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 Bonanza has always enjoyed a reputation as a strong, durable airplane, and for good reason. I’ve seen them operating in such unlikely locations as the bush country of Alaska and the deserts of Australia. Part of the reason is that the model 36 flies above one of the strongest gear systems in the industry. The Bonanza’s gear-limit speed is 154 knots, but once it’s down and locked, the airplane can be taken to red-line without damage to the mechanism or gear doors. The gear is also loosely related to the system utilized on the Navy T-34C, a turbine trainer that was used to help teach naval aviators to land on carriers. While the T-34C has never come aboard an actual carrier, it has been employed to instruct new Navy pilots on how to plant an aircraft onto a carrier deck by simulation on a standard runway.

In partial recognition of all that, the G36 Bonanza is certified in the utility class that stipulates positive-G limits of 4.4 rather than the normal class’ 3.8. In fact, the straight-tail model 33 and 36 Bonanzas have a relatively low incidence of in-flight structural failures, so the basic airframe, wing and tail structure have proven themselves reasonably sound.

Another feature that has always endeared the 33/36 Bonanzas is their excellent handling. The airplanes feature control harmony that’s about as close to perfect as you’ll find, and that’s not just my semi-uninformed opinion. The late Roy LoPresti, an aerodynamic genius of the first order, was a fanatic on control harmony. Roy was the father of the super-efficient Mooney 201, the fast, quick-handling Grumman-American Tiger and Cheetah, and the upcoming LoPresti Fury, an original sportplane based loosely on the Globe Swift. LoPresti once told me the optimum relationship between roll, yaw and pitch on those airplanes was near the ideal 5/3/2 ratio. In other words, roll should be the quickest axis of control, yaw should be just over half as sensitive and pitch should be the slowest axis of response. Roy consistently praised the model 33/36 Bonanzas as also coming close to that ideal. LoPresti felt the F33 was among the best-handling aircraft in general aviation.

Beech acknowledged the straight-tailed airplane’s quick maneuverability by building an aerobatic version of the four-place model 33 starting in 1968. The E33C was approved for all the standard positive-G, acro maneuvers with only a slight wing spar and tail mod, an improved fuel pump and a jettisonable cabin door.

You don’t need to spend much time with a Bonanza to love the type. In addition to my hours flying Victor Sloan’s A36TC and multiple ferry flights in newer models, I’ve been fortunate to fly the four-place model 33 for several hundred hours. I have a good friend here in Southern California with a 1967 E33A. Dr. Van Steed also has a Cessna 340 that he uses for fast, pressurized business travel back and forth to his ranch in West Texas. I fly Van’s E33 more than he does. Despite the obvious financial challenges of maintaining two airplanes, Van wouldn’t think of parting with his Bonanza. If it were mine, I wouldn’t either.

Labels: Piston Singles

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