Plane & Pilot
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

I've been fortunate to fly the succession of new Bonanzas pretty much every year, and I'm always a little amazed at how Beech continues to find new ways to improve the product. I flew the latest model in conjunction with the 2013 Oshkosh AirVenture, and the G36 includes innovations in a number of areas.

Interior design is one of them. Although the configuration hasn't changed, the bill of materials has been upgraded once more. The new airplane is quieter, and even more plush than last year's model, if that's possible.

That's something of a pleasant surprise in a cabin that was already one of the best in the industry. The updated interior includes new cabin seats with adjustable lumbar support, new side ledges and sidewalls, redesigned "waterfall" headrests, an improved headliner and window reveals. There's also a baggage compartment extended two feet farther aft. This allows carrying long items, such as golf clubs, without impinging on cabin space for the front four occupants. The rear section is specifically designed for quick-change capability, so you can reconfigure to two-, four- or five-seat planform in short order.

Outside the airplane, the latest Bonanza has LED lighting at all stations with more candle power and better dispatch reliability. The new lenses also provide slightly less aerodynamic drag and weigh less than the old covers.

When it comes to performance, you should have no reason to complain about the G36. There was a time when aircraft companies' performance claims were sometimes suspect. Not any more. Even granted that the manufacturer has the advantage of a new prop and engine, perfect rig, a CG near the aft limit, the choice to fly on only satin-smooth days using only test pilots with biorhythms on high and thousands of hours in type, the new G36 I flew for this evaluation did exactly what it was supposed to.

With three folks aboard and about a 2⁄3 fuel load, the big Continental IO-550B provided smooth power as we took the runway at Appleton north of Oshkosh for my demo flight, then settled into a comfortable climb at 105 knots. There were puffies starting to form in the area, but we still ascended at a solid 1,100 fpm to 7,500 feet, occasionally bouncing through light afternoon turbulence. On the way uphill, Beech sales demo pilot Pat O'Connell used the G1000's lean assist program to fine-tune the mixture for optimum climb.

With the airplane level and trimmed, I watched true airspeed gradually count up to 173 knots, almost exactly the cruise spec. Take away the bumps and optimize altitude and temperature, and the 174-knot cruise target seems more than reasonable.

Payload has always been the Achilles heel of general aviation, and the Bonanza does pay a penalty for so much luxury and sophistication. Maximum ramp weight is 3,663 pounds, and Beech's spec for empty weight is 2,630 pounds, so useful load comes in at 1,033 pounds. Subtract 444 pounds of fuel, and you're left with a full-fuel payload of 589 pounds.

As mentioned earlier, Beech wanted the Bonanza to be fully equipped right out of the box, so that payload is fairly representative of the bottom line for people and things. There are very few options to add weight. The only extras are Jeppesen ChartView, Stormscope, Honeywell DME and an altimeter calibrated in millibars for overseas operation.

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