[Cessna 170 ] [Cessna 180 ] [ Cessna 182 ]
[Cessna 195 ] [ Cessna 205 ]

It could be argued that the combination of the Cessna 180/185 and Snohomish pop-up jump door made skydiving possible in most parts of the country.  It was affordable, especially used, and was and may still be the most widely used jump plane in America.  It could carry 4-5 jumpers depending on their body weight and the altitude of the air field and could be run economically enough for small DZ operator to make a profit.

After completing their US Army contract, Sanborn and Istel dissolved JI & Co. and incorporated Parachutes Incorporated in 1958.  They opened the first PI DZ at Sebastian "Batch" Pond's  Hill Farm in XXX CT.  The first aircraft was Batch's Cessna 170B with a Fulton Conversion.  The company prospered and acquired a Cessna 182 for the New England DZ's and later acquired a pair of Cessna 180's Orange and Lakewood to relieve the demands by experienced jumpers on the Norseman.  In the final years PI also had a Cessna 195 and a 205.


The company prospered and could soon afford it's own aircraft and bought a used 1956 Cessna 182.

Working on it

Cessna 180

Though an incredible aircraft, PI had a problem with the Norseman.  It couldn't be beat for students, especially low jumps and my personal experience was that you took off and with one circuit were at 2500 feet.  If it was the first jump of the day or there had been a weather change a streamer was thrown but usually there was a student sitting in the door before a full 360 degree circuit was made.

The Norseman could get to 5500' for a 20 second delay in 7 minutes from take off and make money but higher than that the profit margin started to fall.  Except on days where the winds were too high for students, few loads went right to 5500 or 7200 feet so the economics were difficult to figure but higher than 7200' was definitely a problem.  On a direct run from take-off to 12,500' the Norseman took almost a half an hour with a full load or 28 minutes with a light load to 15,000' though the company never sold tickets to that altitude.

As PI trained more people it found itself with more and more experienced jumpers.  After finishing our training we became aerial advertising for the next batch of students and good shows for the Wuffs on target tours.  BUT we were under the expected profit margin. 

PI had tried several cost cutting measures.  An example was in winter 1963/4 PI started to use weather balloons and a transit to determine the spot and save aircraft and fuel time.  I first saw Pete Guifoyle use the system.  A balloon was filled to a specific volume, specifically so that it would raise at the same rate as a canopy or streamer descended.  The balloon was watched through the transit cross-hairs and a second person called the time at 2.5 minutes.  The markings at the 2.5 minute mark were translated into a grid  reference on a piece of clear plastic taped over a 24x24 inch aerial photo of the airport posted on a wall.  The jumpmasters of any load just looked at the photo and knew the spot.

This was only partially successful and the company needed another aircraft to economically cater to the jumpers who needed to go above 5500' and it chose the Cessna 180 with the Snohomish pop-up door for Orange and Lakewood.  A Cessna 180 had been previously used successfully at Hemet, CA., piloted by Major "Bucky" Walters but it's unknown at this point if PI owned or leased the aircraft.  It came to light accidently while researching data on the first double baton pass with a woman which was done at Hemet and PI manager Lew Sanborn.  The other two jumpers were Sherri Buck and Bob McDonnell.  They used the 180 for the record setting jump.  Lew also made his 500th jump from this aircraft at Hemet.

I first jumped the PI Cessna 180 (my first 180 jumper ever) at Lakewood on July 10, 1966 while on my way to Viet Nam.  I had been jumping the Norseman most of the day doing crude rel-work with some success but they needed to fill it with students for the rest of the afternoon.  Basically 9 of us got exclusive use of the 180 for the rest of the day.  The smaller door made exits difficult (compared to the Norseman) and tight exits from small planes had not been perfected yet.  Our jumps from 7200' were less than successful.  I didn't jump the PI 180 again till July and Aug. of 1967 (I'd been in Viet Nam) but during that time exits had been worked out that made the 180 much more fun and my log book has very positive remarks about the 180 jumps.

The aircraft were in the PI Blue paint scheme with the PI logo on the tail.  No Cessna 180's were involved in any mishaps.


The Cessna 180 received its approved type certificate (#5A6) on December 23, 1952. The first dealer deliveries were early in 1953. All models of the Cessna 180 are approved for operation on floats. (Note: In 1955 the Edo Corporation introduced an amphibious model which could be installed on any 180. The Cessna 180 was the first aircraft of a four place type ever to be approved for use with retractable gear amphibious floats.)  In addition, a very wide variety of ski
installations are also approved, including wheel replacement, wheel penetration and hydraulic retractable wheel skis.

