Cessna 180 Skywagon
Aviation's Pick-up Truck
Budd Davisson

Personally, 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 dial

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 good.

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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