Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 6, 2009

170-Knot SUV

It’s the top of Cessna’s piston line, and not unlike ground-bound SUVs, the Turbo Stationair can haul (almost) anything you can close the doors on

Cessna’s T206 features an easy 1,000 fpm climb from sea level, and certified ceiling is technically 27,000 feet (though the oxygen system isn’t certified above 25,000 feet). Barrister Cope said he’d be flying in the bottom three miles of sky, since the perennial British weather usually tops at 10,000 feet or below. The aftermarket TKS system was intended to offer a hedge against accidental icing encounters, a not-uncommon occurrence year-round over the United Kingdom.

We flew the legs from St. Louis to Bangor, Maine, and on across to Goose Bay at 11,000 feet, well above the clouds, and the big Cessna seemed content rumbling along at max cruise. Fortunately, you don’t need to fly high to benefit from turbocharging. Even at modest, non-oxygen heights, the heavy-breathing Stationair can cruise 10 to 15 knots quicker than the normally aspirated model.

After Goose Bay, bad weather in Narsarsuaq forced us to deviate north to Godthab, designated BGGH (B for not much, G for Greenland, GH for Godthab), 230 miles farther up Greenland’s west coast. Flying in mid-June, daytime was nearly 21 hours long at such northern latitudes, and accordingly, we opted to refuel and push on to Reykjavik, lofting to 13,000 feet across the ice cap. The cap rose to nearly 10,000 feet as we cruised directly above the dome of the old Distant Early Warning station code-named “Sob Story.” The farthest south of the three DEW line stations, it’s now long abandoned and left to the vagaries of shifting ice.

(Back in the ’70s and ’80s, during the Cold War, we used to talk to those lonely souls stationed at Big Gun, Sea Bass and Sob Story. Once, while flying a Duke home from Amman, Jordan, to Fargo, N.D., in the early ’80s, I dialed in 122.5 and asked the bored officer on duty at Sob Story if he could provide my position. He identified me in about 10 seconds, read out my exact lat/long, verifying my how-goes-it—no GPS back then—and told me I was at 20,000 feet. Vertical reading radar. Neat. I asked if his radar was accurate enough to give me my speed, and he answered unscientifically, “Buddy, I could probably tell you your cylinder head temperatures with this stuff. You’re grounding 190 knots.”)

On this trip, the Greenland overflight was our highest leg, and we saw cruise speeds of 150 to 155 knots, with groundspeeds of over 180 knots. The Stationair might seem to manifest the aerodynamic sophistication of a boxing glove, but it actually does fairly well for a 3,600-pound single with wheels and struts hanging in the wind. Fly tall in a Turbo Stationair, above 20,000 feet, and you can realize 164 KTAS at 75% power, about 22 knots better than the standard Stationair.

Cope and I were lucky on our crossing in his T206, with mostly VFR conditions, but we did encounter some ice on the run across the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland. The ice gods hold a year-round party over the ocean this far north. Fortunately, I had the benefit of TKS and activated the system in “anti-ice” mode shortly before punching into the murk, just in case. The few small traces of ice that tried to form were quickly dissolved by the slick fluid. Anti-ice mode keeps a thin, even layer of liquid flowing across the wings and tail to minimize ice formation.

If you forget to activate the system and pick up any significant ice, you’ll need to select “de-ice,” which doubles the TKS flow, but will dissolve most minor ice buildups in a few minutes. You do need to be cautious with the TKS fluid, however, not only because the supply is limited, but also because it costs about $30 per gallon and isn’t available at most FBOs.

Labels: Piston Singles


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