Plane & Pilot
Friday, February 1, 2008

The Cessna Buyer's Guide

Which one is right for you?

introDuring the private flying boom in the early ’50s, America fell in love with Cessna Aircraft Company’s high-wing singles. By the mid-’70s, Cessna had built more single-engine airplanes than any other manufacturer (100,000 by 1978). In the late ’70s, production peaked for all new airplanes, including Cessna singles, and then sharply tapered off (the production line was actually dormant from 1987 to 1996).
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cessna 177Cessna 177
This Cessna has a virtual cult following. Cardinal buyers want only a Cardinal; they will accept nothing else. The Cardinal was introduced in 1968 as a sleeker and sexier 172. This wider airplane sat lower to the ground and the pilot had terrific visibility (only in the Skymaster and the Cardinal does the pilot sit in front of the wing). In the first year, sales were disappointing because it was underpowered—using the same engine, the O-320, as the 172 on a larger airframe wasn’t a great idea. Landing and takeoff were “different” by virtue of an all-flying stabilator, as opposed to a fixed horizontal stabilizer with a moveable elevator. Cessna quickly replaced the powerplant in 1969 with a 180 hp O-360 engine, and a new wing design arrived in 1970. A retractable-gear version was added in 1971. Production ceased in 1978 for both models.

An important note: Many Cardinals have been successfully outfitted with hand controls for disabled pilots. The airplanes’ low-to-the-ground stance and huge, wide doors make it easy for a wheelchair-bound pilot to get in, load the chair in the back and fly without assistance. While Cardinals were extremely difficult to sell in the late 1960s and were eventually replaced by the Hawk XP, today they’re now quickly scooped up on the used market by eager Cardinal fans. An early, 150 hp Cardinal sells for around $32,000; a later 177B with the O-360 engine and newer wing brings $45,000 to $60,000; and a good-condition, late-model Cardinal RG can hit $75,000.

cessna 210Cessna 210
Feeling the need for speed? Want a roomy and comfortable six-seater that an average pilot can fly? Need decent short-field performance, good climb, good mountain performance and a stable IFR platform for a reasonable price? Look at the 210.

The 210 was born in 1960 as a retractable-gear 182 to compete with the V-tail Beech Bonanza. The major model changes for 210s were: 1962 for the rear window; 1964 for the 285 hp engine; 1966 for optional turbocharging; 1967 for elimination of the wing struts; 1970 for the larger fifth- and sixth-seat area and tubular gear; 1977 for the 300 hp engine; 1979 for optional full deicing; and 1984 for the 325 hp engine.

Like a Bonanza, nosegear collapses are fairly common on 210s and aren’t considered a major sin if repaired properly. The key to a successful ownership experience on the 210 (and all older, high-performance retractables) is who has been doing the annuals and whether the owner was willing to spend the extra money to properly maintain the airplane. On early 210s, be sure to have a competent 210 mechanic check the gear-actuating mechanism. The most problematic years for the gear were 1960 through 1966, but Cessna has good fixes for most of the gear issues.

A late-model 210 in many cases does a better job than most light twins at half the operating costs; it’s a luxury people-hauler and an impressive ride for family members and business clients alike.

Labels: OwnershipBest Buys

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