Though the Cessna 185 Skywagon is considered by many to be the premier bush plane, it’s also popular with many other pilots and owners who’ll never fly anywhere near Alaska or northern Canada. Cessna began manufacturing the six-seat 185 Skywagon in March of 1961. The company produced 4,400 Skywagons before it ceased production of the plane in 1985.
The 185 Skywagon is a tail dragger, which means its third wheel is located beneath the tail instead of the nose. This wheel type was a popular configuration for World War II era aircraft and the 185 Skywagon was the last tail dragger that Cessna manufactured. Due to their tendency to ground loop, tail dragger planes often cost more to insure and aren’t as popular because of their challenging landing and takeoff characteristics.
In lieu of wheels, the 185 Skywagon can be equipped with floats, amphibious floats (floats that also have wheels for non-water landings), and skis. This makes the 185 Skywagon particularly attractive to those who fly in northern latitudes where the summer season is short and water runways are more plentiful than those found on land. Bush pilots will often change their 185 Skywagon from floats or wheels to skis and back as the season dictates.
Many install aftermarket Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) kits, vortex generators, stall fences, and other modifications on their 185 Skywagon to lower the stall speed and minimize the plane’s landing and takeoff distances. Other options available for the 185 Skywagon include external fuel and cargo pods, baggage extensions, oversized doors, and giant tundra tires that are used for bush strip runways. For those who desire a more powerful engine, which with a full load and floats may be necessary, a larger 300 HP Continental IO-550 engine is available. The 185 Skywagon can also be used for aerial applications when spray booms and a 151-gallon chemical tank are installed beneath the belly.
Maximum speed: 155 knots
Range: 573 nautical miles
Length: 25′ 9″
Wingspan: 35′ 10″
Height: 7′ 9″
Maximum weight: 3,350 pounds
Empty weight: 1,600 pounds
Engine(s): One 300 HP Continental IO-520-D engine
Rate of climb: 1,010′ per minute
Crew: one pilot and up to five passengers