S-35 in flight

  The S-35 Bonanza is a truly addictive machine. This particular one, equipped with a 285-hp injected engine and a three-bladed prop really is a high performance single. It even sounds like a P-51 during the takeoff roll or a low pass.

-- Time to go hurtling --

  Although the airline pilots, well heeled MU-2 drivers or the military hot-jet guys probably don't think the Bonanza is fast, if you're more used to the typical Cessnas and Pipers that grace the flight lines, the Bonanza is a real rocket ship. Especially with 285 horsepower in the nose! This particular example cruises at around 160 knots. You can beat the airlines on most trips with this speed once you consider you're not going to have to hang around terminals for hours on end, nor fight the big airport traffic.

  Like all Beechcraft, the first thing I noticed when I began my checkout was the solid construction. The landing gear is extremely rugged, and I wouldn't have any qualms about taking this plane into a grass airstrip. The plane has big, barn door flaps that rival a Cessna's. It also has the intriguing V-tail that gives Bonanzas from this era their distinctive look. The S-35 was the first "modern" looking Bonanza with the third cabin window, which really improves the look (I've seen some older Bonanzas with the third window retrofitted). The other unusual thing about the Bonanza (and Beech aircraft with the same landing gear) is that it has inner gear doors. Most other retract singles, such as the Piper Arrow or Beech Sierra are only really semi-retracts, leaving a bit of the main gear sticking out into the breeze, with no smooth inner doors reducing drag. The Bonanza also has a beautiful, constant tapered wing.

  Preflight brought no real surprises. Something I always like on an aircraft is a cowling that can be easily opened during preflight. This model has a cowling closed by dzus fasteners, which can quickly be given a half turn with a screwdriver, allowing the pilot to take a good look inside. I've never been particularly satisfied with just peering through a small oil filler door.

Bonanza cabin: Is three
pilots in one plane worth only 1/2 a student pilot?   Once you're in, the cabin is actually pretty spacious. Not only that, the view over the nose and to the sides is far better than I've found in a Piper aircraft (but not as good as in a Grumman Tiger). One thing I don't like about Beechcraft seats of this era (the Musketeer was this way too) is that there is a fairly hard piece that sits right on the bottom of your backbone. It's worth carrying a cushion along so you're not sitting on this for hours on end!

  However, despite this big cabin, there is a drawback. The aircraft is easily loaded beyond aft limits, so it pays to do a weight and balance before any flight (particularly when you've got someone in the back). For instance, I can't take three 170-pounders with me - I have enough payload left over, but I would be outside of the aft limits. Three people doesn't seem to be a problem though - I could take Paul and Jenny, either one could ride in the front despite their quite different weights. Unlike a lot of aircraft, the CofG actually goes backwards as fuel is burned off. It is therefore important to compute the weight and balance for the start and the end of the journey Unlike a lot of aircraft, the CofG actually goes backwards as fuel is burned off. It is therefore important to compute the weight and balance for the start and the end of the journey.

Panel   The panels of most aircraft in this performance category are fully IFR-equipped, and then some. Our club's aircraft has the usual complement of IFR instruments and radios, plus a Stormscope, something that's quite valuable in south east Texas, especially in the summer. Spherics aren't perfect of course, but they do help. The only thing that concerns me about the panel of this model is that the circuit breakers are rather difficult to see without having to move a lot, and the fuel selector requires the pilot to look down to change (something that's to be avoided if possible whilst in IMC). Many Bonanzas of this era had the throwover yokes - this particular one has two though. Beech have to be complemented on making nice yokes - they are by far the most comfortable ones to hold I've found. In fact, they are so nice, I have to fly with both hands, so my right hand doesn't miss out! In flight, the aircraft is stable and pleasant, the only fly in the ointment being the pronounced yaw during turbulence. I've heard that this is common to both Bonanzas and Barons, even the straight-tails. During the checkout, we did the usual airwork, including visiting the aircraft's reputation for abrupt stalls. After performing full stalls, I have to say that it really isn't bad - not really worse than a Cessna 150. You do have to be careful not to try and pick up a wing with the ailerons, otherwise you'll be staring at the ground in short order, as the low wing just stalls deeper. Getting the plane slowed down is another interesting point, especially if you're used to draggier aircraft. One thing that's interesting is that when the gear comes down, it's quite like an airliner. You can hear the air rumbling through the gear wells, which I've never noticed in other retracts.

  The aircraft isn't too hard to land. Its mass makes landing in gusty conditions a lot easier than in a Cessna 172 (despite the yawing you often experience). It's best to crab the aircraft in a crosswind, then transition to the slip on late final. Holding a slip for any length of time is not that comfortable due to a rudder/aileron interconnect. Also, the aircraft is placarded against slips for longer than 20 seconds. It's best to come down on final with a little bit of power, otherwise the sink rate gets rather high. You can fly a power off approach, but it's best to come in a little faster to ensure there's enough energy left to flare. One thing I've seen a lot of Bonanza pilots do is hurtle around the pattern at over 120 knots, which really isn't necessary. You can comfortably fly downwind at 100, which keeps you from running over Cessna 150's. If you keep the speed reasonable, you can also fly a similar pattern width to the small Cessnas as well.

Roundout!   It's not too difficult to get a nice greaser of a landing in this fairly heavy single. It certainly is easier to land smoothly than the Piper Arrow, and has a lot more pitch authority than the Arrow too. The rollout is quite short too. The book approach speed is 70 knots, which is only a little faster than a C172's book approach speed. With the power at idle, the book recommends at least 80 knots to ensure adequate energy is left to arrest the descent during the flare.

  To summarize, this is a fun plane to fly. It does require a bit of practise to get up to speed (literally), since you have to think faster to be ahead of it, but once you are, it's really enjoyable to fly. The big 6 cylinder engine hums rather than putters, and in this particular ship, the vibration levels are almost as low as in a turboprop aircraft. It's like flying your own personal airliner!

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Photographs by Paul Reinman, Jenny Reinman and Dylan Smith.