Plane & Pilot
Monday, September 1, 2008

The Ageless Skylane

“Age and experience trump youth and enthusiasm every time.” Well, almost every time.

As I look down—and up—at the Andes Mountains ahead, I can’t help feeling some comfort that I’m flying one of the oldest, toughest airplanes above the planet. Santiago, Chile, is in the Skylane’s rear window as I climb higher above the famous Pan-American Highway, reaching for 13,000 feet to clear the tall ridgeline into Argentina.

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ageless skelane
The glass-panel Garmin G1000 avionics system gives the classic 182, one of the world’s oldest production airplanes, a modern edge.

All-up sticker price on the test airplane, a 182T NAV III, is $398,500. The Keith AC system runs another $32,500, and for those who operate in warm climates, it’s very efficient, capable of reducing cabin temperature to a comfortable level in a few minutes. GPS-based terrain mapping and TIS uplink are also part of the NAV III package.

Basic traffic- and terrain-monitoring equipment are included in the standard package, but the more exotic active TAWS-B (terrain) and King TAS (traffic) are available as options. If you elect to buy the active terrain and traffic options installed at the factory, they run $8,550 and $19,800, respectively. The standard airplane does include an introductory subscription to XM Aviator weather. After six months, you’ll need to pick up your own subscription.

Today’s new-generation Skylane is immediately recognizable as the great-grandfather of the older 182 that premiered in 1956, quickly evolving into the rear window and swept tail of 1962. It’s true that there have been literally hundreds of improvements, but the basic airframe, wing and horsepower package remains extremely similar to those of the original. With better paint and a dramatically improved interior, plus a fuel-injected Lycoming engine in place of the carbureted Continental, today’s Skylane flies as well or better than the old-generation 182s.

The post-millenium Skylane features roughly the same engine for both the normally aspirated and turbocharged models. The Lycoming IO-540 and TIO-540 are typically 300 hp powerplants, and in this case, they’ve been severely derated to 230 and 235 hp, respectively. The new deep-breathing Skylane is rated for what seems an inordinately high max continuous power, 88%. Keep in mind, however, that 88% of the derated 235 hp limit is equivalent to only 69% of the normal 300 hp rating, so don’t worry that you’re abusing the engine at full cruise.

The other big change, of course, and the one that garners most of the attention these days, is the avionics package, a suite of radios, most of which hadn’t even been invented in the 1950s. Considering that practically every aircraft manufacturer is embracing glass panels these days, it seems almost anticlimactic to tout the talents of the G1000 glass display, but the fact is, it’s a revelation in contrast to the aircraft electronics of even 10 years ago, much less those of the ’50s and ’60s.

Basically, the Garmin G1000 is a full-service package, capable of displaying everything from the inevitable VOR/GPS/ILS and NEXRAD to TCAS and TAWS. For those of us educated on round instruments, the Garmin system is anything but intuitive; still, it becomes friendly fast. [See the “Garmin G1000 Tips” sidebar for expert G1000 advice.]

Labels: Piston Singles


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