The 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 airplane in history. More than 17,000 Bonanzas of all variants have been built, produced in both distinctive V-tail and conventional tail configurations.
A 1947 advertisement for the first Model 35 Bonanza
At 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 rakishlystreamlined 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 the most distinctive private aircraft in the sky. 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 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.
The 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 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 Eagle
The 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.
(1968–1969) V35 with a streamlined windshield and minor changes, optional turbocharged TSIO-520-D engine (as V35A-TC), 470 built
(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
Beechcraft A36 Bonanza modified with the Tradewind Turbine's turboprop conversion
(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
(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
(1979–1981) Model 36 with a three-bladed propeller and a 300 hp turbocharged Continental TSIO-520-UB engine, 280 built
(1979) A36 fitted with T-tail and a 325 hp Continental TSIO-520 engine, one built
(1982–2002) A36TC with longer span wing, increased range, redesigned instrument panel and controls, higher takeoff weight, 116 built
The 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.
This 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.
Astronaut Gordon Cooper, of Gemini V, poses on the wing of his personal Beechcraft Bonanza in 1963.
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.
In January 1949, the fourth Bonanza to come off the production line was piloted by Captain William Odom from Honolulu, Hawaii, to the continental United States (2,900 statute miles), the first light airplane to do so. The airplane was called Waikiki Beech, and its 40-gallon (150 L) fuel capacity was increased (using fuselage and wing tanks) to 268 gallons (1010 L), which gave a still-air range of nearly 5,000 statute miles.
In March 1949, Captain Odom piloted Waikiki Beech a distance of 5,273 miles (8,486 km) from Honolulu to Teterboro, New Jersey, setting a nonstop record. The flight time was 36:01 hours, at an average speed of 146.3 miles per hour (235.4 km/h), consuming 272.25 US gallons (1,030.6 l; 226.70 imp gal) of fuel. After that flight, the airplane was donated to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air Museum, as the National Air and Space Museum was then called.
On October 7, 1951, an American congressman from Illinois, Peter F. Mack, Jr., began an around-the-world trip in Waikiki Beech, on loan from the museum and reconditioned at the Beech factory, and renamed Friendship Flame. He spent 15 weeks traveling through 30 countries (223 hours flight time). The plane was again refurbished in 1975 and returned to the National Air and Space Museum. It is still on display there, with both names painted on its sides.
On May 31, 2014, 19-year-old MIT student Matt Guthmiller from Aberdeen, South Dakota, departed Gillespie Field in El Cajon, California, in a 1981 A36 Bonanza on a 44-day-12-hour solo circumnavigation, making him the Guinness World Record holder as the youngest person to fly solo around the world when he landed back in El Cajon on July 14, 2014, at 19 years, 7 months, and 15 days of age. During 170 hours of flight time, he made 23 stops in 15 countries on five continents, and covered about 30,500 miles (49,100 km), while raising awareness for computer science education and supporting Code.org.
Accidents and incidents
There have been numerous accidents and incidents involving the Beechcraft Bonanza. Listed below are a select few of the most notable ones.
On January 26, 1952, Zubeida Begum and Hanwant Singh, Maharaja of Jodhpur, died when their Beechcraft Bonanza crashed in Godwar (Rajasthan), India. Hanwant Singh was overworked while campaigning for elections and is reported to have been sleeping only four hours a night. The wreckage from this crash was discovered in storage in the cellar of the Central Jail in Jodhpur in 2011.
On July 31, 1955, the rising Hollywood star Robert Francis died with two others when the Bonanza he was piloting crashed immediately after take-off from Burbank.
On July 31, 1964, country music star Jim Reeves and his pianist Dean Manuel died when the Beechcraft Debonair N8972M Reeves was piloting crashed in the Brentwood area of Nashville during a violent thunderstorm.
On February 14, 1975, Congressman Jerry Pettis was killed when the Beechcraft Model V35B Bonanza he was piloting crashed near Cherry Valley, California, after he encountered adverse weather conditions. The Jerry Pettis Memorial Veterans Administration Hospital in Loma Linda, California, is named in his honor.
On February 7, 1981, Apple Computer cofounder Steve Wozniak crashed his Beechcraft Bonanza while taking off from Santa Cruz Sky Park. The NTSB investigation revealed Wozniak did not have a "high performance" endorsement (making him legally unqualified to operate the airplane) and had a "lack of familiarity with the aircraft." The cause of the crash was determined to be a premature liftoff, followed by a stall and "mush" into a 12-foot embankment. Wozniak later made a full recovery, albeit with a case of temporary anterograde amnesia.
On March 19, 1982, Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist Randy Rhoads was killed when the wing of the Bonanza F35 in which he was riding hit the band's tour bus then crashed into a tree and a nearby residence. The pilot and another passenger were also killed. The NTSB cited the causes of the crash as poor judgement, buzzing, and misjudged clearance, as well as indicating that the use of the aircraft was not authorized by the aircraft's owner.
On March 13, 2006, game show host Peter Tomarken crashed his Bonanza A36 into Santa Monica Bay while climbing from Santa Monica Airport in California. He was en route to San Diego to pick up a cancer patient who needed transportation to UCLA Medical Center for treatment. Tomarken and his wife were killed in the crash.
On July 23, 2014, Haris Suleman (October 3, 1996 – July 23, 2014), a Pakistani-American pilot attempting to fly around the world in 30 days to promote education, crashed his Beechcraft Bonanza in the Pacific Ocean, killing him and leaving his father Babar Suleman (December 27, 1958 – July 23, 2014), also on board, missing.