Tail Up, Missing the Point…


I wrote a blog post the other day about the height off the deck of my prop when in flight attitude.  The measurement was interesting with respect to how much clearance you have for a “tail up taxi.”

I also created a thread on the BCP board and the C170 board.  It was interesting to see the different thread migration, but on the C170 board, there was a visceral response.

There was a lot of, “I would never,” and “this and that are stupid…” and “I don’t go outside because I’m afraid of traffic…”  I guess what was disappointing was seeing the narrow mindedness of some opinions clouding point that I was trying to make.  To me, as a low time tail wheel pilot, and an even LOWER back country pilot, this was interesting data.  Data that would be good for all of us to keep in the backs of our heads.



When I was learning to fly tail, I did a number of high speed taxi exercises from one end of the numbers to the other.  In fact I still do it.  Keeps me sharp.  When I started landing in the grass and was bouncing the hell all over the place, I would often cringe thinking that the wheel landing was going to bugger the prop.  My instructor kept saying, “don’t worry…plenty of room.”

As the hook sunk deeper and I started aspiring to operate in the really rough, my questions again came to the surface… How much clearance did I had between bushes, bumps, berms etc…  How tall was too tall?hung


With the C170 project, I gained quite a bit of height adding the larger tires and C180 gear.  When I transferred the tires over to the Skywagon, I grabbed a before and after measurement, and in going from 6.00×6 to the 8.5x10s, I gained 5 inches over stock at the axles, with a total 3 point deck to prop clearance of 30″.  But what about the wheel landing?  How much clearance then?


A weight and balance on a tail dragger is a perfect time to grab this measurement.   As it’s already in flight attitude, all you have to do is run the tape.  In my case, leveled out as if in a perfect wheel landing, I had 18″ from deck to prop tip.
Now I know that taxiing around with the tail up could, by some, be seen as courting disaster.  There are several vids on the web with guys digging holes in the tarmac with their props after showing off, but for every one of those, there are ten of a TW pilot looping his airplane simply trying to land.   Net net… Flying is dangerous.  But that wasn’t the point of my post.  The point of the post was to open one’s mind to the outside parameters of the “safe zone.”

Getting as much data about your machine and your flying helps you become a better pilot.  Thinking outside the box, at least in principle, helps us become better.  And better, makes us safer, and thereby allowing us to have more fun.

And if you taxi every once and a while with your tail up and crack a bit of a smile… Well maybe that’s ok too.


Goodbye 170B…

Well it’s done. It was a bitter sweet day today letting her go, but the 170B now officially has a new owner. Perhaps they will join the board and keep us posted as to the new adventures of 2266D. Thanks to all who where such a good resource to me on my 170 journey!2266D_001


Cessna 170 to Cessna 180


Early last month I purchased a 1966 Cessna 180H in CA.  I had been looking for the right one for almost two years often criss-crossing the country to check out a lead.  Last Dec in that pursuit, I came across (and fell in love with) a 52′ C170 which I ended up buying and flying home.  Although I had been flying since 95, this was my first airplane, and as a relatively low time (and even lower time TW) pilot, it was all completely new.

Thinking I would keep the airplane for a long long time, much was done to the bird as I was deeply inspired by several in the community as well as getting a great in-person look at N185GM whilst out at Beegles.  I drank from the fire hose as things moved rapidly along.  In the end, we had a one hell of an airplane.





Research into upgrading my C170 as well as the beginning thoughts of upgrading to a 180HP engine quickly set me back on the path of looking for a solid C180.  It was going to be hard to let the C170 go, especially after all the hard work, but I knew that if I even attempted to start spending more $$$ on the C170 with upgraded Garmin radios and GPS systems, I would be committed for sure.

It all happened pretty quick, but before I knew it, I was out looking at a C180. It had been for sale for at least three years and the price had come way down.  The A/C certainly had nothing special as far as avionics went, and the interior was pretty knackered, but it was a good, solid (relatively speaking as 50 yr old TW airplanes go) damage “free-ish” bird.  It was a good solid platform to start it all over again.

A good pre-buy confirmed my thoughts and before I knew it, papers were signed and I was on my way out to L.A. to fly the new machine back to Boston.

Axle Aware…

Denial ain’t always the best ingredient for longevity.

