This article is the first in a series about bringing a good used airplane up to more modern standards. Our test subject is a 1964 Cessna 182G with a beautiful airframe, passable but old interior, avionics in dire need of updating and the original engine that has good compression and relatively low time since an overhaul 20 years ago. The prop looks like new, but is 12 years old.
In this series, we’ll be examining not only the safety case for an upgrade, but the financial case for it as well. While few owners would choose to do all of the mods we’re doing with this lucky Skylane, each one of them makes sense as part of a larger if not so ambitious refurbishment project.
Keep reading and see what N3242S looks and flies like when we get done with the process.
First On The List: Belts
My very first mod on the plane was a foregone conclusion: new belts. I had no idea where to start, but I knew the old ones needed replacement.
Try as I might, I’ve been unable to find out just when Cessna began putting shoulder harnesses into its airplanes, but I’m guessing that my 1964 Skylane might have been one of the first years for the option. The original belts were in surprisingly good condition, though their design was odd. The single shoulder harness ended in a loop through which you threaded the lap belt before buckling it. It felt for all the world that one wrong move could flip open the seatbelt fastener, but over the course of 20 hours of flying the bird with the old belts, that didn’t happen.
That wasn’t all that was odd, though. The attachment to the roof structure was made with a single stainless-steel screw that looked none too beefy. After 53 years, how would it have held up in a crash? I shudder to imagine it. Maybe it would have slowed me down a little before I greeted the panel in the worst way possible, but I’m skeptical it would have done even that.
I did some research and found that while there are other options, an inertia reel set of restraints from B.A.S. was getting a lot of love from folks in the vintage Cessna community. I punched in the address to the company’s website, navigated to the price list and took a look. Yow! A pair of four-point restraints in my plane’s color would go for just over $1,400. The installation would probably add another $400 to $500 to that, for a grand total of just under $2,000 installed. That’s a lot of dough for a $50,000 airplane, but I had a hard time imagining how I’d feel about not having spent the money if I ever found myself facing an impromptu off-airport landing.
I pulled the trigger.
As luck would have it, Walter Lansing, the chief mechanic at my FBO (Redbird’s Skyport in San Marcos, Texas), was as experienced as anyone at putting these belts in, as he’d done more than a dozen installs in Redbird’s RedHawk 172 conversions. Walter took less than a day to get the job done and it came out beautifully, as you can see here.
The belts are not only secured to modern standards, but they’re also incredibly comfortable. I opted for the “Utility”-style buckles, with the shoulder straps having slotted blades that slide through the tongue of the lap belt. When you’re not flying, they hang out of the way in back of the seat.
I went for my first flight with them just the other day and they’re by far the most comfortable seat belts I’ve ever flown behind, silky to the touch, easy to use and comfortable. The inertia reels are silky smooth, but when given a good yank will stop you in your tracks. And, heaven forbid, should I ever need to depend on them, I’ve got a high degree of confidence that they will help keep my face as close as possible to its current configuration.
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