AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 24

SAFETY SPOTLIGHT

Not my first choice

BY RICHARD MCSPADDEN
Senior Vice President
AOPA Air Safety Institute

A Skylane earns respect

AOPA Air Safety
Institute Senior
Vice President
RICHARD
MCSPADDEN started

flying as a teenager
and has logged
more than 5,000
hours flying a variety of civilian and
military aircraft.

24 | AOPA PILOT May 2021

TEN MINUTES INTO A FIVE-DAY, 20-flight-hour trip and
the Cessna 182 and I were not playing nice. The Skylane
seemed to resent being my last pick in the draft. My trip
included stops in Nashville, Tennessee, for lunch with
entertainer Nick Hoffman; Bentonville, Arkansas, to talk
safety and check out the local aviation buzz; Fort Worth,
Texas, to tape In the Hangar with Dan Millican; Shade
Tree, Mississippi, for a Navion fly-in; lunch with my
mom in Georgia on her birthday; and then back home to
Frederick. Some 2,343 miles. This kind of trip and schedule are hard to accomplish through any means other than
GA. I was excited to be out and looking for adventure.
For such a long distance with hard-and-fast dates I
wanted speed, comfort, and a good IFR panel. I wanted
N4GA, AOPA's Beechcraft Bonanza. This kind of mission was exactly what Murray Patkin had in mind when
he donated it to AOPA a couple of years ago to support GA operations and advance safety. As a bonus, I
love flying around in the N4GA tail number. People
recognize it as AOPA's flagship, and it's a great conversation starter. N4GA is superbly equipped for IFR with
a Garmin G500TXi PFD, a Garmin GTN 750, 650, and
a G500 autopilot. A couple of days before the trip, I got
the bad news: Delays in the annual inspection meant
N4GA wouldn't be ready. I called my colleague John
Hamilton, but his handsome Mooney was down for a
prop seal. Mike McCutcheon then reported his Navion
was down for a tip tank issue. The AOPA Cessna 182
was my only remaining option.
The afternoon prior to departure I preflighted,
packed, and topped off the Skylane. This 182 is in good
shape with a Garmin GTN 750, dual radios, an HSI, and
an autopilot. " Uh, well, not a working autopilot, " Carlo
Cilliers, our local A&P/IA, corrected me. " I had to placard it inoperative and seal the circuit breaker. "
I wanted to use the trip to shore up my IFR skills
after all the VFR flying in my Super Cub, but I hadn't
flown the 182 in a while, so I decided to fly the first
leg VFR to reacquaint myself with the airplane. Good
decision. I flew with the precision of a butterfly on a
windy day. Subconscious cues weren't what I was used
to. I kept edging up in my seat to see more of the nose
over the large dash on the 182. I'm used to seeing more
ground in a level flight picture, so I was frequently in an
unintentional descent. This 182 has a slight tendency
to roll right, so if I didn't watch it, I'd be in a slight right

turn. The Lycoming IO-540 is a beast, and sounded like
one, so I intuitively retarded the throttle to unintentionally low settings. I was forced to rely more on my
instrument cross scan. The 182's panel is a six-pack some
18 inches wide, with a Garmin 750 center dash. Since I
hadn't flown the 182 in a while, my instrument scan was
sloppy. A good instrument scan is methodical, almost
entirely with the eyes, landing exactly on the intended
instrument, with little head movement. My head was
moving like someone watching a kid play whack-amole. There was no rhythm. I frequently landed on the
wrong instrument. It was rough going for the first leg
into Gallatin, Tennessee, with me ham-fisting the 182
and pouting about missing the glass in N4GA. The 182
responded with dignity, like a parent working a petulant child. I'm certain I heard a faint, " You're the guy
that admonishes pilots not to embarrass their airplane? "
On subsequent legs, my proficiency returned and
I appreciated why Skylanes are one of the most popular platforms in GA. Eighty-seven usable gallons of
fuel, cruising at 140 knots true, and burning under 14
gallons an hour give it five hours of flight time ranging
700 nautical miles, with IFR fuel reserves and room for
passengers and baggage. It handled the strong Texas
crosswinds with ease and was perfectly at home on
the grass at Shade Tree. Slow approach speed with full
control authority through touchdown make it a capable
platform for unpaved strips. Good short-field capability,
power, and a high useful load are why 182s with oversize tires are popular in the backcountry.
We bonded on the last two legs, skirting around and
above weather systems, penetrating hard IFR for long
periods, and flying through moderate turbulence that
occasionally rocked us to 60 degrees of bank. Through
it all, the 182 persevered undaunted, maintaining a comforting pose: " It's all good...I got you. "
I returned to Frederick on schedule with the pride
that pilots feel in their airplane at the end of an odyssey.
I cleaned up the Skylane, patted the cowl, and complimented it on its remarkable versatility. Lights out,
hangar door closing, I'm certain I heard the Skylane,
sounding uncharacteristically vulnerable, whisper,
" Still your last pick? "
Go fly.
AOPA
EMAIL richard.mcspadden@aopa.org



AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 4
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover4
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