Remember when you received your private certificate and could not wait until you checked out in a four-place airplane? Only to find out that you could not fill up all the seats and the fuel tanks and be able to give all your friends a ride?
The same dilemma faces small air taxi operations, private companies and others who need to move people or cargo the most efficient way possible. The Cessna 205/206 solves this problem. Able to handle both big loads and short, unimproved strips, they can be found hard at work everywhere, be it jungle, tundra, mountains, or anything in between.
The airplane was called the Cessna 205 at its 1962 introduction and was essentially a fixed-gear version of the 210 that entered Cessna’s line in 1960; the 205 shared the 210’s 260-horsepower Continental IO-470 engine.
In 1964 the 206 arrived: 205 airframe, 15 additional horsepower thanks to the 285-hp Continental IO-520 engine. In 1966, a turbocharged TSIO-520-C was available, and in 1967, the "utility" versions received the 300-hp IO-520-F engines. The turbocharged engine received another upgrade in 1977 when the 310-hp TSIO-520-M engine was introduced. The IO-550-F, which includes an automatic, altitude-compensating fuel pump and beefed-up crankcase, was another engine option that had no time limitations on its maximum power rating and offered greater propeller efficiency, more pulling power, lower noise levels, reduced airframe vibrations, and limited prop tip erosion. The -550 has reduced maintenance when compared to the turbocharged 206s, and fewer crankcase cracks than the IO-520-F. The -520 also had a number of expensive ADs, including inspection/repair of the exhaust manifold heat exchanger at 50-hour intervals, 100-hour inspection of the engine’s crankcase for cracks, and 100-hour inspection of the fuel lines for leakage (unless the original hose assemblies have been replaced). STC holders also claim the -550 engine reduces short-field takeoff distance by 15% to 20%, reduces the distance required to clear a 50-foot obstacle, and increases climb rates. Similar to Cessna 205s and 210s, the Cessna 206 fuel systems have a main tank in each wing. Fuel can be drawn from either tank, but not both simultaneously. During high-temperature or high-altitude conditions, the system has problems purging vapor from the reservoir tanks, sending fuel vapor to the engine, causing engine stoppage. Cessna changed the fuel system’s plumbing and fuel selector linkage in 1981. Several modifications available for the 206 include seaplane conversions, STOL kits, belly-mounted cargo pods, wing-tip auxiliary fuel tanks, blister windows, propeller anti-icing, Bendix RDR-160 color weather radar, and camera ports. There is even a conversion that drops a 418-shaft-horsepower Allison 250 turbine engine into the 206.
The Cessna 205/206 has a number of features that combine to make it one of the most popular of the large Cessna singles. More than 7,000 units of one description or another (they have been
called Stationair 6s since 1977) have been sold to date. The 205/206 has the same configuration — high-wing, strut-braced, fixed gear — as the rest of the Cessna single-engine line. The aircraft’s dimensions are nearly identical to those of the Cessna 182; to an untrained eye, they easily can be mistaken for one another. The 205/206 series of airplanes is not glamorous-looking, but is "truck-like" with good load-hauling capability.
Ask 205/206 owners why they were drawn to such ordinary-looking airplanes, and the answer will nearly always center on load-hauling capability. Both airplanes have generous weight and balance limitations, and generally, filling the seats will not require an hour's worth of calculator time to keep the airplane in the envelope. With a useful load of 1,500 to 1,800 lbs. depending on the model, the aircraft competes with most other heavy singles and many light twins. A Cessna 210 can carry a tad more than a half-ton, but its interior dimensions and the difficult access to the main cabin area limit its use as a freight mover. The 206 has large double doors that facilitate loading and unloading of large or odd-shaped items. Unfortunately, the 205 only has a single door for loading purposes. The Cessna 182 carries a heavy load as well, but its cabin is shorter and it, too, lacks easy access to the aft cabin.
Moving into the 205/206 from one of Cessna's smaller airplanes is easier. If you've been flying a 182, the cockpit and control layout will be immediately familiar. It should-the airplanes are nearly identical in this respect. Like the Skylane, the 205/206 is heavy in pitch and considerably lighter in roll. With a forward CG, considerable back pressure is required for takeoff rotation and landing flare. To make room for larger flaps (they continue outward past the wing's taper point on the 206, unlike those on other single-engine Cessnas), the 206 employs Frise ailerons that are smaller than the simple piano-hinge affairs on the 182. Owners have called the 205/206 "exceptionally" stable during turbulent conditions.”
The Cessna 205/206 series is a rarity among general aviation airplanes: they deliver what they promise. Unlike so many other piston singles and twins, you really can fill the tanks, (usable fuel ranges from 59 gallons with standard tanks to 88 gallons with long-range tanks, depending on the year and model), load up all six to eight seats, and take off without busting maximum gross weight or the generous center of gravity envelope. The 205/206 has justly earned its reputation as a half-ton pickup.
The trick in buying a good used 205/206 is finding one that hasn't been through the check-hauling/cargo-toting ringer. Both airplanes have been immensely popular in those roles, and finding a relatively low-time example might entail some footwork.