Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Soloy Cessna 206 Mark II

Transplant a 450 SHP Rolls-Royce turbine onto a stock 206 and, voilá, you have a super Cessna

Cruise isn't the province of the Soloy Mark II, but the airplane does pretty well for a draggy 3,600-pound utiliplane with struts and wheels hanging in the breeze. At a typical cruise setting two miles above the sea, the turbine Cessna will trip along at 170 knots, burning 25 gph. If you're willing to climb to 18,000 feet, the Soloy Mark II should deliver 185 knots. When out-and-back range is more important than speed, you can reduce the torque to a more civilized level, see 140 knots and fly one-way legs of nearly 270 nm each direction.

Aside from the extra enthusiasm in climb, you'd be hard pressed to find much difference in handling qualities between the turbine and piston versions of the Stationair. The airplane flies through rough air with the stability of Amtrak, and maneuvering flight is equally controllable. It's not hard to imagine chasing bad guys in a Soloy Mark II conversion at speeds as slow as 65 knots or as fast as 150 knots. Normal cruise rpm is only 2,030, so the tips of the standard 90.5-inch diameter prop are running at only about 545 mph or Mach .72.

Stall and approach speeds are straight out of the Stationair manual. Dirty stall remains 54 knots, and accordingly, approaches can be pretty much whatever you need, from 65 knots to sandwich into a short runway to 130 knots on an ILS into LAX to stay ahead of the 757 approaching the outer marker.

The big, 90.5-inch-diameter three-blade Hartzell is fully reversible, and that can make a major difference in stopping distance on miniature runways, provided there's no FOD risk. It's best to limit reverse thrust to those instances when you really need it.

After the flight, I sat down with Dave Stauffer, CEO and president respectively, of Soloy Aviation Solutions.

"We've targeted the law enforcement and aerial observation mission as one of the primary markets for this Sentinel conversion," said Stauffer, "and we've had quite a bit of interest from Customs and Border Patrol, California Highway Patrol, Canada's RCMP and a number of other agencies," Stauffer continued. "The Mark II also works well at transporting other items too large for some other freighters."

As with most modifiers, Soloy does considerably more than simply install a new engine. The modification includes what amounts to a full, ground-up rebuild, including paint. "If a client asks, we'll even find a Stationair for him, do a full modification and configure the airplane to the customer's specs," says Stauffer.

The standard conversion is $615,000 uninstalled plus $85,000 for installation, and you can buy a reasonable 1998-2000 Cessna 206H for around $220,000. That puts your total investment in the airplane at roughly $920,000. Soloy offers a variety of options, everything from 30 to 50 gallons more fuel to Wipaire floats and the five-blade MT propeller.

The company is capable of producing between 10 and 20 conversions a year, but because the current poor economy makes it inefficient, Soloy won't be building the Mark II on a production line basis.

The airplane I flew was number nine, and it garnered more than its share of attention just sitting on the ramp. Esthetically, the standard Soloy Cessna 206 Mark II conversion doesn't look all that different in many respects, and perhaps for that very reason, you're guaranteed to get everyone's attention when you start the engine.


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