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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."


Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Should I Buy a Beechcraft?

As you know, I was searching for my plane... A Piper Aztec, that somehow turned into a DC3. More on that story HERE. So during this search I was recommended by Paul Sergeant to get a single engine engine...more specifically, a Bonanza. 

Why a single engine? Why a Beechcraft? 

In general, Beechcraft make the “Volvo” of the air – solid and strong.  Ypu can see that when you look at the skins and frames in a Beechcraft – the metal skins are thicker, and the frames are beefier.  The inside is roomier, especially important for tall people.



Because of the extra materials and wider cabin, the airplanes tend to be slower for the given power – a Mooney goes almost as fast with a 4 cylinder engine as the Bonanza does with a 6.  But a Mooney is a metal and wooden tube you crawl into, a Bonanza feels more like a car.  The V Tail Bonanza V35 will give a Mooney a run for the money however, due to less wetted area and less parasitic drag.

Early V Tails had a problem with flutter, and with the tail departing in turbulence above Vne.  So the FAA grounded the fleet in the 80’s and introduced an AD to fix the problem.  I think it is fair to say that the V tail is one of the most studied (and now safest) light airplanes available.  But the perception remains that the V Tail is somehow dangerous, so Beech made a version with the conventional tail, the model 33. 

But the 33s and 35s have a rear CG issue, and can be easily loaded out of limits.  They are available with 3 seat rows (6 seats), but the rear seats are really unusable, and most owners took them out (The Cessna 210 is the same way).  I have a useful load of 1,300lbs, but with full fuel, my wife and I in the front, my two teenage girls in the back, I can add 80 to 100lbs of baggage before running out of arm/moment.  I can’t get to the max gross unless I add 300 lbs in the front seats J


Beechcraft addressed the problem with the 36 series, when they moved the wing back 10”and extended the fuselage.  The 36 is true 6 seater, with 2 forward facing seats in front, and 4 “club” seats in the back, facing each other with a little flip up card table, and large double doors. 

You can put 4 reasonable sized adults in the back, 2 in the front, and still have payload left for bags.  The extra size and weight makes the 36 series slower, so most owners want the version with a IO550 (300HP) engine.  The IO520 (285 HP) is good enough for the 33/35s.  The A36 is what I recommend for your mission.

The A36TN is turbo-normalized, and can deliver full power up to around 17,000 ft, and cruiseswell  into the flight levels.  Not being pressurized, it needs oxygen.  There is no pressurized version, but pressurization adds a lot of maintenance costs.

 
On that topic, the V35 cruises at 10,000 feet at 165 kts on 12.5 gall/hr lean-of-peak.  To run LOP you need GAMI fuel injectors and a good engine monitor.  The 33 is slightly slower (perhaps 162kts) and the NA (normally aspirated) 36 runs at about 158 kts at that fuel flow.  You can of course go faster if you are willing to run ROP instead of LOP, at a cost of 3 or 4 gall/hr.  100LL avgas costs around $5 to 7 /gall depending on where you buy it, so running LOP saves money.


A single engine burns much less fuel, and requires only half the maintenance, and the likelihood of an engine failure is cut by half.  GA twins have about the same accident rate as singles, because a twin is 2x as likely to have an engine out, and most GA pilots aren’t practiced enough to handle a single engine emergency. 

In a single, an engine issue means you land NOW – twins often try to keep going and end up losing control.  I would only recommend a twin for someone planning to fly over water or rugged terrain with no emergency landing places, and for someone who doesn’t care about costs.  Of course, on BeechTalk.com any opinion about the single vs. twin engine starts an argument, since the site is for Bonanza and Baron owner (the Barron is Bonanza with 2 engines).

My other comment is that some Bonanzas have overly complex fuel systems (up to 6 tanks).  I deliberately chose one with 2 x 40 gallon tanks to keep it simple – I knew someone who crashed an A36 from fuel exhaustion – but he had fuel on board, just not in the tank he selected.  My 80 gallons will last for 5.5 hours with reserves, and I only have 1 tank selection switch.  I don’t need longer in the air, my bladder range isn’t that far!  Don’t get one with multiple tanks unless you need 8 hrs endurance – keep it simple and safe.


