First appearing in 1962 and originally designated 205, Cessna’s 6 place, fixed gear design derived from the retractable 210 which preceded it. The 205 had a small rear door which was an improvement on the utility of the 210, but in 1964 the 206 arrived, boasting 285hp and large clamshell rear doors which greatly aided loading of outsized cargo. This cemented the aircraft’s reputation as the “Sports Utility Vehicle of the Skies”.
The 206 (also dubbed Stationair from 1978 onwards) achieves a difficult objective in aircraft design, which is the ability to carry 6 fully grown adults, or 4 adults with substantial baggage, whilst still being a relatively economical single. Lacking the speed of the 210 and the range of the almost identically sized 182, its load capacity is its unique selling point. Operators note that it is rarely necessary to do complex loading calculations, with the ability to fill the aircraft with passengers, cargo and fuel, and still take off with ease almost always a given.
This makes the 206 popular for sharing the fun (and cost) of recreational flying with friends, but also very useful for short haul cargo and more specialist work. With a high wing and large doors (which can be removed before flight) the 206 is popular for skydiving and aerial photography, and has even been employed as an aerial hearse. Cargo pods and conventional or amphibious floats are also commonly installed.
The U206 (U for utility) along with other variants (including the stretched 207) were manufactured in quantity for 22 years until Cessna suspended production of all piston aircraft in 1986. However production was restarted in 1998, and continues to this day.
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