AVwebFlash - Volume 21, Number 6b

February 5, 2014

Collier Trophy Nominees Listed

Boeing: P-8A Poseidon

Nine aviation and aerospace projects will compete for the 2013 Robert J. Collier Trophy, the National Aeronautic Association announced this week. The nominees are: Pratt & Whitney's PurePower geared turbofan engine, the P-8A Poseidon aircraft in development by Boeing for the U.S. Navy, the X51a scramjet demonstrator, the X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator, the Atlas/Gamera human-powered helicopter project, NASA's Deep Space Network, the NASA lunar laser communications demonstration project, the Voyager project team, and the Orbital Sciences commercial orbital transportation services program.

The trophy, which has been awarded annually for 102 years, has been given to such projects as the B-52, the Gulfstream V and the International Space Station, and to individuals including Chuck Yeager, Scott Crossfield, Howard Hughes, and the crew of Apollo 11. The 2012 trophy went to the NASA/JPL team that sent the Curiosity rover to Mars. The 2013 winner will be announced March 18, and the formal presentation of the trophy will take place May 8 in Arlington, Va. More details about each of this year's nominees can be found in the NAA news release (PDF).

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Lockheed-Martin to Update Civilian Version of the Hercules

Lockheed-Martin has submitted a Program Notification Letter to the Federal Aviation Administration for a type design update of its L-382J, the civilian version of the C-130J Super Hercules, to be marketed as the LM-100J. More than 100 L-100s, the commercial variant of the first generation C-130, were produced from 1964-1992 at the then Lockheed-Georgia Company, Marietta, Ga., facility. Many are still in operation worldwide. "The LM-100J is a natural expansion of the Super Hercules family. It is a modern answer to the existing multi-tasked L-100 airlift fleet which, true to Hercules form, is a workhorse that has been a critical cargo asset for 40 years," said George Shultz, vice president and general manager, C-130 Programs. "Our customers and legacy L-100 operators tell us that the best replacement for an L-100 is an advanced version of the same aircraft. The LM-100J is that aircraft."

As it is based on the operational C-130J, the civil variant LM-100J can operate from short, unprepared airfields without ground support equipment. It requires minimal material handling equipment and enables rapid onload and offload at truck-bed height. Growth provisions built into the LM-100J will enable it to support a variety of future missions including aerial spray, aerial firefighting and delivery, medevac/air ambulance, humanitarian aid and VIP transport, according to Lockheed-Martin's announcement. "With the LM-100J, we are leveraging the proven technology and capabilities of the C-130J Super Hercules to offer a modern, flexible commercial aircraft that is ready to deliver freight and support critical civilian missions--anywhere, anytime," said Jack Crisler, vice president, Business Development for Air Mobility, Special Operations and Maritime Programs.

Cirrus Aircraft SR-Series Engineering and Design Team Receives Joseph T. Nall Safety Award

Cirrus Aircraft today announced that its SR-series Engineering and Design Team has been recognized as the recipient of the prestigious 2013 Joseph T. Nall Safety Award, for pioneering a wide array of safety features designed for single-engine aircraft. The award is presented annually by the International Air & Transportation Safety Bar Association (IATSBA) to honor industry leaders who have made noteworthy contributions to aviation and transportation safety. Prior recipients include Al Haynes, captain of the ill-fated United Flight 232 that crash landed in Sioux City, Iowa. Haynes is generally credited with saving the lives of most of the 300-plus people on board. Cirrus Aircraft Co-Founder and CEO Dale Klapmeier and members of the Cirrus Aircraft Design Team accepted the award during an awards dinner at the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Fla., in conjunction with the IATSBA annual conference in late 2013. These team members are: Dale Klapmeier, Co-Founder & CEO; Pat Waddick, President & COO; Paul Brey, Senior Vice President, Product Development; Mike Stevens, Chief Test Pilot; Paul Johnston, Chief Engineer; Travis Klumb, Director of Flight Operations; Dave Rathbun, Chief Engineer, SF50; and Tim Timmerman, Director SR2X Program.

