By J. DOUGLAS HINTON
It’s an old adage: Everything old is new again. But in the case of Yingling Aviation’s Ascend 172, it takes a lot of work to make an old plane like new again.
First introduced at AirVenture 2015, the Ascend 172 is one of the original “remanufactured” aircraft, designed to get people into a like-new airplane at a used airplane price. When it was introduced, base price was $159,000.
“Our philosophy is that we’re offering an aircraft that’s practically brand new — except for airframe hours — at a price that’s almost $200,000 less expensive than a new 172, comparably equipped,” says Jerry Pickett, vice president of sales and MRO at the Wichita-based business.
The Ascend 172 addresses many of the challenges to the general aviation industry that contribute to the dwindling pilot population, such as the growing number of outdated, aging aircraft and the rising costs of new aircraft, officials said when they unveiled the like-new airplane just two years ago.
It makes sense they chose the 172 for this process. It is the most prolifically produced airplane in history, with more than 43,000 coming off the production line since the model was introduced in 1956.A Cessna dealer since 1946 and the world’s largest Cessna parts dealer, Yingling begins the process of remanufacturing the 172 by scouring the used aircraft market, looking particularly for the Cessna 172N model, which seems to be the most ubiquitous version of this classic.
They specifically look for airframes with a maximum of 700 hours with little or no damage history.
After buying the used plane, they bring it back to Wichita and sequester it in the company’s overhaul facility for 60 to 90 days, depending on options desired.
Let the magic begin…
First, firewall forward. Overhaul the engine. Same for the prop and new engine accessories, including carburetor, alternator, magnetos, engine mounts, starter, control cables, muffler and tailpipe, vacuum pump, engine baffling, and engine cowling.
Remove all exterior paint down to the bare metal to look for corrosion. Repair as necessary and repaint.
New wheels, tires, brakes and hoses. Replace all wiring, antennas and fuel tank gaskets. Replace the windshield and side windows. Add new door seals, control cables and pulleys.
As for the interior, the Ascend 172s have all new seats, coverings, sidewalls and carpeting.
There’s also a new glare shield and new engine instruments, including fuel gauges and circuit breakers. New avionics are installed in the new instrument panel.
While the standard engine on the 172 is 160 hp, an option is available for a 180 hp O-360-A4M version for an approximate $20,000 add-on.
Performance is increased to 150 mph cruise, climb to 800-1,000 fpm, and takeoff distance to 960 feet at sea level, according to Yingling officials.
Then there’s the other options: A second GNC 255 Nav/Comm; a GMA 350 audio panel with MKR GTX 345 ADS-B Out and In, Davtron M800 digital clock, flight instrument backlighting, USB port, LED NAV and beacon lights, wheel fairings, and more.
The plane is backed by a warranty that covers 200 hours or one year.
Interest has been high, according to Randy Schuette, director of sales at Air Orlando, one of companies in the dealer network for the remanufactured plane.
“We were pretty satisfied,” he said after this year’s SUN ’n FUN. “There was a lot of interest, particularly among flight schools. Right now, we’re in negotiations with two entities for about 12 aircraft. And we’re getting inquiries from Europe, Australia, South America, and Canada. Not bad for starters!”
Perhaps fueling some of that interest is the fact that the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association gave away an Ascend 172 as its sweepstakes airplane this year. That meant the bright yellow aircraft traveled the country with AOPA officials at the big shows, including AirVenture, as well as the regional AOPA Fly-Ins and other shows.
The original remanufactured Ascend 172’s yellow paint was suggested by AOPA’s President Mark Baker as a way to grab attention and “start a ramp conversation.”
Later models sport a more conventional Signature tri-color paint scheme.
As the plane toured the country with AOPA, Yingling officials said they learned a lot — and what they learned has been incorporated into the latest edition of the Ascend 172.
“We’ve had the opportunity to collect valuable input from customers and potential buyers on one hand and, from a hands-on perspective, we’ve also refined some of our refurbishment techniques and procedures,” noted Lynn Nichols, CEO at Yingling. “Demonstrating the Ascend 172 has also allowed us to gain some insights into what flight schools and flying clubs consider to be the most important systems and components they’re looking for in the aircraft they plan to acquire.”
And while a new paint scheme and other “detail improvements” don’t show up to the “casual observer” as important, he noted that “probably the most notable and most often mentioned improvement we’ve incorporated is the addition of the Garmin panel,” which features the G500 EFIS, Sandia Quattro standby instrument, GTN-650 Global Positioning System (GPS), GMA-350 audio panel, GNC-255A Nav/Com, GTX-345 ADS-B In/Out transponder, LED lighting, and Rosen Sun Visors.
As the Ascend gains recognition and popularity, it would not be surprising to see Yingling expand its scope to other Cessna models, such as the 182 or other Cessna models.