Tuesday, May 1, 2007
The Bonanza Hits 60 Strong and Fast!
On its 60th anniversary, the Bonanza is still a true pilot’s airplane
Any good design has a timelessness that transcends fashion. Whether you consider a toaster or a car or an airplane, a successful design starts with a good robust understanding of the balance between performance, looks and customer requirements.
All successful designs have one thing in common: they must adapt well to evolutionary improvement. The 1950 Cadillac and 1969 Mustang are works of art to some and cherished classics to others. But by today’s standards, they aren’t very comfortable or fun to drive; nor are they still in production. Does a new paint job and state-of-the-art avionics make a 60-year-old design contemporary?
The Bonanza transcends fashion trends and adapts to change like no other aircraft. This bold statement is supported by the fact that the Bonanza has had the longest production run of any airplane ever built. Sixty years is a long time by any measure; the only vehicle with a comparable record is the Volkswagen Beetle.
Conceived by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, the original “people’s car” was produced for 65 years and sold more than 21.5 million copies. Dr. Porsche is also credited with several other higher-performance vehicles that grace our streets today, but the Beetle was a simple, economical car that met the needs of millions worldwide. Most importantly, small changes to the basic design kept it in competition far longer than any similar car.
How did a simple design from Wichita, Kans., even come close to approaching the record that belongs to the most popular car ever made? The answer, of course, is at once simple and complex. After Dr. Porsche designed the Beetle, the vehicle slowly changed the way the world viewed personal automobile transportation. No one had to tell Walter Beech where the wind would blow in the aviation business; he’d been deeply involved in airplane manufacturing since the heyday of Travel Air in the 1920s.
Walter and Olive Ann Beech opened their airplane company in Wichita in 1931, in the thick of the depression. Their Model 17R, and subsequent versions, remained in production until after WWII. The Staggerwing, as it became known, was the pinnacle of business aviation, the Lear jet of its day. Beech also built the Model 18, which became a standard for twin-engine pilot training in WWII and executive and cargo operations thereafter.
Page 1 of 3
Labels: Piston Singles