The 180 is also approved for the Alcor "Cargomore" utility door as well as the Snohomish Pop-Up door.  The latter made a remarkable difference in (jumping) operational safety as well as Pilot/jumper comfort in cold weather.  It also cut down on parasitic drag caused by the missing door removed for jumping) and allowed the AC to get from sea level to 20,000 feet in about 45 minutes.

Utilizing the same wing as the model 170B (a NACA 2412 series airfoil section which used a single extruded aluminum front strut and included the slotted fowler type flaps originally designed for the model 305) the model 180 had a new semi-monocoque fuselage with a taller more square tail profile. 

Large single-slotted Fowler type "Para-Lift" flaps are used on all models. They increase the size of the wing as well as the camber. At half-flaps, excellent lift is obtained and at full 40 degrees of flaps, a very high rate of sink is possible. An
experienced pilot can easily land a fully loaded 180 on a football field.  This was especially useful for operating out of small drop zones or even for making forced landings in the more wooded Eastern USA DZ's.   The flaps are operated by a single manual lever and maximum flap lowering speed is 100 mph on all models up to 1964. The 1964 1975 models allow 110 mph. Maximum flap lowering speed and the 1976 and later models allow 120 knots for flaps at 10 degrees and 90 knots or lower for 20-40 degrees flaps.

The main landing gear, which is fabricated from chrome-vanadium spring steel, is probably the most forgiving and maintenance-free in the industry. The tail wheel features a tubular steel spring with a steerable and full swiveling pneumatic tire and wheel.  Considering how many drop zones in the 50's, thru 80's operated from "unimproved" fields, the 180 was perfect for the job.

With a 225hp O-470-A flat six engine, the new model was considerably more powerful than the model 170. Deliveries began in Feb. 1953, and rather than the business market originally envisaged, the 180 proved very popular as a bush aircraft.

Development of the 180A appeared with a O-470-R 230hp engine and B models incorporated minor changes. The 180C appeared in 1960 and incorporated a new rear bulkhead. The 1961 180D was not substantially different, but the E (1962) and F (1963) models featured changes to the fuel system. The 1964 180G had extra windows and in 1966 the seating of the G was increased from four to six. Like many Cessna aircraft, the 180 was sold as a basic model, and deluxe version - the Skywagon II with factory installed avionics.  The 180H could also carry an external  POD with an extra 3000 pounds of cargo.  Production ceased in 1981 and was one of Cessna's best seller with 6210 units being sold.

Though many newer jumpers see the Cessna 206 as the mainstay single engine jump plane, most of the older jumpers see the Cessna 180/185 complimented by the Beechcraft Model 18 (twin) as the back bone of the air fleet that made jumping what it is today. 

Length 25 ft. 6 in.
Height 7 ft. 6 in.
Wing Span 36 ft.
Wing Area 175 sq. ft.
Landing Speed About 55 mph for all models 1953 on.

Cessna produced a total of  6,193 Model 180's, the last 180 completed (SN - 18053203) rolled off the production line September 10, 1981.   Both PI 180s were produced during the first quarter of 1954.