Many Bonanzas have had gear up landings in the past (mine hasn’t). As long as they’ve been properly repaired, they can be a bargain, usually about $20k less than a no-damage history (NDH) airplane. Good use of checklists and stabilized approach by the numbers will keep yours undamaged.  I use my gear as my speed brakes and always land at the same power setting and speed, and unless my gear is down I can’t get that slow.  Fly it like an airliner and you’ll do great!"

There you have it... 

Paul's rational of why I should buy a  Beechraft A36TN.
What do you think? Do you concur with Paul, or have another suggestion? What is your experience with this airplane?

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene  

29 comments:

  1. Another thing to consider when choosing aircraft is insurance costs and if the insurance company requires annual training in that make and model. Feel free to drop me a line if you want to compare an aircraft or two :) I think you'd be very happy with a Bonanza.

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    1. Thank you Victoria! I will for sure contact you when I go this route. And... you're hired!!!

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  2. No question the A36 is a sweet machine. I used to work for a Beech dealer in KPTK Michigan and got to fly a variety of Beechcraft. Some of the older models had some funky fuel system designs (one gauge, multiple tanks, hand pump, etc.). I'd avoid those.
    The V-tail Bonanza got a bad rap as the "fork tailed doctor killer" since a number of doctors had more money than pilot skills and ended up crashing by exceeding their own limitations.
    Notice that the flutter issues were above Vne - so what is anybody doing above Vne in the first place (see 'exceeding their own limitations' above)?
    If you can afford it, I'd put the Bonanza at the TOP of the piston single list!

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    1. Thank you Bill, This means a lot! I grew up as a Cessna girl... but then I started out as a Boeing girl too. Now, I just need to sell a movie! :) I will. And then we'll be there.

      YES... why are people exceeding their limitations?

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    2. I would actually say that Doctors were forked-tailed Bonanza killers :)

      To Karlene's question - some people (pilots), especially those very smart, very well-educated successful people develop ego problems, and think "it can't happen to me". As long as you realize that it can, and fly within your (and the airplanes) limitations, GA flaying can be very safe indeed. And with innovations like weather datalinked into the cockpit, there is much less excuse for flying into thunderstorms.

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  3. I am good with it until your finish your PHD. Then I am not sure because then you will be a Doctor flying a Doctor killer...

    Life is good!

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  4. As has been said many times before "not that kind of doctor!"

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    1. Oh.. funny! That's what I was thinking!

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    2. Okay you two....


      I am a pilot not a Fed or a lawyer. I am expected to use good judgment at all times. If the old phrase is true and the Bonanza is a doctor killer then I must assume that applies to all doctors.

      Just because you don't like the rule doesn't mean that you can just not apply it as it was originally intended.

      How many dentists have bought the farm in a bonanza? They are doctors. What about Vets, psychologists or pharmacists? They are all doctors.

      A lawyer is considered a doctor of the law. Oprah has a honorary doctorate from Harvard. Should she buy a bonanza? I would encourage her to keep her 747 or whatever she chooses as her form of personal transportation.

      Karlene, I would be fully comfortable flying with you. Anywhere, anytime. But when you get your PhD, just remember that the phrase "doctor killer" wasn't given. It was earned.

      By the way, I have always liked the bonanza. It is a beautiful airplane and I think it is cool that you are at the point where you can justify owning one.

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  5. I think the A36 is a great airplane and would fit your mission well. My only gripe is that they are a bit overpriced compared to other airplanes that can do the same thing. Compare their price with Cessna T210s. You won't find a more comfortable, versatile single engine airplane though. The Bonanza is a great airplane.

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    1. Thanks Daniel. Okay... so we have the plane. Now we find the one we want with the best price. Let's start looking. :)

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  6. The Bonanza is a capable and iconic aircraft, no doubt about it. But before you take the plunge, consider the cost of maintenance and parts. AOPA is refurbishing a Bonanza this year and, if I recall correctly, a single elevator skin cost $5,000. That's just for the part. A new Bonanza costs almost $1 million, so they cost of parts is proportionally high. Even for an older Bo, the price of parts is not commensurate with what the plane is worth, but rather what it would sell for today if it was new.

    If I may be so bold, see if you can get a flight in an RV-10. Four seats, Bonanza-like speed, but far less to maintain. An elevator skin, for example, would probably cost $50 instead of $5,000. With E-AB certification you gain additional freedom in this regard and it manifests itself as more money in your pocketbook. Also, the RV-10s are only a few years old and many/most of them have glass panel avionics.

