Plane & Pilot
Thursday, November 1, 2007

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

The step-up market has always been critically important to the major aircraft companies. There may not be much profit in building trainers, but manufacturers are well aware that pilots tend to buy the same brand in which they learn. A pilot who earns his license in a Warrior, 152 or Musketeer is likely to consider an Arrow, Skylane or Bonanza, respectively, as a first step-up airplane. " />

“I travel regularly to Missoula, Mont., Sun River, Ore., and San Francisco on business,” says Meng, “so I’m often launching at gross with three to four hours to fly. We’ve done everything possible to make the airplane as comfortable as we can for all passengers—it’s plumbed with XM Radio to every seat, each passenger can plug in his or her own CD player or iPod, and the heat and vent system deliver plenty of air at each position—and as a result, I rarely hear any complaints, even on four-hour flights.”

If there’s any complaint about interior comfort, it might be regarding cabin width. The Centurion’s cabin is only 42.5 inches across at the elbows in front, about the same dimension as the A36 Bonanza, but almost six inches narrower than a T-Saratoga. However, the cabin is high enough to accommodate six-footers, so even tall pilots will have plenty of head room.

The Cessna’s turbocharger is a key to its in-flight flexibility and one of the primary reasons for the model’s success. Compressed power gives the 210 the ability to operate to a theoretical service ceiling of 28,500 feet. The turbo can provide its full 36.5 inches of manifold pressure all the way to the airplane’s critical altitude of 17,000 feet. In the real world, most T210L owners probably don’t fly above 12,500 feet most of the time, to avoid having to deal with oxygen, so effectively, full power is available whenever you need it.

That’s especially valuable if you’re departing Aspen, Telluride or Lake Tahoe in summer. You can expect full, turbocharged power departing any airport on North America. Keep in mind, however, the top 36.5/2,700 setting has a five-minute limitation. Max continuous power is 36 inches and 2,600 rpm at 162 pounds/hour.

“A turbo is an invaluable asset in our part of the world,” says Bob Meng. “We have plenty of high mountains in the Pacific Northwest, and ice can be another problem pretty much year-round. That often dictates semi-high-altitude flight to comply with the IFR MEAs, operate above the weather and top the big rocks.” Though the Turbo Centurion features at least one of everything else, it’s not fitted with de-ice, a discrepancy the partners may remedy in the near future. They’ve looked into retrofitting a TKS system to allow operation in light icing conditions.

Meng admits he probably flies the airplane taller than any of the other owners, sometimes as high as 20,000 feet. When winds are going his way, up high, Meng will strap on a mask and ascend into the flight levels. “It’s a very comfortable airplane in the high teens, and with the addition of XM Weather, which provides us with a variety of weather products (including NEXRAD), we can usually work around the nastier weather and stay well clear of the nasty buildups.”


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