Model` Year Engine # Made SN
1953 Continental O-470-A* 225 2600 80/87 7-1
30,000 through 30,639
1954 Continental O-470-J 225 2550 
80/87 7-1
30,640 through 31,259
1955 The engine was changed to O-470-J near the end of 1954 production run.
31,260 through 32,150
1956 Continental O-470-K 230 2600 
80/87 7-1
32,151 through 32,661
1957 Continental O-470-K 230 2600 80/87 7-1
32,662 through 32,999
50,000 through 50,105
1958 Continental O-470-K 230 2600 80/87 7-1
50,106 through 50,355
1959 Continental O-470-K 230 2600 80/87 7-1
50,356 through 50,661
1960 Continental O-470-L 230 2600 80/87 7-1
50,662 through 50,911
180D 1961 Continental O-470-L 230 2600 80/87 7-1 151 50,912 through 51,063
180E 1962 Continental O-470-R 230 2600 80/87 7-1 119 51,064 through 51,183
180F 1963 Continental O-470-R 230 2600 80/87 7-1 128 51,184 through 51,312
180G 1964 Continental O-470-R 230 2600 80/87 7-1 132 51,313 through 51,445
180H 1965 Continental O-470-R 230 2600 80/87 7-1 161 51,446 through 51,607
180H 1966 Continental O-470-R 230 2600 80/87 7-1 166 51,608 through 51,774
180H 1967 Continental O-470-R 230 2600 80/87 7-1 100 51,775 through 51,875
180H 1968 Continental O-470-R 230 2600 80/87 7-1 117 51,876 through 51,993
180H 1969 Continental O-470-R 230 2600 80/87 7-1 109 51,994 through 52,103
180H 1970 Continental O-470-R 230 2600 80/87 7-1 71 52,104 through 52,175
180H 1971 Continental O-470-R 230 2600 80/87 7-1 45 52,176 through 52,221
180H 1972 Continental O-470-R 230 2600 80/87 7-1
52,222 through 52,284
180J 1973 Continental O-470-S 230 2600 80/87 7-1
52,285 through 52,384
180J 1974 Continental O-470-S 230 2600 80/87 7-1
52,385 through 52,500
180J 1975 Continental O-470-S 230 2600 80/87 7-1
52,501 through 52,620
180J 1976 Continental O-470-S 230 2600 80/87 7-1
52,621 through 52,770
180K 1977 Continental O-470-U 230 2400 100 LL 8.6-1
52,771 through 52,905
180K 1978 Continental O-470-U 230 2400 100 LL 8.6-1
52,906 through 53,000
1979 Continental O-470-U 230 2400 100 LL 8.6-1
53,001 through 53,115
1980 Continental O-470-U 230 2400 100 LL 8.6-1
53,116 through 53,167
1981 Continental O-470-U 230 2400 100 LL 8.6-1
53,168 through 53,203
      You might also want to check out 
      as a source for 180/182/185 information.

N-Number ???88C
Color Blue and white.  These twophotos are allwe have of it.

Year Built
Acquired from
fate Still Flying
Current owner Lawrence Pond, Good Hill Farm, Ct.
Remarks This AC was the first PI jump plane and was and still is owned by the Pond family.  It has a Fulton conversion in it (180hp Lycoming engine with a variable pitch propellor, effectively making it a Cessna 180.
N-Number Unknown
Color White with blue trim and Parachutes Incorporated on the side in the same mode as 795 Red Lead had.  It was the same color scheme that was applied to the Orange Cessna 182
Remarks Of all the 180's PI used we know the least about this bird.  It's regular pilot was Major "Bucky" Walters but it's unknown at this point if PI owned or leased the aircraft.  They had to have had some kind of long term arrangement because they put a bit of money into applying the PI color scheme to the aircraft.  PI operated 180 with the door off the aircraft unlike later Cessnas with pop-up doors.  (Photo album)
N-Number N2936C, s/n 30836
Continental O-470-J 225 2550 
Fuel: 80/87 7-1
Acquired from
Fate Still flying
Current Owner Donald A. Winkelman, P.O. Box 68, 
Togiak, AK, 99678-0068 
Remarks 2936C is one of the older 180's and was 836th off the production line in late March 1954.  PI put in a Snohomish door.  Notice the stol extensions on the wings.  These were replaced with drooping tips by the 70's  (Photo Album)
N-Number N2484C, s/n 
Year Built 1954
engine Continental O-470-J 225 2550, Fuel: 80/87 7-1
Acquired from
Fate Still Flying in La.
Current Owner Jackie J. Kibodeauk, 434 Bearb Road, Sunset, 70584-5652
Remarks 84C was about a month older than 36C coming off the production line the last week of Feb. 1954.  PI installed a Snohomish door.  84C was well worn when it was bought but it served Lakewood well thanks to good repair and maintenance. 
Research in progress.  Used at Hemet
N-Number N11LP
Year Built
 N11LP was utilized at Orange in the late 70's and early 80's. It never made it into the PI color scheme for some reason. It was ground looped, and the
left wing was buckled in the late 70's. After repair, it was stripped to bare aluminum, and a Flying Tigers style shark's eye and teeth arrangement was painted on the nose. I have a photo somewhere in that config I haven't found yet.
Year Built 1956
Acquired from
Current Owner
182 No Photo Available
N Number N-6217A
Year Built
Acquired from
Current Owner
Remarks 17A never wore the PI livery and was red, white and blue its whole time at Lakewood17A was used at Lakewood only in the first half of the 70's
 data needed
data needed
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Project PI is an online collaborative effort to document the first commercial parachute company, Parachutes Incorporated, its 5 DZ's, it's 15+ aircraft and as many of the personalities that worked or jumped there that we can find.  Anyone may contribute with stories, information and photographs and are encouraged to do so. Click on the logo above to send e-mail to Thom Lyons, Project coordinator in Melbourne, Australia