Cirrus Aircraft's SR-Series aircraft have introduced new safety technologies to general aviation not previously seen in the industry. These have driven broad market acceptance of Cirrus aircraft and established new safety and technology standards for the industry. The company made history in 2002 with the first-recorded rescue of a private pilot with the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System™ (CAPS). "We have the deepest regard for the aviation leaders who have received this award in past years, and Cirrus Aircraft is honored to join them," Klapmeier said. "However, our work is far from done as we continue to challenge ourselves to make flying safer and more secure for new and seasoned pilots alike."

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Hoover Tribute Set For Feb. 21

A special event to honor the life and achievements of Bob Hoover will be held Friday, Feb. 21 in Los Angeles. Guests will join the aviation community, "including celebrities, leaders, and icons," the organizers say, for a night at the Paramount Studios Theater. The event schedule includes a red-carpet reception, dinner, speakers and the premiere of a new documentary film about Hoover's life, narrated and introduced by Harrison Ford. A maximum of 500 tickets will be sold, at $950 each. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online at the event website. In his long career, Hoover has served as a combat pilot, test pilot, air racer and legendary airshow performer.

The event was organized by a group of volunteers including Tom and Sharon Poberezny, and event hosts include Ford, Sean D. Tucker, Gene Cernan, Jim Lovell, Clay Lacy, Sully Sullenberger and Randy Babbitt. Proceeds from the event will support a series of Bob Hoover scholarships as well as the establishment of the Bob Hoover Hall of Honor, an online project that will celebrate the legacy of Hoover and others who have made contributions to aviation. If you can't make it to L.A., AVweb will be there to report on the proceedings. And you'll have another chance to dine with Hoover and other aviation luminaries on April 2 at Sun 'n Fun, in Lakeland, Fla., at the first annual Dinner With Legends banquet. Tickets for that event go on sale online on Friday, with prices starting at $525.

"Planes" Sequel Trailer Released

The trailer for the upcoming Disney movie, "Planes: Fire & Rescue," the sequel to the popular animated movie "Planes," has been released. Following on the success of the 2013 film that featured an ag aircraft with a fear of heights who became an air racer, Dusty Crophopper (voice of Dane Cook), the sequel will again follow the life of Dusty as he discovers that damage he has suffered may mean he'll never race again. High-profile promotional activity for "Planes" included the appearances of a real aerial applicator, an Air Tractor AT-301 in a Dusty Crophopper paint scheme, at events across the country, including numerous flights during the airshow at AirVenture 2013. 

In "Planes: Fire & Rescue" Dusty enters the world of aerial firefighting. He joins forces with veteran fire and rescue helicopter, Blade Ranger, and his team, including super scooper Dipper (voice of Julie Bowen), heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter, ex-military transport Cabbie and a group of all-terrain vehicles known as the Smokejumpers. Together, the team battles a massive wildfire in a high-energy adventure. Directed by Bobs Gannaway ("Secret of the Wings"), "Planes: Fire & Rescue" will be released in 3D to theatres on July 18, 2014.

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Podcast: Bach Flying

Author and avid pilot Richard Bach is back at the keyboard and back in the cockpit after surviving a serious crash in his beloved SeaRey amphib Puff 18 months ago. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with him about the crash, the new book he wrote about the crash, and the fourth part of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Spoiler Alert: Crashing an airplane and almost dying is actually kind of cool, but hospitals suck.

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Each week, we poll the savviest aviators on the World Wide Web (that's you) on a topic of interest to the flying community.

Visit AVweb.com to participate in our current poll.

Click here to view the results of past polls.

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New This Week

Our search of press releases this week uncovered an announcement from Think Global Flight (TGF) about a meeting it arranged between a Colorado public school student and astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The two spoke about the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The student urged her school system to join in TGF’s international STEM educational program and monitoring of its upcoming flight around the world. We were interested to see news that the president of Aspen Avionics, John Uczekaj, testified before the U.S. House Small Business Committee regarding the challenge faced by general aviation manufacturers in working with the FAA to bring new, safety-enhancing products to market. Uczekaj said, “To be successful, businesses, and in particular small businesses, need to clearly understand the tasks and be able to expect the FAA to respond in a timely fashion.”

