Beechcraft BonanzaThe Beechcraft Bonanza is an American general aviation aircraft introduced in 1947 by Beech Aircraft Corporation of Wichita, Kansas. The six-seater, single-engined aircraft is still being produced by Beechcraft and has been in continuous production longer than any other aircraft in history. More than 17,000 Bonanzas of all variants have been built, produced in both distinctive V-tail and conventional tail configurations.
Design and developmentAt the end of World War II, two all-metal light aircraft emerged, the Model 35 Bonanza and the Cessna 195, that represented very different approaches to the premium end of the postwar civil-aviation market. With its high-wing, seven-cylinder radial engine, fixed tailwheel undercarriage, and roll-down side windows, the Cessna 195 was little more than a continuation of prewar technology; the 35 Bonanza, however, was more like the fighters developed during the war, featuring an easier-to-manage, horizontally opposed, six-cylinder engine, a rakishly streamlined shape, retractable tricycle undercarriage (although the nosewheel initially was not steerable, but castering) and low-wing configuration.
Designed by a team led by Ralph Harmon, the model 35 Bonanza was a relatively fast, low-wing monoplane at a time when most light aircraft were still made of wood and fabric. The Model 35 featured retractable landing gear, and its signature V-tail (equipped with combination elevator-rudders called "ruddervators"), which made it both efficient and distinctive. The prototype 35 Bonanza made its first flight on December 22, 1945, with the first production aircraft debuting as 1947 models. The first 30–40 Bonanzas produced had fabric-covered flaps and ailerons, after which those surfaces were covered with magnesium alloy sheet.
Three major variants eventually comprised the Bonanza family:
The ICAO aircraft type designators for the three variants are BE35, BE33, and BE36 respectively.
The basic Bonanza fuselage was used for the twin-engined Travel Air, which was later developed into the Baron. Despite its name, the Twin Bonanza uses a different fuselage and is mostly dissimilar to the single-engined Bonanza.
All Bonanzas share an unusual feature: The yoke and rudder pedals are interconnected by a system of bungee cords that assist in keeping the airplane in coordinated flight during turns. The bungee system allows the pilot to make coordinated turns using the yoke alone, or with minimal rudder input, during cruise flight. Increased right-rudder pressure is still required on takeoff to overcome engine torque and P-factor. In the landing phase, the bungee system must be overridden by the pilot when making crosswind landings, which require cross-controlled inputs to keep the nose of the airplane aligned with the runway centerline without drifting left or right. This feature started with the V-tail and persists on the current production model.
Operational historyThe V-tail design gained a reputation as the "forked-tail doctor killer", due to crashes by overconfident wealthy amateur pilots, fatal accidents, and inflight breakups. "Doctor killer" has sometimes been used to describe the conventional-tailed version, as well. However, a detailed analysis by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of accident records for common single-engine retractable-gear airplanes in the United States between 1982 and 1989 demonstrated that the Bonanza had a slightly lower accident rate than other types in the study. Pilot error was cited in 73% of V-tail crashes and 83% of conventional-tail crashes, with aircraft-related causes accounting for 15% and 11% of crashes respectively. However, the study noted that the aircraft had an unusually high incidence of gear-up landings and inadvertent gear retractions on the ground, which were attributed to a non-standard gear-retraction switch on early models that is easily confused with the switch that operates the flaps. 1984 and later models use a more distinctive relocated landing-gear switch, augmented by "squat switches" in the landing gear that prevent its operation while compressed by the aircraft's weight, and a throttle position switch that prevents gear retraction at low engine power settings.
In the late 1980s, repeated V-tail structural failures prompted the United States Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct extensive wind tunnel and flight tests, which proved that the V-tail did not meet type certification standards under certain conditions; the effort culminated with the issuance of an airworthiness directive to strengthen the tail, which significantly reduced the incidence of in-flight breakups. Despite this, Beech has long contended that most V-tail failures involve operations well beyond the aircraft's intended flight envelope. Subsequent analysis of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident records between 1962 and 2007 revealed an average of three V-tail structural failures per year, while the conventional-tailed Bonanza 33 and 36 suffered only eleven such failures during the same time period. Most V-tail failures involved flight under visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions, flight into thunderstorms, or airframe icing. In addition to the structural issues, the Bonanza 35 has a relatively narrow center of gravity envelope, and the tail design is intolerant of imbalances caused by damage, improper maintenance, or repainting; such imbalances may induce dangerous aeroelastic flutter. Despite these issues, many Bonanza 35 owners insist that the aircraft is reasonably safe, and its reputation has lessened acquisition costs for budget-conscious buyers.
In 1982, the production of the V-tail Bonanza stopped but the conventional-tail Model 33 continued in production until 1995. Still built today is the Model 36 Bonanza, a longer-bodied, straight-tail variant of the original design, introduced in 1968.
