Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Choosing A Six-Seater

All-inclusive guide to fixed, retractable, single and twin six-seaters

Piper Matrix
If it’s really true that buyers of four-seat airplanes often buy two seats more than they need, the same may not be true of purchasers in the six-place class. Buyers in this category tend to be older, more experienced and less likely to buy on a whim.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t make frivolous choices, but because the ante is so much higher for a six-seat airplane, the buying process is usually more deliberate. As with four-seaters, you do pay for all those seats, no matter how many you actually use, so it’s important to rationalize the need for enough room to accommodate a full hockey team.

There are only seven models in our six-seat buyer’s guide, not surprising, since prices start at well over a half million dollars.

Accompanying the higher price, however, is a better useful load, and that can be a major advantage for some pilots who may never aspire to transporting six souls but have occasional need for a real four-seater with essentially no weight limitations.

Typical useful loads of six-seat airplanes run 1,300 to 1,400 pounds, compared to 900 pounds for four-seaters. True, the big birds do use more powerful engines that burn more fuel and demand higher-capacity tanks, but six-seaters still wind up with a payload superior to any four-place airplane.

Fixed Gear

The market for fixed-gear six-seaters has contracted from a half dozen to only two models, variations on the same theme. By definition, the mission is mostly utility.

Cessna 206
If the job is cargo hauling, and speed isn’t a major goal, the 206 Stationair is an airplane to consider. The 206 looks a little like a 210 with struts, but the fuselage is actually longer, and accommodations more comfortable for six folks. As with the Skylane, the Stationair seems to do its best work in places without names or long, paved runways, though it’s not a short-field airplane by any means. Like the old Cherokee Six, the 206 is at its best hauling cargo or anything else you can stuff inside. Like all piston Cessnas these days, the 206 flies with Garmin glass avionics. It’s a rugged machine, designed for a variety of missions, not confined to big airports with smooth asphalt. Base Price: $533,400.


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