I know what you’re thinking, if there’s 6 things you hate, why do you own it? Well, I’m saying there’s 6 things about MY Skywagon. I’m not sure there’s anything I hate about the design.
The number one thing I hate on my Cessna Skywagon is the repair that was done to the left wing in 1978. In 1977, it was based in Florida. A log book entry shows that the Ag Spray Kit was put on it that year. It flew about 10 hours, then it sat for a year. The next log book entry in 1978 shows the removal of the spray kit, and the addition of the Horton STOL Kit. The Horton kit includes a new leading edge. Close examination, reveals a bit of body filler under the left wing’s leading edge over about a 10″ area. Looking in the same area on top of the wing, shows rivets installed in a really ugly doubler. I’m guessing, while spraying mosquitos in Florida, it took a waterfowl strike, which caused enough damage to ground the aircraft for several months. While, the original leading edge was replaced, and other new parts installed, the mechanic decided the Horton kit could be used to cover the lion’s share of the damage to the upper and lower skins. It was a poor decision, and I hate the way it looks.
The number two thing I hate on my Cessna Skywagon is the right door. During flight, the top rear corner is pulled 1/2″ away from the airframe. Naturally, it leaks cold air terribly. Close inspection shows a 3″ patch on the door itself, just under the door latch. If you open the door handle, and shine a light in, you can see a crack running through the top Cherry rivet. The patch itself is not nearly long enough. It needed to be at least 8″ long to spread the load of the repair. The 3″ repair re-cracked at the top Cherry Rivet. Most likely I’ll have de-skin the door and repair it properly. Alternatively, I could purchase another door. But, it’s likely to not fit well. These doors were all cut oversized at the factory. Once installed on the airframe, they were custom trimmed.
The number three thing I hate on my Cessna Skywagon is the right door bubble window. With installation of the bubble windows, you are required to add another window latch to the front of the window. Why? The bubble windows create a significant amount of suction. Mine was equipped with single latches. During a 150 mph descent, a passenger’s elbow bumped the single latch. The window popped open and was ripped from the airplane in a split second! Double latches were installed, the external damage to the door was repaired, and a new window installed. So why do I hate the right bubble window? I ordered the wrong one, it is significantly larger than the left one!
The number four thing I hate on my Cessna Skywagon is the heater. It can literally be 80 degrees in the front seats, but you’ll see the passenger’s breath behind you! At first I attributed this to the leaking right door. Sure, it’s providing a significant amount of draft, but there’s simply no heat getting to the back either. Heat in the Skywagon is delivered to the rear by a duct running out from under the instrument panel down to the floor. There are two of them, one on each side. They stop right at the front edge of the door opening. The heat is expected to move past the pilot/copilot and continue rearward. Recently on a trip, my wife and I were burning up in the front, and our two passengers in the back were freezing to death. It was 21 degrees at altitude and I could see them breathing! Heater was running full blast! During the cruise portion of the flight, I needed to access the Operators Manual. I reached into the pocket next to my legs and pulled the manual out. It was extremely hot! I started realizing the heat is being trapped. I confirmed this by touching the instrument panel. It was extremely warm to the touch. The ducts I referred to above are covered by the interior side panels. There is a slot that should match up to those ducts. Further inspection reveals that the carpet covering the interior panel was not applied to the panel correctly. The carpet is blocking the flow of heat! The carpeting slot is simply in the wrong place.
The number 5 thing I hate about my Cessna Skywagon is the rear set of windows. The rear windows and middle windows are original. However, the rear windows are not under the wing, so they see more sun and they pretty heavily crazed. They’re not that noticeable right now, but I’ll soon replace them and take the opportunity to replace the rear and middle windows with a dark gray. Which will look awesome!
The number 6 thing I hate on my Cessna Skywagon is the autopilot. Or lack there of! Yep, I know, I’m a wimp! But, my Wagon is used for short runs to the ranch hauling supplies and also on 2 hour runs to the Dallas area. Garmin’s new GFC 500 autopilot weighs a fraction of the older ones. Plus, Garmin is working on the Skywagon STC as I write this. That will be my next big purchase for her. In preparation for the GFC 500, I had dual Garmin G5’s installed. They play well with the GFC 500 and my existing GNS 530. Should be a great addition!
That’s a lot of complaints, but if you own a plane or you’ve owned a plane, then you’ll recognize the list for what it really is; it’s a project list, and it’s much smaller than it used to be!
N185SS is a beautiful plane, and it’s in fantastic shape. She’s extremely reliable. But like all old airplanes, it has its share of problems to resolve. But, it’s all perspective. I’m not the owner that’s okay with a few pesky little problems. That means I’m addressing as I wear it out, and addressing issues that are due to neglect. If I find a minor issue, then I resolve it. It takes years to get them all done though. An example is the Cessna map light that hangs on the left door post above the pilot’s head. It hasn’t worked since I’ve owned the plane. I rarely fly it at night though. So, it’s been low on the list. Last week I finally replaced the light with a new LED light, then also upgraded the red overhead panel light and cockpit courtesy light with LED bulbs.
My priority on the top six list?
- Fix the right door.
- Replace the right bubble window.
- Fix the heater issue.
- Replace the rear windows
- GFC 500 autopilot.
- The left wing issue will be the last thing I address, if at all. The repair is a bit ugly, but it is strong and safe. She’s fought her way through the last 45 years, and she has some battle scars to prove it!
Bryan Rose – is a Single Engine Multi Engine Commercial IFR pilot. He also holds a Commercial Glider rating, and endorsements for tailwheel, and high altitude.