Saturday, January 1, 2005
Cessna's All-New Stationair
Adding Garmin glass to the newest line of C-206s has reinvented the aircraft’s workhorse capabilities
“Translating all that information into a single source, however, was a challenge. In some respects, it’s tougher for the older, more experienced aviators to accept the new technology, primarily because they’ve been looking at the old conventional, round, steam gauges for years,” continues Hara. “New pilots without habits entrenched by thousands of flight hours and more familiarity with computers have an easier time of it, but it can be tough to convince even them to accept rolling tapes or numerical displays. For that very reason, some of the Garmin G1000’s electronics got brighter, more responsive and more accurate, but they have the same basic look.”
Unlike Garmin’s talented, state-of-the-art avionics suite, definitely a product of the 21st century, the latest Cessna to accept the system has changed little since its introduction in the mid-20th century. Technically, the first utility, six-seat Cessna was the C-205, a fixed-gear version of the 210, introduced in 1963. The C-205 featured 260 hp and a third door at aft left to facilitate loading rear-seat passengers. The C-206 premiered a year later with 300 hp, double cargo doors (but now on the right side) and an eight-inch fuselage stretch.
While there’s little question that the Cessna Stationair has been improved over the last four decades, the changes have been more evolutionary than revolutionary. Like the Super Cub, straight-tail Bonanza and a few other designs, the Stationair remains very much the box it came in, a compliment to the talent of the engineers who conceived the original version.
The power is up slightly from 285 to 300 hp on the new-generation 206 airplane, although it’s now derived from a Lycoming IO-540 rather than an IO-520 Continental engine. (The turbocharged Stationair features 310 hp rather than the original’s 285 hp.) For the aerodynamicists among you, the airfoil section remains the basic original NACA 2412, the dihedral is still about 2.0 degrees, and incidence is a slight twist—one degree and 30 minutes at the root and minus-one degree and 30 minutes at the tip. The fuel capacity has increased quite marginally from 84 to 88 gallons.
Yes, there have been a myriad of other improvements, but most have been related to details rather than major design modifications. Cessna has long known that little about the Stationair is broken, so there’s virtually no motivation to fix it.
The Cessna Aircraft Company store in my neck of the sky is Tom’s Aircraft in Long Beach, Calif., and I recently renewed acquaintances with a new Cessna Turbo Stationair with sales manager Rich Manor in the right seat. Before our flight, Manor commented that turbos are the rule on the West Coast, and they’re the dominant models throughout most of the rest of the world.
“West of the Mississippi, we rarely sell normally aspirated Stationairs,” says Manor, “and even the total production favors the turbocharged airplane by two or three to one. Both models of the Cessna 206 are extremely popular overseas, with probably at least 33% of our production sold outside of the United States, especially in places such as Australia, Africa, Canada and throughout South America.”
It’s not hard to understand the Cessna airplane’s global attraction. If you climb aboard a modern Stationair, you can’t help but be impressed with how much better Cessna is building its piston airplanes these days. Interior materials are a major improvement, with none of those brittle plastic parts that used to crack and break after only brief exposure to high temperatures. Most everything is covered in leather on the new-generation Cessna Stationairs, only appropriate for an airplane that sells for $443,000 (G1000-equipped). The seats are adjustable in all the right directions, allowing plenty of leg, hip, elbow and head room. Max cabin width at the elbows in the front seat is 44 inches, and the cabin offers 49 inches of vertical space at the tallest point. Ventilation is dramatically improved with airline-style Wemacs, and entry-exit is easy, especially into the rear seats. Switches and controls have a more solid, higher-quality feel, as well.
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