Saturday, September 27, 2008

My Cessna 182 and Avionics Panel

Here are some of the avionics and other items I have in my plane and some small reviews of each of the avionics. Somebody asked me about some details of my plane, so I thought this post would be a good thing to add. If you have anything you would like me to write on, please let me know, and I will do my best to do a post on it.

You see pictures of the outside of the plane on the front page of the blog, but here is a picture of the inside of the avionics panel.
N9699G C182P Panel

My plane is a 1974 Cessna 182P. I have had it for almost 4 years now. It has the standard 230hp Continental O470R. There are other details that can be found about the C182 in general on Wikipedia.

Here are some options I have with small reviews of each:

  • Horton Stol: good for getting the plane into back country strips.
  • Garmin 430W : Incredible for situation awareness and IFR approaches. Includes terrain awareness with the WAAS option.
  • Michell MX-170B with glideslope: A decent older backup NavCom. At least it is digital and has standby frequencies. The VOR indicator has needed occasional fixing, but the main unit has been ok.
  • Bendix King Transponder: KT-76C: Nice to have digital access and a VFR button.
  • Shadin Miniflow-L: Very nice. Very accurate in predicting how much fuel you have used on a trip. Linked together with the 430W, it accurately predicts your reserve fuel left at your destination. Makes it obvious when you haven't leaned.
  • Stormscope WX-900: Detects lightning strikes. Very nice in IFR and on a stormy day. This is an early model that does not track when the plane moves and does not display on the Garmin 430; these features would be nice if I did not already have this one.
  • Stec 55 with altitude preselect, electric trim, and control wheel steering. Nice, but I value the heading track mode the most. Next I value the altitude hold, but this is not too necessary in a 182 since it trims to altitude so nicely. The other options are nice, but not must have. Although if I didn't have them, I would probably be jealous. I only have the Stec 55 and not the 55X, so I do not have the GPSS (GPS steering)
  • EI UBG-16 Engine analyzer with Mux-8a: Very nice to see the engine is doing well when you are in IFR or over the mountains. Good for leaning. Has noticed a plug that was starting to foul before the engine made any sounds of it.
  • PS Engineering audio panel: PMA7000M-S: PS Engineering has nice units in general. I really like this specific model for two things. It can split the radios so pilot can use one frequency and the copilot can use another frequency; very handy for talking with ATC and having my wife check ATIS. The other thing is crew/passenger/pilot switch; with kids in the back it is crutial to shut them out and let them have their own conversation. This model is not around any more, hopefully they have these features on a newer version.
  • Precision Vertical Card Compass: This is a nice alternative to a compass. I have heard some people have problems with them, but mine has worked well. Be careful to not put magnets near by or adjust with anything but a brass screwdriver. It tracks in the same direction as the Directional Gyro instead of the opposite direction which a compass does.
  • Precise Flight Standby Vacuum: not too useful at high altitudes, but still nice to know I have. It uses the vacuum in the air intake system so it is important to have a difference between outside air pressure and manifold pressure. So at 10,000' MSL which has about 20" outside pressure, you would have to use something like 15" MP to have it work. At lower altitudes it is not a problem. It also has a big warning light for vacuum which is nice.
  • Glare Shield /internal dimmable flood lighting: Nice, but I think I like the NuLites better.
  • Indicator lights with NuLite Instrument Lighting System: This is very nice. Makes a similar look as the new Cessnas.
  • F&M Enterprises Oil Adapter: I highly recommend for anybody that still has an oil screen. Filters make the difference on some engines between 1500TBO and 2000TBO. It does not officially do this for my engine, but I know it helps. Inspecting the filter is nice.
  • New interior and new paint: Nice and makes the plane look much newer than a 34 year old plane. Passengers who have not been in small planes before appreciate this.
  • Carb Temp guage: I have noticed mild carburator icing on a clear day. C182 carburators are very susceptible due to their location on the engine. So I like this. It also makes the engine a little happier with temps at 50F.
  • CD/AM/FM player: I don't use this much since I am often doing flight fallowing or IFR and talking with ATC. The PMA7000M-S audio panel will fade the music in and out when ATC talks, but this is annoying to me.

