Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Flying Into The Future


Behind the Bonanza’s anniversary makeover


bonanzaBaby 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.
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bonanzaBut designers found other ways besides the avionics to bring the Bonanza into the future. The anniversary edition introduced an upgraded interior. It includes new ergonomic sidewalls that provide more elbow room, adding about three inches to the cabin width. Improved soundproofing and door seals have lowered cabin noise. An integrated digital audio control system and optional vapor-cycle air-conditioning enhance the quality of flight. And a lighter color palette of interior fabrics and leathers grace the cabin. “Aesthetically, it looks more like an airplane built in 2000 than the ‘90s,” said Blackmer.

Of course, the Model 36 boasted one of the roomiest and most luxurious interiors to begin with. Its size and the club-seating configuration are also a big selling point for many customers. The cabin’s double doors, originally intended for the gritty utility work for which the aircraft was certified, now seem more like the portal to a royal coach.

“I’ve got a wife and three kids and a big old dog, so the six-seat configuration was crucial,” said Bradley, a first-time Bonanza buyer. He looked at competitors’ six-place aircraft but “didn’t want to trade off fuel or speed for taking a full cabin.”

The anniversary edition G36 sports distinctive badging, medallions and emblems on the wings, empennage, headrests and control pedestal. The anniversary model also debuted a long-lasting silver mica paint meant to mimic the polished aluminum of the original Model 35, now being offered throughout its product line. (The reduced metal content of the paint will also allow it to be used on radomes, unlike traditional metallic paints.)

Buyers of the G36 also get some extras that aren’t visible to the casual observer. Perhaps most important is a week of training for the G1000 system at FlightSafety International (www.flightsafety.com). The G1000 is only as capable as its operator, and like fire, it makes a bad master as well as a good servant.

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The new Bonanza G36 features a Garmin G1000 avionics glass panel that’s integrated with the Garmin GFC 700 autopilot/flight-control system.

“I thought that I might be wasting my time,” Beck said of the FlightSafety course, considering his experience with earlier Garmin boxes. “I needed the whole thing. If you’re going to fly IMC, it’s a disaster waiting to happen without full training,” he said.

And almost as important, buyers become members of one of the most fraternal groups in aviation—Bonanza owners. The American Bonanza Society (www.bonanza.org) is a model for owners groups, sponsoring formation training, type-specific refresher courses and maintenance clinics around the country. With its dedicated owners and the G36 blazing the way into the future, Bonanzas will likely be around for several more milestone anniversaries.

“When I look at the 60th anniversary airplane,” said Byington, “I see the blood, sweat and tears we’ve poured into keeping it going and upgrading it and keeping that heritage alive. The first 60 years was only the beginning.”

SPECS: Hawker Beechcraft G36 Bonanza





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