Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Project 182, Part I

Let’s say you own a 1981 Cessna Skylane with adequate avionics, an old paint job and a pedestrian interior, but want to increase capability and safety. What would you do first?

project 182Here at Plane & Pilot, we seem to enjoy lavishing full rebuilds on old Skylanes. Back in the late ’70s, I found and negotiated the purchase of a 1963 Skylane for the magazine as a reader project airplane. A few years ago, ex-editor Lyn Freeman purchased our current project airplane, yet another C182.
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Sandel SN3500 EHSI
HSIs have long been famous for simplifying the critical IFR scan function, and our Skylane will be an on-demand editorial transport that probably will be employed in instrument conditions. The Sandel SN3500 EHSI offers a bright, compact, electronic presentation of more information than you’d believe. I’ve been using HSIs of every description on corporate and turbine equipment for 25 years, and the Sandel 3500 is easily the equal of many pricier systems.

The 3500 features both a 60-degree arc view and a full 360-degree view in case you’re interested in what might be gaining on you. You can select from a variety of GPS, VOR, ADF, DME and FMS navigation inputs; display a miniature version of a moving map on the screen with selectable ranges; and opt for traffic and weather displays as well. Range, bearing, speed and next waypoint ID are all available at the top, and there are the usual CDI and heading bug controls.

In short, the Sandel SN3500 EHSI is about as close as you can come to an all-in-one box confined to a standard 3.5-inch instrument-hole display. For more information, visit

Mid-Continent Lifesaver Backup ADI
If you fly at night or IFR on a regular basis, a standby artificial horizon can be a lifesaver. Accordingly, that’s exactly the name Mid-Continent Instruments chose for its battery-powered ADI. Mid-Continent has been a major overhaul shop for gyros of all kinds for decades, and they know about as much about pneumatic gyros as anyone. As a result, the Mid-Continent Lifesaver attitude indicator is designed to provide a pilot with a one-hour electrical hedge against a total electrical failure. The one-hour battery life includes LED lighting for low-light situations.

With more and more pilots switching from vacuum to electric these days, the Lifesaver provides welcome attitude information when everything else is dead. The system’s projected life is 7,500 hours, triple the endurance of a vacuum system, and battery life when properly charged and maintained is about three years. For more information, visit

L-3 Stormscope WX-500
A Stormscope can make all the difference when the weather is dark and stormy and you’re slogging along in the clag, but it also may provide a good diagnostic weather tool for flying VFR. Stated simply, a Stormscope detects electrical discharges. The most common manifestations of discharge are lightning flashes, but electrical reactions can be silent and invisible, the result of two vertical or horizontal air masses rubbing against one another without any telltale flash or clap of thunder.

These days, Stormscopes are sold by L-3 Communications. They sense electrical activity out to 200 nm, and refresh rate is every two seconds, so the information you receive on the screen is current. Pilots who live in areas of active discharge often employ Stormscopes while parked on the ramp to examine the proposed route for thunderstorm activity. It’s sometimes possible to make intelligent go/no-go decisions based primarily on Stormscope readouts.

Even when there’s no significant weather about, Stormscopes can serve useful functions as timers and repositories of checklists. For more information, visit


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