Plane & Pilot
Sunday, July 1, 2007

Cessna Turbo Stationair: Escalade For The Jeep Trail

An acknowledged workhorse for nearly 40 years, the Cessna Stationair adds major avionics sophistication and uncommon comfort to its credentials

Cessna Turbo Stationair: Escalade For the Jeep TrailSomehow, the very idea of motoring along a mile above the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states in a Cessna Stationair seems almost a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron (a moron on oxygen). Most pilots simply don’t associate the tough 206 with operation in the flight levels. The airplane’s image is more utility station wagon than high-performance, turbocharged SUV.

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If there’s a catch, it may be that the new level of sophistication isn’t without a considerable level of complexity. Pilots new to both the G1000 Integrated Flight Deck and the GFC 700 Automatic Flight Control System will find the avionics far more of a technical challenge than the airplane itself. Pilots require at least several days of training to learn to program the new avionics systems.

Despite its add-on complexity, a Stationair is an inherently simple machine. Over an intermittent four decades of production, the type has earned a reputation as a utility airplane par excellence, but a 206 also serves well as a six-seat commuter. If hauling people isn’t necessarily the Stationair’s normal mission, the airplane does the job better than you’d imagine. The front cockpit is 44 inches wide, and because the cabin is essentially a tapered box, fully 42 inches of that width holds to the rear seats. That’s the same dimension as the front pit of a model 36 Bonanza, generally regarded as a paragon of comfort.

Incidentally, that rear seat has been modified in 2007 to fold down flush against the floor to make room for cargo. Previous models required that you remove the seat in order to transport bulky items. Now, you have the option of flying one way with all people and the other way with people and stuff or all stuff.

Despite every manufacturer’s best efforts, most aircraft wind up a little heavier than book. Four-seaters often can transport only two or three people, and six seaters are sometimes limited to four. Our test T206H was typical. Fully equipped empty weight was 2,423 pounds against a max ramp weight of 3,617 pounds. After all the math, the big Stationair wound up with a 655-pound payload, basically four folks’ worth. It’s important to remember, however, that Stationair missions are often more about flexibility than range, so downloading fuel by 30 to 40 gallons would still provide two hours of endurance and allow you to increase the paying pounds to nearly 900.

The Turbo Stationair is at its best as a freight elevator. The optional, belly-mounted, external cargo pod allows for carrying 300 pounds outside the aircraft, and the cabin will accommodate 127 cubic feet of whatever. Remove all seats except the pilot’s, and you can load large items through the aft cargo doors.

While Cessna’s most exotic piston single is obviously capable of doing what we did on the way to Reno, the turbocharged Stationair typically flies its missions at altitudes below 12,000 feet. The blower allows the airplane to operate in the mountains at tall density altitudes. Climb from sea level tops 1,000 fpm, but equally important, the T206 manages better than 800 fpm at 10,000 feet.

Utility airplanes often must possess unusual talents, and to that end, the 206 may be adapted in a number of ways for better speed, range and flexibility. Cessna offers a 16,000 BTU Keith air conditioner, Flint Aero extends the wings and installs a pair of 15-gallon fuel tanks to boost gross and range and improve high-altitude climb. Wipaire, best known for its line of amphibious floats, whittles out the right front cabin to accommodate a forward side door, not surprising since Wipaire also produces amphibious floats for the 206. You can also install flap gap seals from Knots 2U to improve speed, modify the airplane with Aerospace Systems TKS anti/deice system and mount floats by PK DeVore or Wipaire. (Perhaps the most extreme STC available is an upgrade to Rolls Royce turbine power with Soloy Corporation.)

Whatever the level of mods, the Stationair remains what it has always been, one of the best jack-of-all-trades airplanes in general aviation, willing to haul pretty much anything you can close the doors on to practically anywhere at just about any time. The 206 definitely isn’t the fastest or the most modern design, but for operators who need a comfortable, talented airplane that still must work for a living, Cessna’s durable Stationair can pay its own way.

SPECS: 2007 Cessna T206H Stationair


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