Plane & Pilot
Saturday, January 1, 2005

The Ultimate V-Tail

This Bonanza has the most famous silhouette in the sky

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

Labels: Piston Singles


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