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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Avidyne TAS-610 TCAS
If you fly around busy terminal airspace on a regular basis, some form of collision avoidance is extremely desirable. The Skylane features an Avidyne 610, a system that employs one of the oldest names in TCAS technology, Ryan International.

Ryan is a pioneer in collision avoidance, and they introduced the first Ryan TCAD systems more than a quarter-century ago, displaying nearby traffic with range and relative altitude information only, no clock position.

Today, the TAS610 incorporates Ryan’s Active-Surveillance Traffic Technology, which surveils the surrounding 12 miles of airspace with both top and bottom antennas, and provides heads-up warnings of aircraft within its vertical limits of plus or minus 3,500 feet and a max altitude of 25,000 feet.

The TAS610 is a heads-up system that announces all target parameters (“Traffic, one o’clock high, two miles”), so a pilot need not first bring his eyes back inside the cockpit to check the panel readout before looking for the offending aircraft.

Meggitt/S-TEC 55X Autopilot
An autopilot is almost essential if you’re planning long cross-country flights, and Skylanes are generally regarded as excellent traveling machines. Meggitt/S-TEC is the world’s largest manufacturer of general aviation autopilots, starting with the entry-level S-TEC 20 and peaking with the top-of-the-line model 65.

Our Skylane is fitted with the S-TEC 55X, one of the company’s midpriced/high-capability automatic flight-control systems. It’s an all-in-one box, offered in a standard 6.3-inch panel-stack width, with annunciators and mode controls on the same face. The 55X is rate-based, meaning it’s designed to operate on the indications of a turn coordinator rather than an artificial horizon.

It’s a two-axis system that offers rate of climb and altitude preselect, as well as DG and NAV track, GPSS steering (strangely from the GPS) and REV modes for back-course approaches. The 55X is adaptable to everything from entry-level wing leveling to full-on coupled approaches, and its simple push-button operation makes it nearly idiotproof. Even magazine writers can fly it. For more information, visit


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