These days there are few single-engine airplanes that can fly with six people or a ton of cargo. Cessna’s Caravan is at the top of the list, but with a price of tag of $2.2 million it is beyond reach of many pilots.
Talking about Cessna Turbo 206, this six seat airplane was assumed to be only as good as 182. But it will turn out to much better when you actually fly it.
More Power, More Passengers and More Speed
The 182 is installed with a 230 hp Lycoming engine and can fly just over 900 nm with four people at little above 130 knots. At the first impression, the numbers of Cessna Turbo 206H made me believe that it would barely fly 800 nm.
To begin with, the aircraft does have six seats.
Powered by a turbocharged 310 hp Lycoming TIO-540 rotating the big three-bladed McCauley propeller, the so called Turbo Stationair can slice through the air well above 160 knots.
The production of Turbo 206 has slowed down in the past decade and more than 1,200 of the SUV-like airplanes have been built by Cessna since 2000.
Pilots have plenty of flexibility with 206, such as adding fuselage hardware at the time of manufacturing, which makes it easy to add skis or floats later.
An option to add eye hooks to the top of the wing is also there, to facilitate hauling a floatplane-equipped T206 out of the water.
The steel spring landing gear of the airplane can also be fitted with tundra tires which will add to the fun of flying in back country. Mud flaps can also be included on the wheel fairings of Cessna.
A Look Inside the Cessna Turbo 206
The new Cessna T206 comes installed with Garmin’s new G1000 Nxi as standard avionics.
The max load carrying capacity of the airplane falls just short of 1,500 pounds, which may make first-time 206 operator do a double take. The max takeoff weight of the aircraft is 3,789 pounds.
Due to demand from customers the useful load of 206 was recently increased by 180 pounds by Cessna. This change makes this airplane that has room for six people weighing 200 pound and fuel for more than two hours, all too good for a VFR flight.
The plane can fly IFR trip for two and a half hour with reserves in case two of the passengers weigh less, depending on a 20 20 gph fuel burn.
When we take a look at the weight and balance of the airplane it shows that it is difficult to push the center f gravity outside the envelope. The effect will be little, with six adults seated and some weight tossed in the rear cargo area.
An Airliner for Six People
There is an option to have a cargo pod beneath the belly where you can load 330 pounds of golf clubs or skis, without interfering with the CG.
There is also an option to have an oxygen system which has enough capacity for six people as the T206 reaches its service ceiling of 26,000 foot.
T206 is the largest piston-powered airplane from Cessna and it provides easy entry to the rear cabin with a door to the rear of the fuselage. However, with this extra door you will have to compromise with the traditional entryway on the right front of the fuselage.
A pair of barn-door-like flaps can extend up to 40 degrees in the full-down position and can give an impressive short-field performance. Moving inside the cabin, you have the option of Luxor synthetic or real leather material to cover the seats. Considering the easier maintenance, most Cessna buyers prefer synthetic material.
The beautiful Cessna T206 was standing on the ramp as I walked close to it along with my demo pilot and made an admiring look around.
Glassy Glittering Feature-full Cockpit
I started the preflight inside the cockpit and turned the master switch on and the new Garmin Nxi avionics came alive in less than five seconds. It is easy to notice the difference between the new Nxi and the original G1000.
The new Nxi not only has a faster boot-up speed, but it has an improved resolution and brilliant display. It does not, however, have the option to calculate weight and balance electronically and the electronic version of the POH (pilot operating handbook) is also missing.
The T206 is usually delivered equipped with an ADS-B In and Out and an autopilot as standard, along with backup instruments in support of the Nxi. The system also contains electronic checklist and VFR charts.
You can also add terrain awareness, synthetic vision, an L3 Stormscope, air conditioning or a SafeFlight angle of attack indicator in your Cessna T206. Real leather seats can cost you around $4,500.
On the engine system page on Nxi the fuel was set to full or 87 gallons. With two people on board, our ramp weight was calculated to be 3,270 pounds. The maximum ramp weight of the airplane is 3,809 pounds.
Just like its Cessna brother 172, the fuel tank selector position of T206 should be kept on “both”, except when you have to overcome imbalance.
Be Mindful When You Are New to T206
The cowl flap selector is just next to the fuel selector valve on the right and it will take some time to get used to, to keep it under scan. The shoulder harnesses in the T206 were equipped with airbags.
Stepping outside, it is quite difficult to ignore the huge elevator on the 206 which provides solid pitch control. Not to be missed are the massive ailerons, having gates on the inboard edge, enhancing airflow at slow speeds.
When the back doors open they come very close to the trailing edge of the right wing. To prevent door opening when the flaps are down, a micro switch has been installed by Cessna.
On the other way around, when the doors are lower, flaps cannot be lowered. In case of emergency, one can exit the aircraft by using a simple method to open one door, even with flaps down.
Each wing has five and the nose has three fuel drain. The LED taxi and landing lights flash automatically whenever air traffic is sensed nearby Nxi. The T206 needs 8 quarts of crankcase oil, however, it is still airworthy with as low as 6 ½.
