Many Seaside Heights locals drive up Ocean Terrace every day and pass it by, while visitors wouldn’t be blamed for simply passing it off as another quirky Jersey Shore prop amidst the lights, sounds, and laughter of a summer night. But the Cessna 182N that hangs from the side of the Smuggler’s Quay miniature golf course at Casino Pier isn’t a prop at all – it’s a real plane with a real history, and Shorebeat tracked it down.
Fortunately, the plane’s tail number is still painted along its fuselage, providing a starting point. As it turns out, the Cessna has been out of service for quite a while – so long, in fact, that an Aérospatiale SE 3130 Alouette II helicopter apparently procured the same registration number at some point in time. That sent us on a journey to dig deeper in order to find out exactly where this aircraft came from, and federal records were uncovered that told us that and more.
Shorebeat’s search led us to a report not from the FAA – our starting point – but the National Transportation Safety Board. As one could infer, the NTSB promulgated a report on this aircraft because it was involved in a mishap, eventually leading it to being taken out of service and sold for parts (or, in this case, a miniature golf display).
The aircraft itself is a Cessna 182N Skylane. The ‘N’ variant of the Skylane is a four-seat light aircraft with fixed landing gear, powered by a carbureted 230 hp Continental piston engine. It received its type certification in 1969, though the in-service date of the specific aircraft on display in Seaside Heights is not mentioned in the NTSB report.
The report does, however, tell us the story of how this plane went from a working aircraft to a display at a miniature golf course, and it begins and ends on March 1o, 1990 is Tuscaloosa, Ala.
According to the NTSB, the plane departed from Kinston, N.C. with Tuscaloosa as its destination. The conditions were good for a day of flying – eight miles of visibility, and wind peaking at just 7 knots with an unlimited ceiling. The pilot was a 54-year-old man with 920 hours of flight experience and 880 hours of experience of being pilot in command of the Skylane.
So what happened?
During the descent for landing, the report states, the pilot “reported that the engine quit suddenly.” The loss of power occurred about four hours into the flight, forcing the pilot to descend more quickly than he had planned and land the aircraft in an open field short of the runway. The plane was “substantially damaged,” though the pilot – the only person on board – managed to walk away totally uninjured.
“When asked about how much fuel he had on board at the time of the power loss, he replied that he did not know, however he had made the same trip previously without refueling,” the NTSB investigator on the case, Scott Strickland, wrote in 1992 when the matter was finally settled. “An inspection of the airplane after the accident revealed that there was no evidence of fuel in the fuel system, including both fuel tanks.”
In other words, the plane ran out of gas.
The official cause of the crash was the pilot’s “failure to maintain an adequate fuel supply, which resulted in fuel exhaustion and engine stoppage.”
It was soon after the fuel mishap that the plane was written off by its owner and placed for sale – expectedly to be parted out or even scrapped. Years passed, and eventually, the plane showed up for sale on eBay, said Maria Mastoris, marketing director for Casino Pier.
“We believe it came from somewhere in New York,” Mastoris said, though the purchase was made before the business’s current controller had been hired, and the specific records weren’t readily available.
Needless to say, however, the folks at Casino Pier thought the Cessna would add to its tropical island and pirate-themed miniature golf course, and the rest is history. Indeed, at Shorebeat we are admittedly “aviation geeks,” but sometimes a story is literally hanging right in front of you, waiting to be told.