Cessna 206 Stationair

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Cessna 206

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.

Further, by comparison I found a 1965 pilot report on a new Super Skylane. That airplane, as tested, weighed 1,861 pounds empty compared with 2,179 pounds for a new airplane without TKS. The new Cessnas have a lot of weight invested in crashworthiness and other improvements and then there is the fact that most airplanes (like people) gain weight as they age.

The airplane pictured is owned by an individual, Paul Groen, and is based at Clermont County Airport in Ohio. Paul is a private pilot, but he employs a professional pilot, David Zitt, to operate the airplane when someone needs to move about and he isn't along or when IFR flying is deemed best.

About 450 miles is the average leg in this airplane and typically there will be two or three passengers. Actually, the rear seat, which is easily removable, stays in the hangar most of the time allowing for the carriage of four and a lot of baggage. Dave says the airplane will do about six knots better than the published 142-knot cruise and the fuel flow is usually 16.8 gallons (100 pounds) per hour. That is a little higher flow than Cessna shows, which might explain the extra knots. Full fuel is good for four hours with a generous reserve so it would take a substantial headwind to require a fuel stop on that average 450-mile trip.

A big feature of this new airplane, actually a 2004 model, is the inclusion of the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit. The 2005 model has as standard equipment air bags built into the safety harnesses for the four front seats as well as extra bright landing/recognition lights.

The G1000 does change the personality of the airplane and takes the 206 well into the future. It comes with the same standby battery backup that is used on the 182. This more than meets the FAA requirement that there be 30 minutes of electrical power available after the failure of the charging system. This adds some checklist procedures that are quite simple to follow and ensures that everything is operating properly.

Currently the 206 has the King KAP 140 rate-based autopilot but everybody knows that Garmin is developing an autopilot to go with the G1000. One thing the G1000 does to the 206 is cause the glareshield to be higher. On the first Lycoming-powered 206s in 1998 it was noted that the cowling was higher than in the old Continental-powered airplanes, reducing the forward visibility slightly. On the G1000 airplanes you'll never notice that because the glareshield is so high that you can't see the cowling. This can be a factor when you are making a right turn onto a relatively narrow taxiway. It gives the feeling that you are sitting down in a hole even when your headset is all but rubbing the overhead.

On the ground the 206 feels different from the other Cessna singles because of the spring-steel landing gear. The width is a bit narrower and the ride is a bit different. It's just as good and with the spring- steel gear you don't get the fore and aft action that's found with the tubular gear under some circumstances. I think the 206 gear would probably be better on an unpaved surface.

It has been said many times, but it is true that the 206 is the friendliest flying piston single that Cessna ever built. I say friendly because the old 195 had impeccable flying qualities, but it wasn't exactly friendly when it came to ground handling.

The wing has a lot to do with the 206's manners. From afar, it looks like any other Cessna single wing, but close inspection reveals that the ailerons and flaps are a lot different. The other Cessna singles have flaps that extend to where the wing begins to taper. The 206 flaps extend beyond that point. That means the ailerons have less span. This is made up for through the use of Frise ailerons with more chord and slots ahead of the ailerons to add aerodynamic balance.

The flaps are effective, too, with a 54-knot stalling speed the result. That is low for a 3,600-pound airplane and, especially at weights well below maximum, the 206 doesn't require a lot of runway. The shortest one I ever used in a 206 was 1,425 feet long and it gave change on that one. Roll control is exceptional at the low approach speeds used for short fields.

The airplane flown for this report is a 2004 model with a Garmin G1000 system, and an aftermarket TKS ice protection system that adds 40 pounds to the empty weight with no fluid and 102 total pounds with fluid for about three hours of anti-ice flow. The price shown below is for a 2005 airplane with the G1000 but without ice protection. New features for the '05 model include air bags for the front four seats and extra bright landing lights. Available options are few and include air conditioning at $27,750. Performance figures are from the manufacturer and reflect maximum weight and standard conditions at sea level unless otherwise noted.

There is not much to say about flying the G1000 in the 206 that isn't true of other airplanes with this equipment. The airplane flown did not yet have the downlinked satellite weather but it was said to be coming soon, after many delays.

When it gets weather, including Nexrad, this airplane will be supremely equipped to deal with Mother Nature, within the limits that apply to all light airplanes.

The TKS ice protection system installed in the aftermarket has a list price of $28,739 and is not approved for flight in icing conditions. That simply means that the installation of the system did not result in any change to the performance or the handling qualities of the airplane. Approved or not, it'll get rid of ice just fine. Fluid is applied on the leading edges of the flying surfaces, the wing struts, the prop and the windshield. The installation, done by Aerospace Systems and Technologies, Inc. of Salina, Kansas, (888/865-5511) looks just right. That company offers the TKS system for a number of airplanes and some of their systems have approval for flight in icing conditions. The approved and unapproved systems are a lot alike with some redundancy in the approved systems being the main difference.

This has to be said over and over: Approval for light aircraft flight in icing conditions is something that never should have been done. The implication of approval is that flying the airplanes in ice is something that is okay to do. It is not. Regardless of the level of equipment in a light airplane, every effort should be made to get the airplane out of any icing condition that is encountered. The equipment is great, but the approval is just pure dumb.

The 206 is also available in a turbocharged model. It has less useful load, goes faster at altitude, costs more and burns more fuel. The turbo would be great for pilots flying in high and/or hot conditions all the time, but for those operating in the eastern United States, like Paul Groen, a plain old 206 offers a fine balance of flying qualities, performance and utility.