What I think makes Cessna 210 a great aircraft is that it was designed to handle very well in all flight configurations: takeoff, climb, cruise, decent and landing. It also provides excellent performance in all of them. This is something very hard to achieve in a plane.
Usually there is a trade-off in aircraft design; the faster you make the plane you either have to make the wings smaller which makes them unstable in flight and during stall recovery or you put a larger engine in which burns more fuel.
Cessna 210 is designed in such balance as you cannot find in any other GA single aircraft. For example, there are some other 6 seat aircraft which have a gross weight close to the Cessna 210, but they have a very narrow CG envelope so it is hard to load them without going outside the limits.
Some aircraft go can go faster than the 210, but they will burn more fuel or carry less weight.
I have to admit that I am biased to the 210 because this is such a great aircraft. But I promise you I’ll write a fair review of both the good and the things to watch for in a 210. Since there are a few different variants of Cessna 210, I am mainly going to focus this article on the normally aspirated Cessna 210 built after 1970. But there is a lot of general information about 210 in this article you’ll find interesting and relates to most other 210 models as well.
One other thing I love about this airplane is that it is very predictable. Once you have some time in the plane, you can understand how it behaves when you change settings or with different control inputs. This predictability is very important. It reduces the pilot workload and after some time flying it you can pretty much naturally control the airplane.
You've probably heard that the Cessna 210 Centurion is called the ‘king of the singles’ , I would say it is among the very best and actually has a combination of features that no other piston single does.
Cessna flew the first 210 in 1957, which is actually just a retractable gear and a slightly powerful engine that was put into Cessna 182 airframe. This complex and high performance aircraft had hydraulic 40 degree flaps and a complex landing gear system. The gross weight was 2900lbs with a useful load of only 1165lbs. Original base price was $22,450. This airplane can fly 165 knots with a 755 mile range.
1960 Cessna 210A used Cessna 182 airframe with retractable gear and 265hp Continental O-470 engine
Over time they gradually upgraded the 210 to become one of the best, if not the best 6 place single piston aircraft with over a two ton liftoff weight. Three main variants: normally aspirated, turbocharged and pressurized 210. Between 1957 to 1985, 9240 Cessna 210s were made. Most of them still serve around the world today.
Fixed gear version of 210 named 205, 206 and 207 Stationair (Super Skywagon, Skywagon and Super Skylane) are still in production today.
Cessna 206 stationair 6 seat fixed gear with struts
Cessna 210 has a special place in my pilot life, I borrowed a 1960 Cessna 210a from a friend of mine to get my complex endorsement a while back. My instructor told me “the airplane picks up speed very fast, so manage the speed, especially when you’re descending for an approach”.
Well I did exactly that; it was exciting and a joy to fly, I carefully watched the speeds and slowed it down when I needed to. I think less than two hours of flying with multiple landings and my instructor was confident enough to sign off my endorsement.
At that time, coming from a Cessna 172 and 177, flying the early 210 wasn’t that much of a challenge. Well when I bought my first 210 it was an L model and flying that was a different story.
My first 210 was a normally aspirated 210L. By that time I was an experienced pilot having flown hundreds of hours a year in various different aircraft. To get the best out of the airplane there’s a learning curve. When I went to pick it up I had an instructor fly with me in the right seat for about three hours. I wanted to get a feel for the aircraft and fly the full envelope. He wanted to do more. “Let’s do your biennial at the same time”. At the end of the three hours, I was exhausted because this airplane’s performance is much greater than the early 210 I had experience with and also it happened to be in the complex and busy Long Island New York airspace.
After one hour break, my wife and I started heading home, a 1200 mile journey. Even though we thoroughly checked everything before takeoff, somehow the passenger door didn’t shut properly. We found this out about 15 minutes after getting airborne. Because of the heavy wind and turbulence we decided to hold the door and keep flying out of New York instead of turning back. She held the door, while I located a small airport in a valley. Of course my good luck; their fuel pump wasn’t working either.
When I’m flying I like to feel the airplane and make necessary adjustments. Without really thinking actually I carry a little power into my landing; which you usually don’t do in most airplanes. If you do that in an airplane like a Mooney, the plane will float all the way to the next airport.
