Baby boomers can appreciate the urge to have a little work done as a milestone birthday approaches: tone up the body, smooth out a few wrinkles, all to reflect the youthful zest we still feel in our hearts. So when Hawker Beechcraft Corporation (HBC, formerly Raytheon Aircraft) prepared for the Bonanza’s 60th birthday, celebrated last year, the company decided a makeover was in order.
“The Bonanaza is a flagship for Beechcraft,” said Trevor Blackmer, senior manager of HBC’s product marketing. “That’s 60 years’ worth of celebrating, and it played into our deciding, ‘Let’s do something special for the Bonanza.’”
Worthy, indeed. Introduced in 1947, the Bonanza has been in continuous production longer than any aircraft in history, maintaining its position as the Cadillac of single-engine pistons all the while. Hawker Beechcraft wanted more than a cosmetic nip and tuck to mark the Bonanza’s big six-oh. The goal was nothing less than “to bring the Bonanza of the future to our customers,” in the words of HBC avionics engineer Natalie Byington. The result was a new model, the Bonanza G36, featuring a glass-panel cockpit, and then a 60th anniversary edition G36, introducing a redesigned interior (www.hawkerbeechcraft.com/beechcraft/aircraft/pistons/bonanzag36
The “G” in G36 stands for Garmin, whose G1000 avionics suite is at the heart, or head, of the new Bonanza. Two 10.4-inch diagonal displays dominate the panel, replacing pneumatic “steam” gauges and annunciators. The primary flight display (PFD) in front of the pilot shows airspeed, heading, altitude and other critical flight information over a large artificial horizon. Altitude and air data information is fed to the system by a digital altitude heading reference system and an air data computer. A multi-function display (MFD) on the right side of the panel displays moving map, engine monitoring information, flight-planning functions, terrain awareness and warning system, real-time XM Weather and traffic information services.
Of course, HBC is hardly alone as a piston single offering this Garmin glass. Cessna, Columbia, Diamond, Mooney and Piper all offer G1000 panels in their aircraft. But HBC was the first to offer the system integrated with the Garmin GFC 700 autopilot/flight-control system. The GFC 700 was designed to work seamlessly with the G1000, and it provides much more flexibility and capability than G1000 systems run by third-party autopilots (the Bendix/King KAP 140 most commonly). Hawker Beechcraft spent several years working with Garmin, essentially tuning the autopilot for the airframe, setting servo rates and ensuring its smoothness of operation.
“One of the comments by the certification people in Europe was that they thought it was the nicest autopilot implementation of any aircraft in that category,” Blackmer said. Customers seem to agree.
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