Plane & Pilot
Monday, September 1, 2003

Project Bonanza Part II

The easy part was done. We had bought an airplane. Now we had to get busy with new avionics, paint and interior to create our vision of the perfect flying machine.

Not all was discarded from the Project Bonanza’s 1982 panel. We were able to retain the King HSI and attitude indicator, the original BF Goodrich Stormscope, and the dated, but superb, KFC-200 flight director/autopilot system, all now coupled to the UPSAT avionics. We found the quality unbelievable, truly transforming this Reagan-era Bonanza into a high-technology transport for the modern age.

UPSAT avionics and especially the MX20 provide tremendous navigational capability. And while they also enhance safety, we weren’t done with safety-related upgrades for the Project Bonanza.

Knowing that there are always other airplanes out there when we fly, we chose to add the Ryan International 9900BX Traffic Advisory System (TAS). The TAS actively “listens” for other airplanes’ transponder signals and displays aircraft location and altitude information on the MX20 MFD up to 20 miles away (“six minutes decision time at a closing speed of 400 knots”). The 9900BX is unique in that it not only visually displays traffic information, but also verbally warns of nearby airplanes, announcing, for example, “Traffic, six o’clock low, one mile”—exactly the way ATC warns pilots of potential conflicts. This encourages a visual traffic scan in busy airspace, instead of flying “head-down,” watching inside for what’s outside the airplane. The Ryan TAS also includes an integral altitude warning system to avoid deviations. The TAS will verbally advise “1,000 feet to go,” “500 feet to go” and “on altitude” when the pilot presets the alerter. On at least half of our flights, we realized what a vital piece of equipment our TAS is.

We mentioned replacing original, upholstered sun visors with tinted, see-through Rosen visors; adding a JPI EDM-800 Engine Analyzer; and replacing the Teledyne-Continental Motors TSIO-520-UB engine with an overhauled powerplant, including new or overhauled accessories, turbo GAMIjectors and an M-20 Turbo air-oil separator in previous discussions of Project Bonanza (“Project Bonanza, Part I,” August 2003 P&P and “Got Heat?”, November 2001 P&P). We replaced the windshield (“Kelly’s Installations,” July 2003 P&P), adding G&D Aero tinted window inserts. The fuel-injection system, oil cooler, landing-gear motor and all the turbocharger components were overhauled, the fuel cells in the right wing were replaced, and the propeller and prop governor were inspected. We’ve upgraded the original ignition system, including the harness, with components from Unison Industries. Consumables like tires and tubes have come and gone. Not as glamorous as new avionics or spectacular cosmetic upgrades, these seemingly mundane mechanical chores are what make our highly capable airplane safe and reliable for business and personal transportation. Safety upgrades are just as important when considering an airplane project.

Flying—And Arriving—In Style
What would the “best-looking Bonanza” be without a distinctive interior and paint scheme? We wanted to transform not only the way we fly and arrive, but also the style in which we do so.

Project Bonanza originally had a 1982-standard Beech paint scheme with a late disco-era orange shag carpet and cloth seats. That had to go, pronto. While still contemplating exactly what we wanted to do with the airplane, we saw a friend’s brand-new Baron 58. He had added several new interior features to his three-month-old Baron. We had to have at least the same interior or better. The quality of the leatherwork was what made us want it. Each window and seat had impressive “French stitching” and beautiful shaping with armrests that you’d expect to see only in a Gulfstream. The Baron owner enthusiastically directed us to the artisans who sculpted his masterpiece.

Aviation Design of Camarillo, Calif., was responsible for most of the artistry. Tim Hallock and company stripped the interior and built it back up using supple Perrone leather supplied by Hemisphere International. All door and wall panels received matching leather, accented with Mappa wood trim by Pfluger’s. The instrument panel, originally burled veneer, was recovered in the same lighter wood as the trim. A wool/silk-blended headliner completed the matching cabin. High Tech Finishing installed the brass fittings, and Aircraft Belt, Inc., provided new belts, buckles and harnesses. New carpet by Douglass Interior made the orange shag a thing of the past; the entire interior was installed over soundproofing products from Buckley Industries. The 1982 Project Bonanza’s interior now stands out even among the newest-production Beechcraft—and even a few jets.


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