Carrying little power until touchdown if the runway is more than 3000 feet was one of the best practices I developed while flying the 210. When you have full fuel and only two people in the front, take a look at the weight and balance of the aircraft and you will notice the CG goes all the way to the front. This is actually a good thing at takeoff in my opinion because this airplane likes to climb like crazy and a forward CG helps to manage the climb during the first few minutes. But it’s a whole different story when you’re landing. It is a heavy aircraft compared to most other singles and it has higher wings than most which creates less ground effect. So when you pull the power all the way back at short final the plane is going to sink very fast and to keep the nose gear up you have to pull back quite a bit and do the flare more precisely. Carrying a little power until touchdown helps a lot; at least for me.
I have flown Cessna 210 in almost every flying scenario. It is a wonderful airplane to fly, once you learn how to fly it. It is not difficult to learn but there are a few important things I have found really helpful when flying a 210. Since Cessna 210 is a high performance and complex airplane with the largest payload in any piston single, it also comes with a high compression Continental engine. This is a great engine but like any other big bore engine you need to manage it properly to get the best life out of it.
This is especially important if it is a longer trip or the weather is not promising. I use multiple sources for my flight planning. Foreflight and Windy.com along with area weather reports. Even if you're on a VFR flight, it’s helpful to plan your altitude and such before the flight.
Checking the actual fuel level is very important. It is important to always wait a couple of minutes after fueling before dipping the tanks. Also, there are 5 fuel drains, two on the wings, two on the underbelly and one by the oil filler.
Starting the engine is fairly easy: prop to full, set up the mixture (if it is less than 5000 MSL mixture to full rich), switch on the low side of the fuel pump (right hand, yellow switch), advance the throttle right away to build about 50-60 pounds of fuel pressure (which you can monitor in the fuel pressure gauge), switch off the fuel pump and pull the throttle back. Advance the throttle ¼ inch before starting. Engine will start in 1 to 2 rotations. I usually keep about thousand RPM until the engine and oil have warmed up.
Cold starts are not good for any engine, especially the Continental high compression engine in Cessna 210. If you have an engine preheater, I would always use that in the colder winter months. In cold weather it is also good to wait a few minutes until the engine slowly warms up before you advance the throttle for taxiing. I usually wait until the oil temperature is at least 90 before I do a run up.
I always lean the mixture when I’m on the ground, this will help keep the spark plugs clean and avoid spark plug fouling.
Cessna 210 has nose wheel steering which comes handy when you’re taxiing the airplane. I always pull the yoke back to reduce the pressure on the nose wheel. This helps in the long term to reduce the wear on the front strut and avoid what they call “nose wheel shimmy”.
I never change the fuel tank selector right before takeoff, it is good to do that before you taxi. It is very important to make sure the trim is in the neutral position. If you have your rudder trim in other than the neutral position, you might have a heck of a time keeping the directional control during takeoff. This is very dangerous especially if you have some crosswind to correct for.
I never ram the throttle to full right away for the takeoff. I will slowly push it in over 2 to 3 seconds. If it is a short field and you’re going to hold the brake, increase throttle and then release, it is better to angle the aircraft to the right. As soon as you release the brake and start moving it will swing left so you don’t have to use brake to make it align with the runway centerline.
I use a light back pressure on the yoke and let the aircraft take off by itself. Don’t push the yoke just hold it until you reach the rollout speed. When off the ground the Cessna 210 is going to pick up speed and climb very fast, especially if the aircraft is light. You must prepare for this and maintain the angle of ascent properly. You probably have to push the yoke to maintain it.
Unlike low wing retractable gear, Cessna 210 gear retraction is very different. It goes 90° out and creates a decent amount of drag before retracting completely. Therefore it is very important to wait until your airspeed picks up before retracting the gear. Never try to retract the gear right after takeoff when you are very close to the stall speeds; you might actually stall the aircraft because of the extra drag.
Cessna 210 retractring gear at 90° creates a drag
I have taken off 210 in high-altitude airports with over 10,000 feet density altitude at close to gross weight during midday when it was 80 degrees with a normally aspirated engine without a turbo. While Cessna 210 can do this you will find that some other airplanes will have to wait until the air cools down either early in the morning or evening for takeoff.
The airplane needs a longer runway, which almost all high-altitude airports have because it will need a longer ground run (as you would expect with high density altitude) but it will take off without any problem. The important thing is, if you’re not used to high-altitude airport takeoffs, it’s very important to lean the mixture properly first. You just need to hold the brake, run the engine to its max and then lean slowly until you have the highest RPM. Also calculate or anticipate your ground run distance.
