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Avionics: Crownair CenturionAvionics: Crownair Centurion

Ditching the six packDitching the six pack

The Cessna 210 Centurion has always had a loyal following among pilots and owners who appreciate its impressive range, speed, and carrying capacity. But Cessna hasn’t made a six-seat, retractable, piston airplane in nearly 25 years, and the prospects of the company introducing another one are almost nil.

Smaller, cheaper glass

Glass panels have been taking general aviation by storm recently, but most of the new technology is expensive and requires extensive aircraft modifications. RC Allen Instruments is countering that trend with an FAA-certified, solid-state, digital attitude indicator that slides into the same hole as the vacuum or electric indicators they replace. The RCA 2600 series provides digital reliability, an optional battery backup, and it won’t tumble in unusual attitudes. The digital attitude indicators also can replace turn coordinators in traditional “six-pack” instrument panels. The new attitude indicators are priced at $2,495. The company also is working on a digital directional gyro for new and retrofit panels. —DH

The Cessna 210 Centurion has always had a loyal following among pilots and owners who appreciate its impressive range, speed, and carrying capacity.

But Cessna hasn’t made a six-seat, retractable, piston airplane in nearly 25 years, and the prospects of the company introducing another one are almost nil. So Crownair, a San Diego-based FBO and aircraft modification firm, has come up with a way to freshen old 210s while adding an Avidyne Entegra glass panel.

A spinner-to-tail makeover for an old 210 costs $365,000. If you don’t have an old 210 in your hangar, Crownair will help you find one. (There are more than 2,000 on the FAA aircraft registry.)

“We’ll take it all the way down to the frame and give an old 210 a whole new life,” said Grant Murray, Crownair’s CEO, who uses the first of what he hopes will be many Crownair Centurions to fly between the company’s Southern California maintenance locations—primarily San Diego’s Montgomery Field and Van Nuys. “The customer ends up with an extremely capable airplane with a modern glass panel at half the price of a comparable new, six-seat aircraft.”

The panel makeover includes an Avidyne Entegra PFD and MFD, S-Tec System Fifty-Five X autopilot, Garmin GNS 430/530GPS, and a JP Instruments digital engine monitor. The electrical system uses two alternators and a single heavy-duty battery. The refurbished 210s also will get new paint, interiors, soundproofing, wiring, and built-in oxygen systems for tubocharged models. A single-piece aluminum instrument panel is a structural part that replaces the original, and it is part of the Crownair STC.

The entire process is meant to take between 90 and 120 days, and most of the work takes place at Crownair’s Montgomery Field facility. Crownair also provides eight hours of ground school and four hours of flight instruction for pilots transitioning to glass instrument panels.

If a 210 owner wants the instrument panel and Avidyne displays but none of the other upgrades, Crownair will build and install it for $169,000.

“I made the change myself to the glass panel about eight months ago,” said Murray, 65. “It was difficult at first. But your comfort and situational awareness go up so much that I want no part of a six-pack anymore. These new tools allow me to fly with much greater precision.”

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