Cessna 206: The Workhorse of the World PDF Print E-mail
Written by Donna Jones   
Thursday, 24 February 2011 14:07

The Cessna 206 is considered a true working plane by many single-engine aviation enthusiasts. Operated in all parts of the world in the most extreme conditions, this aircraft stands out from the crowd with its diversity and multi-purpose uses. It’s roomy enough for six passengers, cargo, or whatever you need to haul. There are numerous aircraft, making availability good if you are looking to buy a used or new 206.


Known as the station wagon of the Cessna models, the heavy-hauler 206 is a durable wheel or float plane designed to get you where you’re going and haul what you need. With its versatility, it can please the private operator as a six-passenger plane or satisfy a fleet operator by being able to haul loads to gross weight limitations. Operators can do their work without stepping up to the Caravan or equivalent airplane.


A Brief History

You just can’t beat a Cessna 206 for a proven, all-around aircraft. The 206 came on the scene in 1964 and continued to be manufactured, in various forms, through the mid 1980s. Production began again in the 1990s after Textron bought Cessna. Since the 1960s, the 206 has not changed much in design. Of course, newer avionics, modern technology and equipment, and different paint schemes are characteristics of the new Cessna 206. The older Cessnas were originally equipped with a Teledyne Continental Motors engine and a two- or three-blade McCauley propeller; the new Cessna 206, in contrast, is equipped with a Lycoming IO-540 engine and a swept-blade McCauley propeller. There were approximately 8,500 206 aircraft (all versions) manufactured by the end of 2006. From recent FAA files, there are 3,141 still registered in the United States. Even if you estimate 500 wrecked or not airworthy, that still leaves about 5,000 aircraft in other countries. That goes to show how popular the 206 has been worldwide.


Aircraft Comparison


1986 U206G

Current Cessna 206H


Teledyne Continental Motors IO-520 F engine (300 hp @ takeoff with 285 hp continuous)

Lycoming IO-540 engine (300 hp @ 2,700 rpm)


80-inch, three-blade

79-inch, three-blade

Gross Weight (lbs):



Useful load (lbs):





Fueling N8755Q for flight. Early standard 206 tanks hold 61 to 65 gallons; long-range

tanks handle 80 to 84 gallons. Newer 206 tanks have a 92-gallon capacity.

206 Versatility

The average 206 has many uses and a variety of operators. I did some research in the FAA registered owners list just to see how many different types of companies operate 206 models. The 206 is used by private pilots and passengers, business owners, airlines, skydivers, photographers and aerial surveyors, cargo and freight companies, excursion and scenic tour groups, lodges and outfitters, leasing companies, missionary groups, medical organizations, Civil Air Patrol, government entities, and more. Even Shriners International operates a 206 to help take children back and forth to their facilities.


Private Owner

Private operators will often operate a 206 when they have a large family. The 206 is an affordable aircraft to operate and gives enough hauling capacity for the whole family. It is like taking your family station wagon or minivan on a trip. Everyone and their luggage fit comfortably. Some operators, large family or not, just enjoy the roomy space and can head to their weekend retreat without a problem. Why cram all of your equipment in a small Cessna when the 206 will work better? A cargo pod can be added for extra hauling capacity, as well. Bill Elliott, the famed NASCAR driver, owned a Bonaire IO-550-equipped Cessna 206 a few years back. He used the 206 to haul race engines and parts back and forth between his shops.

Missionary Groups

Missionary groups have dedicated, diverse bunches of pilots with great family support. Missionary organizations are based in many parts of the world. Africa, South America, Europe, Canada, and New Guinea are just a few of the places where missionaries are located. They reside in places that you and I have only seen in pictures. These people rely on their aircraft in the same way that we rely on our cars.


In Peru, SAMAIR (South America Mission) had to replace an engine and a propeller on its 206, which suffered a ground strike when the dirt runway collapsed, due to an underground ant hill. Getting parts to the group in a hurry was a challenge. Fortunately, they had a spare engine. They were able to get back in the air in a timely manner. David Speyers and Jack Sluiter are two of the pilots/mechanics I was able to communicate with regarding their work with SAMAIR. David said, “As I pilot, I have the unique advantage of seeing the work that goes on in all of the different parts of the Peruvian jungle. The people we serve have come to depend on SAMAIR as their life line while they are living in the communities.”


I have been fortunate to work with many organizations, such as SAMAIR, and I find their operations help a large number of people. Their work in the field is very important, and Cessna 206s help in their relief efforts. They haul everything from people to food to supplies.



