Cessna 180 Skywagon
Aviation's Pick-up Truck
I’ve always been a sucker for blue-collar airplanes— those
birds that work for a living and always look as if they have grease
under their fingernails. And that pretty well describes the Cessna 180
In 1952, when Cessna decided they needed to pump some testostrone into
their 145 hp, four-place 170 for the next model year, they already saw
it as a workin’ bird. In fact, the 180 was touted as the “Businessliner”
for a while, but it wasn’t long before the 225 hp airplane was
adopted by ranchers and bush pilots worldwide. Here was an airplane
that could haul a healthy load into ratty little runways and still make
its way across country at 155 mph. So, what’s not to love?
If you’re a pilot used to 172’s or even 170’s and
walk up to a 180, your impression is that this is a big airplane. Well,
your impression is wrong. It’s actually exactly the same size
as a 170 or 172 but its pugnacious taildown stance puts its nose up
into the air as if saying, “Come on, I dare you.”
Once you’re sitting up in flying position, most folks have the
urge to find a few Manhattan phonebooks to sit on because you can see
absolutely nothing straight ahead. Your world is reduced to a slim,
triangular wedge on the left side of the windshield above the panel.
This is no worse than a lot of taildraggers, but you have zero visibility
to the right because of the wide instrument panel.
It’s amazing how 80 more horses changed the 170 pussy cat in to
the 180 tiger. As you hug the control yoke to your chest and feed the
power in, the airplane really gets with the program and puts you back
in the seat.
A few seconds after hitting the power, you lift the tail, which does
wonders for the visibility but, even so, it still stinks. That’s
when you feel something that I think is the only negative in the airplane:
when you’re running on that willowy main gear for takeoff it “waddles”
just a little and doesn’t feel really solid.
The 180 uses the so-called “Paralift” flaps Cessna introduced
on the “B” model 170. They are true slotted Fowler flaps
and translate back, while they are going down. This not only increases
the wing area a little but, for the first twenty degrees or so of deflection,
really lower the stall speed.
I love to point the nose at the runway and yank that big flap handle
up until it’s sticking up between the seats and the flaps are
all the way down. They generate so much drag that the nose is pointed
at the ground in a scary angle. Plus, with full flaps, when the nose
is started up for flair, the airspeed needle practically falls off the
Although you can get some truly monumental bounces and crowhops out
of that spring gear, The C-180 is really not that hard to land. You’ll
have to keep working, however, if you expect to make it look consistently
So, if you picture yourself in your backwoods cabin or running your
own cattle spread, don’t forget to include a Cessna 180 in that
image. Otherwise, you’ll be missing the best part of living in
the boondocks. .
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