We also learned that Cokie Roberts will be the keynote speaker at the May 14-16, 2014 conference of WTS International, the association for professional advancement of women in transportation in Portland, Ore. Director of the WTS conference Margaret Mullins said, “Cokie Roberts epitomizes our association’s guiding mission of attracting, retaining and advancing women in transportation, an industry with very few women in top roles and few young women focused on STEM studies or entering this important industry.” Finally, we saw that Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University—Worldwide, is offering a two-day course for professionals looking to gain a better understanding of the emerging unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry. It will be held in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 27 and 28 and will cover such topics as impact of UAS, UAS designs, legislation, certification and regulation.

The Weekender: Breakfast, Lunch and Safety Seminar Fly-Ins

SocialFlight has again presented us with a wide array of breakfast, lunch and recurrent training fly ins this weekend. Pilots can't beat the deal at the Breakfast Fly In at Logan-Cache Airport, Logan, Utah. The sponsors are hosting a free pancake, egg, sausage and fruit breakfast from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8. On top of the price of the food, there will be discounted fuel during the breakfast. A little to the north the Flying Farmers are presenting Flying Farmers and FAA WINGS 2014—Three Safety Seminars in One Day. The event covers the subjects required by Flying Farmers Annual Proficiency Training. It's taking place at Big Bend Community College at Grant County International Airport, Moses Lake, Wash., Saturday, Feb. 8, starting at 9:30 a.m. The Central Arkansas Sport Flyers are putting on a Pancake Breakfast Saturday, Feb. 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Carlisle Municipal Airport, Carlisle, Ark. The announcement says it's Central Arkansas' best aviation pancake breakfast – the gauntlet has been thrown; is this truly the best aviation pancake breakfast in Central Arkansas? This could take some dedicated fly in research by pilots in the area.

We spotted a fly in breakfast at Guntersville Municipal Airport, Alabama (8A1 is just north of downtown Guntersville, approached over the lake), where EAA Chapter 683 is holding its Second Saturday Breakfast from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Bring your fishing equipment; Lake Guntersville is the largest lake in Alabama and listed as the fourth best bass fishing lake in the U.S. A never-before fly in came to our attention—the first Chilly Chili Fly In and Lunch will be held on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Triple Tree Airport, Woodruff, S.C. Triple Tree staff and volunteers invite all pilots to lunch on one of the coldest days of the year on their 7000 x 400 foot grass strip. Finally, the American Yankee Organization is sponsoring a Grumman Lunch on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at KBLM, Monmouth Executive Airport, Belmar, N.J. We are assured that no Grummans will be consumed and that all other aircraft types are welcome but may be parked out of sight. If you have an aviation event coming up, got to SocialFlight and put it up for all to see. 

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Used Aircraft Guide: Cessna 120/140

During WWII, tens of thousands of Americans were either taught to fly by the U.S. military or were exposed to the routine use of air transport to cover long distances quickly. Aircraft manufacturers naturally assumed this fertile crop of newly released soldiers, armed with the recently enacted G.I. Bill of Rights, would generate a sales boom of staggering proportions.

It did. While it was of far shorter duration than even the most pessimistic forecasts, huge numbers of new airplanes were manufactured. Piper was building Cubs and, soon, Cruisers and Pacers pretty much as fast as it could.

With a few exceptions—Beech’s Bonanza or the Ercoupe, for example—most offerings were tailwheel machines. The first of the post-war Cessnas to be built in volume was the diminutive Cessna 140, followed a month later by a stripped-down model called the 120. At the time, the Cessna 120/140s were perfectly serviceable and practical two-place airplanes. They were reasonably priced to buy and economical to own. Although they all initially had fabric wings, they were made mostly of metal, avoiding the periodic need for recovering.

The good news is the qualities making them popular in the late 1940s are still present. Today, what little they give up to Piper’s Cubs in panache, they more than make up for in reduced acquisition costs and arguably more-forgiving handling qualities.

Cessna 120/140 Model History

The Cessna 120’s model history is rather short, since it was produced only for four years, from June 1946 through May 1949. Since Cessna had the training market firmly in its sights, the 120 initially sold for a mere $2695.

