Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Commitment To A Cessna 172B

Dream hot, work hard and make sure there’s money in the pot: The chronicle of a 40-year path to the perfect C-172B

Commitment To A Cessna 172BThere are those seeds, like Jack’s, that explode overnight into giant beanstalks. And there are those, indigenous to certain biospheres, that only germinate when exposed to fire and, so, possibly wait for years to grow.


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Soon the project was a six-alarm, three-county blaze. The panel got stuffed with every flyboy’s dreams: a King KX-155 Nav/Com, II Morrow GX65 GPS with CDI, Narco Transponder, King KR-86 ADF, new airspeed, artificial horizon, altimeter, turn and bank, vertical speed and directional gyroscope. Still, there were no fire trucks in sight, because, as Petrus relates, “once I got the panel in, well, the interior just didn’t look so good.”

With the supervision of his new friend Dave Light, a local IA, Petrus blazed away with the rebuild and worked on the interior. “In fact, I did all the work except the painting. When the inside was done, it looked so good, I just had to continue to bring the outside up to snuff.”

After three more years, which saw everything from new seat rails, a one-piece windshield and new mufflers to a Horton STOL kit with flap-gap seals, everything but the paint job (whew!) was finished.

Anybody who’s painted an airplane, new or old, knows that there’s a fair amount of prep work involved. “It took tons of hours. I removed every nut and bolt; put in a lot of new hardware. Every item was inspected and put back right or replaced.

“Then I decided to take the spare engine, overhaul it and put in brand-new cylinders, mags and carburetor. Finally, with the engine done and mounted, I buttoned it all up and flew it to Aircraft Refinishers of Western New York [].”

By the time it was finally finished, both Gerry and Andy had earned their licenses in the 172B—all part of the original deal. And, with most of his brain now completely consumed by flames, Petrus could step back, admire the work and enjoy the flying. Right? Wrong.

“I put a couple more goodies in: a fuel flow meter, digital tach and, oh yeah, a full IFR panel.”

In the end, Petrus experienced the bitter taste of passion’s ashes. “I walked around it for months wondering what I could do next, because I’d done a pretty thorough job.”

“Thorough” reads like this. Original investment: $20,500. All the new hardware and paint: $52,805.07. Labor (hours astronomical), new friendships, fun flying, and pilot’s licenses for Andy and Gerry: priceless.

Wouldn’t it have been easier to just buy something similar back in ’97 and save all the restoring work?

Labels: Piston Singles


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