Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cessna 162 Skycatcher: It’s Here!

Cessna's successor to the 152, the Skycatcher, is poised to shine in the trainer market

The 162’s seats are fixed; however, both sets of rudder pedals are adjustable.
The Skycatcher is the first Cessna to offer doors that open out and up, hinged at the top and spring-loaded to fold against the bottoms of the wings. The windows are fixed, and there are no small storm windows, so the airplane is approved to taxi with doors full up. As should be obvious, you can’t open the doors in flight. Cessna employs standard airline Wemacs near the wing roots for internal airflow.

Like the rest of the airplane, the 162’s cabin is a little different. The seats are fixed, though both sets of rudder pedals are adjustable fore and aft to accommodate long-legged aviators. The cabin is 44 inches wide at the shoulders, making the Skycatcher the second-widest piston airplane in Cessna’s lineup (the Corvalis is the widest at 48 inches across). I’m only about five-foot-nine, but it was obvious headroom easily was adequate for a six-footer.

Cessna completely redesigned the 162’s pitch-and-roll control to reduce weight and improve cabin access. The single handgrips resemble side sticks, but they work more like conventional joysticks. (Don’t bother to twist your wrist as you would on a Cirrus or Corvalis; it won’t accomplish anything.) The trick is that the sticks translate from the panel rather than the floorboards, closer to a yoke than a joystick. This unblocks panel space and frees up foot and legroom during entry/egress. The sticks offer conventional travel left and right, forward and aft, with no more friction than a stick or yoke control.

Pitch trim is electric, again a concession to weight. Failure mode is simply to overpower the trim, not a problem on such a light airplane. Flaps are manually deployed with a Johnson bar between the seats. There are four positions—0, 15, 25 and 40 degrees—and control pressures are moderate, with little buildup at the higher flap positions.

The panel is all Garmin, built around the new G300, a miniature, all-in-one, economy version of the popular G1000. In addition to most of the talents available on its big-brother, do-it-all glass panel, the Skycatcher’s G300 offers one mode that’s not available on the G1000: a weight-and-balance feature that offers a graphical representation of the CG envelope. The pilot merely inputs people, fuel and baggage pounds, and the system pops up a pictograph of the appropriate balance point. Pretty clever.

All electric switches are at top center panel: master, avionics and lights. The landing and position lights are Whelen multiple-element LEDs that should make the Skycatcher easy to spot. The 162 is approved for day/night/VFR flight only, though it can serve for IFR training in VFR conditions. The test airplane didn’t have the autopilot or ballistic parachute options, but it was otherwise typically equipped. The BRS system costs $6,000 and weighs 35 pounds. It will be interesting to see how many people order the parachute.

Fuel gauges in each wing are the bubble variety, simple tubes that indicate quantity by head pressure. Interestingly, some engineer at Cessna wins the “duh” award for finally figuring out an inexpensive, silly-simple method of partial fueling. You can fuel each wing through one of three access tubes beneath the cap that corresponds to half full, three-quarters or topped. The tubes merely extend into the tanks to different levels.


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