The Cessna 400 is part of the Cessna 400 series, an honorable lineage of low-wing, high-performance single-engine aircraft that became iconic as Cessna’s foray into 21st-century plane design.
The origins of this aircraft can be traced back to the LC40-550FG – short for Lancair Certified Model 40 Continental 550 Engine Fixed Gear. Late into its development, this mouthful, certified in 1998, was marketed as the Columbia 300. Deliveries began in early 2000.
While the aircraft garnered plenty of attention, sales were not up to the standard expected by Columbia Aircraft. Due to the staunch competition provided by the new Cirrus Aircraft, equipped with their trademark ballistic parachute, Columbia felt they had to go the extra mile with their new design.
Built to be faster, fly higher, last longer, and cost less, the Columbia 400 came out of the assembly line as a winner across the board.
Despite the eventual acquisition and rebranding by Cessna, a series of circumstances external to the aircraft’s qualities prevented it from displacing the Cirrus SR22 and its turbocharged version, the SR22T, from the market. However, the now-known Cessna 400 built a legacy as a reliable, fast, and pleasant aircraft to own and fly in.
Cessna 400 / Specs
The Cessna 400 is a low-wing single-engine fixed-gear aircraft built by Columbia and Cessna between 2004 and 2013. Its composite construction is a significant departure from the traditional Cessna metallic structures that have been a company staple since the middle of the 20th century.
The aircraft seats four people, traditionally one pilot and three passengers. There is a baggage area rated for 120 lbs, with ample room in the tail boom for long items lighter than 20 lbs to avoid weight imbalance issues.
Central to the aircraft is the Continental TSIO-550-C engine with six cylinders in a horizontal configuration, capable of producing up to 310 hp at 2600 RPM. This powerplant is fitted with two turbochargers.
Cooling is provided by ram air, while fuel is fed to the engine via an injector. Continental recommends using 100LL avgas with the engine for better performance and longevity. The TSIO-550-C is capable of being operated lean of peak.
Fuel in the Cessna 400 is provided by two manually-selected wing tanks containing 102 gallons. The standard factory option includes electrical propeller deicing, but an additional leading-edge deicing kit is available for $27000.
Both aileron and elevator trimming are electrically actuated. At the same time, along the yaw axis, the Cessna 400 is fitted with a rudder hold system that allows the pilot to set it in a fixed position in lieu of trimming.
The Cessna 400 is fitted with a Garmin G1000 avionics suite. A micro pad located between the seats controls all functions on the displays. Early Columbia units were equipped with Avidyne avionics, but seeing the skyrocketing popularity of Garmin panels, Cessna decided to redesign the panel on the 400 to fit one of their suites.
The maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) for the Cessna 400 is 3600 lbs, with a maximum landing weight of 3420 lbs. When flying with full fuel tanks, the aircraft’s useful payload (crew and baggage) is 413 lbs.
The Cessna 400 has a Part 23 certificate under the FAA, obtained in 2004 with the official designation of LC41-550FG (Lancair Certified Model 41 Continental 550 Engine Fixed Gear).
European certification took another five years, eventually completed in February 2009 with the EASA. The aircraft is filed into the Utility Category, where it is among the leaders as far as G-limit goes: the Cessna 400 is rated for 4.4G as opposed to the 3.8G of the Cessna 182 and Cirrus SR22.
The attention to detail by Columbia during the drawing process of the Cessna 400 has made this aircraft a favorite among owners and pilots.
In case of emergency, the canopy can be jettisoned from the outside similarly to fighters equipped with ejection seats; the canopy seal is pressurized, there is a vapor suppression system in the fuel system, the electric system is redundant, and there is a built-in oxygen generation system to match its high altitude performance. Ken Armstrong of Wings Magazine described the Cessna 400 as ‘a mini airliner’.
Cessna 400 / Model Prices
The Cessna 400 was not built to be an entry-level aircraft, but despite that, its factory pricing was explicitly aimed at providing an affordable high-performance ride for pilots after a hot rod or preparing to jump to turbine-equipped aircraft.
Depending on the equipment options described below in the modifications section, prices for a new Cessna 400 ranged from $466000 to $620000. To contextualize the Cessna 400 in the market, its closest competitor, the Cirrus SR22T, costs $859800 – a significant jump for a relatively meager increase in capability.