Cessna 120s and Cessna 140s had two wing struts; single strut did not come along until the 140A. Cessna 120s also had no flaps, and no rear window, this one has had a rear window added. Restored vintage panel, left middle. Vintage panel with modern instruments installed.

That amount is equivalent to just under $31,000 in current dollars. Try to find a new, FAA-certificated, mostly-metal trainer for that kind of money today.

Cessna made the 120 about as simple as airplanes get, with side-by-side seating, yokes rather than sticks, no flaps and no rear window. Because it was cheaper than building cantilever wings, Cessna—which had never put a wing strut on an airplane since it started production in 1927—hung struts on the 120/140 series, forever changing the public’s perception of the product line. Standard equipment did not include an electrical system, although a generator was available as an option. The International Cessna 120/140 Association tells us that none left the factory with one, however, most 120s have an electrical system these days.

To go even more upscale, Cessna followed the automotive industry of the time and offered a “luxury” version, dubbed the Cessna 140. It came with flaps, an electrical system, fancier seats and a pair of rear windows on either side of the fuselage (but not the wraparound, Omni-view configuration that later became standard in Cessna’s single-engine line).

That was the company’s entry-level, post-war lineup. These airplanes sold well and although there was demand, there was also competition. For example, Piper was building acres of Cubs. Other companies—Taylorcraft, Aeronca, Globe, ERCO and Luscombe—also offered two-place airplanes and, although Cessna was shoving some 30 airplanes out the door daily in August 1946 and eventually made some 7000 120s and 140s, by the end of 1946 the bloom was off the rose. Sales dropped annually. In 1949, the company realized it needed to revamp the platform to stay competitive.

In that model year, Cessna built its last 120 and brought out the Cessna 140A. The revised model came with a redesigned, all-metal, tapered wing with a single strut, presaging what was to come from Cessna’s singles. The strut replaced the two-piece struts of its predecessors, with a single attach point at the fuselage and two attach points under the wings.

Also, the 140A offered a choice of engines: Available was an optional 90-HP Continental four-banger in place of the 85-HP engine common throughout the 120/140 series. At a glance, the easiest way to recognize the 140A is by the single strut. Despite its changes, the 140A didn’t sell as well as the 120/140. Only about 500 left the factory before the line was shut down in 1951, after which Cessna turned to other models, including the 195.

But Cessna wasn’t through with light singles, regardless of whether the 140A’s demise resulted from competition or a tired market. In 1959, Cessna hung a nosegear on the basic 120/140 airframe, creating the most successful trainer of all time: the Cessna 150. Thousands were built and many a pilot owes his or her basic skills to the 150 and its successor, the 152. In turn, the 150 owes its existence to the 120/140 line.

Cessna 120/140 Construction and Systems

As noted and in contrast to Piper’s Cub, the Cessna 120/140 is an all-metal design, at least for the fuselage. The skins are riveted over ribs in conventional monocoque construction. Even for the 1940s, this was nothing special; all-metal Luscombes were on the market before the War. But it also was durable and easy to fix, especially by the hordes of aircraft mechanics trained by the military during WWII. Early 120s had fabric-covered wings, a “feature” carried over to the 140, as well. When Cessna upgraded the line to the 140A, the wings were all metal. The additional, aft-cabin windows and single strut were retained. Many of the older airplanes originally delivered with fabric wings have been converted to metal.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with fabric wings, they do require care and maintenance. If the airplane will be a ramp dweller, we think the Cessna 140A—or at least an airplane with the all-metal-wing conversion—is the better choice. Oddly, buyers may also find a few 140s sporting 120 wings, i.e., a 140 without flaps. On finding one, we’d be very interested in learning more about the airframe’s damage history.

Polished aluminum that will withstand a close up requires a lot of time and effort.

No matter the model designation, systems are stone simple. The fuel system includes a 12.5-gallon tank in each wing, connected through a left-right-off valve. Later models had a “both” position and a fuel-tank crossover line. When originally delivered, airplanes with electrical systems had generators and a few flying have them still. These days, the better set-up is an STC’d alternator conversion.

