Cessna 310 Guide and Specs

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Introduction

When the Cessna 310 was first introduced in 1954, the aviation industry was immersed in the aftermath of two major wars. The dawn of the jet age, fully realized during the Korean War, had signaled a major shift in the American military’s design requirements and procurement decisions.

While propeller-driven aircraft were the primary victims of this paradigm shift, they found a second life in the civilian market.

Sturdy, low-hour airframes that had enjoyed their heyday during the Second World War and over the Korean peninsula had been struck from the military inventory, and many buyers were quick to snap them up on auctions for prices much below their valuation.

For conversions, a favorite among them were small transport, bomber, and liaison aircraft, as they filled a niche no private company had fully established themselves in since 1945: cross-country capable aircraft with good payload, speed, and IFR equipment.

These characteristics were a perfect match for business fliers, who needed to be across the country on short notice to do their thing.

Seeing a gap in the market wide open, Cessna Aircraft Company, at the time led by Dwane L. Wallace, made its move with the Cessna 310. Advertised as ’at least five years ahead’ of its competitors, the headline of the Flying magazine article about its introduction was “Business Asked For It.”

The aircraft was framed as a purpose-built tool for businessmen to grow and as a long-term alternative to the surplus conversions that had flooded the niche until then.

The main purpose-built competitors at the time were the 1953 Piper PA-23 Apache, which was chronically underpowered, and Beechcraft’s Twin Bonanza, introduced in 1951 but relatively unsuccessful in the market outside of military applications, which led to it being pulled from the market shortly after.

The company’s bet paid off: between 1954 and 1980, a total of 5449 Cessna 310 units were delivered to customers, including militaries at home and around the world.

Ironically, the aircraft’s success in the business niche was rather short: around a decade after its introduction, the shadow of the jet age came after the Cessna 310 in its own home, in the shape of the iconic Learjet and Cessna’s own Citation series. This disruption was not the end of the Model 310, however.

Produced until 1980 and still extremely popular today, the features that made it a great business aircraft in 1954 also upheld it in the leisure side of general aviation.

This speedster’s reputation is well-deserved, and it is likely to linger for many more years as older, low-hour Cessna 310s are finding their way back to the skies after restoration projects.

Cessna 310 / Specs

Cessna 310

The Cessna 310 saw plenty of experimentation in its design. The twin-engine aircraft was fitted with engine exhaust thrust augmenter tubes, and on top of using its now-characteristic tip tanks, the early models stored all fuel in them. Power is provided by the Continental O-470 family of engines for most models, though not exclusively.

The cabin on the Cessna 310 traditionally seats four passengers plus one pilot, however starting with the Model 310G, a factory option for six passengers was added.

For the baseline model, the aircraft has a length of 27 ft, with a wingspan of 35 ft and a height of 10 ft 6 in with the landing gear extended. The wing area is of 175 sq ft. Empty weight is of 2850 lbs, while gross weight sits at 4600 lbs.

Payloads were a strong selling point of the Cessna 310, with a useful load of 2000 lbs or above depending on the model and fuel quantity. The wingtip fuel tanks on the original Cessna 310 carried a total of 100 gallons of fuel. The first engines fitted were a pair of Continental O-470-B carbureted engines outputting 240 hp each.

The Cessna 310 grew up quickly. In 1959, shortly after the type’s introduction to the market in 1954, Cessna began offering the Model 310C equipped with the uprated IO-470-D engines, featuring fuel injection and with an output of 260 hp.

A year later, this family underwent a modification common to almost all Cessna piston-powered aircraft at the time: the blocky, straight-ended vertical stabilizer and rudder were swapped for the now-iconic swept version with the Cessna 310D. An additional cabin window was introduced with the Model 310F.

Starting in 1961, the Model 310G replaced the original fuel tank design with the canted ones branded “stabila-tip” by Cessna, designed with the goal of improving stability.

The twin rearview windows were removed from the 1965 Cessna 310K onwards in favor of a large single one to improve visibility. Additionally, the company began offering three-blade propellers as a factory option.

