The "New" Old Centurion
Now out of production for 20 years, Cessna’s top piston single offers good range, excellent stability and reasonable, six-seat comfort for pilots with a yen for a high-wing speedster
Here at Plane & Pilot, we’re always looking for pristine examples of popular models, and we figured if anyone knew 210s, it was probably the Everett partnership. Meng and Matheson brought their airplane 800 miles south from Washington to Southern California, allowing us to sample a nearly perfect example of a Centurion.
“We’ve done just about everything it’s possible to do to a 210,” Meng explains, “and yes, we’ve probably spent way too much money in the process. We’ve overhauled every system to better-than-new condition and replaced the original panel with a new, more modern face. In essence, we’ve rebuilt the airplane from the ground up. There’s no way Cessna could ever have built a 210 as nice as ours, primarily because they never could have made a profit on it.”
The most expensive upgrade was predictably to the panel. The partners chose Spencer Avionics in Puyallup, Wash., for the avionics improvements, and Matheson feels they couldn’t have made a better choice. “It’s funny how these projects evolve,” Matheson explains. “Ours started as a simple, inexpensive step up from a portable Garmin 196 to a full-color 296, then we decided to do the windshield, and it just grew and grew from there.
“John and Pat Atkinson of Spencer Avionics were very helpful throughout the process. They know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to panel and avionics improvements,” Matheson comments. “We had Spencer install a Garmin 530 with an MX-20, a Garmin 340 switching panel and 327 transponder, a Sandel 3500 EHSI along with an S-TEC 55X autopilot with rate-of-climb and altitude preselect. In addition, we equipped the aircraft with copilot instruments, a Shadin fuel computer, and of course, Spencer handled the installation of the new panel.”
In combination with recent paint and interior, the new avionics and upgraded panel leave little evidence that this airplane is nearly 35 years old. With the new, pneumatic door seal and state-of-the-art soundproofing installed, the ride is certainly quieter than any stock airplane. The Centurion may not enjoy the sophistication of a glass, flat-panel display, but somehow, you don’t miss it considering the T210L’s other talents.
Specifically, 210s of all descriptions have always been regarded as among the better long-distance traveling machines above the planet. They’re generally stable as a table, have reasonable room for four plus two kids in back and can lift pretty much anything you can close the doors on.
Meng says that despite the heavy load of avionics, the partners’ top piston Cessna still boasts a payload of around 850 pounds. Meng, a former 737 pilot, flies the airplane the most of the four partners, and he says a normal load of four folks and bags doesn’t push the legal weight limit.