FL200 in a C170

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FL200 in a C170

Postby DaveF » Mon Jan 15, 2018 12:37 am

I've always suspected that my airplane would be able to reach 20000 feet, and today my son and I decided to find out. There were two of us on board, full fuel, and O2 tank and misc junk in the back. We climbed pretty easily to 16000, then slower to 18000, got an IFR clearance for block altitude FL180 to FL200, and kept going. It was slow, but we did it. FL200, which, at OAT -16C, is DA 21003. At 65mph indicated we were truing 91. At the top we had a groundspeed of 15mph backward. Pretty strong wind, but smooth as silk. The surprising thing was that it only took us 8.0 gallons to get to FL200 from takeoff at 5000 msl.

For those who don't know, I've got a Lycoming O-360 and MT CS prop.

FL200.jpg
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby c170b53 » Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:33 am

So cool Dave, fairly high nose attitude ? Indicated airspeed of 70 knots.
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby DaveF » Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:00 am

We were in climb attitude but not climbing. The ASI showed 70 at the moment I took the pic, but there was a bit of bobbing around just then. Best climb was 65 mph IAS. Any faster or slower resulted in a descent. MP was down to 13", and the venturis were giving 3" of suction. Leaned FF was about 5.5gph.

It was fun, I'd better enjoy my "record" while I can. When David is done with his IO-360 installation he'll be able to put a few thousand feet on me.
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby n2582d » Mon Jan 15, 2018 7:18 am

Very cool! Thanks for sharing that.

Our little town here in the Sierra foothills was home to John Macready. In 1921 he held the world altitude record of over 40,000 ft. Amazingly this was done in an open cockpit biplane, a Packard LePere. You'd think they would have considered enclosing the cockpit after the previous guy froze his eyeballs 8O when he reached 33,000 ft. Would have been something to have met Macready before he died in 1979.
Last edited by n2582d on Mon Jan 15, 2018 12:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby hilltop170 » Mon Jan 15, 2018 7:38 am

That is AWESOME!

Lots of questions come to mind like, do you think 20,000' is the limit?, was there any wave lift?, was it all due to the engine or maybe the MT prop?, was the engine really quiet?, were the controls mushy?, what were the engine temps doing?, what version cabin heater do you have?, did it keep the cabin warm?, etc?, etc?.

I know there is more to the story and it would make a great read in the 170 News, hint, hint.
Last edited by hilltop170 on Mon Jan 15, 2018 7:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby Bruce Fenstermacher » Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:30 am

As a helicopter pilot who fears height and gets the creeps at FL 020, I get chills thinking about sitting it the itty bitty little plane that high. No way I'm ever doing that, I've only been half that high in a small (less than airline size) aircraft maybe twice.

So I'm looking at your picture and notice I can't see out the windshield. In fact it looks like it's covered. And those gauges just don't make much sense to me. Like maybe i could duplicate that picture on the ground. And all sorts of thoughts come to mind like, did we really go to the moon. This aircraft isn't at FL200. And I start feeling better. Ahhhhh think low altitude. Remember all those fun times flying nap of the earth in a Huey. There that's better. :lol:
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby hilltop170 » Mon Jan 15, 2018 10:58 am

I can understand Bruce’s reluctance to fly high, I wouldn’t want to get any further off the ground in a helicopter than I would be willing to jump either. And I worked at Bell Helicopter back in the early 1970s for 3 years on an Engineering Co-Op program when I was in college in the Transmission R&D Lab testing new model transmission components and analyzing failures from Hueys that went down in Viet Nam. Too many really important things held together with one nut for my comfort. I agree with Bruce!

However, none of that has ever entered my mind in a fixed wing airplane. For the most part when at high altitude (up to the point your blood starts to boil anyway) the higher you are, the safer you are, also discounting stupid pilot decisions like continuing to fly into ice, thunderstorms, or fog. At least the wings keep flying when the prop quits turning in a fixed wing.