What I usually do is find something around the runway halfway point and use that as my point of reference. When I’m reaching that halfway reference point I watch the airspeed and understand if I will be able to take off. A very important thing to remember is that the indicated airspeed showing in your aircraft is much slower than actual ground speed because of thin air. To stop the aircraft you need to have adequate distance in high-altitude airports, the half way point is a better judgment point.
Keep the light backward pressure on the yoke but never try to pull the aircraft off of the ground, let the aircraft fly by itself. After taking off you should not change the configuration right away. It is very important not to retract the gear or flaps like you might otherwise do at a low altitude airport.
It is also very important to have a very slow climb rate as long as possible until you have enough speed built up and have climbed to a decent altitude so you can retract the gear and flaps.
This 210 has an excellent climb rate, especially if you’re not fully loaded. It will climb over 1500 ft/min at the best angle of climb. This not only helps you get above obstacles, especially in short fields, but also lets you climb to higher altitudes quicker so you can get a cool breeze on warmer days. Another advantage of having a higher climb rate is when you have a broken layer that you want to go through you’ll be able to climb through smaller openings.
I usually trim the aircraft as soon as I can so it gives me much better control. Different pilots manage power differently after takeoff; somewhere around 1000 AGL I usually pull my power back to my desired settings which allows me to manage the plane and engine temperatures much better. You can start to lean the mixture. At takeoff, full power setting, you’re burning about 27 gallons per hour, in cruise it is half that or less. Until you are at a safer altitude, I wouldn’t lean the mixture too much in climb, I will usually wait until I reach my cruise altitude unless that will be over 10,000 feet.
I am always careful to manage my engine temperature and keep the cylinders at temperatures below 380. I have cowl flaps, power and mixture settings and an advanced engine monitor to do this task easily.
Cessna 210 is designed as a high-altitude, long-range cruiser. Six-cylinder Continental engine is more balanced and has less vibration. Vibration in the airplane causes fatigue, especially for long cruise flights so this is very important. I had flights over five hours long for a single leg; it is very comfortable and you won’t feel tired at the end of long legs. I always like to hand fly my airplanes without using the autopilot. Cessna 210 has both rudder and elevator trim. Once you trim the aircraft properly, it flies almost like it’s on autopilot, it needs very little correction. This makes it very easy to fly, especially long distance.
Cessna 210 can go over a thousand miles without a touchdown (depending on the model and the fuel capacity). Some pilots actually flew Cessna 210 across the entire United States within a day during daytime hours. Is a great cross-country machine.
As with any cross-country, preflight planning is very important. I use multiple sources including Foreflight and Windy and I always have in-flight weather.
Fuel is the most critical element for such long cross-country flights. When getting full tanks for a long cross-country, I fill both tanks, then go back and top them off. Cessna fuel tanks have separate compartments so it takes a minute or two to settle the fuel into the different compartments, even though initially it looks like it’s full it might not be. There are aftermarket dip gauges you can buy which come in very handy.
Cessna 210 is a great high-altitude cross-country airplane
If you are new to the aircraft I would never fly more than four hours initially until you figure out your actual fuel burn. You might burn more fuel than you think if you’re not properly leaned. The aircraft has a factory fuel pressure meter (usually shows pounds per hour). Using that you can calculate your fuel burn and how much fuel is left. If you have a digital fuel flow gauge that will help greatly. The factory fuel tank gauges are usually not very accurate unless they’ve been recalibrated recently. So it is important not to rely on them or pay good attention to them and understand just what they’re showing based on refueling your aircraft.
I usually fly one hour in one tank, two hours in the other and then switch back to keep the plane balanced. Keeping a timer or an alarm would help to remind you to switch the fuel tanks. You need to have a good understanding of the oil burn in the airplane, this varies from one to another. If you know how much oil it burns, you can take the proper steps to fill it before taking off.
Descent planning is important In any fast airplane. Slowing down while descending for landing is a challenge for any fast airplane. Sometimes we like to stay out of the turbulence as long as we can before going to low altitude for landing. It is good to monitor the engine temperatures and airspeed. Gradually pulling the manifold pressure is important so the engine won't cool down too rapidly.
