|Original K35 paint scheme shown in a Beech factory photo
| We were plenty happy with our Grumman Cheetah. It was in great shape, equipped the way we wanted, and
a lot of fun to fly. It was also simple and economical to operate. We wondered why anyone would put up with
the hassle and expense of retractable gear and controllable propeller, just to get a little more speed.
Then our son, daughter-in-law and grandbaby moved from the Los Angeles area (7 - 8 hours from here in
the Cheetah, usually with two fuel stops) to Phoenix, Arizona (9 - 10 hours, and three fuel stops). Realizing this
would be a frequent trip, we started to understand why more speed, range and comfort would be a good thing.
The mechanic who worked on our Cheetah owns a 1970 V35B Bonanza. He suggested that a Bonanza might
fit our revised mission requirement. I protested that initial outlay, maintenance and operating costs of a
Bonanza were all way out of our budget. He replied that IO-470 - powered models (J35 through P35, built 1958 -
1963) were reasonably priced for the performance they offered. Beech parts are expensive, he said, but they
don't break as often; and he spends less time and money maintaining the stout Bonanza landing gear than he
does Grumman landing gear, with its complicated and fragile plastic fairings. And as for operating expenses, he
said that on a long trip his 285-hp V35B uses about the same amount of fuel as a 180-hp Grumman Tiger.
So we started looking, and saw quite a few doggy and/or
Then we heard about a 1959 K35 Bonanza for sale at Grants
Pass, Oregon. It had been lovingly owned by a local veterinarian
since 1970, and used mostly for long fishing trips to the British
Columbia interior. He didn't really want to sell, but his wife felt
that at age 80, it was time for him to quit flying.
In early April 2003 we drove to Grants Pass to look at it
(right). We knew some local pilots and mechanics who were
familiar with the airplane and its history, and they all said it was a
When we gave Walt the purchase deposit, he said, "If
something happens to my wife between now and the time we
close this deal ... I'm keeping the airplane." He wasn't smiling.
Fortunately for her, the Cheetah sold quickly, the Bonanza
passed its pre-buy inspection, and we took delivery on May 3.
|No, it's not an out-take from "Green Acres" -- It's just Don
Marks towing N616V across the road from his shop back to
the airport after fixing the balky flap motor
Before flying home I had a thorough checkout
by a CFI experienced in Bonanzas. I had about fifty
hours in Bonanzas, but the most recent was thirty
years ago, so I was starting from scratch.
The checkout was an opportunity to get
accustomed to the panel layout and arrangement of
switches and controls. This original, 1959-style
panel (below) was quite a change from the
Cheetah's modern, industry-standard arrangement.
I also learned about the odd four-tank fuel system,
in which excess fuel drawn from the auxiliary tanks
is returned to the left main tank.
The checkout went well until the very end,
when the flaps quit working, and were stuck in the
full-down position. Fortunately a mechanic familiar
with the airplane was available (left) to pull the front
seats out and inspect the flap motor. He found
corroded flap motor contacts, secured the
connections, and soon I was flying the airplane
home to Pearson.
Fortunately "1950's retro" was back in style.
The Bonanza's creamy yellow, beige and chrome
interior trim just screamed "1959"!
Noticeably absent from the interior is the
chintzy plastic so prevalent in more modern
airplanes. The side panels are upholstered and the
window frames and instrument panel fascia are
metal and solidly-constructed.
Though sturdy, the "piano key" electrical
switches are awkward and sometimes hard to reach
behind the control yoke. More than once I've
pinched a finger between the flap and fuel pump
switches. The bizarre cowl flap and parking brake
levers look like stops from an old pipe organ.
The avionics aboard N616V were of good
quality, but suited only for VFR operations. The
former owner had an aversion to instrument flight,
thus he never invested in a glide slope receiver, a
second VOR or DME. It was up to me to upgrade.
