Time was quickly ticking down to my day with the examiner for my private pilot check ride. I had mastered the steep turns, the frightening stalls and high performance landings and takeoffs.
I felt confident that my PPL (private pilot license) would be in hand soon, so I began the next step. I started to research buying an airplane.
After all, the whole point of learning to fly was to be able to travel and explore on my own terms.
Although lots of people tried to convince me that renting would be a good option and less expensive, I decided against that for a number of reasons.
I wanted the freedom to travel where I wanted, when I wanted, and for however long I wanted to. I looked forward to feeling the pride of ownership. I also felt that I would fly more if I owned an aircraft and that becoming very familiar with that aircraft would make me a safer pilot.
All of my training had been done in a Cessna 172. I had also flown a Piper Archer and a Cessna 152 once. I looked at the huge variety of planes in the classified section of General Aviation News and picking just one seemed like a daunting task.
So, I asked a few other pilots how they’d chosen their plane. The answer from everyone was basically the same. Define your mission, define your budget and then choose the airplane that meets the criteria.
As to my mission, I wanted a plane that could easily carry three people, luggage and four hours of fuel. Insurance premiums are higher for new pilots flying an aircraft with retractable gear. I wanted to avoid that cost, but still have an aircraft with decent speed.
I live in Greenville, S.C., and I anticipated that the majority of my destinations would be the coast of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. However, I wanted to be able to reach places like New York City, Chicago, and Orlando within four to five hours. For those longer distances, an autopilot would be essential.
Since I’m a fairly big guy, and comfort is important to me, my plane would need to be roomy and easy to get in and out of. Finally, I wanted an economical plane that was fuel efficient and easy to fly and maintain.
After considering all of these factors and my maximum budget of $100,000, the list of acceptable planes quickly shrunk to three: the Piper Dakota, Cherokee 6, and Cessna 182.
The Piper Dakota is fast and can carry a nice payload. However, it’s not very spacious and can be difficult to board since you have to climb on the wing to get in.
The Cherokee 6 is a very nice plane with club seating, a roomy cockpit and easy to enter double doors. I had visions of my wife and I relaxing in the back with a snack while someone else flew us around!
The drawbacks of the Cherokee 6 are its high fuel burn, the higher cost of insurance for six seats, and the sticker price topping $100,000.
The Cessna 182 is just a tier higher than the Cessna 172 that I had been training in, and so very similar. However, it’s bigger, faster and can carry more. The decision seemed obvious.
The Cessna 182 was the best option. There are many different models of Cessna 182s and each has slight differences, pros, and cons. The early models do not have a rear window. The later models can’t burn mogas. Some carry more than others.
I settled on a model that had a rear window, a gross weight of 2,800 pounds, and a low compression engine that could burn mogas. This would be my perfect plane — fast, economical and a mule at heart.
With the blueprints of my perfect plane in hand, I spent the next two months scouring the Internet day and night looking for her. After a lot of tireless nights I came across my needle in the haystack.
She was a 1965 182H with a low time O-470R engine. She had a STOL kit with flap gap seals, STEC auto pilot and 3-blade prop with a stainless steel spinner.
The online pictures showed off a shiny paint job and plush interior. I would have bought her sight unseen, but thankfully I had been warned to get a pre-buy inspection from other pilots. They told me horror stories of people buying planes that seemed nice initially and later found out that the plane had been a hangar queen. Hangar queens tend to have lots of issues due to not being flown regularly.
I had the seller email digital copies of the logbook to my mechanic to review.
After getting a thumb’s up from my mechanic on the logbooks, we scheduled a pre-buy inspection. I wanted to be involved in every aspect of the process, so I asked my mechanic to let me help with the inspection.
When we arrived, I had no idea how to do an inspection, but I could take off panels, turn wrenches, and learn something about the plane I was about to buy. I helped remove the seats, the headliner, cowling and port covers. After poking around with a flash light, the mechanic explained that he was looking for corrosion and other issues that may affect the structural integrity of the aircraft.
He pointed out that firewall wrinkling is a concern on 182’s due to improper landing technique. Luckily I didn’t have any wrinkling in my firewall. He then looked over the engine and had me assist him with a compression test.
Besides a couple of minor issues, my needle in the hay stack was indeed a good find. The seller and I went back and forth until we finally settled on an agreeable price. With the deal closed, I was the new owner of a Cessna 182!
My Cessna 182 was delivered to me on my birthday, two days after receiving my private pilot license. I was eager to get my bird in the air, but to do so I needed a high performance endorsement from my instructor.
With my instructor in the right seat, we primed the engine and started her up. Listening to that deep throaty sound of the 182 gave me goose bumps and a hint of what was to come. As I lined up on the runway for the first time, I eased the throttle in. I felt a rush as I was pushed back into my seat from the power of the 182.
At that moment, I understood why you need a high performance endorsement to fly this beast of an airplane. We climbed out faster than I had ever climbed.
As we leveled out in cruise flight, I noticed that the ride was a lot smoother and quieter compared to the 172 that I had trained in. In addition, I was traveling much faster without even noticing it. The Cessna 182 lived up to all of the hype that I had read and it was a treat to fly. Although a few upgrades were in store, l was very happy with my purchase.
As a new pilot and first time buyer, I learned a lot about choosing a plane; a decision that shouldn’t be based solely on style, color, and speed. If I had chosen my plane solely on that notion, I may have ended up with a black Bonanza V-Tail with cream leather interior!
I am very satisfied with my Cessna 182. It has given me the freedom I desired, while meeting my mission and budget. It is the perfect plane for me!