I have these on my C170, but in going thru the logs on the C180, I could not find any mention of an axle upgrade. The previous owner mentioned he had done lots of Idaho and Baja work, so I assumed he wouldn’t have been foolish enough to run stock axles the past 34 years of his ownership, but when I got into upgrading the tires and brakes on the C180, I was really surprised to see what was underneath the hood…

I know it comes down to cash, and at $380 per side it ain’t no joke. But after inspecting what I had, and comparing them to the HD parts, there was no question the stock ones had to go.  Sold at Spruce.

Anyways… food for thought.


The “Bush Look” – Real World Thoughts…


Thought I would take a sec and talk some real world numbers…

The past two weeks have been busy with finishing the annual on the C170. While in annual, I took the time to transfer the some of the more extreme “bush mods” over to the new C180. As the A/C was a bit closer to stock, I was really interested in seeing how it performed.

The WX has been a bit temperamental with these hurricanes and nor-easters, but today I was able to do a bit of flying and see how the old bird performed w/out some of the (as some would say) more radical mods.

Some interesting info: (actual weights)

height lost w/ smaller tires (measured from the deck to the spinner: -4″
(BTW the C180 gear raised the A/C +2″. I had +6 overall, and now I am +2 over stock. Still better AOA)

removed ABW 8.5×10 tires and 10″ wheels. -85lbs
added 600×6 tires and Cleveland wheels +27lbs
removed ABW Baby Bush -11.5lbs
added Scott 3200 TW +8.5
removed bubble windows and installed Cessna stock windows (no change)
removed BAS harness -5
added stock lap belts +3
removed 8042 prop and installed 7655 (no change)

In “Bush” mode with climb prop, the A/C cruised at 94mph at 2450
W/ the 8042 I (if not careful) could over rev the prop. Typically climbed out not at Vy, but matching the climb to RPM and keeping it at 2700 rpm. This netted 62mph at aprox 1100 ft/min.
at 2700, Max speed indicated about 105mph to burn 5.5-6.5 gph.

W/ that stuff removed (and 7655 prop) I cruised at 105 mph at 2450
Max speed at 2700rpm was 125mph.
Climb performance suffered with the cruise prop on loosing about 500’/min, but benefited +20mph at full throttle.

testing done at 1500′ MSL at 40 degrees ambient. DA was in the minus.

Grass was DEFINITELY no where near as fun…. The pragmatists will argue this, and its totally doable and safe, but don’t let em fool you. Its jarring. All those that have said the 170 does not need anything bigger than stock for off airport are full of you know what. They have never laid out the cash and tried it with the big rubber on. W/ the biggies, the 170 operated in the rough like a caddy. W/ the girlies on, the fun is gone.

On the plus side: With the stuff removed, I can certainly feel the weight difference. The A/C is way more nimble and delicate. Not as lumbering. I can only imagine what it would be like with wheel pants. Its way easier to move around in the hanger w/ less tire resistance as well as being lighter in general. With less weight, I feel it popping off the runway a bit quicker (letting the tail up first) but shorter on the short-field TO because the AOA is a bit more shallow (A/C is much lower)

In general I will say this: It comes down to what you want to do with the airplane. If you want speed and be able to tool around your airfield, stay stock. But if you want to really have fun with your 170 rumbling on anything besides the tarmac, look into bigger shoes. You don’t have to go crazy, but the fun factor outweighs any deficit.

Personally if I had to do it all over again (and I am with the 180) I would do the exact same thing.

Alaskan Bushwheel & Cleveland Double Pucks…

Just a quick unsolicited plug for Alaskan Bushwheel… Wup has been really awesome with transferring the STC’s over to my C180. So much so that I though I would give them a bit of a plug. (anytime I get customer service over and above the norm I think we should note it. Especially in this age of complaining about the bad… They continue to have my loyalty.)

While I was shooting yesterday, I grabbed some images for the ABW gallery and I thought it might be useful to the board…

C170 on C180 gear w/ Alaska Bushwheel 10″ wheels and Cleveland double puck brakes. I run the mains at 12 psi and LOVE em. The set up lands like a Cadillac.


A photo of 8.5×6 next to 8.5x10s


And this is a photo of the Babybush yoke and Aero Classic tire. (posted before)



Gear Leg Steps…

I got an eMail asking about the steps on the C170.  They are a one off that were field approved.  Here is the drawing…


And the PDF:


Finally the Flight…

After six months of mucking about with the A/C, I was finally able to fly the old bird this evening… It was glorious!


C170 Seat Design…

Thought I would share some of the design process RE: my seats. I Have been working with Ron Matta in AZ of Aviation Creations.