Things I dream about:

Other items I have and small reviews:
They say it is best to buy a plane with all the options you want. If you put an autopilot in afterwards, I think it can cost 2x or more to put in yourself versus buying with the plane originally. It cost me a little bit more to buy originally, but I think I found one well fitted for my desires. I did not have much to buy after getting it.

If you have any questions about these, send me an E-mail or leave a comment.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Learning to Fly

Most airports have a cheap introductory flight lesson available. This intro flight is often as cheap as $49 for 1/2 hour of ground instruction and 1/2 hour of time in the air which you take the controls. It is sometimes a little more these days since fuel and other expenses have gone up in price. It varies from flight school to flight school. It is even sometimes available for helicopters; I had an intro flight for a helicopter that was $99.

Some people do not realize how many small airports are around the country and that you can get pilot lessons at most of them. Use this AOPA tool to find the nearest flight school. The other thing that I think most people do not realize is that most pilots are super friendly and enthusiastic to help somebody else enjoy flying.

It is amazing the number of people that I talk to at the airport that are there dreaming about flying and have no idea how easy it is to get a taste of flying. Maybe a person can't afford to do the entire private pilot certificate, but most people can afford the intro flight. Then maybe someday the intro flight will turn into a realization of a dream.

If you are a pilot, spread the word that these intro flights exist.

AOPA and other resources

If you are starting to be a little interested, AOPA has some new resources for potential pilots. They have some older flight training web pages as well.

In the past, there was a good article about learning to fly at Plane and Pilot Magazine.

They both have recommendations on how to find a flight school and instructor.

On-line Ground Schools and Written Test Practice

If you get serious, one of the things you will want to look into is ground school and taking the written test. Now that the internet is more and more prominent, there is more and more resources out there; much of it free. You can find a general list of online resources at Pilots Almanac. One of the ones I have seen mentioned a couple times is this free on-line ground course which looks pretty good at a glance.


Another place that I think could be very interesting to an aspiring pilot is the area of blogs. There are many blogs out there of pilots at different stages includes records of people when they first started to learn. There are a number of places to look for blogs. Thirty Thousand Feet Aviation directory has a good list of aviation blogs. The Blogging Pilots Aggregator has another good list of aviation blogs.


Hopefully, if you are not a pilot yet, this has sparked some interest. Go down to your local airport and ask around or just hang out. It is lots of fun. If you have any questions, please send me an E-mail.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cessna 182 Operating Expenses

There are more costs for operating an airplane than the fuel it burns and the original purchase price. When I was thinking of owning, I saw some breakouts that helped. I thought I would share how my expense have been going for the 4 years I have owned the plane. If you are considering renting vs owning you might also want to look at my past blog entries on renting and owning.

Repair Costs at Annual and Other Times

Many repair costs appear at annual inspection and at other times. See my other post about my latest annual inspection. I fly about 120 hours a year and this probably influences how much repair typically happens. My plane is a 1974 C182P. Age might make some difference, but I have heard of new planes with similar expenses.

Here is a list of different repairs and improvements I have done:

1/11/05 prop control: $204
Known needed to be fixed at purchase of plane.
1/17/05 labor prop control, cylinder head probe: $406
5/13/05 Filter adapter: $437
6/7/05 annual + nose strut+ cowl flap hinges + carb heat+filter adapter install: $2701
8/15/05 cylinder fix: $1158
11/18/05: vor indicator fix: $65
2/13/06: EI UBG-16 engine analyzer: $1465
3/29/06: new muffler, exhaust: $3363
3/29/06: EI install $900
7/5/06: annual + tires +brakes+aileron rod+ mixture cable: $2445
vernier mixture cable improvement portion was: $271
12/14/06: pitot-static, vor indicator fix: $422
5/11/07: attitude indicator $1097
6/19/07: GNS430 Waas upgrade $2001
8/14/07: annual + cylinder + engine mounts + baffling + fairing fix = $4224
cylinder portion was about $928
11/16/07: short in instrument lighting (found in EI install): $401
9/5/08: annual + cylinder + carb box + spin bulkhead + mags = $3800
cylinder portion was about $900

In order to come up with a yearly budget, I will consider that some of these items are from the first years of owning (such as the exhaust fixing and prop control). I will also not include the cylinder fixing in the normal plan, but it should be considered as possible. The annual inspection is around $1200/ year as well.