Though this airplane was nineteen years older, its total airframe time was just about the same (3,200
hours) as that of the Cheetah we had just sold. The Bonanza's engine was a newly-factory-remanufactured
Teledyne Continental IO-470-N, rated at 260 hp, upgraded from the 250-hp IO-470-C originally installed in the
In our trips so far we've noted cruise performance of 155 knots true airspeed at 12,000' density altitude;
full throttle and 2,450 rpm. With mixture leaned to peak EGT, fuel consumption is about 11.5 gph. For flight
planning purposes we figure an average 150 KTAS and 13 gph.
Older Bonanzas are frequently modified to resemble newer models. This one, however, has no exterior
modifications other than the squared-off wingtips introduced on the 1960 M35 Bonanza.
N616V is serial number 6106 of the 10,403 V-tail (Model 35) Bonanzas built between 1947 and 1982 (only
the A36 and B36TC Bonanzas, with conventional tail surfaces and 10-inch-longer fuselage, are still in
After the initial 1947-48 Model 35, Beech
applied a sequential letter prefix and/or suffix to
the "35" designation to indicate the model-year
variations. The 436 V-tail Bonanzas built during
the 1959 model year were called "K35", of which
this airplane was number 381.
The airplane received its Certificate of
Airworthiness at the Beech factory in Wichita,
Kansas, on September 4, 1959. Six weeks later,
after only 84 hours of operation, the logbook
states without explanation that a new engine was
According to the logbook, the airplane suffered a gear-up landing in late
1962, and was repaired in Oakland, California. By 1966 it was based in
southern Oregon, where it remained until we bought it in 2003. The current
engine and propeller were installed after another gear-up incident in 1998.
After only 13 hours, the new engine was removed and refitted by TCM with a
new crankshaft pursuant to an Airworthiness Directive.
This airplane demonstrates that the advances in general aviation
technology over the past half-century have been more in the field of avionics
than in aerodynamics or engines. In terms of its airframe, engine and
performance, this 45-year-old airplane is not far removed from the newest A36
Bonanza. But over its lifetime N616V has carried a museum-full of avionics.
The new airplane was delivered from the factory with a primitive
"coffee-grinder" Narco VTR-2 Omnigator (right), which was swapped out for a
Motorola M-135 in 1966. In 1971 a full complement of navcom equipment by
the now-defunct Genave company was installed, along with the airplane's first
transponder, an Inflight Devices Century 31. The current Narco AT-50A
transponder was installed in 1975; a King KR-86 ADF in 1976, the Apollo 618C
loran in 1988, the Bendix-King KX-155 and KI-208 in 1992; and the KY-97A in
When we bought it, the airplane definitely needed additional avionics to
be suitable for serious IFR flying. We discovered that for a fraction of the cost
of buying and installing an IFR GPS, we could get a used Bendix-King KNS-80,
giving us a second NAV, glide slope, DME and RNAV capability. So at the
beginning of 2004, in went a KNS-80 and a KI-206 indicator, in place of the ADF
and loran, respectively. This had the added benefit of thinning out the
antenna farm atop the fuselage. Gone were the long ADF antenna wire and its
multiple supporting pylons, plus the loran antenna.
In January 2006 an Electronics International UBG-16 engine analyzer went
into the right-hand sub-panel, in place of the old Alcor EGT gauge with
6-position rotary switch. The UBG-16 provides much improved simultaneous
monitoring of exhaust gas and cylinder head temeratures on all six cylinders.
Omnigator Mark 2
After 47 years it's probably time to replace an airplane's
interior. Sheepskin (right) covers a multitude of sins, but only for
so long. So in the winter of 2006, aircraft interior specialist Gary
Pio and I pulled the seats, carpeting and side panels out of N616V (
below), and Gary set about constructing a new interior.
The structure underneath the old panels was in remarkably
good shape, but the old upholstery was badly scuffed, cracked,
torn and deteriorated.
The Finished Product ...
| After nearly five enjoyable years with this airplane, rising fuel costs prompted us to open a new
chapter in our flying lives. In late 2007 we traded the Bonanza in on a new CubCrafters Sport Cub.
On the last day of 2007 the Bonanza took off from Pearson Field with its new owner at the controls.