If your speed is too high for the distance you have left, you can put the gear down to slow it. Cessna 210 has a high gear retraction speed and it helps a lot. One experience 210 pilot mentioned, “in any high-speed, uncontrolled situation put the gear down - even though you are faster than the gear down speed, do that to make the airplane stable. You may lose the gear doors but you’ll save yourself and the airplane.”
This is something I have never tried but I believe it is a good thing to remember.
Descent planning is important since 210 is a fast and complex airplane
I usually like to configure the aircraft at 3 mile final if straight in and the trim properly. This usually gives me a nice steady rate of descent so I only have to keep the direction and control until touchdown. Gear extension will create a drag which slows the airplane down quite a bit. So it is important to extend the gear early when you have higher airspeed, not at the last moment.
Properly trimming and configuring the airplane for the descent is important. Once it is trimmed to descend at a steady rate I always neutralize the rudder trim, and manually control the rudder. If you forget to neutralize the rudder it could be difficult to handle on the ground, especially when you have a crosswind.
Fly by the numbers, compensate for the gust. Cessna 210 is a heavy airplane. On the later models the loaded weight is over 2 tons at gross. It is also a high wing aircraft which usually has less ground effect than a low wing. Therefore when you pull the power it is going to descend very fast. Even though we can use “chop and drop” for landing, I have found that carrying a little power greatly helps to control the aircraft landing; like in an airliner... So whenever the runway length is long enough, I carry a little power and gradually pull it back until the point of touchdown. When you practice this properly you can get great landing almost every time.
Even though you can see the main gear through the side windows, you cannot see the nose gear operation. You can install a gear mirror in the wing, I believe it is just around $100 for the mirror but it’s well worth installing it because you can monitor the gear operation.
After touchdown, keeping the directional control is very important. You might have to push the rudder quite hard to keep the directional control and brake simultaneously to slow down. Pulling the yoke all the way back after landing also helps you to slow down the aircraft.
When we land we have always configured the aircraft for go around; except for one thing - the elevator trim. For landing I have to use quite a bit of elevator trim to have the nose up attitude.
This is a very important thing to remember. It is not going to be like a normal takeoff. If you push the throttle all the way in with a nose up trim and then pull the yoke, it will pretty much go vertical and will stall the aircraft. And I don’t have to tell you about low altitude stall results - they usually end up being in the local news. So two things are important, don’t ram the throttle, push it in gradually and don’t pull the yoke back hard. Most likely you will actually have to push the yoke instead of pulling it to keep the aircraft attitude controlled. At this stage I would not try to release the trim, just hold the yoke until you’re at a safe altitude.
Watch for steep climb on go arounds
Some GA aircraft, besides Cessna 177 of course, get cramped when you fill them with adults. Sometimes you’re almost touching at the shoulders, but in the 210 you not have that problem. There is plenty of legroom and lots of shoulder space between the pilot seats. This is especially important for longer cruise flights.
Some passengers who have flown with me in different planes have told me the back seats are spacious and very comfortable compared to the others they’ve been in.
Cessna 210 has very good ventilation system, with multiple air intake ports outside on the wings as well as at the front of the fuselage which can be opened if you need more air. It also has nicely designed air vents that actually allow you to adjust the direction as you prefer.
Cessna 210 has large wings mounted on top of the aircraft. Earlier versions had struts but those were removed after 1967 and changed to cantilever wings. These wings actually provide a nice shade while in flight on a sunny day. We found that they’re also good for actual “under wing camping”. Getting in and out is easy, and the most important feature is the visibility. Cessna 210 has excellent visibility. You can clearly see the runway when you’re in any phase of the pattern. Passengers also have great visibility out the back windows. The ability to land and take off in various different fields make it a really useful aircraft. Since it can carry six people or a truckload of gear this is one versatile airplane you can use in so many different ways.
Cessna 210 has great short field takeoff and landing characteristics and plenty of power to climb over obstacles
This makes the aircraft great for various different adventures. You can land the plane in grass or gravel strips and many other locations.
Cessna 210 landed in the backcountry mountains.
Cessna 210 is one of the best general aviation airplanes ever made. I have had great pleasure of owning and flying different 210 models. It is not hard to learn even if you are a transitioning pilot. I have a respect for its abilities and characteristics as an airplane. When you develop good practices flying, the Cessna 210 will provide endless opportunities, and wonderful flying experiences.