The Model 310Q and its turbocharged version, the T310Q, redesigned the cabin’s rear to include a new window design. The last development in the Cessna 310 family came in the shape of the Model 310R and T310R, which added a baggage compartment to the lengthened nose section.

This variant also swapped the engine’s family from the O-470 to the fuel injected version of the Continental O-520 line, producing 285 hp each. Production ran from 1954 to 1980, with a total of 5449 Model 310 units produced, plus 577 of the Cessna 320.

Beyond the initial production models, fuel was distributed between the two main tip tanks, two optional auxiliary ones, and another optional pair in the wing lockers. These are managed via a fuel flow selector with main, auxiliary, and crossfeed positions. The tip tanks are made from aluminum and contain two pumps, auxiliary and transfer.

The auxiliary tanks, in turn, are fuel bladders placed between the wing spars and the outboard part. The locker tanks are placed in the wing baggage area at a capacity penalty.

Cessna 310 pilots have instruments displaying fuel flow, quantity, and low-level light. Depending on the option fitted, this could expand the aircraft’s capacity from 102 gallons up to 207 in total.

Cessna 310 / Model Prices

Cessna 310

During its early years, the Model 310 was sold for $59400. This was considered a middle-ground price at the time, but certainly, a jump from the Piper Apache sold for $40000. By the time the last Cessna 310, a Model T310R, left the production line, it had a base price of $259915. Non-turbocharged models were on offer for around $200000.

Whether the difference is worth it depends on the desired operational profile, which stands true today where the difference in used prices has kept the same proportions.

Cessna 310 / Performance and Handling

The Cessna 310 went through gradual changes in performance throughout its evolutions, but the difference between the early and later versions is stark in terms of payload.

The 1960 Model 310D had a useful load of 1750 lbs, compared to the 2153 lbs achievable in the 1978 Cessna 310R. Baggage capacity grew according to the aircraft’s capabilities, going from 200 lbs to 600 lbs.

Cruise speeds remained around 182 KIAS, while the maximum structural speed was gently bumped from 215 KIAS to 223 KIAS in late models. The increase in weight came with a penalty in stall speeds: when clean, these went from 73 KIAS on the Cessna 310D to 79 KIAS on the Cessna 310R, while in landing configuration, they went from 64 KIAS to 72 KIAS.

Climb rates were also slightly affected: earlier models met their best climb at 1800 fpm, which went down to 1650 fpm by the time production ended. The aircraft’s service ceiling remained the same: 20000 ft for standard models and 25000 ft for units fitted with turbocharged versions of the O-470 or O-520 engines.

Handling on the Cessna 310 is in line with expectations for most Cessna aircraft – pleasant, predictable handling, with certain aspects scaled up in line with the series’ larger dimensions compared to the Model 152 or 172 many learned to fly on. Pitch response is heavier, with light roll controls and good longitudinal stability.

The aircraft is certified in the normal category, which means intentional spins and aerobatics are not permitted. Stalls on the Cessna 310 are not described as particularly nasty but are still not quite as gentle as on Cessna’s high-wing singles.

The aircraft tends to drop a wing quickly; an undesirable trait made even more so due to the tendency in most twins to roll hard into the dead engine in case of failure at low speeds.

Certain traits on the Model 310 can catch an inexperienced pilot off-guard in case of single engine failure during take-off or landing. The landing gear retraction mechanism is electrically actuated, with no pneumatic or hydraulic aids, which increases travel time and thus keeps the airframe draggier for longer while the pilot handles the emergency.

The weight of the fuel concentrated on the tip tanks adds a significant roll tendency, which can be exacerbated into pilot-induced oscillations if one does not take it easy on the ailerons. This can be avoided by minimizing aileron inputs and balancing the aircraft with rudder.

Still, for a twin-engine aircraft, the Cessna 310 performs reasonably with only one running. At maximum gross weight, earlier variants could still climb at 415 fpm. Weight gain from upgrades brought this down to 390 fpm at sea level by the time production ended.

