A short history and BACKGROUND of THE STC
When Cessna first certified the Cessna 182 series airplanes back in 1956, the maximum design gross weight (both landing and takeoff) was 2550 pounds. The standard useful load was then just over 1000 pounds. As the years passed, gross design weights were incrementally increased as changes were introduced to the basic 182 design. When production of the 182S model was finally restarted in 1996, the Maximum Gross Takeoff Weight (MGTOW) had grown to 3100 pounds, or a whopping 550 pounds above that of the first 182. And yet, the standard useful load had increased by less than 200 pounds, to only 1200 pounds. What happened?
The airplanes had gained weight. More and more systems, modern avionics and instruments, all took their toll and increased the basic empty weights. What was considered a luxurious upgrade, or was simply not available in 1956, over time became necessary and basic standard equipment. This trend continues today. Higher empty weights rob your airplane of payload and performance, compromising utility, range, endurance and consequent safety. (Of course, it may be argued that some of this modern equipment does actually contribute to safety).
All of the early Cessna 182's were certified to Part 3 of the Civil Air Regulations (CAR 3) incorporating amendments 3-1 through 3-12. For single engine airplanes, those regulations prohibited a design landing weight less than the MGTOW. Only some time after Cessna's type certificate was awarded did the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) amend the regulations (Amendment 3-14), recognizing that "....this requirement has restricted unduly the utility of small airplanes. Accordingly, CAR § 3.242 is being amended to permit [the] design landing weight of all small airplanes to be as low as 95 percent of the maximum weight."
How did this affect Cessna? They were now able to certify the 182N in 1970 with a MGTOW of 2950 pounds, while keeping the landing weight at 2800 pounds. In 1981, Cessna did it again for the tubular gear 182R models; MGTOW was 3100 pounds, while landing weight remained at 2950 pounds. These numbers, providing the greatest loading flexibility, have been retained in all later fixed-gear 182's, including the "restart" 182S, 182T, and T182T models.
But along the way, something was missed. Cessna did not bother to retrofit the 182R MGTOW increase to the structurally identical 182P and 182Q models... after all, those airplanes had already been sold. There was no technical reason for this omission, and FAA certification for these models has now been granted, after a long and detailed process, via our STC SA03608AT.
This STC came about because of a very specific requirement. Our development engineer was tasked with finding an improvement to loiter times for a small fleet of special-mission-equipped Cessna 182Q's. As may be seen, these airplanes carried external stores of both datalink and electro-optical payloads. Drag and weight were concerns, and improvements in MGTOW would certainly help extend the necessary time on station.
The resulting STC is the culmination of an extensive, multi-year certification effort; FAA demanded very thorough and validated engineering compliance reports in the areas of performance, structures, aerodynamic loads, maintenance, flight testing and acoustics. The old saw suggesting that no project may be approved until the paperwork equals the weight of the airplane was very nearly proven.
The flight test program
Once all of the paperwork was completed and FAA approved, the flight tests could begin. We needed a stock Cessna 182P, 1972 to 1976 model. Attempts to rent, lease or borrow one became difficult for a host of reasons. Seems no one was interested in having their airplane scrutinized and carefully inspected by FAA, much less in having the airplane put into EXPERIMENTAL category for flight testing.
The solution was to buy one. We found a very nice 1975 C182P in Arizona. N6210F was corrosion free, had minimal avionics, an engine just past TBO, but with all logs and ADs up to date... and a nice paint job ! A perfect airplane for what was needed. A deal was struck and the airplane taken to California. After an extensive new annual and intensive FAA inspection, an Experimental Airworthiness Certificate was finally secured (with a warning: "Get this done in 30 days or less, or getting back your Standard Airworthiness Certificate will become a very big deal indeed").
Flight test requirements were twofold: A company flight test at 3100 pounds MGTOW to assure handling characteristics were OK, and an official FAA flight test series to measure the higher weight impact on external noise per 14 CFR Part 36. The test sequences were evaluated by both Trolltune and FAA's Atlanta Aircraft Certification Office and determined to be "Low Risk." Nevertheless, only minimal crew (2) were allowed, with the rest of the weight made up of ballast in the form of many 35 pound weights borrowed from the local high school.
Needless to say, all flight tests went well. The airplane's Standard Airworthiness Certificate was returned. Reports were written, FAA approved, and the STC itself was issued on August 25, 2008. What had seemed at first such a simple and straightforward project was finally completed after almost three years.
N6210F had certainly done its job. Likely the most FAA scrutinized Cessna 182P in modern times, 10F was sold to Gary Estes of Charlie Echo, LLC in Vicksburg, Mississippi, USA. It has the distinction of being the very first airplane to receive our STC. Gary specializes in Cessna 182 refurbishments, and N6210F has now been completely upgraded with modern avionics, engine, accessories and interior. 10F is shown here in flight over Vicksburg, Mississippi. More information about N6210F is available at Gary's website, www.primoairplanes.com.