Thursday, June 19, 2008
The Mystique Of The Baron
The basic design may be 40 years old, but the 2008 Baron G58 flies with a newborn’s enthusiasm and
I was at Sun ’n Fun two years ago when a subscriber walked up to me and asked a question I wasn’t quite ready for: “Why don’t you ever write stories about airplanes you don’t like?” As the resident “primary” pilot reporter for Plane & Pilot/Pilot Journal, that stopped me cold, but not for long. The answer is that there are few airplanes I don’t like. In fact, I’ve never personally met an airplane I didn’t like." />
| Through aft double doors in the aircraft’s right side, passengers step into a comfortable, air-conditioned cabin featuring conference-style seating for up to four back-seaters.|
If there’s any downside to the newest, most modern Baron ever built, it may be price. If you have to ask how much, then perhaps you don’t really want to know. A typical Baron G58 exits the Wichita, Kans., door with a list price of about $1.2 million.
While the Garmin G1000 suite makes the Baron seem as modern as tomorrow, the basic airplane has proven itself over nearly half a century. Today’s Baron remains the last of its kind from a class that once included the A55 through E55, the 58TC, the top-of-the-line 58P and the original, “real” six-seat Baron, the straight 58.
With the help of 600 horses out on the wings, the Baron has always had a deserved reputation for scampering across the sky as if something bigger was chasing it. Specifically, Beech places the new Baron’s cruise at 202 knots, which puts it at the head of its class, though it’s admittedly a very small class.
There are basically four piston twins available today. Two of them, the Piper Seminole and Diamond DA42 Twin Star, are intended as trainers, so they have little need for high cruise numbers. The Seminole is a scaled-up Arrow with an extra engine, and the DA42 is a significantly modified Diamond Star with a pair of Thielert diesels on its wings.
The only true contender to the Baron is the Piper Seneca V, and in terms of sheer numbers, it’s indeed a formidable competitor. Born at about the same time in the early ’70s, the modern Seneca employs a pair of turbocharged, 220 hp Continentals to protect it from evil, and that allows the newest PA34 to cross the sky at 197 knots, though, admittedly, that speed is only available in the flight levels.
The Seneca has two primary advantages over the Baron. One is a much wider cabin, about seven inches more elbow room in the front seats. If that doesn’t sound like much, it’s actually a huge improvement. The Baron makes the most of its room, but it’s important to remember that the fuselage has the same cross section as that used in the 36 Bonanza, 42 inches at the forward midsection. The Piper twin uses a more laid-back seating position, so the Baron is the taller of the two airplanes, and that may count for something if your passengers are centers for the Boston Celtics.
The Seneca’s second advantage is lower fuel burn by virtue of its smaller engines, on the order of 26 gph total. The reduced consumption is matched by reduced capacity, so it doesn’t translate to any better range or payload.
Both twins share a similar problem when it comes to payload. Neither can fill the tanks and the seats at the same time, a common syndrome with most business airplanes. This is nothing new, a fact of life that corporate and airline aircraft must deal with every day. Though some pilots consider full fuel/full seats to be a standard litmus test of aircraft utility, such talent is, in fact, limited to a very few general aviation airplanes.
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