Plane & Pilot
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

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.

The Baron G58's landing-gear lever (above). With its two 300 hp Continental IO-550C engines, the aircraft can reach a 202-knot cruise speed at 75% power.
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.

The Baron and Seneca both offer excellent access to an air-conditioned, comfortable cabin that seats six via aft side double doors (though mounted on opposite sides). Hauling six large folks in either airplane, however, would be a challenge, especially if the model were equipped with the gamut of options, as most are. The Baron mounts its aft doors on the right, and the Seneca's are on the left, but both offer easy access to a long, comfortable cabin. Separation between the conference-style second- and third-row seats is generous, which minimizes overlapping legs. If there's no one in the opposing seat in back, you can put your feet up and feel like a business-class airline traveler with a luxury footrest.

With the Baron's standard 194-gallon tanks topped off, a fully equipped aircraft offers only about 300 paying pounds. That's equal to one pilot plus baggage or two lightweight folks. In order to haul six full-size people plus reasonable luggage, you'd need to limit fuel to about 58 gallons, roughly an hour and a quarter plus reserve. You obviously always have the option of leaving the airplane partially fueled if you must substitute people pounds for fuel pounds.

At a burn of roughly 16 to 17 gallons/engine/hour, the big tanks provide five hours of endurance plus reserve. Five hours at 200 knots makes the math fairly simple—range is 1,000 nm. If there's a need to stretch the limits, long-range power settings at 10,000 feet can boost the airplane's reach to more like 1,300 nm.

I've had the good fortune to ferry a half-dozen Baron 58s around the world, and they've been consistently good rides. They offer few objections to being loaded as much as 1,000 pounds over gross. In one instance, I brought an older 58 back from Nadi, Fiji, to San Francisco, Calif. The airplane had an additional 300 gallons temporarily plumbed to the engines from the aft fuselage and nose baggage; handling remained acceptable and range was never a consideration.


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