Pilot Journal
Saturday, May 1, 2004

Tradewind Turbine Bonanza

Adding more power to a Beech A36 translates to more speed and fun

tradewind turbineHot-rodding is fundamental to the American soul, and it isn’t merely confined to car buffs. Pilots, too, have a need to go faster, farther and higher. It’s an unending quest for most of us, who want more out of our flying machines. And the best way to fulfill that need is by adding more power to an airplane that we already love to fly—which translates to more fun and more speed.
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Tradewind Turbine BonanzaFrom the rear (below), the Tradewind Turbines might look like any other A36, but one look up front (left) and the similarity ends. The elongated nose section is distinctive, as are the wingtips, where 20-gallon tip tanks are necessary to carry enough fuel for the thirsty Allison engine. And just like most turbines, instead of using brakes, the Tradewind Turbines A36 can slip the prop in Beta pitch to slow itself down.
That Much Better
But why make an already perfectly good piston airplane that much better? Aside from its fun aspects, the short answer is precisely because it’s a good airplane. There are a lot of Bonanzas flying, with parts that are easily available, and its maintenance issues are straightforward. With the Beech A36, the turbine-engine conversion doesn’t fix inherent problems. It simply makes a sound airframe an incredible performer. Couple that with the declining availability of gasoline and piston-engine reliability issues and the modification becomes even more attractive.

Just take a look at the numbers. The piston A36 will turn in a solid 170 knots all day long, while the Tradewind Turbines Bonanza provides a 50- to 60-knot speed increase, coming into its own in the teens—above most weather. In some circles, the Tradewind Bonanza could qualify as a short-takeoff-and-landing airplane: A normal A36 will roll 1,900 feet on takeoff, while a turbine A36 will need 580 feet. For landing, the normal A36 will need 960 feet, while the turbine A36 will need only 320 feet.

Climb performance is another strong point. A 300-hp Continental IO-550 A36 will finish its climb to altitude to 600 fpm, whereas the Turbines Bonanza will hold a 25-degree nose-high attitude while climbing at 2,500 fpm well above 10,000 feet. To approach this kind of performance with any other airplane will cost $2 million or more, not to mention the increased maintenance and insurance costs. So, pound for pound, dollar for dollar, the Turbines A36’s $400,000 conversion price makes it a very good deal for what it can do.

Tradewind Turbine Bonanza But speed isn’t the only grounds for moving up to a Turbines Bonanza. Bob Reiss, a Turbines Bonanza owner for over 10 years, says, “Having experienced 10 engine failures in piston-powered aircraft, I choose to fly a Turbines Bonanza because reliability was and is a major consideration.”

At 3,500 hours, the TBO for the Allison 25 450-hp engine is nearly double the standard piston engine. Most importantly, the Allison’s failure rate is one every 115 years. That makes the engine 100 times more reliable than a piston-aircraft engine.

Speed, safety, reliability, load capacity, comfort and maintenance—all good things to have in an airplane. The only remaining question is whether or not the Tradewind Bonanza’s speed and reliability make it a fun airplane to fly.

Labels: Turbine Twins


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