Beechcraft Bonanza

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.[3][4] More than 17,000 Bonanzas of all variants have been built,[5][6] produced in both distinctive V-tail and conventional tail configurations.

Beech S35 Bonanza
Role Civil utility aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Beechcraft
First flight December 22, 1945
Introduction 1947[1]
Status In service
Produced 1947–present
Number built >17,000
Unit cost
US$914,000 (G36, 2019)[2]
Variants Beechcraft Travel Air
Bay Super V
Beechcraft T-34 Mentor

Design and development

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 rakishly streamlined shape, retractable tricycle undercarriage (although the nosewheel initially was not steerable, but castering)[7] 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.[8] The first 30–40 Bonanzas produced had fabric-covered flaps and ailerons, after which those surfaces were covered with magnesium alloy sheet.[9][10]

Three major variants eventually comprised the Bonanza family:

  • Model 35 Bonanza (1947–1982; V-tail)[9]
  • Model 33 Debonair (1959–1995; later renamed Bonanza, a Model 35 with a conventional tail)[11]
  • Model 36 Bonanza (1968–present; a stretched Model 33)

The ICAO aircraft type designators for the three variants are BE35, BE33, and BE36 respectively.[12]

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 history

The V-tail design gained a reputation as the "forked-tail doctor killer",[13] due to crashes by overconfident wealthy amateur pilots,[14] fatal accidents, and inflight breakups.[15] "Doctor killer" has sometimes been used to describe the conventional-tailed version, as well.[16][17] 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.[18] 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.[18]

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.[18][19] 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.[20] 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.[18] 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.[20]

In 1982, the production of the V-tail Bonanza stopped[21] but the conventional-tail Model 33 continued in production until 1995.[6][22] Still built today is the Model 36 Bonanza, a longer-bodied, straight-tail variant of the original design,[23] introduced in 1968.[6][24]

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.[25][26][27]

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.[28]

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.[29] 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.[28]


Model 33 Debonair/Bonanza

35-33 Debonair
(1959) An M35 Bonanza with conventional fin and tailplane, one 225 hp Continental IO-470-J,[30] 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[22]
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

(1947–1948), main production with 165 hp (123 kW) Continental E-185-1 engine, 1500 built
(1949) Model 35 with higher takeoff weight, and minor internal changes, 701 built
(1950) A35 with a 165hp Continental E-185-8 engine and other minor changes, 480 built
(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,[31] 719 built
(1953) C35 with increased takeoff weight and minor changes, 298 built, approved for the Lycoming GO-435-D1 engine[31]
(1954) D35 with optional E-225-8 engine and minor changes, 301 built
(1955) E35 with extra rear window each side, 392 built
(1956) F35 with a Continental E-225-8 engine, 476 built
(1957) G35 with a Continental O-470-G engine, strengthened structure and internal trim changes, 464 built
(1958) H35 with a fuel injected Continental IO-470-C engine, optional autopilot, and improved instruments, 396 built
(1959) J35 with fuel load increase, optional fifth seat and increased takeoff weight, 436 built
(1960) K35 with cambered wingtips and minor changes, 400 built
(1961) M35 with a 260 hp Continental IO-470-N engine, increased fuel capacity, increased takeoff weight, and teardrop rear side windows, 280 built[32]
(1961) Experimental version, an N35 fitted with laminar flow airfoil and redesigned landing gear, only one built
(1962–1963) N35 with new instrument panel and improved seating, 467 built
(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[33]
(1966–1967) S35 with higher takeoff weight, single-piece windshield, optional turbocharged TSIO-520-D engine (as V35-TC), 873 built[34]
(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[35]

Model 36 Bonanza

(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[24][36]
(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[37]
(2006–present) – glass cockpit update of the A36 with the Garmin G1000 system[5][38]


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
Production drone model for the USAF operation Pave Eagle, 27 built, modified with turbocharging, three-bladed propeller, and tip-tanks[39]


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.[40]
Continental Voyager Bonanza (A36)
standard aircraft with a liquid-cooled Continental Motors TSIOL-550-B engine.[41][42]
Propjet Bonanza (A36)
standard aircraft modified by Tradewind Turbines with an Allison 250-B17F/2 turboprop engine (Original STC # 3523NM by Soloy).[43]
TurbineAir Bonanza (B36TC)
Modification by Rocket Engineering subsidiary West Pacific Air, LLC with a 500 hp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-21 turboprop engine and 124 U.S. gallons (470 L; 103 imp gal) fuel capacity.[44][45][46][47]
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)[48] 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 40

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.[49] 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.[50][51]



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.[52] That same year, Central Airlines began operations using eight Bonanzas,[53] later adding three more to the fleet before starting to phase them out in 1950 in favor of the Douglas DC-3.[54]


Haitian Air Corps – 1 x Bonanza F33[55]
Imperial Iranian Air Force – 10 x Bonanza F33A and 39 x Bonanza F33C[56]
Indonesian Naval Aviation[57]
 Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast Air Force – 1 x Bonanza F33C[58]
Mexican Air Force – 10 x Bonanza F33C[59]
Netherlands Government Flying School – 16 x Bonanza F33C[60]
National Guard – 1 x Bonanaza A35[61]
Portuguese Air Force – 1 × Bonanza A35 operated 1949–55.[62]
Spanish Air Force – 29 x Bonanza F33C and 25 x Bonanza F33A[63]
Royal Thai Navy – 3 x Beech 35 Bonanza[64]
 United States
United States Air Force

Notable flights

  • 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.[65] 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.[66][67]
  • 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.[68]
  • 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[69]

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.[70]
  • 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.[71]
  • On February 3, 1959, rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper, as well as pilot Roger Peterson, died when their Beechcraft Bonanza 35, registration N3794N, crashed shortly after takeoff at night in poor weather.[72] The accident later became known as "The Day the Music Died".
  • 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.[73]
  • 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.[74]
  • 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.[75] 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.[76]
  • 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.[77]
  • 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. [78]

Specifications (2011 model G36)

Data from Hawker Beechcraft[79][80]

General characteristics

  • Crew: one
  • Capacity: five passengers
  • Length: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
  • Wingspan: 33 ft 6 in (10.21 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 7 in (2.62 m)
  • Empty weight: 2,517 lb (1,142 kg)
  • Gross weight: 3,650 lb (1,656 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Continental IO-550-B , 300 hp (220 kW)
  • Propellers: three-bladed Hartzell Propeller, 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) diameter


  • Cruise speed: 176 kn (203 mph, 326 km/h)
  • Range: 716 nmi (824 mi, 1,326 km) with full passenger load
  • Ferry range: 930 nmi (1,070 mi, 1,720 km)
  • Service ceiling: 18,500 ft (5,600 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,230 ft/min (6.2 m/s)


See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


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