Heart of a Racer: Cessna TTX
THE TTX MIGHT NOT POSSESS UNDERDOG APPEAL, BUT ITS PRECIPITOUS RISE IS A TESTAMENT TO ITS STRENGTH AS A SINGLE-ENGINE, FIXED-GEAR AIRCRAFT — THE FASTEST IN ITS CLASS.
Hollywood adores underdog stories. So don’t expect this tale of the Cessna® TTX™ to be made into a movie anytime soon. Still, when aviation giant Cessna bought Columbia Aircraft — deep in the throes of bankruptcy at the time — and its line of certificated aircraft made by renowned kitbuilder Lancair for around $26 million (a steal), it was already years behind jumpstart newcomer Cirrus and its fleet of single-engine, fixed-gear, piston-powered production airplanes. Traditionally, Cessna had been designing its airplanes in house. This was a big move, and a risky one. In poker parlance, it was as if Cessna had showed its hand before the flop.
However, instantly they had a piston-single hot rod that could directly compete with the Cirrus SR22T, and, to a lesser extent, the Mooney Acclaim S. All of a sudden, the favorite had a dog in the fight.
I’ll save you the labyrinthine details of the name changes the Columbia 350 and 400 went through to become the jazzy TTX, with the “TT” standing for “twin turbocharged.” Suffice to say they were plenty and varied. (One of them was the Oregon-inspired moniker, “Corvalis”— the state where the aircraft was first produced.) That adventure was short-lived, though. Following the economic downturn of 2008, Cessna was forced to close the Bend, Oregon plant and relocate manufacturing to Wichita, Kansas and then to Mexico. But Cessna would prevail, and its investment would pay off in the long run.
Which brings us to today, and the TTX. The fact that the SR22 has attracted a cult-like following over the years — and indeed deserves its acclaim — doesn’t diminish for one instant its sophistication and strength. This is a full-featured airplane: a very solid, all-composite construction reinforced with carbon-fiber strips that add strength to the entire wingspan. It’s an airplane that feels larger than it is — more Porsche Panamera than family sedan. But, really, if we’re comparing apples to oranges, the TTX is best described as the Porsche 918 Spyder of fixed-gear aircraft.
That’s for one reason above all: it has the heart of a racer. And that says nothing of the controls, which are a true sidestick, like the ones in an F-16 fighter that will have you feeling like a stand-in in Top Gun.
A favorite of the racing circuit — and guys with nicknames like Goose and Maverick — the Continental TSIO-550-C six-cylinder, fuel-injected, twin-turbocharged engine with dual intercoolers powers the TTX to a max cruise speed of 235 knots (435 km/h) and a range of 1,250 nautical miles (2,315 km) at economy cruise speeds. Cessna says it’s the world’s fastest production fixed-gear aircraft on the market today. And it is — by a solid clip.
“Time is valuable to our customers when it comes to meeting their business and lifestyle needs,” says Doug May, vice president of piston aircraft at Textron Aviation (Cessna’s parent company). “They are looking for an all-around performer, and the TTX is just that.”
If we’re indeed experiencing a shift from retractable to fixed-gear aircraft, TTX is among the planes taking technology and performance to the forefront. Roomy with seating for four, it’s also comfortable and technologically advanced with Garmin’s G2000 system, the most up-to-date flight deck in its category. Features include an available anti-ice system certified for Flight Into Known Icing (FIKI) protection, L-3 all-in-one standby instrument, traffic and terrain avoidance, ADS-B and sophisticated autoflight capability — namely the ESP (Electronic Stability and Protection) system, which automatically kicks in if the pilot becomes incapacitated, initiates a stall or otherwise loses control of the craft.
So who cares if Hollywood might never come calling. The TTX was born to play the hero in the story of your own choosing.