If you watch automotive sales trends, you've surely noticed that minivans are hot properties these days. In the early 1980s, Chrysler’s minivan twins, the Caravan and Voyager, cleaved open this market niche like a spoon through frozen yogurt. Since then, nearly every domestic and foreign manufacturer has joined the fray. These vehicles can be found hauling grinning cub scouts, delivering sushi, or carting bags of sod for Chip and Muffy's petunia bed. For burgeoning families, the minivan is the perfect upsized alternative to a sedan. Besides, Chip would never allow Muffy to carry peat moss in the trunk of his Mercedes.
For a change, someone beat Detroit and Tokyo to the punch. You see, we've had aerial versions of the minivan at our fingertips since the mid-1960s. They are the six to eight-place singles, far roomier than the four-seaters from which they evolved. Cessna’s Skywagon 207 and Stationair 207 have performed many of the same tasks that make minivans indispensable today.
What makes the 207s essential is their ability to be packed as tight as a subway car with people and possessions and whisk them off in reasonable comfort at modest expense. The 207 is basically a simple aircraft, with rugged, proven systems. That it has survived decades of utility work-check hauling, charter flights-speaks well for the durability of the basic design. Today, a used example would fit the bill for an expanding family-or a family with expanding possessions.
With average equipment, the empty weight is about 2,000 pounds; gross weight, 3,800 pounds. That is a useful load of 1,800 pounds or so, and the center of gravity envelope is a generously wide at maximum gross weight.
Example: A five-person family is going on a skiing vacation. The old man weighs 200 pounds, his wife 120, their two sons 150 pounds each, and their daughter, 100 pounds. Since they will be gone for a week, they have 100 pounds of baggage. Dad and one of the sons sit up front, then Mom and the daughter in the center seats, followed by the other son in the rear of the cabin. That is a payload of 820 pounds. Now fill up the 84-gallon long range tanks; you are up to 1,324 pounds — well within weight limits.
As for handling, well, if you've flown a Skyhawk or Skylane, you've flown a 207. In some ways it is easier to fly than a Skyhawk. The 207's greater mass makes it a bit more immune to turbulence. With highly effective flaps, slow-speed handling is even better than on the smaller models. For landing, throw out the flaps, dial in a little nose-up trim, and let it "chirp, chirp" onto the runway. If you're in a "runway challenged" region, about any unobstructed chunk of real estate 1000 feet long will do. This is one modern sport-utility vehicle that doesn't look out of place off-road.
You will not exactly burn up the sky in a 207, but performance is not all that bad, either. In exchange for 16 to 17 gallons per hour, a Turbo Skywagon 207, for example, will yield true airspeeds near 130 knots at lower altitudes, and 150 knots up high. This represents a 75-percent power setting. Normally aspirated models will deliver comparable speeds for the same power settings, but they cannot maintain those settings at higher altitudes.