Cessna 180/185 Skywagon

Arguably the standard by which backcountry utility is measured, the venerable Cessna Skywagon has few peers in the 4-seat class. First introduced in 1953, the model 180 was the next generation in airframe and powerplant performance, improving upon the 170 series with more aerodynamic flush riveting, trimmable stabilator, square tail surfaces, a 470 cubic inch six-cylinder engine running at 220hp, a constant speed propeller, and overall greater load carrying capacity.

Nowadays, the list of modifications is extensive, making what is already a great backcountry aircraft even better. Here's a list of backcountry-oriented modifications that are approved by Supplemental Type Certificate (STC). This list is by no means exhaustive, and suggestions are welcome.

Airframe

Modification Applicability STC Number STC Holder
Tail pull handle SA3812NM BAS
V Brace 180, 180A, 180B SA02319AK F. Atlee Dodge

Baggage / cargo

Modification STC Number STC Holder
Carbon Fiber Ext Baggage SA02180AK Aerovative Composites
Fiberglass ext baggage SA01102SE Selkirk Aviation
Belly pod (185 only) SA00064DE Aeropod

Controls

Modification STC Number STC Holder
Flap handle extension SA02246LA William M. Berle

Engine

Modification Applicability STC Number STC Holder
O-470-50 "Super Eagle" All 180 models SA00468WI PPonk Aviation
Conversion O-470-U to O-520 180 G, H, J & K SE2107NM Kenmore Air Harbor
Remote Mount Oil Filter Kit All SA00079NY Airwolf Filter Corporation

Fuel system

Modification STC Number STC Holder
Belly Drain SA1412SO C-Mods

Landing gear / brakes / tires

Modification STC Number STC Holder
Gearbox beef-up kit SA2918NM PPonk Aviation
10"/14" Tailwheel SA2359NM XP Mods
Baby bushwheel tailwheel SA01636SE Alaskan Bushwheel
Bushwheel tubeless tires SA01015SE Alaskan Bushwheel

Propeller

Modification STC Number STC Holder
MT Propeller SA02294CH Flight Resource LLC

Seating and Restraints

Modification STC Number STC Holder
Folding Jump Seats SA02008AK F. Atlee Dodge
Inertial reel shoulder harness SA2067NM BAS

Skis

Modification STC Number STC Holder
Fixed wheel penetration skis SA213AL Airglas Inc
Fixed wheel penetration skis SA03030CH Trick Air
Retractable wheel skis SA02244AK Airglas Inc

Wings

Modification STC Number STC Holder
Vortex generators SA01646SE Micro Aerodynamics
WingX STOL Wing extensions SA00276NY Air Research Technology
Sportsman STOL kit SA2256WE Stene Aviation
RMD Wingtips SA00648SE RMD Aircraft Lighting

Windows

Modification STC Number STC Holder
Skylight Upgrade SA4379NW CubCrafters

1953 Model 180 Comments - Serial numbers 30,000 through 30,639 (only 639 built)

The baggage capacity is 120 lbs. and this is the same in all later models. The 1953 model did not have an outside baggage door and the only access to the baggage compartment was over the fold-down backseats. Controllable cowl flaps are standard on the model 180 and a large access door is standard on each side of the cowling. Engine exhaust is through dual mufflers - one of which is shrouded for carburetor heat and one for cabin heat. (A Stewart-Warner gasoline heater was optional through 1955). Fuel gauges are direct reading mechanical type. The engine was the O-470-A. 1954 Model 180 - Serial numbers 30,640 through 31,259 (only 619 built)

Improvements and New Features

An outside baggage door was added, measuring approximately 15 x 22 in. This baggage door is standard also in all succeeding models. The engine was changed to O-470-J near the end of 1954 production.

1955 Model 180 - Serial numbers 31,260 through 32,150 (only 890 built)

Improvements and New Features

A slower turning engine, the O-470-J, was standard, producing the same horsepower as in the previous model, but at fewer rpms. The main wheels were moved 3 inches further ahead for improved braking and ground handling. This was done by changing the rake (forward angle) of the spring steel gear. New heavier 1/4 inch thick windshield for better soundproofing and extra fiberglass soundproofing was added to the cabin and wing-butt areas. Fresh air inlets were moved further out on the leading edge of the wing. This placed them outside of the propeller slipstream and lowered the noise level in the cabin.

