Cessna Makeover: Cardinal Creation PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 16 July 2010 09:12

I’ve owned my 1974 Cessna Cardinal for about 30 years, and now it has been just about everywhere in North America. In the 1970s and 1980s, my wife and I traveled as a family with our four young ones (we used the jump seat for two of the youngest). We chose the Cardinal because of it looks sexy, has a large interior, is easy to get in and out of, and, of course, the visibility is excellent. Now that we are seniors, we appreciate the Cardinal’s ease of entry and exit even more!

Our trips took us into eastern Canada, including the Maritimes. We also went to all of the major spots along the East Coast and central United States, as far south as Florida. We went to Oshkosh, Wis., (EAA) and all the spots around Lake Michigan – Door County (Wis.) and the Traverse City (Mich.) area, Detroit, and Chicagoland.

Our Southwestern trips have taken us as far south as Arizona (PHX and TUS). We have traveled countless times to western Canada. Our many northern trips include places like Flin Flon, Manitoba, which has never-ending sunlight in the summertime, pristine clear waters, and clean air.

We have fond memories of every part of North America. It is hard to say which was the most memorable journey, but certain things drew us back to specific areas. For instance, we always enjoy the seafood from eastern North America; the smoked meats and ribs from Boston to Richmond, Va.; the family entertainment from South Carolina to Florida; and the beauty of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence. The valley of Arizona has the best flying weather in winter, along with some spectacular views. The Canadian Rockies are a sight to behold from the air. We often want to go back to the various areas to see and explore their beauty and to taste more of their food and culture. That’s the nice thing about owning an airplane; when the will strikes you, you can pick up and go!panel-c-177-b-roy-sobchuk

Enhancing the Cardinal

Although the Cardinal has served my family and me well, I’ve been enhancing and tweaking the bird to perfection in recent years. A list of its upgrades follows:


Narco HSI ($3,000), Insight Strikefinder ($7,000), Electronics International multi-probe EGT and cyl. temp. ($2,500), AVON traffic advisory ($500), and standard IFR equipment–dual nav coms, ADF, DME, and transponder.


Original Cessna scheme and paint (some areas re-done due to wear and tear).


Engine overhaul 600 hours ago ($25,000) by Progressive Aero Engines in Kamloops, British Columbia, which included ECI’s cylinders with flowed matched porting and a Superior oil pan (helped the air flow in the induction system), a K&N air induction system filter (STC) ($200), a Powerflow tuned exhaust first generation ($3,800) with my own design, “short stack,” (Transport- Canada approved), and Hartzell three-blade top prop ($7,000).interior-seat-panels-replaced-c-177-roy-sobchuk


Seat cover inserts and Plane Plastics seat trim.

Speed Modifications

I designed and developed all of the following speed modifications made to the Cardinal. Transport Canada approved the modifications. Many of them are available from Maple Leaf Aviation.

Front nose gear strut cover, “Fancy Pants.” I designed and built Fancy Pants to protect the front landing strut from stones, dirt, and bugs. They also improved the speed of the plane. Since installing them, I have had no problems with the strut seals or struts.

Main landing-gear leg fairings, cuff, and brake fairings. I discovered that the original fairings were creating turbulence near the fuselage and on the brake fairing and leg. This can be seen on the average plane by the trailing of black aluminum dirt visible after flying in the rain. I did gain some speed from this modification, as well.

Lower tailcone extension with integrated gap seal. I designed and built these to protect the tailcone from bird and rodent entry. They also improved the speed. The rear stabilator spar was exposed to the air stream; this created turbulence. The new tailcone eliminated the turbulence.

Exhaust-pipe fairing. I designed and built it to improve the engine cooling. While flying, air was entering the lower cowling from the hole around the exhaust pipe; this created a back pressure on the cooling air moving through the cylinders. The fairing helped improve the cooling. There may have been a small improvement in speed, but that was not my goal.

Sheared wing tips. I discuss these later.

Reduced “split air” inlets. I added these to improve the ram air for the heating system, as well as the carburetor induction system. These also improved the engine cooling, as all cylinder temperatures are very even now and well within the required limits.

Short stack for Powerflow exhaust system. I designed the short stack and had it manufactured for me at an approved Transport Canada welding shop. This made a big difference in reducing the noise in the cabin, removing the airframe vibration, increasing the useful load by three pounds, making it easier to remove the lower cowling, keeping the belly of the aircraft cleaner, and reducing the drag of the long pipe.

The modifications have improved the Cardinal’s climb rate, quietness, speed, and control.

My favorite improvement to the Cardinal has been the wing tips that I designed, built, and took four years to certify with Transport Canada. They are a sheared-tip design, which improves the cruise climb speed, lowers the stall speed, reduces the feedback loads on the controls in turbulent air, provides easier control in crosswind landings, and improves high-altitude speed (6,500 feet to 12,000 feet).fancy-pants-exhaust-fairing-and-short-stack-for-powerflow-e1

I’m still not done with the Cardinal. In the future, I would like to see better cruise speeds above 6,500 feet. That will most likely mean some sort of supercharger, so I’m on the lookout for a system.

Before folks modify their airplanes, they should look at the type of flying they do, then try and implement the improvement that will benefit them the most. With the cost of fuel going up, any improvement that decreases drag will mean improved fuel economy; that, I believe, would be most beneficial to any pilot.
Last Updated ( Friday, 16 July 2010 09:59 )