I asked him to help me with some ideas. I told him I wanted light seats that had modern comfort but yet had retro styling ques. He sent along these three sketches. The logo will be the same vintage logo I made for my yokes. We have tossed the orig wire springs and will use new synthetic blatters. The sub frames have been powder coated, and are on their way out to Ron’s shop. Ron has been awesome to deal with thus far. I cant wait to see the finished seats!

I am going with #2… Just need to decide on leather color.











8.50×6 vs 8.50×10…

Went ahead and added some larger tires…

Here is a shot of the Airhawk 8.50 x 10 on Alaskan Bushwheel 10″ rims. They are way too hard now at 18psi (Wup at ABW recommended going down to 12psi) This will obviously decrease the size of the tyre, but as of today, at 18 psi the increase in height from the old set-up is 4″. Geeze!



Here is the shot of the Goodyear 8.50×6 on 6″ Clevelands.


Bubble Windows…

From the beginning I had always loved the bubbles… It wasnt long before I was doing the install.

When I was researching bubble windows and trying to figure out which ones I should install, I could not find a good images of the Great Lakes Aero 4,” so here they are…






bubble_3 bubble_4

First Mods…


Modifying anything is the best way to make it “your own,” and that’s the plan.  Pulled the A/C into the hanger and got started today.  What mods are the “best” and where to start is a topic of debate… It’s generally thought that B.A.S. Inc. shoulder harnesses, B.A.S. Tail Pull Handles, and larger tires are a great place to start.

For this reason, I started with the Tailpull.


Next was a Selkirk glare-shield.  Selkirk makes some nice stuff, however don’t expect any of it to fit on the first go round.  Trim, fit, trim, fit, trim fit…


Next was an oil pan heater.  I went with the Reiff Hotstrip sold by Spruce. I probably should have gone with the more complete Tanis heater as it is a much better unit, but I’ll be keeping the airplane in a hanger and wont need it that often.


Last, I installed a belly drain from C-Mods Inc.  C-Mods is no longer in business, but this is just a standard fuel drain and can be sourced at Spruce.







Yoke Logo…

Yokes were looking a little bare, so I created some artwork for the centers.


Best Three Mods…

If you are a C170 owner, are in the market for one, or just love the model, a great resource is the International Cessna 170 Association.

In prep for modding out the airplane, I started an interesting thread on what to tackle first.


Picked up a 1952 C170B…

After a bunch of hemming and hawing.  I pulled the trigger and picked up a 1952 C170B.  Big thanks to the folks on the International Cessna 170 Association.  The info there was invaluable.  Let the mods begin…




And So It Begins…


I was infected with the aviation bug long before I can remember.  Like so many of us, my father was responsible for this transmission of infection.  I suppose I should be angry with this vector as the disease has been responsible for countless thousands of dollars spent, hanger widows, and lost time… But then again, its been one hell of a ride.


I started flying back in 1995 with a quick 5 hour solo, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I really got to it in earnest.  In 2011, a chance encounter with an aviation tax consultant put a bee in my bonnet about the possibility of purchasing an airplane, and by the early fall, was traveling in the pursuit of the right aircraft.

My research had led me to the conclusion that the perfect airplane for my kind of flying was the Cessna 180 Skywagon.  It had the relative speed of a proper airplane, could haul a shitload, had a prolific STCs and mod-ability, was certified, was stone simple, had a tailwheel, and could operate very respectively off airport.  I was sold.


I had some good mentors who counseled me to be patient, look at as many aircraft as possible, and not to be afraid to travel for the right one… And so I did.  Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, back to Colorado… I was starting to get the feel for the make.

After a solid 3 months of viewing airplanes around the country, I finally thought I had found the perfect airplane outside of Denver.  It was a 1969 180 H model that already had all the bells and whistles installed.  All I would have to do is fly it.

With a P&S drafted and a deposit ready to be sent, I was ready to go… Except a chance encounter with a small black and white advert caught my eye.  I was on the road for a job, and my trip home was going to take me right by the little grass strip where the airplane was.  It was a bone stock 1952 Cessna 170B and I was smitten.  Something about that round tail I think…  After a couple of hours of inspection, I made an offer, and a few of days later I was on my way home with the new bird.

Over the next 12 months I became baptized by the 100 series Cessna, learned why the C170 is such an amazing airplane, and then learned that no matter what you do or how much money you throw at it, it will never be a Skywagon… But that’s O.K.