Pilots of Cessna T206 say they are comfortable with 2,000 foot or longer hard-surface runway. The aircraft can takeoff from a shorter runway but requires a bit more planning.
For takeoff and climb, the manifold pressure should be set to 39 inches, and during cruise it should be reduced to 30 inches. Cowl flaps can be left open almost always starting from takeoff to cruise.
The turbocharged engine of T206 gives it the additional power as it puts in additional air into the engine which makes it perform as if it is at a sea level still. This means the pilot can make use of all the 310 hp all up to an altitude of 17,000 feet. It is one of the reason for impressive climb rate of T206.
However, this enhancement comes at a price, as the pilot needs to prevent over boosting the engine and is required to be a little gingerly with the throttle.
Temperature Gauges and Leaning the Cessna T206
A word of caution here, the internal turbine produces tremendous amount of heat, so the pilot need to keep a check on the turbine inlet temperature gauge so as not to overheat the engine during climb.
During idling, the big Lycoming creates a throaty sound which is sure to catch the attention of everyone around. Leaning the mixture is a concern while on ground, but only when the density altitude is more than 3,000 feet.
At some places density altitudes can reach five figures quite easily on a warm day, therefore, ground leaning is important to avoid engine quitting when the throttle is pulled back to idle.
The Garmin Nxi assist the pilot in the air as it enables a more efficient fuel flow. The rudder pedals in Cessna T206 will give a feel of a big airplane while taxiing.
Give a notch of 10 degrees flaps when you takeoff with this airplane for good performance. You can also have 20 degrees flaps depending on the length of the runway. With maximum takeoff weight at sea level, you can takeoff in just 1,000 feet with 20 degrees flaps, even if the OAT is in the mid-80s.
As I lined-up for takeoff roll, my demo pilot told me to climb at 90 knots and rotate at 56 knots. I put the manifold pressure to complete 39 inches.
As the airspeed indicator clocked 40 knots, the aircraft was asking me to rotate. The Cessna T206 accelerated to 90 knots soon after leaving the ground. At 200 feet, I add back-pressure and retracted the flaps.
How Strong Is Your Right Leg?
Just like flying any single piston aircraft, the big three-bladed prop and 310 hp engine, will require a significant amount of right rudder as soon as push in the throttle and start the roll.
You do need to use your muscles while flying T206 as rudder movement is required in almost all phases of flight. Pilots who are used to feet-flat-on-the-floor method of flying will find this aircraft different. Fortunately, the T206 has an adjustable rudder trim as standard.
At 90 knots the aircraft was still climbing at 1,000 fpm. It was almost impossible for me to see over the nose in this configuration. I lowered the nose just a little and let the aircraft accelerate to 125 knots, still the aircraft was able to climb at a rate of 600 fpm.
Cessna T206 being a high wing airplane provides a nice visibility outside the windshield, however, much of the portion behind and above is hidden. The controls of this airplane are bit heavy, but not much. For me, I like such solid feel, particularly when I fly in the clouds.
It was time now to check the aircraft for some maneuvers. Pulling the throttle back to 20 inches I got closer to the maneuvering speed of 120 knots and turned for 45 degree bank. Don’t forget to use those rudder pedals.
My demo pilot suggested me 18 inches of manifold pressure for practicing in the traffic pattern. You can bring down the first notch of flaps at 140 knots. In the traffic pattern, the 206 likes to remain at 90 or to 100 knots.
A Gentle and Sturdy Flying Masterpiece
Be ready to counter that pitch up when you put down the flaps. A VFR approach with full flaps, the airplane crossed the threshold at 70 to 75 knots. The last notch of flaps will make the plane really slow and heavy and in case you are not conscious, you may end up in trees.
After some VFR maneuvers and traffic pattern, it was time now to check the Cessna T206 for some IFR approaches. I wanted to make some landings with NDB approaches. With only 20 degree flaps, the airplane can comfortably clear a 50 foot obstacle and make a full stop in less than 1,500 feet.
This means not all that drag is required in almost every landing. I made the next approach with zero-flaps and kept the nose lower, but didn’t felt the floating effect before touchdown.
It had been quite sometime since I flew a NDB approach last and I had to more planning as I use the electronics. This airplane was equipped with an NDB receiver, so I could fly the NDB legally. NDB receiver is required even when we assume that a GPS overlay will mark the locator outer marker.
Shooting the approach was bit difficult as it was not possible to track the NDB directly using the autopilot, but it provided some good practice for the day when I actually get in such situation.
I turned around to move back to home. Once on ramp and after shutting down the engine, I had enough reasons as to why people love this aircraft. The Cessna T206 has the ability to fly with a lot of cargo and people and just has nearly every modern convenience. The plane is also fast enough.
A new Cessna T206 cost around $665,000 and when compared with 182, it is around $180,000 less with the same equipment. So there are plenty of reasons as to why a T206 should not be picked up over the 182. But, then, it depends on the one who is spending the money.