Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Skylane For The Flight Levels

A turbo benefits far more than high-altitude cruise

The inevitable penalty for all of this innovation is reduced useful load. Our older-generation Skylanes boasted 1,150-1,200 useful pounds, whereas the new models sport more like 1,050-1,100 pounds. With 80 gallons in either Skylane, the old airplane can lift about 670 pounds, the new bird around 570 pounds.

Weight reduction in an airplane that has been around for nearly half a century is a magic trick that David Copperfield couldn't match on his best day. Talk about making an elephant disappear. Aircraft manufacturers, from Boeing to Aeronca, have spent millions trying to find extra pounds that could be translated to payload, and not always successfully.
They were UNIVERSALLY reliable and safe to fly. Most important, they were easy to fly. I could teach my German Shepherd to fly a Skylane.
Nevertheless, the Skylane offers a comfortable cabin that has only improved with time. It's quieter, the materials are of better quality and ventilation is superior, with airline-style Wemac vents in place of the old, ill-fitting slide tubes. The Skylane's people space is tall, almost 49 inches from floorboard to ceiling at the front-seat station, and the cross section abeam the front buckets is 42 inches. That's the same as a 36 Bonanza, and only ½ inch narrower than a Mooney. The Skylane is a comfortable place to spend an hour, or four (or sometimes, in our case, eight or 10). The fuselage does begin to taper toward the tail at the front seatbacks, but even the aft horizontal dimension is 40 inches, so the airplane is happy to accommodate two, two-plus-two limitation.

…If the load will allow. As mentioned above, a standard Skylane TC features a max takeoff weight of 3,100 pounds, and Cessna acknowledges that even a typical turbocharged airplane weighs in at 2,023 pounds. Payload with the 87-gallon tanks topped is only 555 pounds. Should you opt for the 76-pound Keith Products air-conditioning system, payload will be reduced to 479 pounds. Without the A/C, you could plan on lifting three, full-size folks, full fuel and toothbrushes.

Among many new improvements to the 2011 model, the instrument panel, standard with a Garmin G1000, is all-metal to replace plastic/fiberglass parts.

In fairness, four-seat airplanes with only three usable seats are more the rule than the exception these days. If you need to carry four standard souls in a Skylane TC, you must leave behind 126 pounds or 21 gallons of fuel. This will limit capacity to 66 gallons, but that still leaves an easy three hours' endurance plus reserve, even at high cruise.

The inevitable question arises, how high do most T182T pilots fly, and what does the turbo do for them at cruise? If you operate the airplane in the bottom three miles of sky, where most pilots run turbocharged airplanes most of the time, you'll see 15 knots better cruise speed.


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