Upgrade from a 1974 Bonanza A36

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Just came across this site and see a lot of knowledeable folks.

I am in a partnership which owns a 1974 A36. Given its age I have
been given the task of exploring replacements for the plane. I
wanted to get some recommendations. Key requirements:

- Speed: This is used for cross-country. So while not needing to be
jet fast, it cannot be slower than the A36
- Capacity: While we could downgrade to a 4 seater, it needs to be a
true 4 seater. Able to take ~700lbs of passengar+luggage with fuel
filled to the tabs
- Cost: Stay under 400K (We will be buying a used airplane)

Other than looking at a newer A36/G36, what would you consider?



-- Vijay Raghavan, May 23, 2010


A friend recently sold an SR22 with all-glass Avidyne panel in perfect condition (1200 hours TT) for $180,000. For going Point A to Point B there is no better value than a used SR22. Cirrus produced a near- infinite supply and they made the Avidyne ones worth a lot less when they switched to the Garmin G1000. If you want a truly deluxe flying experience you can spend $15,000 or so on the latest Avidyne software and the Avidyne attitude-based autopilot with envelope protection (would have saved the lives of those Colgan passengers in Buffalo if they'd had it).

-- Philip Greenspun, June 4, 2010

Hi Vijay:

Your question made me want to ask you a question. I am currently looking to move up from my Cessna 172SP (2008, G1000, WAAS), in which I recently completed my instrument rating.

I have narrowed my selection down to 2 aircraft: Bonanza G36 and Cessna T206H. In both cases, I would have the G1000 and hopefully the GFC700 autopilot and WAAS.

My question to you is why you said "other than looking at a newer A36/G36"? What has been your experience with the A36. It sounds like my requirements are similar to yours. Is a G36 on your list of planes to consider?

Thanks for any advice from your experience.


-- Todd Ramming, May 23, 2010


I have not personally flown the 206 so I can comment only from feedback I have got. In essense the comparision I have heard is a 206 is like a pickup truck to A36 is to a luxury sedan.

Pros of the A36/G36 vs 206: - Faster, Better Pilots plane, Luxurious

Cons: - More expensive both in cost and maintenance - Have to deal with complex aircraft (Retract) - Poorer ground visibility (Low wing)

We did not consider the 206 since anything less than the 170Kt we get in the A36 would not be acceptable to the partners. The G36 would be nice, but I think we will not get one within our budget that is in good shape.

Hope that helped.



-- Vijay Raghavan, May 23, 2010


If a newer A36 does not appeal, I see two options. The Cirrus SR-22 matches the A36 in speed, and it does carry 4 adults and a useful amount of fuel, unlike most other recent 4-place types.

The other type I would consider is the TB-20 Trinidad. Yes, it is slower than the A36, but in my book the comfort and visibility (and lower price) make up for that. And the handling is great, close to matching the Bonanza's. The TB-20 seats 5, but is a great 4-place aircraft. (You can tell I'm a European...)

Then there's the truck-like, maintainence-heavy old C210. It is a great aircraft and matches your requirements on paper, but I cannot imagine anyone volunteering from A36 to C210. In real life I think it is also a little slower.

I have no ownership experience with any of the mentioned types, but have flown them all.

Mooneys and Columbia's (or whatever they are called these days) are fast and great but will not carry 4 adults and fuel.

You'll end up getting a newer A36, won't you?

-- Henrik Vaeroe, May 24, 2010

700 pounds with fuel to the tabs is a common mistake. A proper mission statement is 700 lbs and x range with reserves. Or, even better, 700 lbs with x range in 3 hours with reserves because it's nearly impossible to take 4 people over 3 hours between toilet stops.

Or, get a newer bonanza.

The long body Mooney is the most comfortable long range cruiser because all seats recline and it actually has more room for your body parts. OTOH, it can "feel" small due to the effort getting in and the smalll windows.

I would make an effort to at least sit in an Ovation, Columbia, and Cessna. The TBM is a good plane but as a broker I recommended against them due to low US volume.

400 buys a lot of plane right now.

-- Eric Warren, May 24, 2010

The need on tabs had to with how we operate the partnership. In essense the expectation is that after use each partner needs to fill the plane till the tabs. It is not practical to have people empty tanks if they are carrying higher loads.



-- Vijay Raghavan, May 24, 2010

Your newer plane will likely have accurate fuel metering equipment. If you don't want to change your fuel accounting either, I suspect one or more partners won't like a plane change either, so back to a Bo.

I will make one more suggestion. Efficiency and range are going to be much more important with $10 fuel. Isn't better speed, efficiency, and range more valuable than smaller tanks?

-- Eric Warren, May 25, 2010


Good point. Not used to the modern fuel guages. So in essense we can pick a point below the tabs for the standard fill (Say 45 Gallons) and the club can adust accordingly?



-- Vijay Raghavan, May 25, 2010

It may not be quite that easy, but that is an option so long as accurate records are kept. The newer planes all have fuel flow meters that are very accurate. Unfortunately, most of them still don't have capacitance systems, so you can get a very accurate fuel level from a known level (IOW, accurate burn). However, if you don't know where you started, you don't know how much you have, only how much you burned.

So, perhaps a new thread would get examples of different systems of accounting systems, but you will now likely want to have each partner leave the plane unfilled, and after each flight. The next pilot chooses his fuel load and records his purchase, and records his burn after the flight. At the end of the month, you then have to settle the account along with your other maintenance and expenses.

It's not hard math, and you get many potential benefits. Fuel savings because short flights will be flown light, no stopping at the pumps when finished flying, less likelyhood of someone chancing a heavy takeoff, and opening up more plane choices are some benefits.

-- Eric Warren, May 26, 2010

I personally think you're playing with fire to consistently load 700lbs. in any aircraft with less than 1100 lbs. useful. In my mind that eliminates all of the 4 seat aircraft mentioned. Consider real IFR planning including realistic alternates and you'll be pushing your fuel or flying overloaded on many cross country flights. When the weather goes bad and ATC has me turning circles the last thing I want to worry about is running out of fuel.

That leaves the original 2 options the 206 or G36 as the only newer alternatives. I fly a T206H and it will definitely go 170 true. You just can't fly it the same way you do a normally aspirated A36. I have found the A36's sweet spot in terms of performance is usually around 6-8,000 ft. yielding 165-170 true. Your older A36 will be a little faster than the new ones and have a better useful load so keep that in mind. In a T206H you have to climb to its sweet spot of 10-12,000 ft and you will easily see the same 165-170 true even at gross. Both can be easily modified (tip tanks, etc.) to have useful load numbers in the 1,500 lb. range perfect for your described mission.

I believe the pros and cons of each were well described earlier so I won't mention them again.

Either aircraft can be purchased within your budget, but the choices of G36 may be limited to mid-time 2006 models vs. many choices of 2004 or newer T206H's. That assumes you want a glass panel aircraft.

Either of these choices with the STC's for higher useful load make the fuel debate null since you can just fill the mains as a matter of course and KNOW how much fuel you have.

Having flown both my sense is that if you are use to a A36 then it will be hard to give up the positive qualities of the Beechcraft for anything else. I would still demo both and dig into the maintenance cost as well before I made a final decision.

I hope this helps-


-- Alex Baker, June 4, 2010

Rockwell Commander 115tc

The commander 115 meets all your requirments stated above. It is exceptionally spacious inside, a true 4 seat airplane. The commander will cruise at 180kt and climb above weather with a ceiling of 25,000ft.

-- Jared Branson, August 2, 2010