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210 Book Excerpts

Cessna 210 Buyers Guide Excerpt

Is the Cessna 210 the Right Plane for You?

People often inquire of the Cessna Pilots Association as to what is the best Cessna to buy, or what is the best Cessna model ever built. There really is no answer to this question because each model has its advantages and disadvantages. When buying an aircraft one of the most important things to keep in mind is to buy an aircraft that fits your average mission profile the best.

For example, if you are buying an airplane primarily so you and your wife can fly to a vacation home 150 miles away, a high-performance six-passenger aircraft like the 210 has very little advantage over a basic four seat 172, and is significantly more expensive to purchase and operate. On the other hand, if you're a salesperson who covers a region of several states and occasionally takes several clients with you, the 172 simply won't fulfill this mission and the 210 could easily prove to be the most practical way to travel, particularly where time is money. Again, buy the airplane that fits your mission best.

The Cessna 210 Centurion's strongest attribute is speed. The Centurion is one of the fastest single engine general aviation aircraft every built. With some of the later model years having cruising speeds in excess of 190 knots, this airplane is not only a fast single engine aircraft, it will flat outrun many light twin aircraft. While I try to avoid the debate of which airplanes are faster and what book figures are more accurate, suffice to say that prior to being involved with the Cessna Pilots Association, I owned a bunch of Bonanzas, including an A36TC, and the Turbo Centurion that I own now would blow by any one of them. To this day one of the small pleasures my wife derives from life is hearing Center deviate an aircraft like a Bonanza or the earlier Mooneys for "overtaking traffic" when she knows that overtaking traffic is us in our Centurion.

On a number of occasions I have flown from one coast of the U.S. to the other in one day, sometimes doing the trip all in daylight hours. On a recent trip I was able to leave my base at Santa Maria, California, and have meetings or seminars in Grand Junction, Colorado; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Manassas, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; Oshkosh, Wisconsin; and return home, all in the space of a week. Holding to this schedule wouldn't have been possible with most other general aviation aircraft, and would have been impossible to do using the airlines. Many people fly airplanes to go places fast and the Centurion is a real champ at that.

The other strong suit of a Cessna 210 Centurion is its ability to carry a load. While there are other high performance single engine aircraft that on paper will carry a similar amount of weight, in the real world many of them suffer from limitations not found with the Centurion. The Bonanza will carry a similar amount of weight but is very restricted in regards to aft CG limit, so unless that weight is mostly in front seat passengers, you hit the CG limits before you have all the baggage on board. The Mooney isn't too bad on useful load, but where are you going to put it when there is barely room for your elbows?

Of course if load carrying capability is your prime concem and your mission lengths are going to be modest, say 300 miles or so, then perhaps the 210 Centurion is not the right plane for you. A Cessna 205, 206 or 207 will carry an equal or greater load at less operating expense and only a few minutes additional time enroute. A 182 Skylane might also be something to be considered in this situation if you don't need more than four seats.

Speed and load carrying capability do not come cheap. With the Cessna 210 Centurion you have a big engine which drinks lots of high priced avgas, this big engine has a lower TBO (1400 to 1800 hours, depending on model) than most of the 200 horsepower engines in other aircraft.

You also have a retractable landing gear system which adds to maintenance, inspection and insurance costs. Insurance costs are also increased by the fact that it is a six-place airplane as opposed to a four-place airplane. On the other hand, because it can carry a load and many models of the Centurion have six seats, the cost per pound, cost per mile, or cost per seat-mile are extremely reasonable.

In short the Cessna 210 Centurion is a very expensive, impractical way to go bore holes in the sky on Saturday morning, but oh what a great traveling machine, crossing the country in leaps and bounds.

Considerations on Buying an Older 210

"1960 210 3200 TT, 1150 SMOH.
Dual MK12s, ADF, Txpdr, Autopilot.
190 MPH on 13 gph. $40,000.
Call Dwayne 805/555-5555"

Now there is a deal, a lot of airplane for the money. Carry four people, outrun most other single engine aircraft, and only 40 grand. Can't go wrong, right? Well, that depends.

If your aircraft purchasing budget has you looking at older 210s (as opposed to somewhat newer 182s and  evennewer 172s), you need to sit down and consider some of the cold hard facts about owning an older, high performance aircraft. And the facts that I am talking about are on-going dollars. While the cost to enroll in this school may be modest, the yearly tuition can be quite steep.

First of all, while you consider this a forty or forty five thousand dollar airplane, to the Cessna Aircraft Co. it is an eight hundred thousand dollar aircraft, because that is what it would sell for new today. And that is the level that Cessna sets its parts prices at. Even using salvage yards, which generally sell used parts at fifty percent of new list, buying parts for this bird can generate quite a bit of shock.

And operating costs on the older 210 are no less than on a later model. Well, that isn't exactly true: 210 models prior to the 1964 210D have the IO-470 engine which uses a little less gas than the later 520s (and goes a little slower), but essentially the operating costs are the same. You are feeding and caring for an aircraft with a six cylinder, big-bore Continental engine with a constant speed prop and retractable landing gear, just like the latest models of the 210.

In fact, given that the fuel bladders of the older 210s don't hold up as well at the integral tanks of the later models and also that the early landing gear system was more complicated than later with the electro-hydraulic power pack, and have gear saddles that crack and have to be replaced every thousand hours or so presenting the owner with a bill of anywhere from $1200 to $2500, there is a good possibility that the operating and maintenance costs of the earlier models are actually higher than the later models.

What if the aircraft will need some renovation shortly? It is easy to say that you will buy the plane now, do an overhaul on the motor when it is due in a couple of years, upgrade the radios a little later, do some painting, get an interior, etc. However, when you look at the numbers, they don't really add up. Take the 1960 210 that we started this section with. It has a somewhat high time engine, old radios, probably an pneumatic autopilot. You buy the aircraft figuring on turning it into a super fine travel machine by refurbishing over the next four or five years. Let's take a look at what you will have invested, even doing this by watching every penny.

First, you have to do something about that high time engine. Even if when the engine is torn down there is not much work required and you take advantage of every cost cutting corner possible, you will still have at least $20,000 invested in an economy overhaul, with 25K to 30K being a more realistic figure. And you can't keep operating forever on those old 360 channel radios. A couple of new nav/coms, transponder, audio panel and and ADF or GPS will be at least $12,000 installed, with a basic autopilot like an STEC 40 another $8,000 if it is installed when the radios go in, more if installed at a separate time.

Now that you have that older 210 running well and able to communicate with anyone, you will just have to dress up the package it comes in. Figure conservatively $10,000 each for paint and interior.

You now have a good airplane in performance, reliability and appearance. You also have at least $100,000 in it.

For that $100,000 investment you end up with an aircraft worth sixty grand, tops, in today's dollars. Better you should spend that 100-plus thousand on a newer 210, 1970s vintage, with lots of engine time left and decent radios. It will cost you more going in, but you won't lose the money you have lost on this deal because the airplane will always be worth at least what you paid for it, just as the 1960 210 that you have a hundred plus into will always be worth the 40 grand you paid for it. Or go find another guy who put a hundred into an older 210 and pay him forty for it.

The purpose of this discussion is to bring out several points about aircraft purchasing in general and older aircraft specifically.




This is not to say that an early 210 can't be a good value, it certainly can be. If purchased decently equipped with time left on the engine you have an aircraft that will perform right up there with any high performance single at a fraction of the investment you would have in later models. If you are the type of person who is willing to do a lot of the refurbishment work and parts scrounging yourself, even an older 210 in need of work and refurbishment can be a good airplane for you. You just have to look at the dollars you will be spending now and in the future realistically.

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