Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cougar Baron: Most Happy Baron

Rocket engineering offers the world’s most enthusiastic Baron

Externally, there doesn’t appear to be much difference between the two airplanes. As with most PT6A installations, the Pratts are installed backwards in the nacelles. This places the power section at the front of the nacelle, where it can drive the propeller directly, without the need of a long driveshaft. Intake air is admitted through an inlet at the bottom cowl, and the twin exhaust stacks are mounted high on the sides of each engine. Aside from the Pratts, the configuration of the Cougar remains identical to the original Beech model.

Turbine engines always are lighter than piston mills, and the Cougar picks up 150 pounds of useful load per side in the transition from Continental to Pratt & Whitney. On the downside, turbines burn more fuel, and the Cougar adds 36 gallons’ more jet fuel to capacity, bringing the total to 222 gallons (1,487 pounds). Despite the extra fuel, the bottom line is a slight gain in payload, an additional 59 pounds.

As you might imagine, the panel has undergone a major transformation with igniters, fuel pumps, starters and generators mounted by twos down the left side. Engine instruments are modified to turbine standards, but flight instrumentation remains roughly the same. The test airplane sported a payload of 563 pounds with full tanks, three folks plus baggage.

That’s exactly what we had in the airplane for our first of two flights—me in the left front, Conrad at right front and pilot Peggy in the right rear executive bucket. Rear passengers board via a left rear side door that provides easy access to the aft cabin.

Despite the fact that the 58P uses the same fuselage as the 36 Bonanza—only 42 inches wide—it’s surprisingly comfortable. I’ve had the privilege of delivering a trio of 58s across various oceans, and the plane is universally a smooth riding machine: stable, willing and easy to fly.

When you bring the Cougar’s warp core online for takeoff, the airplane responds appropriately, almost as if it’s entering another dimension. Remember, you’re unleashing 1,000 hp to propel only 6,200 pounds of airplane. That’s 6.2 lbs./hp—better than virtually anything in or out of the class. (Even the Extra 330 unlimited aerobatic airplane manages only 7 lbs./hp.)

The Cougar comes off the ground in as little as 800 feet, and climbs as if it’s being shot at. Once the airplane is cleaned up and accelerated to 130 knots, you can expect to see the VSI swing around to 3,500 fpm or better, depending on load. Conrad claims he has been able to launch from the company’s headquarters at Felts Field (at an elevation of about 2,000 feet), near Spokane, and level at 25,000 feet nine minutes later, ATC willing.

Labels: Turbine Twins

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