What would I buy…Beechcraft Bonanza

beechcraft bonanza

What would I buy….Beechcraft Bonanza
This is the fourth installment in a series of articles based on a hypothetical set of airplane ownership criteria. Note: This information is strictly the opinion of the author. Your mileage may vary. 

Previous Installments:

  1. Kolb
  2. Luscombe 8A
  3. Globe Swift

The goal this time will be to spend $40,000 for a nice certified aircraft (not LSA or Experimental).

So if I was limited to the criteria above what would I buy? As the title already gave away, it would be a Beechcraft Bonanza

The Bonanza is a timeless classic that enjoys excellent flight characteristics and a cult-like following. The only complaints being the V-tail can provide some yawing in turbulence, but there are countermeasures for that and it’s not a biggie for me – my passengers might disagree. The other complaint is maintenance costs. The final complaint I hear is that there are several 4 place high performance aircraft in its category that have better performance. This isn’t a shootout article on the best high piston single; this is what I would buy if I had $40,000.00 burning a hole in my pocket.

Bonanza Beech

The Bonanza has been in continuous production since 1947, which makes it the longest continuously produced airplane in the world.

I have to admit, I was influenced at an early age to avoid the Bonanza. Why? How could a bad design endure for 66 years? It wasn’t the airplane is was the people. The guys at my local field that were the most ‘unfriendly’ were the Bonanza drivers. So a stereotype was quickly inserted upon my pea-brain and a great design was dismissed, at least in my mind.

All the Bonanza purists out there are screaming and spitting at their monitors right about now. Sorry, I was young and impressionable.

Fast forward 25 years and my opinion has ‘matured.’ Having flown Bonanzas I know it to be a truly a good airplane and it shouldn’t suffer from a few ‘bad apples.’

NO EXPERT HERE: Although I have flown several of the models, I can’t provide a detailed analysis because there is so much to know. In 66 years of production, you need a PhD to decipher all the nuances from year-to-year. I actually intend to buy one, or at least an airplane in the same class, sometime in the future so I’m anxious to learn as much as possible. I was referred to this book as the definitive on all things Bonanza: Those Incomparable Bonanzas by Larry A. Ball. As of this writing, I haven’t purchased it yet.

polished V-tail

There have been over 17,000 built, so like I said there’s a lot to know and choose from. I have seen prices for ferry-able older examples below $18,000.00 (obviously needed some serious work) and at the opposite end of the scale, prices that are twenty times my budget (brand new G36).

Early models have a 6 cylinder Continental of 185hp or 225hp – referred to as ‘E engines’ by their model designation. In asking some owners about the vintage Bonanzas there seems to be a desire to avoid these E engines to some degree in favor of an 0-470 (or IO-470 or IO-520) which might be retrofitted or standard in the later models. The used market does suggest a price bump for the 470 (or 520) as compared to its predecessor. I’m not qualified to say ya or nay, other than to say that the E engines must not be too bad as it was factory installed on Bonanzas for the first 10 years of their existence. I image it has to do with fewer mechanics qualified to work on the older engine and the decreased horsepower – Americans aren’t getting smaller. Shop accordingly.

Stats: 1957 H35 Model shown (closest to $40k avg retail according to the American Bonanza Society). This is also an O-470 powered machine (240hp).

Aircraft specifications (all data from Hawker Beechcraft)
Wingspan 32 ft 9 7/8 in Max TO weight 2,900 lbs
Length 25 ft 1¼ in Useful load 1,067 lbs*
Height 7 ft 7 in *Varies widely by year and individual aircraft

Performance (ISA)
Max cruise speed 190 mph (165 kt)
Max range (45-min reserve) 410 nm
Fuel capacity (standard) 40 U.S. gallons (34 usable)

If you are a low timer, insurance will probably not be kind, but it can be obtained with the right set of circumstances. As you build experience the amount should come down, but as a retractable gear, it’s always going to be more than it’s fixed gear brethren.

Resources: 

Here’s a recent ad from Trade-a-plane for a 1957 H35 with a mid-time engine for $39,975.00:

H35 v-tail beechcraft bonanza for sale

Honorable mentions that I would certainly consider:

  • Mooney M series
  • Piper Comanche

For you Bonanza aficionados out there, please correct me if my facts are off, I’d love to hear from you. If you are a fan of the competition, I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts as well.

by Brent Owens                                                                   Subscribe to the mailing list

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