CESSNA 152 RESTORATION



In over 40 years of flying, I'd really done very little of what you might call "fun" flying. After obtaining various licenses it was always on to the next one or building flight time as a CFI, charter pilot and eventually the airlines, both commuters and a major. No complaints, but with retirement approaching, I decided it might be a good time to explore what it would be like to own an airplane. Having started in Cessnas, both as a student and CFI, and hoping to keep within a modest budget, the 150 / 152 line was familiar to me and seemed like a good point of entry.


(Click on photos to access larger view size)
1. Author at age 16 in his favorite C-150 at Evergreen Airport,
Vancouver, WA in 1968 training for his Private License.
2. Author in his restored C-152 at Bellingham,WA with young
passenger.

After several months of searching, I located a seemingly pristine cESSNA 152 in Livingston, Texas. It had 1500 hours total time (8,000 to 12,000 hours of hard training being more common for a 152) and had been converted by the original owner to a taildragger along with a Sparrowhawk 125 HP upgrade - from the original 110 HP. She'd had a recent pre-purchase inspection by a buyer who had backed out due to financing issues and the report, which the sellers offered to share with me, looked favorable enough that I felt comfortable flying across the country with checkbook in hand. The sellers were friendly, most helpful and forthright. After a close inspection of my own and a short check out flight, I was headed westbound. Five days and 2,400 miles later, I arrived back in Bellingham, WA with only a few very minor squawks.


(Click on photos to access larger view size)
3. At Pecos, TX flying the C-152 home 11/28/07
4. Approaching Bellingham, WA near the end of the 2,400 mile
delivery trip from Texas. 133 Kt. ground speed, catching the end
of a winter storm.
5. Friday Harbor, WA
6. Original instrument panel with faded red trim

It had been my intention to enjoy the plane pretty much as it was, but like many of us, after seeing and reading about other projects, I began thinking about what improvements might be made, both aesthetically and mechanically. The red and white paint was original and the red vinyl interior and carpet were now more of a faded pink. The green tinted windows were a bit crazed and leaking. In January 2009, I took the plane to nearby Upper Valley Aviation in Chilliwack, B.C., for a paint job and new interior. They had an excellent reputation and the exchange rate at the time was also 25% in my favor.

Within a few weeks the paint was stripped, the control surfaces removed, the plastic windows removed and replaced (I chose a smoke colored tint for the replacement) and the interior, down to the panel, was removed. No corrosion was found and there were only a few minor cosmetic pieces of hangar rash to repair.

UVA's interior shop went to work on carpet and upholstery while I ordered up new interior panels to replace those which were beyond help. All were painted a medium beige, thus freshening up what had become a collection of various colors. The plane had come with a child seat, which I immediately removed so as to be able to accommodate a disassembled bicycle. Thus new panels in the "cargo bay" replaced those which had been cut for the seat hardware. We also decided to paint the instrument panel a more modern black, which necessitated removing the beige upper panels and replacing the red lower panel with switches, circuit breakers and gauges.

In the paint shop, the exterior was etched and alodyned, primed and coated with a base white - door frames too - of PPG polyurethane and finally, the two trim colors. Scheme Designers created the striping plan and created data from which full size masking templates were created. This assured the final design matched what was envisioned on the computer screen.

All exterior plastic, with the exception of wheel pants, were replaced with new fiberglass pieces. The replacements arrived primed and un-drilled, so some extra work was required getting them to fit. Fiberglass should last much longer than the original plastic which had numerous cracks and splits. All were fastened with stainless screws and nylon washers. Stainless cam locks were used on the cowling.

I had contacted Cessna Pilot Association for advice on this project to be certain I didn't miss anything major. They did recommend fuel tank removal and inspection. This was done, and while the tanks were out, the tanks and tank bays were primed and all the rubber pieces - hoses and the pieces under the tank upon which they rest, were replaced. There should be no immediate need to open up the tank bays in the future.

Ten weeks later, N37ZQ (new tail numbers - full size in anticipation of frequent border crossing) emerged looking much rejuvenated.

The following are a list of parts suppliers for this part of the project. All suppliers were reliable and met my expectations.

