Pilot Journal
Saturday, July 1, 2006

The Baron Of Glass

A seventy-five-year legacy turns the corner on the 21st century

The Baron Of GlassWalter Beech was born with a nearly H.G. Wellsian vision of things to come, at least when it came to aviation. In 1905, at the tender age of 14, Beech designed and built his own glider. Nine years later, he experienced his first flight. During World War I, Beech flew as an army pilot and he became a barnstormer after the war. " />

Hill is a contractor in the southwestern United States who builds multi-family homes, primarily condos and apartments. A private/multi/instrument pilot who’s been flying since 2000, Hill usually takes trips that are as far as 350 nm afield. “Our projects are fairly wide-ranging, so we use the airplane a lot, probably at least three to four times a week. Most often, we carry three or four people—bankers, investors and employees—and everyone likes the double, aft-right entry doors,” Hill explains. “Weather in Arizona, Nevada and California is generally pretty benign, mostly VFR or soft IFR, and that means we can fly pretty much any time we need to, day or night.

“Almost without exception, everyone loves the new airplane. Climb is excellent, about 1,600 fpm initially and an easy 1,300 fpm in a 140-knot climb. That means we can usually reach cruise altitude in no more than five to seven minutes. If I’m in a hurry, I can score 195 knots on about 34 gph, but the more intelligent way to run the airplane is at 185 knots on two gph less fuel burn. All the systems work well. So far, the G1000 has seemed fairly bulletproof—I’ve used the deicer several times. It does a good job, though again, we rarely need to deice in the Southwest.”

The Bonanza legacy of crisp, precise handling carries over to the Baron, and virtually every Baron owner raves about the airplane’s wonderful in-flight manners. “You don’t really notice the weight that much,” says Hill. “The controls are so tight and well harmonized that the 58 makes a great IFR platform. Of course, once you get adjusted to the G1000, it just makes everything easier in instrument conditions. The glass-panel displays are so large and the positional awareness so obvious that you’d have to work to become disoriented.”

Beech was also the first to come to market with Garmin’s new autopilot. Following the G1000’s battle cry of being “fully integrated,” the GFC 700 autopilot isn’t a stand-alone in the avionics rack. Instead, a new gaggle of buttons appears on the edges of the G1000’s 10.4-inch, high-definition displays. The GFC 700 isn’t just compatible with the G1000, it’s part of the system, and obviously communicates seamlessly with all the other in-cockpit technologies.

Jim Hill’s typical missions don’t demand long range, so he selected the standard 166-gallon tanks to maximize cabin payload rather than the more typical (but optional) 196 gallons. With air-conditioning, deice, the G1000 system and all the other options installed (plus only 996 pounds of fuel in the tanks), Hill’s airplane can carry just less than 600 pounds of people and things. “That works out well for us,” says Hill, “because we almost never need to fill the seats. Our trips are short enough, usually under two hours, that if we do need more payload, we can partial-fuel to only 100 gallons or so and add 400 pounds more in the cabin.”

If Hill plans to fly the G58 at its maximum 5,500-pound gross weight, zero fuel weight is 5,215 pounds, so he’d need to fly with a minimum of 47.5 gallons of fuel. “The airplane is nearly perfect for us,” says Hill. “More speed wouldn’t make much difference, and we already have plenty of seats. I can’t imagine a better airplane for our missions.”

Walter Beech died in 1950, long before the Barons became a reality, though somehow, you can’t help but think he’d be pleased with the latest iteration of the world’s premier medium-piston twin.

Labels: Piston Twins


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