One of the first upgrades most pilots face is the one from basic training aircraft to something with a bit more performance and complexity. At one time the common transition was from a Cessna 152 to a Cessna 172, or from Piper Tomahawk to Piper Warrior. As those very basic aircraft disappeared from training inventories for a few years, it became much more common to start off in a 172 or something similar, pushing the first transition to a more complex aircraft such as the Cessna 182.
According to the FAA, the 182, with an engine of over 200 horsepower, is considered a high performance aircraft. To fly a high performance aircraft the FAA requires you log ground and flight instruction with a certified flight instructor (CFI). Though the amount of time is not specified by the FAA, instructors commonly indicate around 5 to 10 hours as the amount of time required- though that may vary significantly based on a student’s background and experience.
While the 182 is classified as a high performance aircraft, it does not fit in the complex category. Though it has two of the three requirements (flaps, constant speed prop, retractable gear), its fixed landing gear means it’s not considered a complex aircraft.
Though the FAA may not consider the 182 complex, beginning students may think differently. As mentioned, the 182 adds a constant speed prop and cowl flaps to the already familiar controls. More weight means different handling techniques, and a bigger engine means more attention has to be paid to its management. Overall, these additional elements give more weight to the importance of following checklist procedures.
As far as what the new controls mean, the prop RPM will be controlled by the blue knob. The throttle will go from controlling the RPM as in a 172 to controlling the manifold pressure. Most of the time in the 182, ground ops, takeoff and landing will be with the prop control pushed all of the way in. That will give you the most power available. In cruise flight though, that setting isn’t very efficient, so you’ll bring the blue knob back to a slower RPM, which will have the propeller taking a bigger bite out of the air. The settings for RPM and manifold pressure vary slightly from one model of 182 to the next, so consult the POH for your particular aircraft for the exact numbers.
When adjusting the engine controls the inevitable question will arise as to which control to move first. The easiest way to remember is that the blue knob will stay in more than the throttle. So, when you want to increase power, lead with the prop control. When reducing power (as in leveling off), lead with the throttle.
Bigger engines tend to foul more easily than their smaller counterparts- meaning the proper leaning technique must be adhered to. Proper technique is to lean during taxing and in cruise flight. On the ground it’s usually sufficient to pull the mixture out an inch or so or just a bit before the engine coughs. In cruise you can lean by fuel flow or cylinder head temperatures based on the equipment in your aircraft. Check the POH for detailed instructions.
The cowl flaps are another thing to remember. They control the amount of cooling air flowing over the engine. Cooling air is good when it’s hot or you’re slow or on the ground; but it increases drag the rest of the time. For the 182 the cowl flaps will remain open until you reach cruise flight, then they can be closed. They will usually remain closed until landing. As in all cases, follow the checklist.
As for handling, the 182 is heavier in both roll and pitch than a 172. Pitch will be the first notable difference as you’re rolling down the runway for takeoff and realize that it will take a decided pull to get the nose moving up. That same characteristic will come into play on landing as it will take a conscious effort to keep the nose wheel up longer than the mains. Proper trim, which is more important in heavier planes, will minimize this effect. You should be trimming for hands off flight at all times. There are many 182’s that have suffered bent firewalls in testament to the importance of a good flare and proper trim.
The Cessna 182 is nothing to be intimidated by. It’s not much more difficult to fly than a 172, with the addition of some checklist items to keep in mind. After a few hours you will come to enjoy the increased speed, range and stability that it will give you.