Saturday, January 1, 2005
The Ultimate V-Tail
This Bonanza has the most famous silhouette in the sky
Pilots don’t agree on much. We argue about virtually everything: Continental versus Lycoming; high wing versus low wing; fixed gear or retractable; the relative merits of turbocharging; and a hundred other things. While we rarely agree, there are a few universal truths: Airspeed is life; you can never have enough power; and the V-tail Bonanza is one of the most beautiful airplanes ever designed.
“My typical leg is 400 to 600 nm,” says Oxman, “and with the Bonanza, I can cover that distance in 2.5 to 3.5 hours. Many of the places that I fly have no airline service or sporadic schedules at best, so it would be impractical to even consider doing business on a face-to-face basis without the airplane. As it is, I can often fly out early in the morning, spend several hours with a client and still be home in time for dinner.”
Oxman’s K35 Bonanza is a relatively lightweight design (originally 2,950 pounds gross) blessed with the power of the later, heavier (3,400 pounds) V35B, although the owner has upgraded the gross weight to 3,150 pounds with the 15 gallons per side, Beryl d’Shannon tip tanks. This boosts the total fuel to an even 100 gallons. At an average 15 gph, Oxman can spend five hours aloft with plenty of IFR reserve. “I fly quite a bit of IFR in the Bonanza,” says the computer executive, “and with the addition of the yaw damper, it makes an effective instrument platform.”
As you might imagine, high power and low weight translate directly to better performance. Oxman’s Bonanza enjoys notably enthusiastic climb and impressive cruise speed. Even at full gross, the airplane scores a remarkable 1,200 fpm pointed uphill, and at 7,500 feet density, the owner often sees 172 knots at 75% in a straight line.
What, perhaps, endears Bonanzas most to pilots is not the speed, climb or any other numerical measure of performance, but simply the way they do what they do. The airplane possesses a certain indefinable feel that’s not available in any other general-aviation airplane. Control harmony is exceptional. Roll rate is quick without being twitchy, and pitch response is excellent, some say almost too good. Only ruddervator response leaves something to be desired, but that’s most often not a problem, as ailerons and ruddervators are interconnected to automatically coordinate most maneuvers.
Contrary to what some butterfly Bonanza purists will tell you, the V-tail airplane is the least stable of the Bonanzas in the yaw axis, and it manifests this instability even in smooth air. It doesn’t demand a theoretical physicist to understand the logic. With ruddervators slanted about 30 degrees above the horizontal, any updraft or downdraft generates a horizontal moment.
I’ve flown V-tails many times with yaw dampers installed, and the electronic system makes the model 35 fly like a 33. Oxman agrees, and to that end, he installed the aforementioned STEC yaw damper, but pilots often can tame the sidesteps by simply blocking the rudders. Some pilots counter the yaw excursions almost subconsciously, often without even knowing it.
Back in the 1970s, I did a story for P&P on a good friend’s turbo S35. Dewey Morrison had owned a half-dozen V-tail Bonanzas over the years, and the “S” was his last single before switching to a Baron. Dewey’s Bonanza had no yaw damper, but the owner was so proficient in the airplane that he automatically compensated for the walking tail. When I asked him to fly with his feet flat on the floor for a few minutes in smooth air, we both watched the wingtip prescribe a small oval on the horizon, arcing forward and aft in flight. Dewey was amazed, as he was so used to damping the tail wags automatically, he wasn’t even aware he was doing it.
Oxman is more than content with his Beech K model, but almost predictably, he has some minor complaints. “The gear speed is too low, 121 knots. That’s one reason I installed the speed brakes. If you’re flying IFR and a controller issues one of those go-down and slow-down directives, you may have a hard time complying without shock-cooling the engine,” says Oxman. “Even pulled back to the bottom of the green, 15 inches, it’s tough to lose speed unless you have the advantage of speed brakes.”
Oxman also owns a helicopter and flies hot-air balloons. He’s as committed to aviation as is possible without making a living in the field. “The Bonanza is the ultimate airplane. I enjoy my Bell helicopter and hot-air ballooning, but flying the Bonanza is about as much fun as I can stand.”
SPECS: 1959 Beech K35 Bonanza
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