In January 2012, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority issued an airworthiness directive grounding all Bonanzas, Twin Bonanzas, and Debonairs equipped with a single pole-style yoke and that have forward elevator control cables that are more than 15 years old until they could be inspected. The AD was issued based on two aircraft found to have frayed cables, one of which suffered a cable failure just prior to takeoff and resulting concerns about the age of the cables in fleet aircraft of this age. At the time of the grounding, some Bonanzas had reached 64 years in service. Aircraft with frayed cables were grounded until the cables were replaced and those that passed inspection were required to have their cables replaced within 60 days regardless. The AD affected only Australian aircraft and was not adopted by the airworthiness authority responsible for the type certificate, the US Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA instead opted to issue a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin requesting that the elevator control cables be inspected during the annual inspection.
QU-22 Pave EagleThe QU-22 was a Beech 36/A36 Bonanza modified during the Vietnam War to be an electronic monitoring signal relay aircraft, developed under the project name "Pave Eagle" for the United States Air Force. An AiResearch turbocharged, reduction-geared Continental GTSIO-520-G engine was used to reduce its noise signature, much like the later Army-Lockheed YO-3A. These aircraft were intended to be used as unmanned drones to monitor seismic and acoustic sensors dropped along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and report troop and supply movements. When the project was put into operation in 1968, however, the aircraft were all flown by pilots of the 554th Reconnaissance Squadron Detachment 1, call sign "Vampire". A separate operation "Compass Flag" monitored the General Directorate of Rear Services along the Ho Chi Minh Trail linking to the 6908th security squadron.
Six YQU-22A prototypes (modifications of the Beech 33 Debonair) were combat-tested in 1968, and two were lost during operations, with a civilian test pilot killed. Twenty-seven QU-22Bs were modified, 13 in 1969 and 14 in 1970, with six lost in combat. Two Air Force pilots were killed in action. All of the losses were due to engine failures or effects of turbulence. A large cowl bump above the spinner was faired-in for an AC current generator, and higher weight set of Baron wings and spars were used to handle the 236-gallon fuel load.
Model 33 Debonair/Bonanza
; 35-33 Debonair :(1959) An M35 Bonanza with conventional fin and tailplane, one 225 hp Continental IO-470-J, 233 built ; 35-A33 Debonair :(1961) Model 33 with rear side windows and improved interior trim, 154 built ; 35-B33 Debonair :(1962-1964) A33 with contoured fin leading edge, N35 fuel tank modifications and P35 instrument panel, 426 built ; 35-C33 Debonair :(1965-1967) B33 with teardrop rear side windows, enlarged fin fairing and improved seats, 305 built ; 35-C33A Debonair :(1966-1967) C33 with a 285hp Continental IO-520-B engine and optional fifth seat, 179 built ; D33 Debonair : One S35 modified as a military close-support prototype ; E33 Bonanza :(1968-1969) C33 with improved Bonanza trim, 116 built ; E33A Bonanza :(1968) E33 with a 285 hp Continental IO-520-B engine, 85 built ; E33B Bonanza : E33 with strengthened airframe and certified for aerobatics ; E33C Bonanza :(1968-1969) E33B with a 285 hp Continental IO-520-B engine, 25 built ; F33 Bonanza :(1970) E33 with deeper rear side windows and minor improvements, 20 built ; F33A Bonanza :(1970-1994) F33 with a 285 hp Continental IO-520-B engine, later aircraft have a longer S35/V35 cabin and extra seats, 821 built
; F33C Bonanza :(1970) F33A certified for aerobatics, 118 built ; G33 Bonanza :(1972-1973) F33 with a 260hp Continental IO-470-N engine and V35B trim, 50 built
Model 35 Bonanza;35 :(1947–1948), main production with 165 hp Continental E-185-1 engine, 1500 built ;A35 :(1949) Model 35 with higher takeoff weight, and minor internal changes, 701 built ; B35 :(1950) A35 with a 165hp Continental E-185-8 engine and other minor changes, 480 built ; C35 :(1951-1952) B35 with a 185hp Continental E-185-11 engine, metal propeller, larger tail surfaces, and higher takeoff weight, approved for the Lycoming GO-435-D1 engine, 719 built ; D35 :(1953) C35 with increased takeoff weight and minor changes, 298 built, approved for the Lycoming GO-435-D1 engine ; E35 :(1954) D35 with optional E-225-8 engine and minor changes, 301 built ; F35 :(1955) E35 with extra rear window each side, 392 built ; G35 :(1956) F35 with a Continental E-225-8 engine, 476 built ; H35