1956 Model 180 - Serial numbers 32,151 through 32,661 (only 510 built)

Improvements and New Features

A new engine was used for the 1956 models - the O-470-K, developing 230 hp at 2600 rpm. These engines featured larger steel cast cylinder heads having thinner and more numerous fins - for cooler operation. Additional dynamic dampeners were used and these plus revised engine mounts produced a much smoother, quieter, vibration-free engine operation. The engine cowling was redesigned by adding a carburetor airscoop at the bottom – this gives more engine power from the ram-air effect and is said to give up to 1 1/4 inch more manifold pressure at high altitude than the previous arrangement.

A new large stainless steel single muffler was used for the first time with separate compartments within the muffler for carburetor heat and cabin heat. This had a long single exhaust stack at the lower left side of the engine cowl. The tail wheel was modified to give more steering ability. The fuel vent to the main tanks was moved to a new position behind the left wing strut to prevent ice formation in icing conditions.

1957 Model 180 - Serial numbers 32,662 through 32,999 and 50,000 through 50,105 (only 442 built)

Improvements and New Features

The gross weight was increased 100 lbs.

The gear leg thickness increased from .650" to .700".

A fuel strainer drain control was added to the inside for ease of draining fuel without having to reach under the cowl. Instrument panel rearranged and new electric fuel gauges used for the first time. Engine instruments used were smaller non-standard types.

A heavier door seal was used. For ease of locking, a new cam type latch was used for pulling the door in tightly on the seal. A flush long lever type outside door handle was added for ease of opening the door.

A generator-warning red light was used to replace the ammeter. This also served to warn that the master switch is on when the engine is not running.

A vacuum selector switch was used on the panel to allow checking the vacuum of either the directional gyro or the artificial horizon.

The fuel capacity was increased from 60 to 65 gallons total. This plus a modified, more economical carburetor, increased the range.

Note - it appears that the empty weight increased about 50 lbs. in the 1957 models. This is not entirely true since the unusable fuel rating was upped and this fuel included in the empty weight.

1958 Model 180A - Serial numbers 50,106 through 50,355 (only 249 built)

Improvements and New Features

The engine exhaust outlet was changed to the right side on all models to route the exhaust stain down under the fuselage - on earlier models there was some tendency for exhaust stains to accumulate on the left side of the fuselage due to slip-stream effects.

New seal put around windows for reduction in wind noise.

New instrument panel and new lighting console. The tachometer and m.p. gauge went back to standard size. A new ratchet-click mechanism added to the elevator trim wheel to prevent creeping.

Lock with key for opening added to baggage door.

An 18-gallon aux. baggage compartment fuel tank was a factory installed option.

1959 Model 180B - Serial numbers 50,356 through 50,661 (only 305 built)

Improvements and New Features

New heavier door hinges.

New instrument panel.

New adjustable fresh air vents for the rear seat area. (optional)

Optional pilot and co-pilot 3- position tilting seats.

1960 Model 180C - Serial numbers 50,662 through 50,911 (only 249 built)

Improvements and New Features

Fuel cells changed to incorporate flush gas tank caps on the upper surface of the wings to replace the original counter-sunk caps.

Seat backs made adjustable with optional headrests.

New smaller, streamlined wing fillets (flap area).

The airscoop was removed and the airscreen flush-mounted on the front of the cowl. The net effect of the cowling redesign was to produce slightly more airspeed, although Cessna never advertised this.

New stabilizer-elevator down spring to improve longitudinal stability.

Increased headroom in the third and fourth seats due to a redesigned bulkhead and skin on top of fuselage. First year for the O-470-L engine.

1961 Model 180D - Serial numbers 50,912 through 51,063 (only 151 built)

Improvements and New Features

Cowling was changed to incorporate cam locks for holding it on.