Cessna 400 / Performance and Handling
At sea level, the Cessna 400 cruises at 182 KTAS. Thanks to its turbocharged engine, the aircraft can achieve 235 KTAS at its service ceiling of 25000 ft with the same fuel burn.
Due to its high wing loading at 25.5 lbs/sq ft, the Cessna 400 weathers turbulence better than most aircraft in its class. At economic cruise power settings and with a full load of fuel, the Cessna 400 can exceed 1000 nautical miles.
Taxiing is done with the help of differential braking due to the lack of a steerable nosewheel. Ground handling is responsive and easy to get used to for pilots new to the aircraft.
The pilot operating handbook (POH) recommends a climb speed of 125 KIAS, which yields a vertical speed of 1100 feet per minute (FPM) and a fuel flow of 37 gallons per hour (gph). The engine can output full power up to FL180 and provides 85% of its power rating at the Cessna 400’s ceiling of FL250 in ISA conditions.
Despite being smaller and lighter than most classic Cessna models, the 400 still has the familiar steady and heavy controls as it builds up speed. Fingertip flying is possible across most of the envelope, but large control inputs at or above 145 knots indicated require more deliberate force.
The optional speed brakes make descents a pleasant affair without significantly degrading the aircraft’s stall speed, meaning forgetting them deployed is not as critical as it can be on certain aircraft.
Cessna 400 / Model Maintenance Schedule
The maximum certified airframe life for the Cessna 400 is of 25200 flight hours. Owners have reported that the TSIO-550-C on the aircraft and its derivatives drive the overhaul costs up due to the turbochargers.
Cessna 400 / Modifications and Upgrades
During its production run or as an aftermarket addition, Cessna 400 owners were offered the E-Vade ice protection system. Not certified for flight into known icing conditions, the E-Vade consists of graphite foil panels on the leading edges of the wing and tail. These panels are heated by a dedicated alternator, actuated via a single cockpit switch.
While installed in most aircraft to leave the production line, the Cessna 400’s speed brakes fitted on top of the wings were sold as options. Aftermarket kits are also available such as leading-edge tubulator tapes that improve slow-speed handling and stall behavior at the expense of climb speed.
Cessna 400 / Where to Find Replacement Parts
Parts for the Cessna 400 and derivatives are relatively easy to come by, thanks to the widespread network of shops working with Cessna aircraft.
Cessna 400 / Model Common Problems
Some owners have found the rudder stop on the Cessna 400 to be cumbersome and occasionally problematic. The system is prone to breaking, and many pilots have recommended it be replaced with a yaw damper. Alas, production of the Cessna 400’s successor, the TTx, finished before this feedback could ever be implemented.
Both radio antennas are located on the bottom of the aircraft. While the secondary radio gets good reception overall, the primary radio’s transmission quality is often degraded due to interference from both the landing gear and cockpit steps.
Some owners of composite build Cessna aircraft have complained of difficulty in finding technicians sufficiently experienced in working with composite materials, as most personnel in shops only have sufficient first-hand time on aircraft with metallic construction.
Cessna 400 / Insurance Options
Annual insurance for an experienced Cessna 400 pilot with an IFR rating will likely cost between $3000 and $5000, according to owners. Rates will be significantly higher for a student pilot.
Cessna 400 / Model Resale Value
The average resale price for a standard Cessna 400 is $315000. As was the case with newer aircraft, this is lower than the prices for both the Cirrus SR22 and SR22T. The meager sales by Cessna make the 400 and its relatives rarer to come around in the market, which can raise prices depending on how set a buyer is on a specific model.
Cessna 400 / Owner Reviews
While the Cessna 400 and the Cirrus SR22 compete in the market, most pilots who have experienced both find them to be quite different experiences in practice.
The Cessna 400 is praised for its innovative stick ergonomics, trademark Cessna-friendly handling, and straightforward cockpit workflows that make flying it a breeze.
With its maneuvering speed of 158 KIAS, the aircraft is happy to be thrown around despite still being nothing close to an aerobatic build. The roomy cabin is also a welcome feature for tall pilots who have felt a little vertically challenged in other general aviation aircraft.