Skydivers like the capacity of the 206 aircraft, and they prefer the fuel-injection system to the carbureted system of the 182. They also get a better load of passengers, as the gross weight is more. However, they must check the weight and balance closely when using the U206, so that they do not get too much weight in the aft loading area where the bags or cargo usually go. The P206 has the passenger door, so loading is different in this model. The skydiver groups are located worldwide, too.


Photographers and Aerial Surveyors

Aerial photography and surveying are much-needed services. The Cessna 206 has been a standard piece of equipment for aerial-mapping cameras, due to its economy and load-carrying capabilities. The 206 can be modified to have a camera hatch installed or a camera mounted to the wing. One company I know of chose the 206, because it was easy for the crew to get air-to-air photographs with the removal of the cargo door. This company did photography for insurance companies after Hurricane Katrina. It was pretty interesting work. GPS aerial mapping and land surveying are other uses of the 206. The 206 can be set up with elaborate equipment to survey highway jobs, subdivisions, and construction layouts; it can also map digital terrain modeling. Photogrammetry is the making of scale drawings from aerial photographs and used to construct maps.

Cargo and Freight Companies

Some companies use their 206 aircraft specifically for hauling freight and delivery purposes. They contract with other companies and make deliveries on their behalf. This is monotonous work, as 206 pilots keep a specific schedule to deliver packages on their route. In some areas, there may be no places to land. One of my mission friends asked us to beef up the crates and other boxes that were being shipped to Africa. It seems the mission’s means of final delivery into Zaire consisted of throwing the shipment from the aircraft. Tires and other material were placed on the ground in the delivery area to soften the fall. When equipped with a cargo door, I’m guessing the 206 has probably been used in this manner, as well.


Government Use

Many government entities use the Cessna 206 in their operations. In my research, I was surprised by the number of countries that use the 206 for military purposes. Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Guyana, India, Israel, Mexico, Malaysia, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Australia were among the countries listing 206s for military use. Military use can mean anything, including training, surveillance, cargo moving, police operations, etc. The Civil Air Patrol has a large number of 206 aircraft used for search-and-rescue missions, as well as assistance to the public.


Be careful how you use your Cessna 206. United States customs and border patrol use their 206 fleet for surveillance and patrol. They have been known to confiscate airplanes that were involved in wrong doing. It’s likely their fleet primarily consists of aircraft that were “given” to them.

Tour Groups

Tour groups include those organizations that provide excursions, lodging, outfitting, and scenic tours. You can visit some beautiful places and get a firsthand look at the scenery by taking the special tours. For example, suppose you want to travel to Alaska to go on a glacier tour or partake in some salmon fishing; luckily for you, there are companies that use their 206s to get you to those far-off locations. By using an airplane, you’ll be able to travel to sites or lodging that you cannot get to by land or will take hours to get to by boat.


Modifications and Refurbishments

There are virtually thousands of upgrades available for the 206. The general idea behind the upgrades is to bring the aircraft up to date and improve performance. These upgrades, regardless of what type, are done under an FAA-approved Supplemental Type Certificate (STC). The STC holder provides the proper engineering, testing, and other pertinent data to the FAA for approval of whatever is being changed. This approval allows the STC holder to provide the updated product to the owners of older Cessna.


George Mandes and Charlene “Charlie” Martin own an older U206. They are working on refurbishing their Cessna with modern upgrades. Their process involves several STC installations, including a Davis Aviation IO-550 upgrade and a Hartzell 80-inch Top Prop. Bill Baechler, their chief mechanic, also added Wip-Tips (the tips with the recognition light openings) on the wings. The tips are an STC installation from Wipaire and extend the wing 18 inches on each wing. The tips are used to decrease stall speed and increase lift, and they also have pulsing HID lights. Bill advised, “These mods, coupled with the 550 and the Aerocet 3500L floats, will make a wonderful float plane out of the old land lubber.” The plane was heading to the paint shop for the next update; I can’t wait to see the finished product.


There are STC upgrades of various types available for the new Cessna models, but they are nothing as elaborate as what has been approved for the older Cessnas. Give it time. As new products become available, the Cessna owners will want their 206 to be updated, or Cessna will incorporate these designs into its manufacturing process.


New or old, the Cessna 206 is loved by countless operators around the world. It is a true working plane that can adapt to almost any environment and purpose. And with so many upgrades available for it, its long, useful life will continue.


Happy flying!

From the August 2010 issue of Cessna Owner