Getting a new interior was really fun, and stressful, and fun.
Today I am gonna talk to you about getting a new interior in my 1965 Cessna 182H. I have only been in the world of general aviation for about three years now. In that time I have had the opportunity to meet many aviators and enthusiasts, mostly because of our efforts to build this website and it’s previous incarnation Skypark.TV
I have been amazed at how many pilots do not own their own aircraft, and even more amazed how many express no interest in owning their own aircraft. To me, owning your own airplane is such a major part of the whole experience, I can hardly imagine passing that up.
I have never rented. I don’t know if the experience is the same for a pilot who rents or a pilot who is in a shared aircraft, be it a club or partnership. Maybe it is. As an owner, I have to say that the bond developed between my airplane and myself is real, and important.
When I put that airplane away, pushing on that little red tow bar and struggling with steering it into the box hangar, I always stop and rub my hands over the cowling and talk to it a bit. I am aware that it’s silly. But silly or not, I bond with that machine. I get a sense that it trusts me and I trust it. I take great care with it, of it, and it likewise takes care of my passengers and me.
To put a new interior in is to rip out all its seats, carpet, plastics, etc, to take it into surgery in a way. It felt like a big deal and a part of me felt I needed to do this airplane right.
I remember when I first saw this aircraft. I had just sold my 172 Superhawk to a flight school and Jim Hoddenbach was showing me a C182 he worked on that was hangared over at Salt Lake. The owner, Dwaine had met us there and rolled open those metal doors revealing a baby blue and white with a red stripe down the side 182 Skylane.
I was impressed with the care this airplane had received over the years, the paint was in good shape, but I must say the colors took me back a little. I did not have a lot of love for those colors or the pattern.
The interior was also in relatively good shape, although it may have been one of the more ugly interiors I had seen at that point. (I have since seen MUCH worse!)
I’m not sure how to describe it other than to say it was SO much blue! Blue carpets, blue seats, blue side panels, blue, blue, blue… The kind of blue you might see in the backyard of a silver bullet trailer lining the pool they bought at Walmart.
Maybe it was the kind of vinyl material on the side panels or maybe it was that there were five or six shades of blue all conflicting with each other. I don’t know, but I appreciated it. I really did. I can’t say it was my taste, nor did I like it right away but there is something about old airplanes and the styles and materials that went with them that I just fall in love with.
It’s because of this that when you make the choice to change these elements I felt a little like I was rejecting or losing something I loved. It was oddly difficult.
I spent months looking at colors and peering through windows of parked aircraft looking for inspiration and ideas.
I had lots of ideas and I would run them all by Jim, who seemed to be getting the idea that I was losing my mind/had terrible taste. His reactions to some of my ideas became so frequent that I started to believe that this was a choice I was going to botch.
Keep in mind that Jim is my aviation mentor and so he represents (in my mind) all aviators everywhere and thusly the true culture of aviation that I was trying to fit into.
After putting it off for months, I finally started looking for a guy to do the work and I came across a gentlemen out of California named Jack Purdue. I decided to go with Jack after speaking with him and a few other places because Jack is someone outside of my aviation circle and also because I liked his work and attitude.
Jack knew what he was talking about and was easy for a new pilot like me to deal with. He (of course) recognized that I was not familiar with the process and took the time to walk me through each step and give me all of the options.
So I scheduled it. I still didn’t have colors picked out but Jack was not available for a month or so, I figured I had plenty of time to procrastinate and wallow in indecision. I sat around, walked around, asked around, and looked around for ideas… Teal and black? Too Heavy. White and grey? Shows too much dirt. Mossy green and brown? I like it, but I am not confident the green would work out. Black and grey, blue and grey, black and blue, ahhhh… everywhere I turned only lead me to more indecision and every pilot I asked would always dodge the question. “Well, it’s a personal choice.” was the most common evasion I heard.
The first step was to take a load of photos and send them Jack, so he could get some idea of what I was needing and wanting. He would then work up a rough estimate and timeframe on the work.
Everything seemed in order to me, the pricing was fair compared to all the other estimates I had gotten and the timeframe was good. The next thing was for me to come down to Westover Airfield (KJAQ) and pick out colors and materials. So when the weather was good I jumped into the 182 and flew down to Jackson California, landing at Westover, a small, quiet, little airport where it was warm and green. The runway was dramatically uphill to the south and accordingly felt short.
I taxied over to parking and there was Jack in a pickup truck. Once parked, he dropped the back gate on the truck and pulled out dozens of samples. As many as there were it was surprising how limited my choices actually were.
What I chose was a gut feeling. Brown and Grey. To make that work I had to pick out a couple variations of brown: almond for the headliner, dark brown for the carpet, light grey for the seats and doors and as close as I could get to matching those colors in the various materials used in different placed.
The snag was that the color of headliner I had liked was not available anymore, and it looked like I might have to settle for another lighter tan. I did not feel comfortable with that which was difficult because I was feeling a lot of pressure to try to make Jack decide for me!
Jack sensed my struggle there and promised to call around and see if some “other” manufacturers had that color. I picked a backup and went on my way.
Now that colors were picked I was to go back and order the plastics while Jack went to work getting the fabrics and such. Once done, I needed to bring the airplane back and have the interior removed, which I did.
It was a slightly disturbing and uncomfortable experience. Jack climbed into the aircraft and began pulling things out! Down onto the asphalt they went one thing after another until the airplane was just exposed aluminum and wires. Wow… I should have known I would feel like I just harmed my airplane and it did not understand why I would do that to it, but I didn’t. My heart just kinda hung there in my chest.
That whole process took about an hour. And when the time came and the sewing, painting and repairing complete, it was time to get all the new interior put back in.
By now I had plenty of time to picture just how wrong I was in choosing those colors. I was pretty nervous. And to be fair Jack was too. I spoke to him on the phone when it was time and I asked him how it was looking and he said, “At first when you chose those colors I was skeptical. But they been in the shop laying there for five days (we had some weather delay us) and every time I walked past they caught my eye and I liked them more and more. I think you will be very happy.”
Oh man! I didn’t know what to expect now. I prepared myself mentally for the worst. Started to work myself into a place where I was just sure I had messed it up. I said “Well, no matter what it won’t be worse than Walmart pool blue”.
Five hours later the job was done. I walked up to the airplane and I looked inside seeing my Almond headliner, dark brown carpet and light grey strip down each seat. The embroidered seats with Skylane in them and I was about as pleased as I have ever been.
The new foam in the seats was very comfortable, the colors rock, and I can now feel like I said to myself “I knew it!”
I don’t know what it is about an airplane that makes a man fall in love with it, but whatever it is I am grateful for it. My advice to anyone getting a new interior is to pick the right shop or person to do it. Trust your gut and go with what you think you’ll like the best. It’s yours, and you need to like it more than anyone else.
Jack Perdue runs a shop that does Aircraft and Hot Rods, it’s:
Recovery Shop Upholstery
He was professional, skilled, and had a fair price.