Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cessna 350: Cessna’s New-Generation Single

Is the Cessna 350 the new NGP?

If you want to start a lively debate with a group of pilots, take a side on the high-wing/low-wing debate, and then stand back. You’re almost guaranteed to hear passionate arguments from both sides of the issue. Cessna has always built its single-engine airplanes with the wing on the top. Columbia Aircraft models are most emphatically not high-wing airplanes. Perhaps for that reason, it came as a surprise in November 2007 when Cessna purchased the rights to a bankrupt Columbia Aircraft for a relatively paltry $26.4 million.
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Under The Same Roof: Traditional & Modern

Walk into the showroom at Tom’s Aircraft ( in Long Beach, Calif., and you’re presented with a contrast of airplanes. There are Skyhawk SPs available for less than $300,000, and turbocharged Cessna 400s priced at more than $600,000. Throw in an occasional Caravan plus a sprinkling of T-Skylanes and T-Stationairs, not to mention the subject Cessna 350, and you have the makings of an airplane for every mission.

How do you sell Cessna 350s and 400s alongside Skyhawks and Skylanes? “The question rarely comes up,” says Rich Manor, sales manager at Tom’s, world’s largest piston Cessna dealer for five of the last eight years. “Most of the time, prospective buyers have already narrowed their search, they know what airplane their flying ability and income qualifies them for, and it would be difficult to redirect their interest. We’ve rarely seen a prospect come in who was undecided between a Turbo Skylane and a 400, though we’ve had some who’ve stepped up from a T-182 to a 400.”

A buyer for the new-generation 350 or 400 has more disposable income and is usually instrument-rated with more experience than other pilots. In many instances, he or she has already flown some fairly high-performance airplanes, so the transition to the 350 or 400 is less of a jump than it might be for someone else.

“The Cessna 350 and 400 are the most innovative single-engine airplanes Cessna has ever sold, because of course, they didn’t start off as Cessnas,” Manor explains. “While the Cessnas are generally regarded as among the most proven designs in the industry—and that counts for quite a bit with some buyers—the 350 and 400 are very different in all respects: low-wing rather than high-wing, gull-wing doors, all-composite construction. It’s a totally different design concept, but one that buyers seem to like.”

With the flaps set at the first notch, 12 degrees for liftoff and climb, expect an initial 1,200 fpm with a full load from sea level. Better still, you’re liable to maintain 1,000 fpm through at least 5,000 feet. Service ceiling is 18,000 feet.

Like the Cirrus SR22, the Cessna 350 relies on a combination of copious power and extreme aerodynamic cleanliness to overcome drag. Officially, the airplane’s max cruise speed checks in at 191 knots, but that’s probably not the way most pilots run the 350. The penalty for big cruise is big fuel burn, not very popular at a time of $6-per-gallon gasoline.

Cessna’s 350 uses a normally aspirated version of the same engine rated for as much as 350 hp in the Lancair IV application. The engine can pull 75% of 350 hp, i.e., 263 hp, roughly 85% of the derated power. In fact, Cessna lists max cruise power slightly lower at 81%.

Designer Lance Neibauer took special care to configure his first production single with a small but efficient wing and slickly faired tri-gear design to complement rather than argue with the wind.

Specific fuel consumption is fairly immutable, and with an SFC of 0.43 pounds/hp/hr, max cruise burn comes out to about 113 pounds/hr, roughly 19 gph. With 98 gallons in the tanks, that translates to almost four hours of IFR endurance (plus alternate plus reserve) at high cruise, worth an easy 750 nm. Cessna’s figures suggest a range of 1,395 nm at 55% power (158 knots) on just under 10 gph. That’s not to suggest anyone is likely to run the airplane at that setting (it’s sort of like driving a 911 Turbo at 70 mph on the San Diego Freeway in sixth gear), but for those strange folks who like to fly fast airplanes slow…

Labels: Piston SinglesSpecs


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