As far as engines go, the Cessna 120/140 came from the factory with only two choices. The 120/140 has the 85-HP Continental C-85-12 while the 140A got the 90-HP C-90-12F, all with metal propellers. Even a cursory glance at today’s market, however, reveals all manner of engine upgrades, including the Continental O-200 used in the Cessna 150—said to be a bolt-on conversion—and the O-235 used in the Cessna 152. At least one STC involves installing an O-200 crankshaft and cylinders to a C-85 crankcase.

While these newer engines may improve performance, the real reason for having them is serviceability. While parts remain available, the older C-85 and C-95 engines grow ever more difficult and expensive to support.

As noted, the 140s have flaps while the 120s don’t. Do you need them? Probably not. One owner wrote a few years ago to say he considered the 140 flaps to be a “joke.” In any case, these airplanes fly so slowly that the benefit of flaps is questionable. Any pilot worthy of the title should be able to put one of these into a pea patch without need for flaps.

Cessna 120/140 Cabin and Accommodations

Push your nose against the window of a Cessna 120/140 and scan the panel. Although there’s not much there, it can resemble a 747 compared to other basic airplanes from the same era. Sure, panel equipment in these airplanes tends to be Spartan at best. Still, it should come as no surprise some owners have jazzed them up with GPS and other goodies. But there is enough space for basic IFR gauges and avionics.

Life can be pretty good with the Cessna 120-140 series—fall foliage via 140, 120 on floats, and a 140 on skis.

In fact, there’s no reason these aircraft, if properly equipped, can’t be flown in a little light IFR. Most aircraft of this vintage sport exterior venturi horns for vacuum, although some have vacuum pumps, too, depending on the engine. Although some think it’s insane to fly a venturi-equipped airplane in actual IFR, we don’t see the problem. The venturi is actually more reliable than a pump, as long as you can keep it from freezing up. (Heated versions are available.)

Moving into the cabin, you’ll find primary controls consist of a pair of side-by-side yokes grouped in the center of the panel. Anyone with passing familiarity with a Cessna 150 knows how cramped the seats and interior are. The Cessna 120/140 is no better; the seats are 1940s-style bench designs and both shoulder and leg room is limited.

Taller pilots may find their knees colliding with the yokes, while short ones may need a pillow to reach the rudder pedals. The seats are fixed in place and, unlike more-modern fixed-seat types, the rudder pedals do not adjust fore and aft. As one result, we’ve seen a few of these airplanes modified with later-model Cessna 150 seats.

Visibility from the cockpit is marginal, at best. It’s not bad out the side windows, but 120s without a rear-window modification essentially blind the pilot from getting a good look at what’s behind and to the sides. The 140s, with their rear windows, are a bit better. Meanwhile, visibility out the front isn’t up to modern standards, either.

Trainers like the 152, Diamond Katana or even the Piper Tomahawk excel in this area in large part thanks to their tricycle gear. But the 120/140’s taxi stance is not so sharply pitched a pilot can’t see over the nose; the short cowling and somewhat flatter deck angle are a real plus compared to other tailwheel airplanes. You don’t need to sashay down the taxiway making S-turns to keep from creaming another airplane coming the other way. But it might not be a bad idea. One thing that aids ground handling is toe brakes, a vast improvement over the heel brakes found in the typical aircraft of this vintage.

Owners often complain about one 120/140 shortcoming: cabin noise. The cabin is small and the engine is nearby, with the exhaust dumped overboard very near the occupants’ feet. The results can be deafening—perhaps more so than in contemporary types. We’d consider an active noise-canceling headset mandatory (but we do, anyway).

Finally, it should come as no surprise that cabin heating and ventilation in the 120/140 is not up to modern standards. Owners say it is adequate, however, and many airplanes have been fitted with vents in the wing and/or blast vents in the side windows to improve airflow in hot weather. The front cabin windows are openable for ventilation during taxi.

Cessna 120/140 Performance and Handling

Even though Cessna's 120/140 does better than other two-seat tailwheel airplanes of similar vintage, owners tell us performance can best be described as “thrifty.” A pilot can expect to see between 95 and 105 MPH true from the 85- or 90-HP engines Cessna installed while burning about five gallons an hour. That’s in keeping with a slightly faster Cessna 150 burning six GPH. Results from installing a more modern engine like an O-200 or O-235 predictably push up cruise speeds.