"Shower of Sparks" Bendix mags were used for easier starting. A special switch was used under the instrument panel to supply primary current to the mag coils without engaging the starter to allow hand cranking of the engine.

A new lever-type cowl flap control with mechanical position notches.

New generator - 50 amp, as standard equipment - all.

1962 Model 180E - Serial numbers 51,064 through 51,183 (only 119 built)

Improvements and New Features

New fuel tank outlets added, so that each wing tank has two outlets (one forward and one aft) rather than only one per tank. This gives a less unusable fuel rating.

New optional long-range wing tanks, increasing capacity to 84 gallons.

New O-470-R engine.

New wing tips and position light mounts.

1963 Model 180F - Serial numbers 51,184 through 51,312 (only 128 built)

Improvements and New Features

New magnesium cast rudder pedals.

Magnetos changed to the impulse coupling type replacing the "Shower of Sparks".

Instrument panel lighting controls in overhead panel.

Semi-reclining front seats.

First year for 10 degree flaps.

1964 Model 180G - Serial numbers 51,313 through 51,445 (only 132 built)

Improvements and New Features

New instrument panel, new heavy-duty axle and new third window on side.

Dive speeds (red line) increased to 192 mph I.A.S. on all models from the previous 184-mph red line speed. Flap lowering speeds increased to 110 mph.

Gross weight increase of 150 lbs. with more useful load.

Changed to 185 landing gear.

Third window added to fuselage.

Manual tail wheel lock.

Cleveland dual piston brakes.

Generator replaced by 52 amp, 14V alternator.

1965 Model 180H - Serial numbers 51,446 through 51,607 (only 161 built)

Improvements and New Features

182 firewall used, making 180 and 185 airframes identical.

Redesigned instrument panel to accommodate center stack radios.

Open view control wheels.

Improved fuel strainer.

Integrated engine instrument cluster.

Redesigned doors on engine cowl.

1966 Model 180H - Serial numbers 51,608 through 51,774 (only 166 built)

Improvements and New Features

Improved door latches. Front seat legroom increased.

1967 Model 180H - Serial numbers 51,775 through 51,875 (only 100 built)

Improvements and New Features

Pointed propeller spinner increases length 3 inches. Extended baggage area in aft cabin. Aeroflash rotating beacon. Optional auxiliary door on left side. 60 amp alternator. Individual center passenger seats. Split bus electrical system. Cleveland brakes standard.

1968 Model 180H - Serial numbers 51,876 through 51,993 (only 117 built)

Improvements and New Features

New baggage door. Fuel strainer cable relocated to oil filler door.

1969 Model 180H - Serial numbers 51,994 through 52,103 (only 109 built)

Improvements and New Features

Skywagon name used for the first time with Model 180. 300/400 ARC avionics available. Fresh air vents restyled.

1970 Model 180H - Serial numbers 52,104 through 52,175 (only 71 built)

Improvements and New Features

Conical camber wing tip decreases wing span 4 inches. 1971 Model 180H - Serial numbers 52,176 through 52,221 (only 45 built)

Improvements and New Features

No major changes made.

1972 Model 180H - Serial numbers 52,222 through 52,284 (only 62 built)

Improvements and New Features No major changes made.

1973 Model 180J – Serial numbers 52,285 through 52,384 (only 99 built)

Improvements and New Features

"Camber lift" wing with bonded leading edge. Revised instrument panel with rocker switches. Dual cowl mounted landing and taxi lights. Split rocker master switch. Padded control wheels.

1974 Model 180J - Serial numbers 52,385 through 52,500 (only 115 built)

Improvements and New Features

Optional cabin door bubble observation windows. Optional skylights and lower door panels. Optional rudder pedal extensions. Vertical fin attachment redesigned.

1975 Model 180J - Serial numbers 52,501 through 52,620 (only 119 built)

Improvements and New Features

Engine changed to O-470-S, horsepower remained 230 hp. Improved cabin heat valve. The optional float plan kit includes the C-185 vertical fin to the end of production.