Cee Bailey - Windows (all five came as a package)
Stene Aviation - Fiberglass cuffs, caps, wing tips & fairings
Vantage / Plane Plastics - Various cabin lining
Texas Aeroplastics - Various cabin lining
Broadie's Aircraft - Lower instrument panel
Hooker Harness - Four-point seat belt and shoulder harness
PPG Paint - Base and trim paint
SchemeDesigns.com - Paint design
Milspec Products - Stainless cam lock cowl fasteners
Upper Valley Aviation - Exterior paint and interior upholstery

When showing people the result of this phase of the project their comments were often, "Now you have a nearly new plane!" Indeed, the plane looked quite nice, but now it was time to address the engine. I realize the engine should have been first, but I was hoping it could wait another year. While compression was good and oil consumption was reasonable, the oil analysis was showing signs of excessive wear with high iron content. I was also seeing excessive amounts of blow-by from the engine breather, noted both on the belly and the gooey puddles on the ramp after engine shut down. Even more troubling, after flying several other mostly stock 152s, I realized there were more than a few sleeping ponies under the cowling. Not only was there little apparent horsepower gain from the Sparrowhawk mod, it felt much sleepier than even a stock 152. When I had purchased the plane, there was some confusion on my part about the 2000 vs. 2400 hour TBO. Hoping the latter to be correct, I'd assumed there was plenty of life remaining in the O-235. What I learned, however, was that relatively infrequent use over a period of nearly 30 years spelled trouble. After several months of consideration, I decided it was time to solve the mystery.

Working under the supervision of an A&P / IA friend, I removed the engine, lowered it into the back of my car, and delivered it to Avian Aviation near Port Orchard, WA (KPWT) for an overhaul. Avian had a good reputation, was nearby, and promised a four-week turnaround. Within hours after delivery, I had the news I had anticipated: Several camshaft lobes were nearly worn flat and I was told the engine might have been producing only 60% of rated HP. Something I was not aware of prior to this was the cam has only six lobes. Each exhaust valve has its own lobe but the four intakes share two lobes each, and these two were nearly worn round. All the lifters were heavily pitted as were the accessory gears and several crank shaft journals. I now had a first hand look at how moisture and inactivity can conspire to prematurely wear out an airplane motor. I don't believe the previous owners had misrepresented the engine condition. The only obvious symptom was low power. I only became suspicious after flying several other 152s.

In regards to the two TBO numbers, it's now my understanding that the stock O-235 L2C is rated at 2000 hours while overhauled models using selected parts has been increased to 2400 hours. Lycoming also recommends 12 years of use or the hourly value. The high compression models (9.7:1 vs. 8.5:1) are still rated at 2000 hours, according to Lycoming information. For what it's worth, the O-235 has a bore of 4.375" and a stroke of 3.875".

Prior to removing the engine, I thought it would be good to have new cylinder kits in hand should there be any delay. It was a good thing. In the Fall of 2009, Lycoming O-235 L2C cylinders were unavailable due to both a slow down at the factory and a change in manufacturing. I had contacted several engine shops to see about having new cylinders ported along with special valve seat and guide work. All advised they could do the work if I could find the cylinders. Since I owned the Sparrowhawk 125 HP STC mod, which came with the plane, I also wanted to include high compression pistons in the overhaul. After several months of stewing about the lack of cylinder availability, I received a call from LyCon, one of the engine shops to whom I had inquired, and I was told they had a complete set of new Lycoming cylinders, ported, valves improved (they estimate 3-4 HP gain per cylinder) and with high compression pistons (part LW-18725) which a customer was not able to pay for, and how soon would I like them? They arrived a few days later and a week after that, the engine was in the shop.

Again, contacting Cessna Pilot Association for advice, I decided to address everything necessary firewall-forward to assure safety and reliability. Avian was very helpful procuring all the necessary parts as my goal was to have the engine package ready for me to reinstall with no major impediments. This included new accessories, hoses, wiring and replacing the stock carburetor with one equipped with an accelerator pump. I was often miffed at having to use the primer for nearly every start. The engine mount and battery box were powder coated and I cleaned up the stainless firewall to a reasonably nice shine. The Sensenich 72CK propeller was sent out for its pre-2000 hour overhaul and re-pitched to the to the 54-inch "cruise" setting.

