Tuesday, August 20, 2013
There's Something About A Bonanza
In continuous production for an amazing 66 years, the Bonanza continues to be most aviators’ dream machine
Beech Aircraft has done an excellent job of marketing the Bonanza as a pedestal product, alone at the top of the class. That's not true in all respects, but there's little question the model 36 represents an impressive combination of engineering, comfort, utility and performance. At least, you'd better not ask anyone in the 10,000-member-strong American Bonanza Society to name a better airplane.
And yet, what sets the Bonanza apart from other six-seat airplanes isn't that easy to define. One obvious distinction is that the model 36 is now truly alone in its class. It's the only new normally aspirated six-seat single in the sky. Piper's Mirage and Matrix, and Cessna's Stationair, are all turbocharged.
Fact is, the Bonanza turns in performance that's not far off turbocharged standards in the bottom two miles of sky, but that alone doesn't identify the G36's charismatic appeal. For those pilots who have flown a late-model Bonanza, there's a certain indefinable quality, a personality, that endears practically everyone. Beech has capitalized on that undefined appeal, as evidenced by the fact that the six-seat Bonanza recently celebrated its 4,000th sale.
The G36 Bonanza is powered by a 300 hp Continental IO-550 engine and cruises at 174 knots.
Despite the physical similarity of the old models to the new, Beech has made a long list of evolutionary changes to the airplane to keep in step with the competition. The current model is about as comparable to the original 1947 model 35 V-tail as is the Piper Mirage to the J-3 Cub.
Perhaps the most significant improvement for 2013 is the standard automatic climate control system. Some non-pilots are amazed when they learn that airplanes costing as much as 15 to 20 times the price of an automobile don't come with air-conditioning as standard equipment. That's because a representative aircraft air-conditioning system weighs in at between 50 and 80 pounds, and that has to be subtracted directly from payload, a compromise many pilots are unwilling to make since the heat only lasts for a few minutes during taxi, takeoff and climb. Installed weight is meaningless to non-aviators who drive anything from Toyotas to Jaguars, all of which offer excellent climate control and ignore system weight.
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