1976 Model 180J - Serial numbers 52,621 through 52,770 (only 149 built)

Improvements and New Features

Primary airspeed indication in knots. Flush folding 5th and 6th seats. Flap extension speed increased to 120 knots. McCauley main wheels and brakes. Last year for auto fuel STC.

1977 Model 180K - Serial numbers 52,771 through 52,905 (only 134 built)

Improvements and New Features

Engine changed to high compression O-470-U. Horsepower remained 230 hp but at 200 rpm less. Vernier mixture control. Heater plenum relocated to firewall. Strengthened tail wheel. Basic flight instruments in "T" configuration. More holes and lowered control yoke 1 1/2". Went to smaller yokes for knee clearance. First year for McCauley tail wheel and stronger tail wheel gear spring tube (1 1/8").

1978 Model 180K - Serial numbers 52,906 through 53,000 (only 94 built)

Improvements and New Features

"Skywagon II" referred options package available. 28-volt electrical system, avionics master switch. Polyurethane paint standard.

1979 Model 180K - Serial numbers 53,001 through 53,115 (only 114 built)

Improvements and New Features

New design optional wheel and brake fairing. Bladder tanks were discontinued. (Wet wings). 88 gallons total, 84 gallons usable. 1979 to 1981 models.

1980 Model 180K - Serial numbers 53,116 through 53,167 (only 51 built)

Improvements and New Features

Improved audio panel.

1981 Model 180K - Serial numbers 53,168 through 53,203 (only 35 built)

Improvements and New Features

Improved avionics cooling system eliminates exterior ram scoop. Last 180 completed (SN - 18053203) rolled off the production line September 10, 1981. Total production was 6,193.

1961 Model 185 Comments - Serial numbers 0001 through 0237 (only 237 built) Model 185 was introduced. It is similar to the 180, with a more powerful engine and structural beef-up. The engine was a Continental fuel injected IO-470-F, 260 hp. Compared to the 1961 model 180, the 185 had stronger firewall, landing gear and axles. The fuselage interior was extended and a third side window was added. Seating capacity was for six. A long dorsal fin from the vertical stabilizer was the main visible distinction from the model 180. Fuel capacity was 65 gallons with 84 gallons optional. A 300 lb. cargo pod was also optional. Gross weight was 3200 lbs. First to be called Skywagon.

1962 Model 185A - Serial numbers 0238 through 0512 (only 274 built) Improvements and New Features New wing tips with integral position lights increase span two inches. Vernier mixture and throttle controls. Two electric auxiliary fuel pumps.

1963 Model 185B - Serial numbers 0513 through 0653 (only 140 built) Improvements and New Features Overhead light console. Die cast magnesium rudder pedals. One electric auxiliary pump. Semi-reclining front seats. 1964 Model 185C - Serial numbers 0654 through 0776 (only 122 built) Improvements and New Features 52 amp, 14V alternator replaces generator. Manual tail wheel lock. Dual piston brakes

1965 Model 185D - Serial numbers 0777 through 0967 (only 190 built) Improvements and New Features Center mounted avionics. Open view control wheels. Integrated engine instrument cluster. Improved fuel strainer. 1966 Model 185E - Serial numbers 0968 through 1149 (only 181 built) Improvements and New Features Continental IO-520-D hp engine, 300 hp for takeoff optional. Aircraft with this engine are designated A185E and have 150 lb. gross weight increase. Standard aircraft with IO-520-D engine has 100-lb. gross weight increase. Improved door latches. Front seat legroom increased.

1967 Model A185E - Serial numbers 1150 through 1300 (only 150 built) Improvements and New Features IO-520-D engine standard. Pointed spinner increases length 3 inches. Extended rear cabin compartment. Split bus electrical system. Individual center passenger seats. 60 amp alternator. Aeroflash rotating beacon. Optional crosswind gear. Cleveland brakes standard. Optional stretcher door on left side.

1968 Model A185E - Serial numbers 1301 through 1447 (only 146 built) Improvements and New Features Redesigned induction system. New baggage door.

1969 Model A185E - Serial numbers 1448 through 1599 (only 151 built) Improvements and New Features 300/400 Series ARC avionics available.

