Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cessna 170A: Rebuild Of A Lifetime, Literally


Jacobson passed his checkride in this cessna 170A in 1962, and look at it now


One of the benefits of writing about airplanes for a living is that I’m often entrusted to fly some truly wonderful machines. I flew half a dozen different airplanes at the 2010 Oshkosh AirVenture, and though there was one that cost $1.7 million and carried six people at 220 knots, by far the most impressive of the lot was the smallest, the oldest, the least expensive and the only one that was used. “Well used” might be a better description. The Cessna 170A in question was built in 1950 (and yes, you probably saw this coming), but it was a prize winner. It was the inevitable beneficiary of a discontinuous, 25-year renovation.

It belongs to Stephen E. “Jake” Jacobson of Ft. Worth, Texas. Jake’s father and three partners purchased the all-metal Cessna for $3,500 from a pipeline patrol company in the early 1960s when Jake was a teenager. The 170A was indeed well used. It had 5,000 hours on it in only 10 years of service, but because it had been a working machine, flown practically every day and maintained religiously, it was in sound mechanical condition.

Jake took most of his early training in his dad’s 170A, even earning his private and commercial tickets in the all-aluminum Cessna. His dad later became the sole owner of the 170A, and the airplane remained in the family until 1972, then was sold and moved to Florida, sold again and relocated to Arizona. Meanwhile, Jake had moved on to a U.S. Navy military career flying attack aircraft off the carriers USS Oriskany and USS Roosevelt. Jake flew combat missions over Vietnam during the height of the conflict. He spent 2,000 hours in military jets before retiring from the Navy.


Jake continued to have a soft spot for the little Cessna and caught up with it in 1985. “It was up for sale at Falcon Field in Phoenix, and I jumped at the chance to buy it unlicensed and ‘as is’ for $9,500,” says Jake. “I was so attached to the airplane for sentimental reasons, I was going to buy it no matter what, and I didn’t bother with a prebuy inspection from an A&P mechanic.”

Jake comments that he learned quickly the inadvisability of such a rash action. “This was not a smart move. I tried to get it licensed at a local shop (in Phoenix) before flying it home to San Francisco. After writing checks for over three grand, the best I could negotiate was a ferry permit for 10 hours/30 days,” Jacobson explained. “Signing off the annual inspection at this shop would have meant spending big bucks and leaving it in Phoenix for several weeks.” As a result, Jake flew his airplane to the San Francisco area on the ferry permit and initiated the rebuild project at Porterville in the nearby San Joaquin Valley.



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