Plane & Pilot
Thursday, September 1, 2005

The Need For Speed!

The narcotic that pilots will pay almost anything for

Go ahead, admit it. When you read all of those pilot reports, you skim them, looking for the cruise speed, then go back and read the rest. It’s a natural thing. We all love the idea of going fast. But how fast is fast? And is there such a thing as fast enough? " />


Turbocharged Speed ComparisonNow, let’s toss in aftermarket auxiliary tanks so we can be flying an earlier, and much less expensive, Cessna 182 (or Cherokee 235 or…). This extra 23 gallons gives the early airplanes another 1.7 hours for a total range of about 800 miles. So, now we’re flying an airplane that may have cost us as little as $45,000 (a fixer-upper, like a 1959 C-182), but we came in only 55 minutes behind the blazing Viking after a daylong trip. If you do a lot of long cross-countries, installing auxiliary tanks could be considered the best and most effective speed mod.

How about comparing the Cessna Skylane to a 300 hp A36 Bonanza? The Bonanza costs at least three times more than the C-182, but the Bonanza can make the 1,200 miles with one fuel stop so it would get there 1.5 hours quicker. Okay, so after a 1,200-mile trip, the Bonanza folks will be in the hotel while the Cessna is taxiing in, but the Cessna’s cost of operation is pennies compared to the Bonanza’s insurance, cost of acquisition and maintenance. You have to decide what that extra time is worth to you. Is it worth an extra $100,000 to $200,000 in acquisition and at least twice the support cost to save an hour and a half on that 1,200-mile trip you take only every other year? On the other hand, if you’re routinely flying trips that long, speed becomes a real factor.

Turbos Make A Difference
An aircraft equipped with a turbocharger is always going to offer increased speed and fuel efficiency over its normally aspirated counterpart because it will hold its power to a higher altitude where it gets really fast and burns less gas. The only downside to turbochargers is that they increase the maintenance and acquisition costs, and some require a bit more pilot technique.

In terms of performance, a blown A36, as an example, is supposed to cruise at 218 mph (190 knots) compared to a normally aspirated version at 194 mph (169 knots), and a TC Saratoga will do 203 mph (177 knots) versus 181 mph (158 knots), while the range goes up 65 miles to a whopping 950 miles. (See the “Turbocharged Speed Comparison” chart on page 42.)

It might be worth noting that while we don’t normally think of any version of a Skylane as being a speed demon, the TC182RG runs right at 200 mph. Also, the TC210 Turbo Centurion series is a real sleeper at 226 mph (197 knots) while the pressurized P210R is capable of running an unbelievable 243 mph (212 knots) at altitude. Now, that’s really getting down the road!


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