As Walt has described (“WaltÂ—latest dispatches” and “Visit to the Wizard”) I recently had the opportunity to fly with him to Kansas in his sr20 to pick up my new bird, a Peterson 260se/stol Cessna 182 conversion. He let me fly the outbound leg, about 11 hours of flight time plus some extra on the ground, and five landings. After Walt departed I remained in KS an additional day for some extra avionics & flight checkout time.
I certainly concur with WaltÂ’s description of the sr20Â’s performance and handling in our flight conditions, which were indeed high/hot/heavy: density altitudes were regularly at least 2000 feet higher than indicated altitude during mid-day & afternoon. WaltÂ’s sr20 is great to fly: comfortable, nice handling, and superb visibility. Among the aircraft IÂ’ve flown previously, the Grumman Tiger is most similar in overall ground and in-flight handling characteristics, although the sr20 is more firm on the controlsÂ—not heavy, just “firm.” Tiger drivers whether they know it or not are enjoying a “near-sr20 experience” and the transition into the latter should be nearly seamless. In particular the Tiger is a sweetie to land, and I found the sr20 to be likewise.
My wife & I were flying club members and had grown progressively tired of shoddy paint and interiors, old avionics with unpredictable suitability for IFR flight, and we had even experienced an engine failure in a club 172. I did not feel comfortable still flying rentals while waiting out the projected delivery time for the sr20. Like me (#249), many of you have 1-2+ year waits for your sr20s, so IÂ’m going to tell you a bit about the 260se/stol which we bought. The plane and its performance are described at
A couple hundred of them have been produced since 1986 by Todd & Jo Peterson, now at El Dorado Kansas (EQA). They do the airframe modifications and engine installation with their own hands, and contract out paint/interior, and propeller & instrument overhauls. I had my eye on the 260se for more than four years, even longer than the sr20. In my opinion, these two craft are the standout values among piston single-engine planes today in safety, performance, and comfort.
Concerning performance, the 260se is a Great Leap Forward of the 182 in all aspects. The 260 hp engine, drag reduction hardware, and high lift canard combine to give an airplane which will takeoff and land in <500 feet, climbs at nearly 1400 fpm, cruises at 150+ KTAS, stalls at 35 (final approach speed 55 knots), and will motor around all day at 55 knots in a level attitude. Steep turns–trimmed, hands-off–are no problem at 50-55 knots. My airplane indeed does all of this. Also notable is its improved handling: lighter on the controls than a stock 182, especially in pitch: about like a 172RG.
As one who has flown both, how would I compare the 260se to the sr20?
Weight & balance: the 260seÂ’s MGTOW is 2950 lb, which with 74 gal useable fuel leaves about 670 lb payload for people and bags. Later models of the 182 were certified for 3100 lb takeoff, so if one were inclined to cheat on departure one could load up to 820 lb in the cabin. I calculated several weight and balance scenarios and could not come up with any plausible loading that was less than an inch inside the aft limit. Just myself and a 250-lb passenger in front probes the forward limit, but the canard provides enhanced pitch authority in any case.
Takeoff/climb: Rotate at 35-40 KIAS and youÂ’re off and climbing in a surprisingly level attitude! 55 KIAS arrives in a wink and you can do any steep turn you want, the main concern being whether youÂ’ll scrape a wingtip! I flew the 260se home in high/hot conditions, and used higher than optimal climb airspeeds to baby the new engine during break-in. Nonetheless we saw 500+ fpm at 9-10000 feet density altitudes with no cooling issues at all (as monitored by a 6-point JPI)Â—everything solidly in the green. I think that engine cooling in high/hot/heavy conditions is still unfinished business in the sr20 design. We departed Winslow AZ (4900 feet, 95 F OAT: almost 7800 feet DA) on a 0.8% upsloping runway, calm wind, and were still off and climbing in less than 2000 feet.
Cruise: advertised at 153 KTAS @75%; the Petersons note that this depends on how “straight” the original airframe was built at the factory. Late Â‘60s and early Â‘70s 182 airframes (182L-N) tend to be faster. Mine was a 182P. In one straight line test, 3500 feet, 35 C/95 F OAT, 24"/2450 rpm (~73% power) I saw 140 KIAS which is 153 KTAS.
Door-to-door trip time: Walt and I will do some comparisons, but the cruise speeds are within 7 knots and the 260se has a 40-45 % better climb rate, with an even better margin if the sr20 has to level off for cooling. I figure that for any trip out to 2-2.5 hr the 260se may win; beyond that the sr20 may pull ahead.
Fuel burn: proportional to horsepower, about 33% more than the sr20. I run it a little rich during the break-in to keep the CHTs below 400 degrees. Both the sr20 and the 260se are 4 hr plus 1 hr reserve airplanes, so range is comparable. Fuel is the cheapest thing you can feed your engine to keep it healthy, anyway. And personally IÂ’m always happy to do my part to enhance the priority of alternative fuels research!
Landing: real STOL/spot landings in this plane will take practice, but approaches at 55 KIAS with just a touch of power are already no problem. Restore power to just 15"-17", and youÂ’re flying level or even climbing! With a bit more power, 50 or in a pinch 45 can be done, keeping an eye on the sink rate. A full-stall landing touches down at 35; with any headwind your speed is little more than a trot. I expect very long brake & tire life! The sr20 is great to land but does come in comparatively hot (~75 KIAS), and even after the nosewheel lowers to the ground youÂ’re still doing 50 kt or so. Safety: the two designs take different but in my view equally compelling approaches. In any scenario except one where the sr20Â’s parachute would be used, the 260se may have an edge. It is very maneuverable at slow speeds; in a forced landing the 260se must dissipate only 50-55% of the kinetic energy of the sr20 and can use a smaller landing area. Its fuel is 6 feet off the ground, not 2 feet. Of course this is a subjective issue with too many factors to weigh! Avionics: I elected to upgrade the avionics and install a metal panel with internally lit instruments. I have a GNS430 interfaced to my Garmin 195 which rides on the yoke. The 430 provides "Direct To," flight plan, and even approach information to the 195! I use the 195 like the sr20Â’s ARNAV: to display flight data and as a supplemental map. In addition, I have a KX155 with glide slope, a DME, and a 300A autopilot. Overall, similar to an sr20 "A" configuration. At least in California weather itÂ’s all the IFR capability IÂ’ll ever need. Comfort: the 260seÂ’s leather seats are a vast improvement over original Cessna. Subjectively I would judge that sr20 to be better in the front, while the 260se has more room in the rear. Visibility: no contest, the sr20 has the best visibility of any plane IÂ’ve flown. I am so far extremely happy with the 260se. I had my first oil change and opted for a 50-hr inspection (at 20 hr) done at Victor Aviation at PAO and they remarked that the quality of the installation was "excellent." The only fly in the ointment was that its engine was ensnared by the most recent (May 25) edition of the Continental crankshaft AD. So itÂ’s now at SJC having a piece of its nose snipped and sent for analysis. If that bullet can be dodged IÂ’ll be back flying in a week, otherwise itÂ’s 3-4 weeks as a participant in the Continental Disposable Engine Program. Fingers are crossedÂ…IÂ’m happy to answer any queries about the plane, but youÂ’ll also find that the Petersons are very accomodating, informative, and helpful.