024 - The Cessna 210, ATC Privatization, Prebuy Test Flights + More!

This week, we’re back to single-engine aircraft with the Cessna 210, including some inside details from a recent prebuy. Then we talk about how you can help say NO to ATC privatization. Plus, lots of aircraft ownership news, the tip of the week about prebuy test flights, and your feedback.

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More About the Cessna 210

The Cessna 210 has been out of production for more than three decades yet is still considered by many to be one of the best high-performance single-engine airplanes ever built.  There were more than 9000 aircraft produced, many still flying today, with about 100 aircraft on the market today according to Controller, Trade-A-Plane and other listing sites. The Cessna 210 is a true high-performance 6-place retractable with pressurized, unpressurized, normally aspirated, and turbocharged options built between 1957 thru 1986.

There are more than 20 versions of the aircraft with a myriad of upgrades and improvements through the years. So if you’re thinking about getting a 210, it’s important to do your homework because each 210 model has different features, from number of seats to engines, gross weights, wings, and even fuselages. There are also a number of notable modifications available for the aircraft from O&N, RAM, Vitatoe, Crown Air, and more – from engines to avionics, even a turboprop conversion is available.  

Until the Cessna 177 Cardinal RG was introduced in 1971, the 210 was Cessna’s only retractable-gear single-engine airplane. The first generation 210s were equipped with IO-470 260hp engines. They incorporated a fuselage from the 182 then added the beefier engines, new wings, retractable gear and a swept tail. Next, the 210 received another makeover, this time with a new fuselage, redesigned flaps and ailerons, a third cabin window, and a rear window, making the 210B model. Cessna also produced a fixed-gear version of this aircraft which eventually spawned the Cessna 206 and 207 family of aircraft.

Some minor changes were made to the 210C, but the 210D received a noticeable improvement in 1964—a Continental IO-520-A, 285 hp engine. More power means greater useful load and an increase in gross weight to 3,100 pounds. It’s also the first model with a total of 6 seats—two in the front, two in the back, and two child seats in the rear, and as far as I know, the first 210 model officially named the Centurion.

1966 brought another huge improvement to the airplane – turbocharging. The T210 was born featuring a TSIO-520-C engine giving 285 horsepower, making it a true competitor for cross-country IFR flying. 1967 brought yet another welcomed change, strutless wings found on the 210G and all subsequent models. Thus, the earlier 210s are easily distinguished from later models thanks to the big wing struts, similar to what we see on the Cessna 206. The 210G also featured another increase in gross weight, this time to 3,400 pounds. In 1968, the 210H was introduced, featuring an all new cockpit design and a new flap setup with a decrease in maximum flap range from 40 degrees, down to 30. Fuel capacity was also increased from 65 gallons to 95.

In 1969, more changes, this time found on the 210J models with a new nose cowling, reduced wing dihedral, and an IO-520-J engine, capable of 300 horsepower. In 1971, another noticeable change – a new landing gear and the first true six-seat airplane. The 210J featured a redesigned gear, taking away the complex gear doors and leaf-spring strut system and replacing it with a tubular system where the wheels tuck right into the belly—which gave room for the extra seats. The airplane was also taller and had a larger cabin with a single rear window and the improved IO-520-L engine, allowing for five continuous minutes of 300 horsepower, and other gross weight increase to 3,800 pounds.

Also, you should note that the turbocharged version 210s were produced in together with normally aspirated, so a T210J has the same features as the 210J, minus turbocharging.  

From 1972-1976, the 210L was made. This model is distinguished from earlier models thanks to its front cowl landing light as well as three-bladed prop. It also had a beefier 24-volt electric system and engine-driven hydraulic pump replacing the old electric pump. There were also some minor aerodynamic improvements that gave the plane an extra 5-10 knots of airspeed. Through the late 70s into the 80s, the Cessna 210M was built featuring a 310 horsepower TSIO-520-R engine. Then came the 210N which got rid of the landing gears that covered the mains tucked away in the belly. But many earlier model 210s had the gear doors removed anyways due to maintenance problems... More on that later.

The last of the unpressurized 210s came in the form of the 210R, the rarest of the line with limited quantities produced between 1985 and 1986, which featured a wider-span horizontal stabilizer and increased fuel capacity to 120 gallons. Earlier models can be fitted with auxiliary tanks for increased fuel capacity.

From 1978-1983, things got interesting with the pressurized version of the 210. The P210N is essentially a T210N with four small windows on each side and two-piece windscreen making it easily distinguishable. It also had a TSIO-520-F 310-horsepower engine. It is also the model selected by Riley and O&N Aircraft for conversions to turbine engines. We’ve put a video on the turbine version in the show notes, but they’ve got a 450 horsepower Rolls Royce turboprop engine, with other performance mods, it could be up to 550 horse power, very cool stuff.

Going back to pistons, let’s talk performance... a T210 will cruise at about 195 knots, at more modest cruise power settings, you can travel about 900 nautical miles. Normally aspirated aircraft will burn between 14 and 16 gallons per hour at 75 percent power. The later 210s also have a useful load of about 1,675 pounds.

What about mods? I already mention the turboprop mods, but there are dozens of less-obvious mods available for the 210 including intercoolers, wing mirrors, fuel caps, landing gear doors, air vents, and engine upgrades.

While performance, useful load, and accommodations are important, the prudent 210 buyer will also think about maintenance, ADs and upkeep. The 210 is a big airplane, and complex, especially earlier models with the extremely cumbersome and often troublesome landing gear systems. In fact, according to AvWeb, 210s make up nearly 20 percent of all gear up landings, most of them mechanical failure. The gear doors on earlier 210s are known to be problematic, coupled with electrical and hydraulic components that make working on the gear challenging. Also, large engines such as the TCM 520 will likely need top-end overhauls before TBO. Also, earlier models produced 1982 are subject fuel vapor lock.

What about the wings? Well the fully cantilever wings have been subject to some issues, including an AD to inspect and if necessary replace wing spar caps, wing spar, and even the wing as they may be susceptible to cracking.  Again, a thorough prebuy inspection will help you save a lot of money in the long run by finding these issues before you buy the airplane.