The lack of airbags and ballistic parachute system is high on the complaints list from a few owners, though others argue that the Cessna 400 is so stable and safe that it can do without the weight of the Cirrus trademark chute.
The screens on the Cessna 400 are also smaller than the SR22’s, which is not a major drawback for some but is noticeable enough for many pilots to bring up when reviewing the aircraft.
Cessna 400 / Similar Aircraft
From its Columbia days, the main competitor to the Cessna 400 has been the Cirrus SR22. During the first years of the 21st century, Columbia’s offering was unbeaten. The baseline SR22 was much more expensive while falling far behind in terms of performance due to its aspirated Continental IO-550-N, which was no match for the twin-turbocharged unit on the Columbia 400.
The Cirrus still held out an advantage as far as avionics went, and many pilots, particularly new ones, enjoyed the safety brought about by the ballistic parachute exclusive to the SR22.
While SR22 sales continued to eclipse those of the Columbia 400, Cirrus took note of the threat posed by its competitor and made a major adjustment to its bestselling design.
The Continental IO-550-N was replaced by the turbocharged TIOS-550-K by the same company, a direct derivative of the TIOS-550-C powering the Cessna 400. The performance changes brought about by this change practically turned the SR22 into a new aircraft altogether.
The new variant, baptized SR22T, bridged the significant performance gap between the Cirrus and the Cessna 400. The improved SR22T could fly up to 25000 feet and reach speeds of 219 knots.
Despite both bringing valuable offerings to the market, the battle for customers was clearly won by Cirrus. Between 2001 and 2019, a total of 6149 SR22 units of all variants were delivered to clients, compared to around 300 for all Cessna 400 and derivatives.
Cessna 400 / Clubs You Can Join
As a Cessna 400 owner, you are spoiled for choice as far as clubs go. Cessna pilots and owners have built arguably the largest general aviation clubs in the world – the Cessna Flyer Association and the Cessna Owner Association.
These groups are a bottomless pit of expertise and offer some of the best networking opportunities for both current and prospective Cessna owners.
Enthusiasts of more niche company products correctly note that these two groups are generally better suited for the ‘classic’ Cessnas – your traditional four-seat high-wing docile aircraft that fill up ramps across the world. For the modern composite-structure hot rod owners, the largest dedicated club is the Cessna Advanced Aircraft Club, commonly known as CAAC.
The Cessna Advanced Aircraft Club was founded in 2002 before the Cessna 400 was even a Cessna. It was created as a hub for all things surrounding the low-wing composite Columbia 300, 350, and 400.
Longstanding members praise the club for its accessible technical database, where almost all problems and solutions associated with the Cessna 400 and its relatives have been answered.
Perhaps unusually for a type of club, CAAC extends its membership beyond owners to operators, instructors, and mechanics, with the aim of gathering as many different perspectives about the former Columbia series as possible.
Beyond knowledge sharing, the Cessna Advanced Aircraft Club also offers a dedicated training program called Cessna Advanced Aircraft Recurrent Training (CAART).
This program draws on a pool of experienced instructors familiar with the aircraft, including members of Columbia Aircraft’s original group of instructors. Typically this training event is held yearly at two different locations, with two and a half days of class and flight time. Beyond the training experience, it is also an excellent opportunity to meet up and exchange ideas with fellow Cessna 400 owners.
Question: How Much Does a Cessna 400 Cost?
Answer: The factory sold new Cessna 400 units from $466,000 to $620,000, while the current resale value averages $315,000.
Question: Why Did the Cessna 400 Fail?
Answer: The commercial failure of the Cessna 400 is generally attributed to marketing issues.
Cessna’s traditional audience was not clamoring for such a high-performance modern aircraft, the company rebranded the aircraft multiple times which made building a brand identity difficult, and a quality control incident early on during acceptance tests tarnished the Cessna 400’s name before it even had a chance to hit the market.
Question: How Far Can a Cessna 400 Fly?
Answer: In economic cruise settings, the Cessna 400 can exceed 1000 nautical miles plus reserves.
Question: How Many Seats Does a Cessna 400 Have?
Answer: The Cessna 400 can fly up to four people at once, one pilot plus three passengers.
Question: Is the Cessna 400 Pressurized?
Answer: No, the Cessna 400 is not pressurized, but it comes with a built-in oxygen supply for high altitude trips.
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