Used Aircraft Guide

December 2008 Issue

Used Aircraft Guide: Columbia 300/350

Better performance than a SR22 and now supported by Cessna. But pay attention to weight and balance.

Sizzle sells. If that sizzle is an all-composite fixed-gear single with a modern panel that’s faster than most retractables, it sells well. Just ask Cirrus. That sizzle is the premise behind the Columbia (neé Lancair) 300/350, normally aspirated versions of the company’s subsequent flagship, the turbocharged Columbia 400. The 300/350’s slippery airframe and the large-displacement Continental up front combined for 185 KTAS at 10,500 feet MSL when we first flew an early 300 10 years ago. A lot has happened since then. Speed was important when the Lancair/Columbia first hit the market, but the airplane’s greatest initial appeal probably had more to do with not being made of metal or wearing a Beechcraft, Cessna, Mooney or Piper label. It was one of the new-generation singles, spawned by NASA’s AGATE (advanced general aviation transport experiments) program and promised growing small aircraft use in inter-city transportation. The concept also brought forth the Cirrus SR20 and SR22, which proved more popular. The good news is a 300 or 350 will still outrun an SR22 by 10 knots or so, and they’re still rare enough to attract a crowd on many ramps. The bad news is—although both the Columbia 300 and SR22 have identical empty and maximum gross takeoff weights, according to the Aircraft Bluebook Price Digest—the 300 gives up 150 pounds in full-fuel payload to the SR22, because its tanks are larger. It’s a little more sensitive in loading, too, and lacks the Cirrus’ airframe parachute system. More on weight and balance issues in a moment. And, of course, Columbia is no more, having been acquired by Cessna during Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

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