Regardless, this is not really a traveling machine: A cross-country of any length will take most of the day. If several states must be spanned, plan on a couple of days, or find another solution. Too, getting to and staying at altitude is another challenge. There simply aren’t many of the 85-to-100 horses left at any altitude above 10,000 feet. Climb rate in these airplanes is about what you’d expect: adequate at mid-weights but somewhat anemic at gross.

Max gross, by the way, is 1450 pounds for the 120/140 and 1500 pounds for the 140A, with a typical useful load of 600 to 650 pounds. Obviously, a load-hauling, utility airplane the Cessna 120/140 isn’t. Perhaps not so obvious, however, is the two airplanes are too heavy to be considered a so-called “legacy” light sport aircraft, or LSA. Since 1320 pounds is the max gross weight for an LSA (1430 for a seaplane), the 120/140 miss the cutoff maximum weight by a fair margin (along with contemporaries from Aeronca, Luscombe and Taylorcraft, to name three).

For its size, the airplane has large elevator and tail surfaces, which probably account for its good crosswind characteristics on both grass and paved runways. As post-war tailwheel airplanes go, despite the RLOC accident record outlined on the sidebar on the previous page, the 120/140 handles quite well. Ailerons are brisk and crisp—if not aerobatic in roll rate—and pitch is a bit lighter than expected from the typical Cessna.

Overall handling is quite forgiving, with few bad habits in the air. Wing dihedral gives it stability the J-3 Cub lacks, and the 120/140 does not have the massive adverse aileron yaw of the Cub or Champ.

As tailwheels go, it is not as forgiving on the ground as a J-3 Cub, but contemporaries from Luscombe and the like generally are considered “touchier.” Of course, all tailwheel airplanes are ditch lovers compared to tricycle gear airplanes, which explains why the 150 became so popular.

Landing a Cessna 120/140 is not especially difficult. The fact that it has better visibility over the nose than most airplanes of its ilk helps. So, too, does the side-by-side seating, which obviates some limitations, like the need to solo it from the rear seat. Being relatively light, it does have a tendency toward ballooning on landing if the mains are forced on at too high a speed. But the airplane will happily do three-pointers or wheelies all day if the pilot’s skills are up to par.

Because it doesn’t have the option of placing much weight rearward, the airplane has a tendency to nose over. Owners say it’s likely that any 120/140 on the market has a noseover or two in its history. That’s no big deal if any needed repairs are done correctly. But nosing over is a big enough “deal” in this type that many have been equipped with “wheel extenders”—spacer blocks on the main gear legs that move the wheels a few inches forward. This reduces the tendency to nose the airplane over and if you’re looking at an example that doesn’t have the extenders, we think it’s worth considering them.

Cessna 120/140 Maintenance and ADs

Owners buy vintage airplanes for many reasons and one of them is low cost of operation. While that’s not true of every post-war spam can out there, it’s certainly true of the 120/140. Despite post-war competition, it occupies that sweet-spot niche of having been produced in large enough numbers to provide a good parts reservoir while not being so rare it has classic collector value.

The stock engines can be kept perking along with effort and/or upgraded with newer versions, the latter being our preference. Try to find an airplane with an engine conversion already done.

Other than engine overhaul, the major cost for a 120 is re-covering the wings, if they’re still fabric. Depending on the fabric and whether the airplane is hangared, recover intervals range between seven and 20 years. Metal wings are, of course, heavier than the fabric versions by about 30 to 40 pounds. But most owners consider the penalty worth it in reduced maintenance costs and, in any case, these airplanes aren’t bought for the massive load hauling capability.

As do all airplanes, the 120/140 models have some weak spots. Here are some things to look for:

Wheel and three-point landings can be done equally well.