:(1957) G35 with a Continental O-470-G engine, strengthened structure and internal trim changes, 464 built ; J35 :(1958) H35 with a fuel injected Continental IO-470-C engine, optional autopilot, and improved instruments, 396 built ; K35 :(1959) J35 with fuel load increase, optional fifth seat and increased takeoff weight, 436 built ; M35 :(1960) K35 with cambered wingtips and minor changes, 400 built; N35 :(1961) M35 with a 260 hp Continental IO-470-N engine, increased fuel capacity, increased takeoff weight, and teardrop rear side windows, 280 built ; 035 :(1961) Experimental version, an N35 fitted with laminar flow airfoil and redesigned landing gear, only one built ; P35 :(1962–1963) N35 with new instrument panel and improved seating, 467 built ; S35 :(1964–1965) P35 with a Continental IO-520-B engine, higher takeoff weight, longer cabin interior, optional fifth and sixth seat, and new rear window, 667 built ; V35 :(1966–1967) S35 with higher takeoff weight, single-piece windshield, optional turbocharged TSIO-520-D engine (as V35-TC), 873 built ;V35A :(1968–1969) V35 with a streamlined windshield and minor changes, optional turbocharged TSIO-520-D engine (as V35A-TC), 470 built ;V35B :(1970–1982) V35A with minor improvements to systems and trim, optional turbocharged TSIO-520-D engine (as V35B-TC), 24-volt electrical system (1978 and on), 873 built
Model 36 Bonanza;36 :(1968–1969) E33A with a ten-inch fuselage stretch, four cabin windows each side, starboard rear double doors and seats for six, one 285 hp Continental IO-520-B engine, 184 built ;A36 :(1970–2005) Model 36 with improved deluxe interior, a new fuel system, higher takeoff weight, from 1984 fitted with a Continental IO-550-BB engine and redesigned instrument panel and controls, 2128 built ;A36TC :(1979–1981) Model 36 with a three-bladed propeller and a 300 hp turbocharged Continental TSIO-520-UB engine, 280 built ;T36TC :(1979) A36 fitted with T-tail and a 325 hp Continental TSIO-520 engine, one built ;B36TC :(1982–2002) A36TC with longer span wing, increased range, redesigned instrument panel and controls, higher takeoff weight, 116 built ; G36 :(2006–present) – glass cockpit update of the A36 with the Garmin G1000 system
QU-22;YQU-22A (Model P.1079) :USAF military designation for a prototype intelligence-gathering drone version of the Bonanza 36, six built ;YAU-22A (Model PD.249) :Prototype low-cost close-support version using Bonanza A36 fuselage and Baron B55 wings, one built ;QU-22B :Production drone model for the USAF operation Pave Eagle, 27 built, modified with turbocharging, three-bladed propeller, and tip-tanks
Modifications;Allison Turbine Bonanza :Allison, in conjunction with Soloy, certified a conversion of Beech A36 Bonanza aircraft to be powered by an Allison 250-B17C turboprop engine. ;Continental Voyager Bonanza (A36) :standard aircraft with a liquid-cooled Continental Motors TSIOL-550-B engine. ;Propjet Bonanza (A36) :standard aircraft modified by Tradewind Turbines with an Allison 250-B17F/2 turboprop engine (Original STC # 3523NM by Soloy). ;TurbineAir Bonanza (B36TC) :Modification by Rocket Engineering subsidiary West Pacific Air, LLC with a 500 hp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-21 turboprop engine and fuel capacity. ;Whirlwind System II Turbonormalized Bonanza (36, A36, G36) :standard aircraft modified by Tornado Alley Turbo with a Tornado Alley Turbonormalizing (keeps power up to 20,000ft) system and approved for a 4000 lb MTOW ;Whirlwind TCP Bonanza (A36TC or B36TC) :standard aircraft modified by Tornado Alley Turbo with a TCM IO-550B engine and Tornado Alley Turbonormalizing system, this airframe is approved for a 4042 lb MTOW. ;Bay Super V :A multiengine conversion of the C35 Bonanza
Model 40The Beechcraft Model 40A was an experimental twin-engined aircraft based on the Bonanza. Only one prototype was built in 1948. It featured a unique over/under arrangement of two 180-hp Franklin engines mounted on top of each other and driving a single propeller. The plane had a different engine cowl from a standard Bonanza, and the nose gear could not fully retract, but otherwise it greatly resembled the production Bonanzas of the time. Certification rules demanded a firewall be fitted between the two engines, however, thus stopping development. The status of the prototype is unknown.
ParastuThis is the standard F33 (1970) variant of the Bonanza which has been reverse engineered by Defense Industries Organization of Iran and is being manufactured without a license.
The Bonanza is popular with air charter companies, and is operated by private individuals and companies.
In 1949, Turner Airlines (later renamed Lake Central Airlines) commenced operations using three V-tail Bonanzas. That same year, Central Airlines began operations using eight Bonanzas, later adding three more to the fleet before starting to phase them out in 1950 in favor of the Douglas DC-3.