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Cessna 210

August 12, 2011

Take a look at the sweetest flying plane I’ve flown in quite some time. Here she is:

cessna 210j

Cessna 210J

She’s old and has a peculiar – some might say ugly – paint scheme due to being used as a fire spotter aircraft. She doesn’t have a glass cockpit, TKS or forward looking infrared. Heck, she doesn’t even have a working GPS.

But she’s a Cessna 210!!!!

That’s right people, a Cessna 210! The airplane your father always wanted. In it’s day it was the ultimate single-engine airplane.

Those shiny new Cirrus and Corvalis airplanes go to bed at night dreaming of waking up as a Cessna 210, a real airplane with retractable landing gear and a big cabin made out of real aluminum. An airplane with sweet handling characteristics, stable yet responsive. An airplane with a laminar flow wing yet docile and forgiving enough for the average private pilot.

Sure a Cessna 210 doesn’t have the capabilities of the newer pressurized single engine aircraft like the Malibu, Meridian, TBM or PC12. But none of those aircraft will ever be built in the sheer numbers of Cessna 210s. The 210 was in reach of the average private pilot / aircraft owner, in terms of budget as well as pilot skill. The 210 didn’t have the big cabin door and club seating of the Piper Lance/Saratoga, but it was faster and generally seen as a better flying airplane, more of a pilot’s plane than the Piper. The Bonanza 36 was competitive, but I don’t think it ever had the production numbers of the Cessna 210.

You can still get a good used Cessna 210, even though the newest models are a quarter century old. If you so desire you can retrofit a glass cockpit and still come in at a budget less than a late model Cirrus or Corvalis. You can even retrofit the much improved IO-550 engine to replace the 210′s IO-520 engine.

I think Cessna made a mistake not resuming production of the 210 in the late 1990s. Until the acquisition of the Corvalis line, Cessna had ceded the high-end single engine market for faster airplanes entirely to Cirrus.

Don’t get me wrong, the newer airplanes with glass cockpit and integrated autopilots are nice, especially for someone like myself who flies them halfway across the world on delivery flights. But the newer airplanes are also more complicated. I personally also don’t think the newer airplanes are as safe or fun to fly for the average private pilot. All the avionics and automation are really not required for the type of flying most private pilots do, and it leads to a lot of head-down time and a possible false sense of security. Unless you fly a lot of actual IFR, all the automation and avionics has little practical benefit.

A Cessna 210 didn’t need all that automation. It had great handling characteristics. I only flew the airplane pictured above for about 3 hours, but other than takeoff and landing I rarely touched the yoke. No autopilot – I only looked outside following my roads and rivers and other landmarks on the chart. I occasionally made my course corrections with just a touch of the rudder. Even though I hadn’t flown a 210 in years I easily landed using no more than 1,500 feet or so of a 3,000 ft runway.

Oh the nostalgia :)

A beautiful summer day flying over Quebec in a Cessna 210

A beautiful summer day flying over Quebec in a Cessna 210

Update:

Interesting Cessna 210 history from Cessna Pilots Association.

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