Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fixed-Gear Speed Demon

We fly the latest turbocharged Corvalis two years after Cessna bought the Columbia line of composite singles

The price you pay for such brevity is big fuel burn, and for that reason, most pilots don’t run the airplane that hard or that high. The Corvalis carries 102 gallons of 100LL, so even at 20 gph, you can plan on 4.2 hours plus reserve. Even at 200 knots, a reasonable cruise at the highest breathable altitude, the airplane offers well over an 800 nm range. Since four hours is about as long as most folks are willing to sit in any airplane, that’s probably reasonable range and endur-ance. Those pilots who reduce power to long-range cruise can see more like a 1,200 nm range, but with only a 450-pound payload.

Turbo Payload
In other words, not all those seats are usable with full fuel in the tanks unless some of the people are miniatures. The TT enjoys 200 pounds more gross than the standard Corvalis, but that’s apparently not enough to offset the weight of turbocharging, oxygen and the associated plumbing. The TT’s empty weight is almost exactly 100 pounds higher than that of the normally aspirated Corvalis. Gross weight is 3,600 pounds, and Cessna lists the airplane’s empty weight at 2,550 pounds, so useful load is a theoretical 1,050 pounds.

In fairness, the TT’s payload numbers are no worse than those of the competition, and as advertised, speed is better than anything else among fixed-gear singles.

Those who do fly in a Corvalis enjoy a cabin that’s comfortable and quiet, and the ride is among the best in the class. Wing loading is a high 25.5 pounds per square foot, one of the most meaningful measures of an airplane’s ability to plow through turbulence with minimum disturbance.

No matter how much talent and innovation the Corvalis incorporates between its 36-foot wingspan, the airplane is fighting a market headwind. Like virtually everyone else in general aviation, Cessna’s Corvalis sales are suffering from the current recession. In 2008, Cessna sold 110 turbos and 14 normals. Last year, the numbers were more like 41 turbos and five normals, suggesting a strong preference for the blown model.

Cessna moved Corvalis production out of Bend, Ore., to Mexico and to Independence, Kans., at the end of last year, so production numbers in 2010 probably won’t be indicative of the model’s sales potential.

As the first, new, certified, piston Cessnas since the model 303 Crusader, the Corvalis and TT very well may be the Next-Generation Piston airplanes Cessna has been seeking for so long.

Labels: Piston Singles


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