The single-engine ceiling, however, grew considerably in the turbocharged versions. A Model 310B tops off at 7700 ft, whereas a Model T310R can reach a whopping 17200 ft with an engine feathered.

The cockpit features an elevator trim indication with a mark noting the take-off setting, and for a good reason. This position is set for what Cessna believed to be the most common weight settings for normal operations, and thus most take-offs will be made with trim set slightly ahead or behind it but never too far from it.

The aircraft is rather nose heavy on the take-off roll if the trim is left on neutral and risks pitching up into a stall if set too far aft.

In the pattern, landing flaps deployment leads to a noticeable pitch-up moment, but this can be offset by commanding gear extension at the same time as the pitch changes will cancel themselves out.

Flap deployment speeds were gradually raised, starting at 140 knots until the Model 310K increased it to 155, while the 310R could drop them at 160 knots.

Short field performance is great given the aircraft’s size and weight. The manual states a Cessna 310R requires 1790 ft to land with a 50 ft obstacle clearance, while take-off in similar conditions takes 1700 ft. For comparison, a Beech Model 58 Baron needs 2498 ft to make the same landing and 2100 ft for the take-off.

Cessna 310 / Model Maintenance

Cessna 310

The Cessna 310 is not known to be a maintenance hog by most standards. In an interview with Cessna Flyer, pilot Gale Cawley of USAF, Indiana ANG, and American Airlines experience described his scheduled annual maintenance costs at around $3600 during his 15-year ownership period.

The caveat is that this figure came about after extensive work to restore the aircraft after some years of abandon prior to Cawley’s ownership. The time between overhaul for the Continental OI-520 engines fitted on the Cessna 310R is of 1400 hours.

Cessa 310 / Modifications and Upgrades

Due to its popularity and longevity, many modifications and upgrade kits were designed around the Cessna 310 family. Among the more noteworthy ones are the Riley Rocket 310 and Riley Turbostream 310, by aeronautical engineer Jack Riley.

This involved replacing the Continental IO-470 engines with the turbocharged intercooled Lycoming TIO-540, with an output of 350 hp. Hartzell three-blade propellers are installed in a counter-rotating configuration to cancel out the torque, improve single-engine safety, and allow for the best performance out of the engines.

The effects on performance are noticeable: the aircraft’s power ratio rose to 7.71 lb/hp, with a cruising speed of 260 knots at 18500 ft, and a rate of climb of 3000 fpm (feet per minute).

The Hartzell three-blade propellers have also been commonly installed in regular Cessna 310 units without further engine modifications.

These brought marginal gains in cruise and top speed but became extremely popular due to the advantages incurred during take-offs and climbs. A welcome side-effect of their installation is that they are quieter than the original two-blade units installed.

To improve low-speed handling and stall behavior, the company MicroAero offers vortex generators that are attached to the wings and vertical stabilizers.

These devices help by making the airflow more turbulent at high angles of attack, which in turn makes it ‘stick’ better to the lift and control surfaces. The result is that, at low speeds, a Cessna 310 equipped with them has a more gradual, smooth transition into a stall instead of snapping into it.

During the more critical phases of flight like take-offs and landings, these make for a much safer ride for the pilot, particularly in emergencies like a single-engine failure.

Cleveland offers brake sets that can be retrofitted in lieu of the original Goodyear ones, which are more expensive to maintain on the long run.

Cessna 310 / Where to Find Replacement Parts

As with most companies’ products, sourcing spare parts for the Cessna 310 is a relatively painless affair. Most shops either stock or can order whatever you require to keep it running within short notice.

Costs have been going up, but that speaks more of trends in general aviation economics. Much like the parts supply, finding technicians with experience in this aircraft is very common thanks to the sheer number of units delivered and still airworthy.