I have wondered what the absolute maximum altitude of the 170 would be and it sounds like Dave may have found it. Mine quit climbing at 16,500 over Lubbock on a flight from Odessa to Amarillo, TX back in the early 1980s with the O300-D engine and just me in the plane (I had O2 if anybody asks). :wink:

The fact that the Lycoming kept running and the airframe continued to hold altitude is an amazing feat in my book.

Congrats Dave, you got that article written and turned in to Jan and Bruce yet?
Last edited by hilltop170 on Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby gahorn » Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:36 pm

I too was wanting to verify the picture, Bruce...but the Altimeter setting at 29.92 confirmed it for me.

There is something about WHICH airframe you're in that gives you comfort ...or the creeps...at altitude. I deliberately took our 170 to 13K to get over the Wasatch back in 2003 on the way to Tehachapi. The rate of climb indicated only 100' FPM with the O300, Two persons, 200 lbs of bags and half-fuel. But the altitude wasn't bothersome because we were only about 500' AGL. :lol:

On the return from Kelowna we went up to 14,700 MSL in an updraft and it felt fairly exhiliarating ... until I realized we couldn't stop the ascent, there was a TRW-overhang above us we were about to enter.... Icing was a real possibility as the OAT was right at Zero-F.... and those little Cessna wings, wonderful as they are...sure seem INADEQUATE at that altitude! 8O

I've been to 40K thru 45K in corporate jets as a career and felt just fine... but those airplanes are bit more substantial and the wings beneath you are somehow a bit more comforting. I never took the CX to it's certified cruising of 51K because I just don't like it up where useful consciousness is less than 10 seconds if a window or bulkhead seal fails... and I don't like wearing a mask. (It spoils my aviator-image I'm trying to preserve.) :lol:

I don't like being in a helicopter above the tops of the green grass. :mrgreen:
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby N2625U » Mon Jan 15, 2018 7:05 pm

Having been shot down twice in Hueys in VN I'm a little leary of helicopters as both came down due to lead poisoning of the engine and/or transmission. Lost 6 teeth in one of them.
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby mit » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:08 pm

I got up to 14,500 once in my 48 that was high enough......
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby ghostflyer » Tue Jan 16, 2018 12:55 am

Well done Dave F. This is some thing to aspire to complete. Did you take your GoPro with you. All I can say is WOW. Boeing built 2 aircraft [ surveillance] a number of years ago with Continental engines with a highly modified O-300 and they supercharged them for very high altitude flight . My info comes from Boeing and the EAA museum.
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby flyguy » Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:00 am

We were out of Taos NM headed to Atchison KS when we encountered a severe vertical updraft. The VSI went to 1600fpm and as I pulled back on the power we were nose down and still climbing. Cold gusts were whistling up through every little gap and the air speed was showing 105mph with the nose close to a dive but we were still being taken upward. It finally kicked us out at 19400ft. We then leveled out and rode the mountain waves for the next 75 miles. Without saying - it wasn't a good feeling to not know just how high we would be taken and the worry about oxygen depravation. I even thought about spinning it to get down to a safer level but it's hard to do a stall when the nose is in a 65* down attitude,
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby gahorn » Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:28 am

flyguy wrote:... It finally kicked us out at 19400ft. We then leveled out and rode the mountain waves for the next 75 miles. Without saying - it wasn't a good feeling to not know just how high we would be taken and the worry about oxygen depravation. I even thought about spinning it to get down to a safer level but it's hard to do a stall when the nose is in a 65* down attitude,


I think the oxygen deprivation permanently damaged you.
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby 170C » Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:25 am

In 1995 on the way to the Kalispell convention Becky and I decided, after spending the night in Buffalo, WY ,to go over to Yellowstone National Park. To do so we flew back toward Cody, WY, all the time climbing. Being a flat lander I wanted lots of room between us and those ROCKS :D We had begun with full fuel and lots of baggage. Got Ole Pokey up go 13,400 ‘, took a photo of the altimeter and after about 10 minutes, descended into West Yellowstone. Sure seemed lonely up there.
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Re: FL200 in a C170

Postby c170b53 » Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:44 am


I think the oxygen deprivation permanently damaged you.


Oh boy, I can't wait for the rebuttal :D
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