This totals to about $3272/year including the inspection. For simplicity, we will say $1200 is for the inspection and $2000/year is for general maintenance.

Also keep in mind a budget for upgrades. I ended up spending $5038 total for 4 years upgrades plus fixing a short in the EI install. These were relatively small upgrades. Interior, Paint, and many avionics upgrades are much much more.

Keeping costs in control is very important. If you are not careful, I could see maintenance costs doubling. I recommend taking Mike Busch's Savvy Aviator Seminar and joining the Cessna Pilots Association or a club for your type of plane and ask lots of questions. The more you are involved with understanding the maintenance, the better.

Overhaul Costs

Planning for a potential engine overhaul is something you should do and it is a major expense. As Mike Busch indicates in his Savvy Aviator Seminar, I would recommend using TBO as a guideline, but not a requirement.

But how much does an engine overhaul cost? I am still trying to figure this out. One spot to look is Aviation Consumer. They have an article onverhauling shops. There are a number of things that I think are left out from the costs listed there such as overhauling the prop and governor and the removal and reinstallation of the engine. But it is a starting place.

So for purposes of this analysis, I will use engine overhaul of $24,000 engine + $2400 R&R. Prop overhaul of $2500 prop + $2000 governor. Both of these to be budgeted for 1500 hours.

Yearly Fixed Costs

  • Annual Inspection: $1200
  • Repairs during annual and other times: $2000 (sometimes a cylinder fix for $900)
  • Hangar: $290 * 12 months (some hangars are much more expensive)
  • Insurance: $1277
  • Loan or the cost of money in the plane?
  • Improvements in Avionics, Interior, and Paint?
  • Total = $7777
  • If you fly 120 hours a year and do not add for a loan, $64.80 / hour

Hourly Costs

  • ~13 Gph at maybe $5.50 = $71.50/hour
  • Oil change every 40 hours = $75 oil+filter + $22 oil analysis + do labor myself = $2.43/hour
  • Engine overhaul budget every 1500 hours: $24,000 engine + $2400 R&R = $17.60/hour
  • Prop overhaul budget every 1500 hours: $2500 prop + $2000 governor = $3/hour
  • Total = $94.53 / hour

Combined Fixed + Hourly Costs

  • For 120 hours / year is: $159.33 / hour.
  • For 50 hours / year is: $250.07 / hour

Compared to Renting

At our field, there is a Cessna 182 for rent for $155 / hour. It is not as nice as ours and is not hangared which can be nice on cold days. Having the plane available when you want is worth something that is hard to count. The $159.33 / hour cost also does not account for a loan or the money you have paid for the plane. If you are not flying 120 hours per year, the rental looks better and better.


Hopefully this helps for anybody thinking about owning. If you have a different experience, please feel free to share.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Cessna 182 Annual Inspection

Well, I just got through another aircraft annual on my airplane. This is one of the big yearly items that ends up with unplanned costs. Once again, it cost more than I planned and around $3800, and I did some things to reduce cost. I am starting to think that annuals in my plane will cost around that as long as I am flying it around 120 hours a year. In fairness, the annual inspection was closer to $1200, but fixing and other periodic maintenance added up to maybe $2600.

Expected Items This Year

This year, I expected to do the standard annual plus do the 500 hour service on my magnetos. I also had decided to change my spark plugs with some cheap plugs from Air Power Inc instead of clean and regap; although in the end, I saved the new plugs for later. I also wanted to fix the battery jump connect which I had recently found to have a problem; this was a simple fix.