Cessna 310 / Model Common Problems

Cessna 310

Early production models up to 1964 are known to have a noisier cabin than other units. This is primarily because of the exhaust thrust augmenter tubes’ positioning. Starting on with the Cessna 310I, these were replaced by conventional exhaust plumbing.

The original tubes were designed to bring cool air through the cowling to improve cooling at high power settings, but the engine exhaust gases brought about corrosion on the rear wing spars over time. As with most structural work, this is a very costly problem to address, but the alternative is retiring the aircraft.

Some Cessna 310 owners have reported problems with the chrome cylinders originally provided by Continental on the O-470 family of engines. For those who experienced them, whether the problems have been rectified or not seems to depend on the shops responsible for scheduled maintenance.

Many operators have reported the problems to be gone after overhauls while keeping the chrome cylinders, while others found solutions by installing steel cylinders during teardown work.

The avionics suite fitted on most Cessna 310s has been found to be on the lacking side by modern standards. In line with many 1950s Cessna products, the cockpits were not originally arranged in the now-classic “basic-T” configuration, which can be ergonomically challenging for pilots used to it.

Radio navigation initially included LORAN gear, but the network’s demise with the emergence of satellite navigation systems has made it little more than ballast for most pilots.

Plenty of Model 310 units in the market have undergone a much-needed avionics rework over the years, but it is still possible to run into original spec aircraft, which means a somewhat steep price to bring them to modern standards.

The speed vane housing the Hobbs meter on the bottom of the right wing is a small tab that is compressed by airflow, but due to its diminutive size and sleek profile, and many owners have accidentally snagged it into inoperability. When it happens, this is a relatively simple fix but requires some attention during pre-flight inspections.

In practical terms, the wingtip tanks cannot be used to their full volume: topping them up until the caps lead to fuel being vented out during take-off due to the pressure in the tanks.

The auxiliary tanks, in turn, could cause engine sputtering and occasional shutdowns if one is not careful: during turbulence, the Cessna 310’s tendency to yaw leads the fuel away from the intake. This can be managed by either stabilizing the aircraft with rudder inputs or temporarily switching to the main (wingtip) tanks.

The landing gear system has been said to be the most common source of trouble for Cessna 310 operators. An AOPA analysis of 225 service difficulty reports (SDRs) from a sample of 150 units from different Model 310 families showed that 40 of these were related to the landing gear.

These consisted of damage to mounts, supporting structures, actuators, and doors, several of which led to partial or full landing gear failure.

A proper check during the pre-buy is sufficient for prospective buyers to avoid surprises, while current owners should keep close attention during inspections and do preventive work whenever issues are found.

As far as pre-flights go, the main gear item to keep an eye out for is a bottomed-out nose gear strut: while it will retract normally, it then ends up jammed in the gear well and is unable to be extended from the cockpit.

Cessna 310 / Insurance Options

Cessna 310

According to aviation insurance brokers BWI FLY, annual insurance costs for a standard Cessna 310 model total between $3456 and $5270, assuming a pilot with a PPL, 1500 hours of which 500 are in multi-engine aircraft, and 50 in the Model 310 family.

This includes both liability and hull coverage. For pilots who do not meet this experience threshold, the number goes up from $4980 to $7400.

Cessna 310 / Model Resale Value

The resale value of Cessna 310 varies wildly based on the age of the aircraft, its physical state, adherence to maintenance schedules, and a lesser extent, the modifications installed by the parting owner. Still, it can be said that the type is one of the most affordable twin-engine aircraft in the market as far as entry costs go.

Prices have a very smooth increase between variants, starting at a mere $30000 for early aircraft and going up to $148000 for a turbocharged Cessna T310R, according to the 2019 issue of the Aircraft Bluebook.

While these prices are only listed ones and can be negotiated down, there are also aircraft that exceed the bracket considerably, but not without good reason. For example, a Cessna 310R with low-time engines, a Garmin cockpit, fresh paint, and a well-preserved interior can easily break the $200000 mark in asking price.