    I'd hate to see you end up buying an airplane and then not being able to fly it due to the cost of ongoing maintenance and parts. I've known more than one person who bought an airplane and then couldn't afford to operate it. And after owning a series of airplanes over the years, this is one thing I've learned to pay very careful attention to.

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    1. Ron, Thank you so much!!! Okay... I would love an RV-10. Will you build it for me? Actually... that would be a dream to build my own plane. Oh... if I only had enough hours in this life.

      Thank you so much for the added wisdom of the parts. I seriously had no idea.

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    2. New Beechcraft-built parts can be overpriced. That's why there is an extensive network of secondary suppliers, and a strong network of used parts dealers. You don't HAVE to pay their prices unless you want a brand new part with warranty.

      Your best defense is a good prebuy, and the best guy for that is in Riverside CA. The RV10 is a nice, fast 4-seater (I fly an RV7A sometimes), but I thought you wanted 6 seats?

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  7. I'm not expert on buying aircraft, but I'd just say go with your heart. It sounds like the Bonanza is on your mind and you've put quite a bit of consideration into it. Go with the plane your gut tells you to go with, I'm sure things will work out.

    Knowing you Karlene, you'll have that positive attitude and find a way to love any plane you purchase!
    -Swayne

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    1. Thanks Swayne. Actually... the AZTEC was in my heart. So now, I need help. lol. You're flying a lot, meeting many people. Keep your eyes out and talk to those experts. You can be on the hunt for the perfect plane for me. Thank you!!!

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  8. I recommended the A36 because of Karlene's mission as I understood it - a 6 seat, cross country high performance airplane that could carry a decent payload of books. The A36 has a useful load around 1,300 lbs and cruises around 160kts on 12-13 gall/hr lean of peak. It is true 6 seater (with some bags), unlike the F33 and V35 series which are really 4 full seats plus some bags.

    I recommended a single over a twin simply on the fact that a twin burns more fuel, costs more to insure and maintain, but delivers little if any improvement in safety in the GA world (not the case in the commercial world where twins are safer).

    And there you have it :)

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    1. Yes... the mission is the key to the airplane! I suspect if you're going to make a huge investment, that you should make one that works. I appreciate the details of why I should get the A36!

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  9. Just for fun I looked up the bonanza 36 on trade a plane. Holy Cow!

    I take back everything I just wrote. Do Not buy this airplane.

    Do get a NetJets fractional ownership. Travel in style, sit back and relax. Let someone else do all the work and you enjoy a cold beverage while you count the ways to make more money.

    Why work when you can travel in style? That is my final answer.

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    1. Lol Rob.... You want to get a shock, go check out how much a Cirrus is!!! The problem with Net Jets is that I can't paint their planes the way I want. And... they won't let me fly it!

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  10. You don't have to spend a lot get a nice Bonanza -
    https://www.justbonanzas.com/aircraftdetails.aspx?id=928

    This is only a four seater, but it's a 165kt 4 seater with 1,300 lbs useful load......

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  11. Nice blog write up on Bonanzas. I've flown a few and I am looking at getting an older A36 or Debonaire. I like the cargo doors on the A36 which would be perfect for loading scuba and camping gear on long vacations.

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    1. Thank you so much Ben! I think the A36 will be great for loading books too.

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  12. I have owned a 1958 J35 for the past 6 years and it has been an absolute pleasure. The key to a good experience is finding a good one with a good service history. When these are maintained well and used regularly, they just plain perform with great reliability. Fast, roomy and comfortable. Mine delivers an honest 165 knots all day long and is probably the easiest airplane to land well I've ever flown. I think this generation of Bonanza with the 470 series Continental is the best combo of low entry price, great performance and reliability you can find. Choose carefully and you will be rewarded with a great experience.

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    1. Tim, Thank you so much for this information!! This is exactly the information I need to make my final decision. Thank you!

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  13. Hi Karlene,

    Very nice write up on Bonanzas. I love them but insurance and maintenance costs are twice that of a Mooney for a new pilot. I had quotes for 2k for a faster Mooney 252 versus 4k for a Bonanza V35. Both great planes but Mooney 252 will cruise at 200-210kts on 12-13gph versus 170kts on Bonanza V35 that uses 15gph.

    Cheers,
    Ben

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    1. Wow!!! That is amazing. One of the main reasons for the Bonanza was for the 6 seats. How and ability to move them around. I'll have to check into that Mooney!
      Thank you so much for your thoughts!

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Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!