500 Hour Magneto Service

This year it was time to look at doing the 500 hour magneto service. I had heard some large numbers from one mechanic for repairing the magnetos. The local mechanic doing my annual said he could repair the magnetos, and it sounded a little cheaper. But I decided to send my magnetos off to Andy Richards in Auburn, CA at Power Aviation Services. He is relatively new at Power Aviation Services, but he has been doing magnetos for a long time with a great reputation at Sierra Magneto and other places. I have heard good things from people in Cessna Pilots Association of him. The price was right, he worked on them right away, and explained what needed to be repaired with some possible options. He was very friendly and very professional. I would highly recommend Andy when you need your magnetos done. The average magneto repair is $200 a piece, but was a little more for me. I think this was one place that saved me money.

Unexpected Items This Year

I had few unexpected items. I had a cylinder with an exhaust valve leak to fix, a crack in the spinner bulkhead, a carburator heat valve fix, a crack in the baffling, a crack in the cowling near the propeller. These all added up especially the bad exhaust valve and cracked spinner bulkhead.

Bad Exhaust Valve and Cylinder Repair Again

One big surprise this year was a bad exhaust valve on cylinder #1; this was especially surprising since I fixed it last year. I thought initially that the cylinder shop would cover part of the repair since it was the second time they repaired it. The cylinder shop now says it will not cover it. They believe it had to do with the way I ran the engine although they do not have a clear problem with how I ran it; just minor thoughts. I ran it pretty standard with 75 Rich of Peak, 67% horse power or lower during cruise, and maintaining CHTs below 390 with the use of a EI UBG-16 engine monitor. I am still trying to figure this out. Most people have indicated the problem was probably the previous repair. Another cylinder shop mentioned that it could be a localized heat problem even if the CHT prove for that cylinder never got above 390 degrees. The 2nd cylinder shop mentioned to look carefully at the baffling. The initial looks at baffling look ok by my A&P. The main thing I want is to not have this occur again.

Cracked Spinner Bulkhead

The spinner bulkhead was found to be cracked near the bolts. This is the back part that the spinner bolts onto. It was just a small hairline crack at this point and not obvious. But it could become large and become a real problem. This was looking to be potentially a very expensive repair; maybe $2000 of parts.

The current part had been superceded twice (0752637-1 superceded by 0752637-17 superceded by 0752637-27) and the new part needs extra additional parts (2 of 0550341-1). I found this out by finding the initial part number in a Cessna Parts manual. Some free Cessna Parts Manual can be found here. I found the new part prices and the superceded information with the Premier Aircraft On-line Catalog. Through my double checks, I found it a little cheaper than the FBO, but similar.

The initial checks by the FBO did not find the used parts, so I started looking. There is a long salvage yard list on the Cessna Pilots Association list. I emailed everybody on the list, and I did find one 0752637-17 at Preferred Airparts who have an on-line used inventory search, but it needs extra parts. Later, I did find another part for $200 from Faeth Aircraft, but it was too late.

In the end, the best option was to repair the spinner bulkhead. Cessna Pilots Association informed me of a place that was authorized by the FAA to repair them. K&K Precision Welding was able to repair the bulkhead for around $400 which included a yellow tag. This repair method saved me about $1400.

Other Repairs the Past 4 Years

I have heard that the first few annuals after buying a plane can be expensive. I think I bought a reasonably well taken care of plane, so I was not sure if the I was going to be hit by this. The initial inspections and maintenance were higher than I expected, but they have not come down too much. Usually around $3000.

Here is a list of some of the items I have fixed in the past 4 years: exhaust repair, other carburator heat repairs, aileron rod repair, new engine mounts, new brake linings, nose strut resealing, new battery, new tires, new ELT battery, new landing lights, overhauling the attitude indicator, fixing the VOR indicator, new baffling, new alternator due to worn mounts, crankshaft seal, and pitot-static checks. All of these items did not cause any serious concerns for immediate airworthiness, but needed to be fixed.

I have also had some improvements I have done which of course add to the yearly costs as well.


After having 4 annuals inspections and maintenance that have been around $2500-$4000, I think I will start planning on at least $3000. If it ends up less, I will count myself lucky. It is easier to have it work in this direction than the other.

Cessna Pilots Association and taking Mike Busch's Savvy Aviator Seminar definitely helped me keep my costs down. It could have been much worse. I would also recommend both of these items for owners.