Just over four weeks later the engine was reinstalled and operational. Between the combination of overhaul, LyCon cylinder treatment and high compression pistons, the sleeping ponies had finally come alive. I'm not going to make any wild claims about performance, but takeoffs are much shorter, initial climb generally exceeds 1000 FPM and top IAS (with GPS confirmation) is around 129 KIAS. The plane does have flap and aileron gap seals and a touch less drag without the nose wheel, but this is all a huge improvement from what had been a very anemic performer. The other nice feature is instead of having to fly around some of the local mountains, I've been able to fly over them and still see a modest climb at 14,000 feet.

Most would assume this is called a "Texas Taildragger" but the STC (SA2846SW) was originally done by Custom Craft of Austin, TX and is now held by Del Air of Porterville, CA. I believe there are several conversions for 150/152s, one having a taller stance with spring gear and the other a foot or so lower like this one, which uses the original landing gear.

The paint and interior are done and so is the mechanical work. The radios are decent and the plane is certified for IFR, but I plan to fly it strictly VFR. For now I think I will just enjoy some fun flying doing what I most enjoy: Taking friends - junior and senior - for plane rides!

Here's a list of suppliers for the engine part of the project. Again, I would recommend any of them.

Avian Aviation - Overhaul
LyCon Engines - Cylinder improvements
Tempest / Volare - Carburetor (model 10-5220 with pump)
Sky Tec - Starter (model 149-NL-EC)
Plane Power - Alternator (model AL 24-F60)
Rapco - Vacuum Pump
Aerospace Welding - Muffler
Pacific Oil Cooler - Oil cooler overhaul
Bennett Powder Coating (360-383-9100) - painting
Lord Mounts - motor mounts


(Click on photos to access larger view size)
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7. Interior opened up for first annual inspection. Note faded
and multi colored plastic trim panels and side tabs
for removed child seat. (capacity 80 lbs.) 4/14/08
8. Stuart Island, WA. Sharing runway with local habitants.
Note deer just above right wing.
9. Darrington, WA starting out to cycle the Mountain Loop Highway.
9/15/08
10. The C-152 isn't spacious, but how many two seat airplanes will
accommodate a full size road bike?
11. Flying buddies, just prior to beginning restoration project.
1/5/09
12. Beginning of interior remodel.
1/23/09
13. Another view of interior remodel.
14. Flaps removed; fuel tanks uncovered.
1/23/09
15. Fuselage stripped. 2/3/09
16. 13 gallon fuel tank removed. Preparing to recover
loose fuel cap chain. 2/3/09
17. Fuel tank bay with tanks removed. The
"sleepers" on which the tank sits were replaced
as were the several rubber hose parts
18. Seats & frames repainted and new padding added.
Several inches of seat padding were added since
the original 152 seats always seem too low in the cockpit.
19. Various fuselage parts awaiting paint.
20. Completed pilot seat.
21. After base coat applied.
22. Cabin masked so door frames can be painted.

23. Cover page of Scheme Design paint scheme specification
Click on above photo for detail presentation
in pdf file format.
24. Full size striping template prior to paint application.
These were used for masking. They are not decals.
25. New cabin insulation. In retrospect,
it made little difference in noise reduction.
26. Cabin coming together - 4/13/09
27. Ready for delivery. We had planned four weeks.
It took twelve weeks!
28. The gang at Upper Valley Aviation.
4/13/09
29. Seats.
30. Repainted instrument panel.
31. Pulling the engine.
32. Worn camshaft. Compare flat intake lobe
to more normal size exhaust lobe.
33.Rebuilt engine as delivered. Avian did a very nice job
on the painting and baffling installation.
34. Reinstalling rebuilt engine - 9/29/09
35. Allmost ready to fly. - The job is done.
36. Finally flying. 129 KIAS full throttle.


Author flying N37ZQ - 10/9/09


Flying over Mt. Baker at 12,500.


Shiney reflections.


35. Young future pilot and N37ZQ.
36. Author with WWII pilot friend Bill Whitney.
After a year of upgrade projects,
a restored N37ZQ flying over San Juan Islands.

Aerial Photos by Doug Righter
Douglas Cole
Bellingham, Washington

Click on following envelope to send an e-mail to Doug.




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