1970 Model A185E - Serial numbers 1600 through 1832 (only 232 built) Improvements and New Features Optional left side-loading door. Conical camber wing tips decrease wing span 4 inches.

1971 Model A185E - Serial numbers 1833 through 1934 (only 101 built) Improvements and New Features No major changes made.

1972 Model A185E - Serial numbers 1935 through 2090 (only 155 built) Improvements and New Features "Ag carryall" option introduced with external 151 gallon chemical tank, removable spray booms with 30 nozzles, wind driven spray system, windshield wire cutters, and vertical stabilizer cable deflector. If used as a sprayer, the engine TBO was 1200 hours.

1973 Model A185F - Serial numbers 2091 through 2310 (only 219 built) Improvements and New Features "Camber light" wing with bonded leading edge. Dual cowl mounted landing/taxi lights. Split rocker master switch. Redesigned instrument panel. Padded control wheels, large.

1974 Model A185F - Serial numbers 2311 through 2565 (only 254 built) Improvements and New Features Optional bubble door windows and lower door panel windows. Optional skylights. Optional rudder pedal extensions. Vertical fin attachment redesigned. 1975 Model A185F - Serial numbers 2566 through 2838 (only 272 built) Improvements and New Features First year for phase I heavy case.

1976 Model A185F - Serial numbers 2839 through 3153 (only 314 built) Improvements and New Features Primary airspeed indicator in knots. Fifth and sixth seat fold flush. Flap extension speed increased to 120 knots. Optional tail cone lift handles. Fuel selector changed to "left/both/right". McCauley wheels and brakes standard.

1977 Model A185F - Serial numbers 3154 through 3458 (only 304 built) Improvements and New Features McCauley tail wheel and stronger tail wheel gear/spring tube (1 1/8") Redesigned control wheels, small. New basic flight instruments in "T" configuration. Engine - phase II, heavy case.

1978 Model A185F - Serial numbers 3459 through 3683 (only 224 built) Improvements and New Features 28V electrical system, avionics master switch. Skywagon II preferred options package available. Optional three bladed prop with corresponding heavier engine mount. (C403 McCauley) Polyurethane paint is standard.

1979 Model A185F - Serial numbers 3684 through 3938 (only 254 built) Improvements and New Features New design optional wheel and brake fairing. New "wet" wing holding 88 gallons, 84 gallons usable. Most late 1979 have phase III humpback case.

1980 Model A185F - Serial numbers 3939 through 4138 (only 199 built) Improvements and New Features Three bladed prop standard. Ag carryall option dropped. Strengthened engine mount. Improved audio panel. Push button baggage door latch.

1981 Model A185F - Serial numbers 4139 through 4328 (only 189 built) Improvements and New Features Improved avionics cooling system eliminates exterior ram scoop. Bladder fuel tanks optional.

1982 Model A185F - Serial numbers 4329 through 4394 (only 65 built) Improvements and New Features Single piece fuel selector shaft. Plastic rudder pedals.

1983 Model A185F - Serial numbers 4395 through 4415 (only 20 built) Improvements and New Features Low vacuum warning light. Direct mounting engine oil filter, eliminated adapter.

1984 Model A185F - Serial numbers 4416 through 4424 (only 8 built) Improvements and New Features No major changes made.

1985 Model A185F - Serial numbers 4425 through 4448 (only 23 built) Improvements and New Features No major changes made. Total production for Cessna 185s was 4448.

  • Compiled by Vick, Barnstormer, bigrenna, Oregon180, Zzz
  • Lead photo by Brad Thornberg
  • Model disinction information provided by Mark Pilkington/Skywagons.com

Suggest other valuable backcountry-oriented mods for this aircraft. It is very helpful to have information about the STC number and the website of the STC holder, if possible.

There's a forum topic underway about this.

  • 2.9.2014 - Initial post and formatting of article

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Disclaimer

While this knowledge base is a compilation of information from various sources, some official in nature, it is not a recognized or acredited source of aviation training information, and thus should be considered entertainment. Please consult a FAA-certificated flight instructor or mechanic prior to putting any information found here into practice.