Aircraft registration

I learned to fly in my dad’s IFR-equipped Cessna 172K, N84573. I did a google search on the registration number and found this page. It contains:

What does that mean? That the FAA mailed the form and that the owner has not returned it?

I found this trusty airplane sitting derelict at Fullerton Airport a few years ago. It’s oleo strut was streaked with black, the left main had no rubber and the right was flat, there was a rusty chain around the prop. It had been re-painted – poorly. (Here’s a photo of how it looked when dad bought it in 1976). The guard at the airport said it hadn’t flown in a year. This, as I mentioned, was about four or five years ago. I’m guessing – and this is only a guess – that it reached TBO and the owner could not afford to have the engine rebuilt. And so it sat and deteriorated.

I tried to contact the owner twice over two years to see if he wanted to sell it. I received no reply. A mechanic at Fullerton found my webpage and e-mailed me about it several months ago. It would be stupid to buy this aircraft. For what it would cost to get it flying again, I could buy one that’s already airworthy. But I hate seeing a perfectly good machine fall into ruin. And this particular machine gave me hours of fun and a lifetime of memories.

What does it really need? Engine overhaul, certainly. New tires. Avionics testing and recertification. Maybe a new prop. (It wears the replacement provided after the original lost six inches of its tip while being delivered to dad in 1976.) Annual inspection, and repair of anything wrong that they find. New paint. (Actually, it will fly the same with the hideous paint; so that’s not a real priority.)

What will all of that cost, over and above the purchase price if the owner decides to sell?

What does the quoted statement mean?

If it means it’s not registered, what are the repercussions?

I sincerely hope that Mr. Lee either gets '573 airworthy again, or sells it to someone who will get it back in the air.

The quoted statement seems to mean the owner isn’t bothering to pay the registration fee on a plane he doesn’t intend to fly anymore. It’s puzzling why he wouldn’t just take the best offer and at least get something for it, though, even if it’s just to strip for parts. You certainly should be able to reach him.

Does the airport manager know where the storage-fee checks are coming from? If he isn’t getting any, at some point he ought to be able to seize it, and maybe then you could cut a deal, if you’re really interested.

I’m mildly interested; but as I said, it would be foolish. If the airplane were given away, it still might be cheaper to buy one that’s already flying. What’s an overhaul cost? $25,000? New prop – three grand? Annual? Tires? Avionics? Just guessing, of course (which is why I asked about costs earlier), but I can see about 30 kilobucks or more going into it before it sees the sky again. I daresay I could find an airworthy 1968-1970 C-172 (albeit with TBO closing in) for $35K or $40K if I were seriously in the market.

Nevertheless, I’ve e-mailed the airport to enquire about any pending seizure.

I’m following this thread out of interest and curiosity and have nothing at all to contribute, but could you clarify one little thing?

Is this the plane that you learned on and it belonged to your dad at one time, but currently belongs to someone else now? Or does it strike your attention because it’s the same model as the plane you learned on originally?

Sorry, but knowing the back story on any soap opera affects one’s interest in the continuing saga.


I realize this is kinda OT, but it’s similar, Johnny.

I found my Dad’s old Cessna. It’s still flying, and gainfully employed by one of the southern state governments.

My old Cherokee died* in a tornado (on the ground). I conducted a search on the N number (out of morbid curiosity) and it has been resurrected, and is living in Alaska now. (I hope it likes its new home).

*Avemco declared it totalled
I know how you feel.

My dad bought N84573 in 1976, when it was six years old. This was the airplane in which I earned my license in the '80s. Dad bought a 1968 Cessna 182 Skylane. He kept the Skyhawk for a while, but sold it in he late-1980s. The buyer was a woman he knew (he was in the FAA, and worked at WJF where '573 was kept). She ran it out of gas twice – once on short final, and once on the runway. Bad form. After her, I didn’t know what happened to it. Then about five years ago I decided to see if I could find it. I checked the FAA registry online, and found that the '573 was based at Fullerton Municipal Airport – a short drive from where I worked in Orange. I found it in the condition I described in the OP.

I found the Skylane as well; but since it was in Palo Alto, I did not see it. Anyway, 182s are much more expensive than 172s. Dad had long-range tanks installed and got a new 1980s-style paint job (that’s when he had it painted – pics on my site under Biography|Photo Album) and had it reupholstered. You couldn’t tell it from a new airplane.

Johnny, if it’s been sitting out in the weather you also have to worry about corrosion and animal damage. If either critters or water or both have gotten up into the wings and tail the metal itself may be severely damaged and corroded, in which case the airplane is a lost cause.

Outside storage isn’t too much of a problem in SoCal. Lancaster (Mojave Desert) is better than Fullerton; but Fullerton is far enough away from the ocean that salt shouldn’t be a concern. I haven’t heard of problems with vermin inhabiting aircraft in SoCal, but you can get bird nests. (I don’t remember if '573 had cowl plugs.) In Lancaster the occasional problem was caused by what my ground school instructor called ‘packer bugs’. They weren’t wasps, but they would pack pitot tubes with mud. Black widow spiders are also very common in the desert. Haven’t heard of these problems in Orange County.

In any case… The only way I would ever buy this particular airplane is if it came very cheap; and then only after an inspection to make sure there are no expensive problems (other than what I’ve noted). One thing I do know is that the starboard stab has some dimples in it. Hail damage from when it was in San Diego in the early-'70s? Someone dropped some gravel on it? I don’t know; but it didn’t cause any problems when I was flying it. I wondered why the guy didn’t replace the aluminum when the plane was repainted – but seeing the quality of the paint job, I stopped wondering. Some of the plastic fairings are cracked, but not bad.

One weird thing: When '573 was delivered from the factory it was dark blue-over-white, with the matching blue vinyl interior. The radio station that bought it in San Diego painted it in the same colour patter, but in orange – and left the interior as it was. Someone repainted the airplane, and it still has the same (non-matching) interior. It even still has those plastic letter-tapes (what are those called) that warn the pilot to switch to single-tank operation above 5,000 ft.

Dymo Label Makers. My dad loved those things.

Just curious what your intentions are, Johnny - do you have a pasture you’d send Old Paint out to, to live out the rest of her days, or what?

It also occurs to me that, if the owner simply cannot be reached, he may, um, no longer be with us.

I’m optimistic about the new business venture. I’ve always wanted my own aircraft. If things work out as planned, I’d like to get something that flies. I’d like to have N84573 for sentimental reasons. No pasture for Old Paint; it would be flown regularly. But sentimentality only goes so far. I’d like a C-172K (or similar) because I like their looks better than the newer ones. I like the spring steel landing gear, the short ‘skeg’ on the vertical stab, and their stance when sitting on the ground, which I can only describe as ‘jaunty’. (Newer ones seem more ‘businesslike’ and not so ‘eager’.) If the cost of buying and refurbishing N84573 is the same or less than buying a flying example, then I’d like that plane. If not, then any ol’ C-172 with the same attributes would suit me fine. The only way that '573 would be worth it would be if A) it does not have structural problems, and B) if it’s incredibly cheap. Economics count more than sentimentality.

I’d really like a Robinson R-22; but helicopters are not suited to long cross-countries, and they are two or three times as expensive as a 172 and carry half the people at about 75% of the speed.

Heck, I’d fly an Ercoupe if it meant I could leave the planet for an hour…