Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Improving On A Good Thing

The venerable Cessna P210N enjoys a welcome improvement

The 1984 Piper Malibu knocked the Cessna P210N completely out of the box. Cessna chose to withdraw the airplane from the market and reconfigured everything from the power plant to the wing and horizontal tail. As a result, there was no 1984 model P210. Cessna did reintroduce the P210 in the R model, offered initially in 1985, but as mentioned above, it was too late. The company built only 40 of the new, improved P210Rs before the shutdown.

Larry Vitatoe of Chillicothe, Ohio, had a better idea. Vitatoe owns a '79 P-Centurion that had many of the same problems. Why not, he reasoned, replace the P210N's Continental TSIO-520P with a factory-new, Continental IO-550P, mount the 520's stock turbocharger, add dual intercoolers, a larger alternator and wind up with an engine that would run smooth and cool at 50 degrees lean of peak, burning at least three gph less fuel.

In the process, the 210 would benefit from a six-point engine mount, providing smoother power delivery. Vitatoe also chose to install a semi-scimitar 80/82-inch Hartzell prop. The conversion would work equally well on the P210 and the T210, since both airplanes employ essentially the same engine.

Vitatoe used his aircraft as the prototype and was well pleased with the results. By running the engine at 50 degrees lean of peak, he realized a dramatic reduction in cylinder head temps, and fuel flow dropped to about 17.6 gph at high cruise, 30 inches and 2,500 rpm. Also, more than incidentally, the bigger Continental is rated for a 2,000-hour TBO, at least 400 hours longer than the stock 520. Horsepower remained at the original 310, but virtually every performance spec improved.

Vitatoe and I ferried one of the first of the conversions, a T210N, from Chillicothe to St. Petersburg, Fla., late last year, and in early April, I delivered a second Vitatoe conversion, a P210N, to San Jose for owner Michael Hsing, CEO of a major Silicon Valley IT company. Neither trip provided favorable winds up high—in fact, we faced 70-knot headwinds at times—but true airspeeds were 185 knots at 14,000 feet.

That second delivery was perhaps more typical of the standard conversions, as it involved a pressurized model. "I intended the conversion specifically for the P210," says Vitatoe, "but the turbocharged airplane employs the same engine and doesn't include all the extra plumbing, valves and reinforcement associated with the pressurization system. As a result, it offers about 180 pounds better payload."


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