Cessna 310 / Owner Reviews

While Cessna president Dwane Wallace built an aircraft for the business flier, the actual demographic taking the Model 310 to the skies today has changed a lot since then. This aircraft is not immune to the relatively high operational costs inherent to twin-engine aircraft and is combined with the advanced age of most units.

This has kept prices down over time. This opened a niche for the Cessna 310 as an ideal ride for a cross-country lover on a tight acquisition budget.

With the right operator profile, its ability to fly long distances while making good times in the process offset the relatively high ownership costs and given that acquisition is a lot more friendly than just about any twin-engine competitor with similar performance, the Cessna 310 has a share of the market resembling its hegemony in the business niche back in 1954.

The Cessna 310 is known for its speed, but owners use this ability sparingly due to the high fuel consumption required. When cruising around 170 KTAS, it is possible to attain a fuel burn of 25 gph, which works out to around four hours in the air plus reserves.

Cessna 310 / Similar Aircraft

Piper Apache

The competition for the Cessna 310 has changed from its introduction. Initially, the two major civilian twin-engine general aviation offers on the market were the Beechcraft Twin Bonanza and the Piper Apache.

The Apache was a commercial success as a trainer thanks to its docile handling and forgiving flight characteristics, but in the niche of business aviation, its engines stopped it from ever truly competing – with only 150 hp per engine, the aircraft’s top speed was a measly 157 knots, and its range was capped at 603 nautical miles.

The shortcomings of the Apache were partially addressed with the Aztec series, but in 1963 it passed the torch onto the more powerful and maneuverable Twin Comanche. Still, the target audience had not changed, and thus it never quite managed to rival the Cessna 310 at home turf.

The more limited performance of Piper’s offerings reflected positively on the price, however: the Apache and Twin Comanche were cheaper to both buy and operate, which made it more attractive than the Cessna for many pilots who did not necessarily need all the speed and range provided by the Model 310.

The Twin Bonanza, in turn, had a rather short life in the market and lingered on primarily as a military trainer, but its performance and high operational costs made it unable to compete with the Cessna 310.

It is broadly accepted that the true competition to the Cessna 310 came in 1970 when Beechcraft introduced their new twin-engine six-seater in the shape of the Beech 58 Baron. This model drew upon the established 55 Baron and added a stretched fuselage, paired with the same O-470 family that powered the Cessna 310.

Climb, speed, and range performance on the 58 Baron was on par with the 310s. Two major downsides of the Beechcraft offering were the narrow cabin, a holdover from the much smaller Beech 36 Bonanza, and the considerably higher price: in 1980, the base price for the Cessna 310R was $200000, compared to $300000 for a standard-fit Baron.

Cessna 310 / Clubs You Can Join

Piper Apache

Cessna flyers are part of the largest general aviation family in the world and have access to massive clubs as a result. The two largest clubs that cater for just about all Cessna models are the Cessna Owner Association and the Cessna Flyer Association.

Beyond the broader clubs, a popular option among Model 310 owners is The Twin Cessna Flyers. This group offers advice and knowledge sharing across all parts of the ownership process, from finding the right Cessna 310 to buy to maintenance or flying tips.

FAQ

Question: What Does a Cessna 310 Cost?

Answer: Today, a Cessna 310 typically costs anywhere between $30000 and $150000 depending on the aircraft’s age, state, and fit.

Question: Is the Cessna 310 a Good Airplane?

Answer: It is considered one of the best in the twin-engine general aviation category due to its good handling and performance.

Question: How Far Can a Cessna 310 Fly?

Answer: The nominal range for an early Cessna 310 is 870 nautical miles, but this can be significantly expanded with additional fuel tank options.

Question: How Much Fuel Does a Cessna 310 Burn Hourly?

Answer: With a cruise speed of 183 knots at 7500 ft, the Cessna 310 burns around 25 gph.

Question: Does a Cessna 310 Have Air Conditioning?

Answer: The Cessna 310 does have limited cabin heating, but some owners have opted for aftermarket air conditioning, such as the Cool Air freon air conditioner system.

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