I told our son on the phone that I was going to fly a new 206. He asked if that wasn't the airplane we flew to Alabama on his first birthday. It was. He will be 41 in August. The 206 has been around for a long time. The biggest change over time, up until now, was the switch from a Continental to a Lycoming engine. This occurred when the airplane went back into production in 1998, after a hiatus of 12 years in which Cessna stopped building piston-powered airplanes.
There were other changes and the airplane actually has an interesting history.
It all started in 1963 with the Cessna 205. This airplane used the airframe and engine (IO-470, 260 hp) of the retractable 210 of that day, and the elimination of the landing gear stowage from the rear cabin allowed a six-place interior with reasonable room and reclining seats for everyone. It was a true six-place airplane, too, with a useful load of over 1,500 pounds.
The 205 lasted only a couple of years and 577 serial numbers. It was joined by the 206, dubbed the Super Skywagon in 1964. That airplane has a 300-hp IO-520. Then, in 1965 Cessna produced both a P206 and a U206. Presumably the "P" stood for people and the "U" for utility. The people airplane has the two big Cessna front doors, one on each side, and a smaller door on the left side for the rear row of seats. The utility airplane has one front door, on the left, and big double doors on the right for loading cargo.
Both airplanes became available with turbochargers in 1966.
The last P206 was produced in 1970 and all since have had the single front and the rear double doors. When the airplane was brought back into production the letter "U" was dropped from the designation. The Stationair name was given to the airplane in the early '70s.
Another name that has graced this airplane, as a P206, is Super Skylane. A lot of people think that is what a 206 is today. However, and despite a strong sibling resemblance, the 206 and the 182/Skylane don't have much in common. The 206 wing is completely different, and the fuselage is completely different. Both have IO-540 Lycoming engines, but they have different dash numbers and the horsepower is different with 235 for the 182 and 300 for the 206. And where that first 205 was a fixed-gear 210, those airplanes went their separate airframe ways in the 1967 model year when the 210 became strutless. The 206 also retains the spring-steel main landing gear that Cessna used for years. The current 172 and 182 have tubular landing gears.
It is a different world today, too. The real utility Cessna is the turboprop 208/Caravan. Some 206s find their way into utility roles, but the ample supply of used ones pretty well covers the utility need where glass cockpits and airplane age don't figure into the equation. Most new 206s find their way into business and personal use.
Everyone has noticed and commented on the paucity of full-fuel payload in current production airplanes. That is where a new 206 shines. Where it started life as a true six-place airplane, it is now an airplane with six seats that excels when the mission is to fly four people and their belongings over reasonable distances.
The airplane pictured has an aftermarket TKS ice protection system installed, which weighs 40 pounds without fluid and 102 pounds with fluid. Even with full TKS fluid, which will last far longer than any light airplane should be flown in icing conditions, this airplane has a useful load of 1,328 pounds. If the standard 200 pounds is used for each person and baggage, that leaves 528 pounds for fuel. That just happens to be the exact weight of full fuel in this airplane. Flying with lighter passengers and less baggage and less ice fluid would easily allow five on board and less fuel would allow six for a short hop.
By comparison, a new 182/Skylane will fly with 800 pounds of people and baggage and 299 pounds of fuel without ice protection, or 197 pounds of fuel with a topped-off TKS system, which should be available in the aftermarket by the time this is published. So, it is easy to see why the 206 would be the choice if the mission is four people over reasonable distances.