The “you can’t judge a book by its cover” adage goes for airplanes as well as people.
When we spotted a black, orange, gold and yellow Cessna 195 with the image of a black widow spider on it in the vintage display area at this year’s Sun ‘n Fun, General Aviation News photographer Will Jones and I started to speculate on what kind of person owned the airplane. Was the owner an exterminator? An entomologist? A woman with an unfortunate matrimonial history? None of our guesses was even close.
The 1952 Cessna belongs to Russell Shavitz, a very active general aviation pilot from Arlington Heights, Ill.
“It definitely catches your eye,” he said, carefully wiping down the smooth-as-glass finish. “The truth is that I didn’t do the paint job,” he shrugged with the smile of someone who is accustomed to being asked the same question over and over again. “I bought this airplane from a guy in Florida and, frankly, the first time I saw it I thought it was pretty neat.”
Shavitz has owned the 195 for about four years. He says the logbooks indicate that the previous owner had it for some 30 years, but put very little time on it.
“Then I get it and I am flying it a lot,” he said. “As you know, when an airplane doesn’t fly much that’s when the little problems creep up, so for the first couple of years when I owned it there was a lot of maintenance on it. That has started to taper off now. I would say this airplane is not any more of a maintenance hog than a Cessna 172.”
To look at the airplane you’d think that it spent all its time in a climate-controlled hangar and rarely ventured outside.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Shavitz laughed. “This is a flying airplane, definitely not a hangar queen. I do a lot of traveling in this airplane. I have had it out to the West Coast to visit national parks. I have had it up to Canada on fishing trips a number of times. We have had it down to Sun ‘n Fun before and last month I was in the Bahamas with it.”
The paint job, which was done in 1987, looks fresh-from-the-factory. That’s the result of a lot of attention and care, said Shavitz.
“It does take a lot of effort to keep it beautiful, especially when I am flying it 200-plus hours a year,” he explained. “I do hire some people at times to wash and wax it.”
If you are looking for a vintage airplane that is period correct, this one is not it. Shavitz has made several modifications, requiring Supplemental Type Certificates, to improve efficiency and comfort for those long trips he takes.
“The whole panel is brand new,” he said. “One of the first things I put in was the heater and an extra oil cooler. I also have the Supplemental Type Certificate for the fuel injection, all the cylinders have been done with stainless steel exhaust valve seats and the aileron brackets were redone.”
Look for Shavitz’s aircraft wherever you see gatherings of C-195s.
“The people in the 195 group are fantastic,” he said. “We’ve traveled a number of years for get-togethers. It’s more than the $100 hamburger.”