  • Look for damage in the lower door posts, near the strut attach point. This critical structural member may be damaged by rough field operation, ground loops or corrosion.
  • Corrosion in the carry-through spar can be a problem. The cabin skylight leaks water into this structure, and years of moisture will take a toll.
  • Cracks in the tail structure and rear fuselage. Those familiar with the 120/140 tell us the airplane’s tail is the weakest part of the design. It’s especially vulnerable around the tailwheel attach point. This is repairable, but make it a condition of the sale during pre-buy.
  • Landing-gear boxes take a beating on all Cessnas and the 120/140 is no exception. The gear box—the support structure for attaching the landing gear to the fuselage—may have taken abuse from pilots over the years, thanks to hard landings and maybe even a ground loop or two. The box can be inspected from the outside by removing an inspection plate in the cabin floor.
  • Broken tailsprings are fairly common. Check to ensure that the steel leaf-type tailwheel spring is still springy but not saggy. A broken spring will cause complete loss of control on landing and could do major damage to the airplane, particularly the elevators. Even if the springs look good at the time of purchase, they should be inspected regularly.

The list of ADs that apply to the Cessna 120/140 is quite long—more by dint of age than in any serious shortcomings in the aircraft. Some of the ADs are absolutely ancient, dating back to the late 1940s, when the airplane was new. Many are shotgun-type ADs that apply to the engine and may or may not require compliance in the model 120/140 at hand. One of the most recent applies to the Lycoming O-235 engine, calling for inspection of the crankshaft.

Cessna 120/140 Mods and Type Clubs

The list of mods and STCs for these airplanes is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The International Cessna 120-140 group maintains an exhaustive list on its Web site, including contact information. The fact that the airplane has been the subject of so many mods speaks well of both its basic design and that it remains flying in large enough numbers to make such mods economically worthwhile.

Some of the more interesting mods include the aforementioned engine upgrades, including the Lycoming O-235, metal and fiberglass coverings for the wings, alternator kits to replace the older generators, improved brakes and instruments, autogas STCs and even approval to install an engine-driven vacuum pump in lieu of a venturi.

As for groups, the International Cessna 120-140 Association maintains a terrific Web site and support network. It can help with buying advice, parts and other support. Find them online at www.cessna120-140.org. Another group is the Cessna Pilots Association (CPA), which bills itself as the largest type club in the world. Either organization should serve the new 120/140 owner well. Find the CPA at www.cessna.org.

Cessna 120/140 Owner Comments

We became joint owners of a 1946 140 and found it inexpensive to own, maintain and operate. Fuel burn runs 4-4.5 GPH at 105 MPH (not knots).

Ours came with a metalized wing, which we dislike because it reduces useful load by 50 pounds. The original Goodyear brakes were maintenance intensive and moderately effective, but good on grass strips. The original straight stack exhaust, no muffler, on the airplane was just plain loud. The Eisemann magnetos gave a strong spark but were heavy for such a light aircraft. The airplane came to us with the horizontal stabilizer mod, which reinforced the horizontal stabilizer spar.

The Cessna 140 a lot of fun to fly because you have to fly it; it doesn’t fly itself. As a tailwheel machine, takeoffs and landings require full pilot attention. It requires prompt and timely use of the rudder—wooden feet need not apply.

Tom Tann, Michel Litalien, Via email

I purchased my 1947 Cessna 140 to commute from my home in Algonquin, Illinois, to the Chicago Executive Airport. To drive to work is 50-60 minutes in Chicago traffic. My door-to-door commute using the 140 is 30 minutes, including a 12-minute flight.

Unfortunately, we hurried through the pre-buy and found out at my first annual, which cost $4000, that previous mechanics were pretty much “pencil whipping” the annuals. I found corroded wing bolts, corrosion under the propeller and numerous items that should have been caught.

My 140 has an O-200 engine, Cleveland brakes, VGs, metalized wings and a Scott tail wheel. In my commute, I rarely get above 1800 feet, fly at about 100 knots and burn about 5.7 GPH. With the commute putting about 0.3 hrs each way on the tach, I burn 3.4 GPH.

The aircraft has a fairly low wing loading, so it doesn’t handle the bumps very well. If it gets too bumpy, I just slow down a bit and it seems to ride a little better. The rudder is large and sensitive. This is an advantage in crosswind landings, but takes a little practice and a light touch to keep from yawing around in flight. Adverse yaw is pretty strong.

