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

The 170A has been his personal fixer-upper ever since, and did it ever demand some fixing up. “After a little research,” says Jacobson, “I found that my lovely little 170 had been parked outside near the coast in Florida for over three years. It had developed a small leak at the top corner of the windshield, so the salty moisture that came in at the top of the cabin ran down the door post and into the landing-gear box, eventually finding its way down the belly and out the tail cone. It was a corrosion nightmare! Finally, I had the big picture about why a prebuy inspection is a good idea, but it was too late.”

The long road from rough-and-ready pipeline patroller to Sun ‘n Fun and Oshkosh award winner was to span nearly five decades, two of them in one form or another of active restoration. When Jake was financially able to initiate the ground-up renovation, he had his doubts as to whether the whole project was worthwhile.

“Now, I was at the go/no-go decision point,” Jake admits. “Was this tired and corroded old 170A with a runout engine worth repairing, or should I cut my losses and part it out? Clearly, from the economic standpoint, the answer was to scrap it and go look for a clean, late-model 170B. However, this was the airplane I learned to fly in with my father, so scrapping it was kind of like putting down the family dog. I was not trying to produce a show plane, but I wanted to have a solid airplane with a nice paint job and an IFR panel.”

Jacobson worked on the Cessna piecemeal and occasionally flew it in various stages of completion. “Through the ‘80s and ‘90s, I was able to fly the airplane probably no more than 10 hours,” says Jacobson, “and I was writing checks for $500 or $1,000 every few weeks on the restoration. I suppose if I did the math, I could have been chartering a Learjet for the money I spent per hour.”

Progress was slow, primarily because of the amount of work required and the cost for contract labor and parts. As a result, Jacobson’s Cessna remained basically grounded. “While my 170 project was on hold due to lack of funds, I went to Oshkosh on vacation to look at 170s. There I saw Don Lindholm’s 170A, N1424D. It was a highly polished award winner with the factory-original panel and red trim design. At this point, I decided to restore N5752C to original and forget about the IFR panel and custom paint job.”

Jacobson’s ground-up Cessna 170A rebuild project involved outright replacement of many components, including corroded fuselage skins and all interior parts. “The outer surface corrosion on fuselage skins was repairable, but the belly skins and rivets had to be replaced. Del-Air in Porterville, Calif., had purchased some surplus 170 and early 172 jigs from the Cessna factory, so they had the capability of replacing large areas of aluminum skin and still wind up with a straight fuselage. Del-Air also had John Garrett and Paul Lodas who, according to the Cessna Pilots Association, were currently the best sheet-metal guys in the area,” Jacobson explains.

Labels: Piston SinglesSpecs


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