Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sports Sedan Of The Six-Place Singles

Largest of the Bonanzas, the G36 nevertheless retains the type’s excellent performance and control harmony

The panel on the six-seat Bonanza G36 features Garmin G1000 avionics that include the GFC700 autopilot, terrain avoidance, traffic information, XM radio and Synthetic Vision Technology.
The G36 flies with a gross weight of 3,650 pounds, and while that’s not enough to allow carrying six, full-sized folks, those who do fly by Bonanza do so in an airplane that has become perhaps the most iconic model in the business. Fit and finish are excellent, performance is outstanding, and the G36 richly deserves most of the kudos offered it by virtually every aviation magazine, not to mention model 36 owners who wouldn’t consider traveling by any other means.

Payload can be a challenge, however. If your typical load is two adults up front and four kids with Nintendo in back, there’s no problem. You can download fuel and probably still fly three hours between pit stops. If you need to carry a full hockey team, however, an FAA-certified 1,020 pounds of people, you’re out of luck, as the airplane is only approved for a max payload of 950 pounds. The other 183 pounds (31 gallons) must be fuel. That’s not especially unusual, incidentally. I know of no six-seat piston airplane that will accommodate a full load of people and topped tanks.

It’s a little tough to compare speeds of the three models, as the Matrix employs the Mirage’s 350 hp turbocharged engine, the Bonanza is normally aspirated with 300 hp, and the 206 flies with fixed gear and 310 hp. With the benefit of 50 more horsepower and twin turbos, you’d expect the Matrix to do a little better than either of the other two. For a normally aspirated machine, the Bonanza scoots right along, an easy 170 knots at high cruise, even if you’re not doing everything right, perhaps as much as 174 knots (the magic 200 mph) on a good day when you are.

I’ve delivered a dozen model 36s of various descriptions across the Atlantic and Pacific in the last 30 years, and I can verify they offer an almost universally comfortable ride. Controls are still fairly responsive despite the overweight condition (often as much as 1,000 pounds over gross), speed doesn’t suffer that much, and runway requirements aren’t excessive.

Though the Bonanza’s cabin is the narrowest of the three, it’s also the tallest, so seating position is more upright than supine, creating the impression of spacious comfort. The G36 makes maximum use of its dimensions, even managing to include armrests. In fact, it’s only a half-inch wider than a Skyhawk, but it doesn’t feel cramped. I flew with a Beech pilot for this report, and neither of us qualify as little people. Still, the G36 enclosed us snugly but without discomfort.

I operated an A36TC for Victor Sloan of Victor Aviation in Palo Alto, Calif., for several years in the ‘90s to demonstrate the smoothness and power of Victor Engines. Victor had the airplane tricked out from spinner to tail cone, and I campaigned that solid red Bonanza all over the USA for 200 hours, showing prospective engine-overhaul buyers what a balanced, blueprinted engine could do. The duty was a delight in almost every respect.

I did say almost. One aspect that wasn’t always loved was fuel capacity. All model 36 Bonanzas built since 1973, except the B36TC, have offered 74-gallon tanks. With 300 hp out front, fuel burn at max cruise is just under 16 gph, so reasonable endurance is 3.5 hours plus reserve. There’s always the option of climbing higher to a height where 65% power is all there is, and burn drops to more like 14.0 gph. This extends endurance to 4.0 hours, the standard of the industry.

Labels: Piston Singles

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