To: (Separate email addresses with commas)
From: (Your email address)
Message: (Optional)
Send
Cancel

Thanks!

Close

Resurrecting a Cessna 170B

If you've ever dreamed of restoring an airplane, this is the series for you. We ran across Kyle Fosso on Facebook and his story had us amazed. He's rebuilding a 1954 Cessna 170B, which he purchased in 2010 when he was 15. The airplane is a true project - every part from spinner to tail needs a full overhaul. After an engine failure that ended up in an uncontrolled water landing, everything was in pieces.

The teardown process

Now at 19, Kyle's completing his first year of A&P mechanic's school and closing up his restoration project. When it's done, he'll have a better-than-new backcountry plane - and an A&P certificate to maintain it.

There's no way to wrap four years of constant work into a single post and do it justice. So, we're running this story as a series. We'll post a piece every week, and you can see what's coming up next by visiting our launch calendar. Plus, you can follow Kyle's Facebook page, 2771C Progress. This is a story worth following.

The Beginning

Kyle wasn't born into an aviation family. A chance trip with his dad to the Anacortes, Washington airport (74S) snagged his interest. His dad needed help on a drywall job in a hangar; after the work was done, Kyle headed to the hangar next door to check out the FBO and flight school.

There he met Mac, his mentor and A&P guide on this project. He didn't fly that day, but he did check out the cockpit of a DA-20. Kyle was hooked. Mom, however, wasn't impressed at the thought of her 14 year-old son at the controls of a plane.

After a month of pushing, mom relented. He started a weekly training schedule, working towards his private certificate.

Kyle spends his summers with a commercial fishing operation in Alaska, working a 32' boat catching Sockeye salmon in June and July. He covers an 18 hour-a-day schedule; it's hard work but it pays well. In 2009 at 14, he intended to use the profits for school. Flight school wasn't his original plan - but it fit the bill.

Salmon fishing off Alaska

While training, Kyle ran in to a second opportunity. The FBO's maintenance shop needed a part time apprentice, and he jumped at the chance. Kyle worked out a trade - time at the shop for flight time in the plane. Working three hours a day for a week earned Kyle another hour of flight time. So, at 14, Kyle had two logbooks - one for flight time and one for A&P time. He was well on the way to earning both his pilot and mechanic certificates.

Discovering The 170

When Kyle was 15, he rebuilt a set of floats for a Cessna 170B. On delivery day, the Cessna swooped in over a house, touched down in the backyard, and taxied down the boat ramp. They raised the plane with a forklift; Kyle mounted the floats underneath, and two hours later the Cessna took off from the lake.

Kyle went home wired - that's what he wanted to fly. His dad took note and began asking around. He found a 170B in pieces sitting untouched in a barn. Mac, Kyle's mentor, caught wind. He knew the plane - Mac had worked with the owner, Jerry Rader. This was a good buy, so he offered Kyle some clear advice: "Don't even think about it. Just buy it."

A week and $12,000 later, Kyle's 170B was on a trailer en-route to Anacortes.

The wings show a little wear...

It's gonna need a LOT of work...

The History

The plane - N2771C - is a 1954 Cessna 170B. It's the third and final civilian design in Cessna's 170 lineage, which also includes the military Cessna 305 / L-19 Bird Dog. The 170B is the first civilian model to feature modified Fowler flaps that reach down to 40 degrees - which still appear on the Cessna 172 today. In fact, the Cessna 170 was the taildragging predecessor to the ubiquitous - and tricycle geared - 172.

old-docked

N2771C docked in Alaska

old-ak

N2771C still sports some of the green and white paint job

old-beach

By 1972, N2771C was fitted with floats and based in Ketchican, Alaska. On November 12th, 1972, it developed carburetor ice while taking off from an inlet in El Capitan. While trying to restart the engine, the pilot lost track of airspeed and the Cessna stalled into the water. Luckily, no one was hurt and the airplane was close to shore.

A Caterpillar pulled the Cessna out, and the crew hosed it out to prevent corrosion. The cowling and one float were gone, the other float was ripped in half, and the wings were pancaked - all of the ribs showed through the skin.

Over time, N2771C moved through a series of barns and a chicken coop - picking up parts but never making real progress towards restoration.

When Kyle picked up the plane in 2010, the wings were off, the tail removed, and the original O-300 engine sat in a box - with rats. He trailered it back to a hangar in Anacortes, and together he and Mac began restoration.

Kyle (center) with Mac on his left and Jerry, the previous owner, on his right.

For the past four years, Kyle's kept the Cessna under full-time reconstruction. The process is a never-ending search. Between parts and tools, rebuilding a vintage plane is a constant quest for a piece of specialty equipment. To keep costs in check, he owns his mainstream tools and borrows specialty pieces from other shops in the area. Kyle trades groundskeeping work with his hangar landlord for rent. Cash is reserved for aircraft parts - the other expenses he works off. Between advice, loaned parts and work-in-trade, Kyle has incredible support from Anacortes' aviation community.

The Vision

Once finished, Kyle's Cessna 170B will easily outpace a factory-standard plane. He sold the original O-300A engine and purchased an IO-360. It's in need of an overhaul, as well, after a prop strike while on a DA-40. Once it's finished, though, the fuel-injected, 180 hp output makes a big improvement over the original 145 horse engine. Stoots Aviation supplied the supplemental type certificate (STC) - the performance numbers are truly fantastic.

The original wings needed a complete rebuild - giving Kyle a great opportunity for an upgrade. So, he picked up a pair off a Cessna 175 - in worse condition, but with larger tanks. The extra sweat will add significant range.

Kyle's also installed a Sportsman STOL kit and an updated panel with new instrumentation. We'll cover each of these projects in turn, starting with the fuselage teardown and rebuild, then moving on to the wings, engine and panel. Once you've followed the entire series, you'll know how it feels to rebuild a Cessna. Maybe you'll have the motivation to start your own project.

Until next week, you can follow Kyle's progress through his Facebook page, 2771C Progress. And, if you want to help Kyle along, donate through his GoFundMe page. It's an expensive and wildly time-consuming adventure - but for Kyle, one well worth doing.

Aleks Udris

Aleks is a Boldmethod co-founder and technical director. He's worked in safety and operations in the airline industry, and was a flight instructor and course manager for the University of North Dakota. You can reach him at aleks@boldmethod.com.

Recommended Stories

Latest Stories

    Load More
    Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via Email