Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Flying the Beech Bonanza

Me after my first solo flight in 9777Y. 
At long last, I'm finally flying a V-Tail Bonanza. The same one my husband and I flew to Colorado many years ago before I got my private license.

I won't go into all of the things that made it take so long before I would take the left seat of this plane. Let it suffice to say, I was starting to wonder if maybe the plane didn't want me to fly it with so many weird delays and circumstances keeping me from flying it. However, eventually the plane relented and I got to do the required dual time and 25 take offs and landings to meet our club's insurance requirements.

What's it like to fly? Easier than I thought it would be. Maybe due to my many many hours in complex planes and many hours in high performance planes, the combination of high performance and complex that is a Bonanza didn't throw me. I'm also rather familiar with the plane in spite of not flying it left seat. I've probably logged over 30 hours of right seat time in the plane flying with my husband doing everything but taking off and landing. I can even say the plane's tail number easily, which is harder than most ... niner seven seven seven yankee.

By the Numbers

This plane cruises at about 160-150 MPH at about 65% power at the low altitudes that we fly in the Bay Area proper. 40 gallon tanks in each wing (37 gallons usable). It can cruise over 500NM with 45 minutes reserve. No, not the fastest plane, not even the fastest Bonanza, but fast enough for me, for now :) It climbs very strong, over 1200 fpm on a hot day at sea level. In an emergency descent it can go 4000 fpm down safely.

Its slippery in the air, a 5 degree nose down pitch without reducing power and you're easily in the yellow arc, going for red. This plane is the first I've flown where the saying "you can't go down and slow down" is real. Bonanzas, you have to watch that pitch. A quick pitch down to avoid traffic, for instance, if left unadjusted, will quickly push up the airspeed and you'd never know the difference. If you pitch down without pulling power you'll never get slow enough to get the gear down. So you have to plan way ahead of the plane, reduce power first slow the plane down. Reduce power more and maintain a 500fpm descent rate and the plane will pick up a lot of speed (but stay in the green). Then when its time to put down the gear, if you're at 17" manifold pressure, just pitch straight and level, you're at gear extend speed in a couple seconds. Gear down, and you feel like someone threw a boat anchor out the back of the plane... you can hear and feel that gear.

No More Numbers

On one hand its all about flying the numbers... the manifold pressure and RPM you want for what you're doing, the flap settings, etc. On the other hand, the plane gets really fun when you have to throw the numbers out the window. A power off 180 in the plane is a blast. Pull the propeller all the way back and you feel like someone is shoving you forward. Push in the prop and its easy to bleed off airspeed, altitude or both. The drag weapons are impressive and if you need more speed, just tip the nose down a bit and there you go!

In any case, I'm very happy to finally be able to add this very capable plane to my "list". I am looking forward to flying it to all kinds of far away places a lot quicker than I can go in an Arrow or 182 or 172. The only problem is, it's my husband's favorite plane. We will have to arm wrestle to decide who gets to fly it when we fly together :) That's a good problem to have!

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