The aircraft is inexpensive to operate, and its benefits far outweigh the cost for me. Normal annual inspection, oil changes, fuel burn at 100 hours of flying a year and debt service make my cost of ownership about $70 per hour before storage. (I have a rather expensive hangar.)

The market has settled on Cessna 140s costing anywhere between $15,000 and $32,00. If you look around at other aircraft of similar class, that’s pretty cheap. I chose it over the Cessna 150 because of the tailwheel. This gives the airplane better performance and makes me a better pilot. It can make you a crosswind superstar.

Mark Zakula, Algonquin, Illinois

This article first appeared in the March 2013 issue of Aviation Consumer.

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Flight Sims for STEM Teaching

Five years ago, or maybe 10, stem was something usually used in the same sentence with seeds, but lately, you can’t hardly open a Cessna door without hitting uppercase STEM. This, of course, refers to teaching science, technology, engineering and math courses and if you subscribe to mass-media wisdom, the U.S. is the laughingstock of STEMdom.

This claim is not without evidence. The world organizations that rank such things find that U.S. students rank near the bottom of the developed world in math skills and science knowledge. The Program for International Student Assessment found that in math skills, the U.S. trails Vietnam, Iceland, Latvia and the Slovak Republic, but at 29th, we’re ahead of Greece, Uruguay and Serbia. Tied for first are China, Finland and South Korea.

Makes you wonder how the U.S. can possibly be responsible for as much innovation as it is and why so many foreign students come here to school. I think the explanation is simple. You can’t stop the really smart, motivated kids from learning math and science unless you tape their eyes and ears and maybe not even then. It’s the average kids who will do the work that we need to worry about.

Against this dismal backdrop, I noticed an ad in Air&Space magazine emblazoned with this title: “Flying Makes Learning STEM Fun.” It’s from a company called Hotseat Chassis and they’re basically selling affordable, non-motion sims as a classroom tool to teach STEM topics. You can see the connection. For a student just bored by even simple math, applying the basic calculations required to plan and conduct a flight and then actually doing it in the sim could be a motivator. That’s a lot more fun than just pointlessly plotting X-Y coordinates on a spreadsheet.

Hotchassis’ Leah Wheeler told me the program is still new, so they haven’t developed detailed, sim-based curricula for their machines, but that’s coming. She says some teachers want a full syllabus while some want to develop their own. I can see the possibilities. Although they’re not using sims, a non-profit called thinkglobalflight.org is about to launch a global circumnavigation in a Cirrus with the like goal of promoting STEM. The flight will launch from Sun ‘n Fun in April.

Now at this point, a normal aviation journalist would wax enthusiastic about what a great idea this blending of STEM and aviation is. But if I was ever normal, I no longer am, so I’m going to bifurcate the topic a little. First, the idea of stimulating math and science with a flight simulator is terrific, even if the kids attracted to it ultimately view it as just a carnival ride and never commit actual aviation. As I said, the smart kids don’t need this motivation, but the great unwashed middle—a school in which I proudly matriculated with an underachieving 2.5 GPA—may need all the help they can get. They’ll be the people not necessarily inventing, but building, operating and repairing the machines of the future. The more STEMcentric they are, the better. We don’t need to grab all of them, just more of them. If these programs can do that, why not?

As of today, I am officially announcing my atheism with regard to attracting young people to the romance and magic of flight. All the things we’ve tried to do this have more or less failed and we aren’t producing—nor are we likely to produce—many new pilots from the youth ranks. We’ve abundantly assured that they can’t afford to fly airplanes and long-term income projections suggest this won’t change in a global economy that’s become hyper-competitive.

So as much as I might like to delude myself by thinking sim-based STEM training will energize a vast new generation of pilots, I’m preferring, maybe, to accept the reality that that’s just not likely to happen. Perhaps it’s best if we encourage the smart kids who will invent the future to land one of those top 5 percent of jobs that will allow them to buy a used Cirrus in 2025. 

And look at it this way: If a handful of good science teachers get hold of these sims and use them in the same classrooms where the local school board has decreed the teaching of creationism, that is by no means a small victory.

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