be very careful and check with ControlVision. I do not think it is recommended.
  • Don't upload contacts. This might be fixed.
  • Watch the power connection for the weather box. Can loose the Bluetooth connection if power blips.
  • PocketPlates for approach charts is not quite available yet, but soon.

A couple things I read about to be careful of:

  • Don't remove the flash card while the flying portion is on. Preferrably any time.
  • Close out the flying mode before downloading updates

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Maintenance on Your Own Plane

Figuring out what to do on maintenance on your new plane can be a hard task in the beginning. At first it feels like you pick a mechanic who you do not know much and you have to trust him and then he hands you multi-thousand dollar invoices.

The First Years

The first year of maintenance is always hard; even if you have a fairly well kept plane. Most of the time a plane is sold because the owner has lost interest in flying. So he has also lost interest in upkeep. So he may do the minimal amount, but you are likely to want a little better when you get the plane. Prepurchase is very key here; try to find all the items you can before the sale and negotiate getting them fixed.

The other item that can make the first year expensive is just having a new mechanic looking at the plane. He will likely find things the previous mechanic did not. In some ways I like having different people look at my plane on occasion. Either the shop has two IAs or swap between shops. Being loyal and having somebody experienced with your plane is good. But having new eyes look at it are good too.

My first couple years were expensive. The engine had been doing great, but at the first annual, a cylinder needed to be rebuilt. Later the exhaust system was found to be needing a replacement. The muffler was known to be close at the prepurchase, but the exhaust system was not. These things add up.

Maintenance Management Class

One thing I would highly recommend to most plane owners is to take the Savvy Aviator Class by Mike Busch. It is not a class to teach you how to repair your plane, but to know enough that you can get your maintenance done at the right price.

The FAA named Mike as its "National Aviation Maintenance Technician of the Year" for 2008. He is a knowledgeable A&P/IA and nice guy. After taking the class he has also been agreeable to answer questions I have had. Very nice!

Engine TBO

One of the things Mike Busch is advocate of is watching your engine carefully and overhauling on the condition of it. If the engine is at TBO, but working well, do not overhaul. Part of the idea with this is that many new engines have failures in the first 100-200 hours. This can be due to bolts not getting tightened properly, etc.

If you are doing oil analysis, using an oil filter (and inspecting it), and preferably using a multipoint engine analyzer, your engine should give you plenty of warning of problems according to Mike Busch and others.

Oil Filter

If you don't have an oil filter, check into getting a conversion kit. It lengthens the time you can use the oil. On some engines, it can be the difference between a 1500TBO and 2000TBO. If it is not stated, it is still a real plus. Less metal stays in the oil. Also, if there is metal, it gets trapped better and you can see it when the mechanic cuts the filter for inspection. This can be key to catching any possible engine problems. If you are nearing TBO, it is even more important and the oil filter conversion can be transferred to the new engine at some point.

I got the F & M Enterprises oil filter adapter for my Continental O470. It attaches directly to the engine without oil lines. The oil lines can be a concerning point of failure. There are no recurring AD inspections on it; some do. With practice and a ziplock bag around the filter, the filter can be removed quite easily and without mess during an oil change.

Oil Analysis

The oil analysis programs I have used is Aviation Laboratories and Blackstone Laboratories. I liked some of the on-line reporting that Aviation Labs did, but I like the more personal service that Blackstone Labs does. In the end, I have kept with Blackstone Labs. One thing that is important is to try to keep consistent with the lab; what you are watching for is not an immediate good/bad answer, but a trend of multiple analyses that indicate something good/bad.

Multipoint Engine Analyzers

Multipoint engine analyzers are great! I initially thought it was for getting accurate leaning and maybe trying lean of peak. This is an important one, but I end up using my fuel flow meter to lean to (after determining the corresponding leaning with the analyzer). But what I value more is seeing EGTs and CHTs simultaneously looking good while in IFR or flying over the moutains.

I have actually seen one EGT bar indicate a problem before i could hear anything. I switched to a single mag and it was better. I cleaned the plug when on the ground (and I knew exactly which plug to check from the analyzer) and the problem was solved. Exhaust valve problems can sometimes be seen by uneven erratic levels. All this gives me a lot more confidence in the engine and this is important with only one engine.

Keeping the Cylinder Head Temperature below 400F is very important from what I hear. 390F is probably better. I feel the analyzer really helps with that. It checks all cylinders, not just one. Also, I have an alarm light that lights up if it is over my predetermined number.

I have the Electronic Instruments UBG-16. It has extra boxes which takes more time to install. It is a very good instrument. I might have gone with the JPI EDM-700 now if doing it again, but they are pretty much equal.

Get a Written Estimate

At least get a verbal estimate, but preferably get a written estimate. If you do not let the mechanic know what price numbers will upset you, you will likely get upset. The mechanic will probably have some idea going into it what the costs will be. Better to know up front than be surprised later. It may go a little over, but make arrangements with the mechanic to call you if this happens before it goes way over.

This is another big thing that Mike Busch advocates and I think it has helped me. It puts all parties on the same page.

Ask Questions

Most mechanics are very agreeable to questions. You learn more about the repair and understand the price and you learn more about your plane. A lot of finding strange problems can involve the pilot trying to diagnose in the air or in the conditions you see them.

Help out with the annual if you can. People call it the owner-assisted annual. You can often at least pull all the inspection plates. Watch him do the compression check and oil change. It may save you some money. Even if it does not save you anything, you will understand more about your plane.


  • Take Mike Busch's class if you can. They are offered all around the country.
  • Do oil analysis.
  • Get a written estimate.
  • Ask questions.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Flying, Kids, and Finding Pilot Friends

Today, I just ran into somebody interesting who used to be a pilot and is considering getting back into flying and he has kids. Wow, that is the combination I need to find more often.

The flying community great, lots of places to find friends, but it is not as easy to find other pilots with kids. So what happened today made me think of all the different places I have looked to find friends. Many of the spots I looked are more applicable to people without kids... so read on either way.

Type Clubs

We own a Cessna 182, so the type club for us is the Cessna Pilots Association. I joined this and have learned incredible amounts of information! It is a great place for making friends on-line, getting advice, and helping with all your owning needs. When I was looking for a plane, I even had a member go fly to the airport and look at the plane for me.

One time, I was going to be having a flying vacation and I inquired if anybody else wanted to join. No response that time. I will have to try again.

Local Pilot Associations

In our area, there are two different types of places to look for other pilots.

One good place is the Colorado Pilots Association. This is a neat place to find people with different types of planes in the local area. This is also a great place to meet people and they organize lots of trips to different places. They have a fantastic list of trips that happen almost every month or weekend. I have not been to too many trips yet, but hopefully more someday soon.

Every so often, the Longmont airport does pot luck at holidays. The Longmont Hangar Association and some other local hangar owners sponsor this. Lots of people go to this, once again very friendly.


In some areas, the EAA can be a great place to meet people. Usually there are local chapters of the EAA where you can meet people of the local airport. Sometimes, I hear the chapters are really devoted to the homebuilders which I am not. But I could probably be convinced to help somewhere. The local EAA chapters have died, but I hope to someday check out this some more.

I have been curious about the Commemerative Air Force too, but the closest chapter is a ways away.

The Local FBO or Flying School

Local FBOs have a lot of transient people, but sometimes you run into the local instructors or students. Talking with people at the line of the self serve gas pump on a busy day can be fun. Sometimes, FBOs will have barbeques on weekends through the summer; this can be fun.


Sometimes, airshows have pilot seminars. This can be a good place to meet and talk with people. These might be more local people if the air show is local. I have not met too many at outside of the seminars, but maybe this is due to most of those people being from out of town.

Hangar Neighbors

I have run into a few of my hangar neighbors occasionally. Some more than others. It is amazing the number of people that have planes and don't seem to fly them. It is kind of sad. But hopefully I am just not around when they happen to fly.

Flying with Pilot Wannabees

Maybe the best place to find people who want to fly and have kids is to look around for people who don't fly but always wanted to. I have run into this a number of times, and I still need to take quite a few up. Who knows maybe someday they will be pilots. It is also great to expose new people and their kids who probably have never been in planes to flying. It is quite a thrill!

Then occasionally you end up in a new situation like I did today. I guess the thing to do is to talk about flying and who knows what will happen. Maybe you will meet a pilot wannabee or maybe a current pilot that you did know or a past pilot that wishes he could still be flying.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Seaplane Rating Someday

Some day, I would love to get a seaplane rating. I love the outdoors, and it seems like another chance to meld the outdoors with my love of flying. I have long dreamed of different things with float planes.

One dream is to fly over to some secluded spot. Camp overnight and go fishing and whatever else near a beautiful lake. Maybe even fishing from the float plane itself. Being able to pick my own spot to land in spots that are not typical to land. Not having to spoil a remote scenery with an airstrip.

Another dream is to someday own a house on a lake with my own float plane and sail boat parked next to my house. Well that one is a big dream that I am not sure if will ever happen.

I have read books about float planes. Looked up different schools on the internet. There is a list of schools on the internet.

My examiner for my Commercial Certificate mentioned that sometime later he wants to open a bed and breakfast with a seaplane school in Alaska someday. He already owns the land in Alaska. That would be cool. I will have to watch out for that one.

I have been reading a book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane by Greg Brown. The first few chapters were a little slow, and I thought about putting the book down. I kept with it, and then it really got fun and interesting. I just read a chapter about Greg getting his seaplane rating. Very inspiring!! It tells of him getting his rating at Lake Havasu, AZ at a place called La Placa Flying Service.

It is a short chapter, but it describes wonderfully flying low on the Colorado River and lakes built from the river. It sounds wonderful. I have heard of seaplane schools in Florida and Minnesota and Alaska. All very interesting places to try it as well. Arizona sounds interesting and convenient to me.... so maybe someday I will try it. I have flown along the Colorado River many times and been very close to Lake Havasu; just north at Laughlin, NV. It is not a long trip and his discription reminds me of landing at Laughlin except I landed on the land. The thought of landing on the Colorado River next to the airport is very enticing. Maybe you can't quite land there, but nearby on the river or lake.

I looked up La Placa Flying service in Arizona. They still exist, but it doesn't appear they offer an inexpensive 150hp C150 floatplane mentioned in The Flying Carpet. I did find another place in Lake Havasu that is looks interesting for a reasonably priced school, Lake Havasu Seaplane.

Maybe a seaplane rating? It would be fun!