AOPA's 2001 Bonanza Sweepstakes - Mar. 7 Pictures and Commentary

November 11, 2009

Pictures and Commentary

Mar. 7 - So, you were expecting another Bonanza report from Steve Ells this week, right? NOT! This time, it's me, AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne, at the wheel - literally. The pleasant task of flying this souped-up V35 from Ada International Airport (ADH) in Ada, Oklahoma to JA Air Center in West Chicago's DuPage Airport (DPA) fell to me on March 3. That's when I flew the Bonanza - complete with its turbonormalized IO-550 engine and GAMIjector fuel injectors - on its first-ever cross-country flight.

But first, I needed a little education. Tornado Alley Turbo's George Braly gave me a little flight instruction in two local flights near TAT's Ada location. The drill was definitely unusual, compared to typical leaning procedures used in most general aviation piston singles. For takeoff, the throttle, propeller control, and mixture are full forward. So far, so good. In the climb, you get a taste of things to come when you lean the mixture to show 1,280 degrees F. on the turbine inlet temperature readout of the Bonanza's EDM-800 engine display gauge. Leave the throttle wide open.

After donning oxygen masks and leveling at 17,500 feet, I am indoctrinated into the Church of Lean-of-Peak Operations. The first part of this ritual involves doing nothing: Just leave the throttle in what TAT calls the WOT (wide open throttle) position � and leave it there. Dial the prop back to 2,500 rpm, close the cowl flaps, and let the airplane accelerate. After a minute or so, the second step in the sacramental process begins.

"Go ahead, grab a handful of mixture and yank it back to a fuel flow of about 15 gph," says Braly. So I do it.

Ooooossshhh, goes the engine ever so briefly, as its power sags during the drop "over the hump" of peak TIT. The whole purpose of this maneuver is to quickly get into lean-of-peak territory. Once there, you enrichen the mixture - slowly - using the mixture's vernier knob - until you see peak TIT on the EDM-800. Then back off, leaning the engine to 50 to 100 degrees lean of peak. That day, the resultant TIT was 1,546 degrees. Checking the gauges and doing the math, we saw that we were doing 163 KIAS with a fuel flow of 18.3 gph, with the hottest cylinder's CHT (number 2 or number 6; it's kind of a tie) a relatively cool 376 degrees F. True airspeed? A smoking 218 knots.

"No other single-engine production airplane can go this fast," crowed Braly.

You get to use the throttle during descents and pattern work, when you have to relean and adjust power in more or less the usual manner. Braly prefers to use the prop control as an air brake by setting it at 2,100 or 2,200 rpm for those "slam-dunk" descents.

Your humble reporter and new (though still slightly dubious) convert climbed into the cockpit of N14422 the next day for the 610-some-odd nautical mile trip to DuPage. Though not an extraordinarily long trip, it did have its daunting aspects. And no, I don't mean the new engine and all its new procedures and lean-of-peak mantras. I'm talking about that panel and interior! I mean, this thing looks like a cross between an old DeSoto and an overwintering site for a largish rodent!

The magnetic compass sat at a crazy angle. There was a huge hole in the "avionics stack," which boasted a Reagan-era KNS-80, and a single com radio. No audio panel. No GPS (except for my own, portable "FMS" - a Garmin GPS III Pilot). No autopilot ... no autopilot! Arrrrgggghh! And the right wing is heavy, too!

No matter. After dining on a lunch of ribs and baked beans (which the waitress tried to dump in my lap, but I deftly deflected in a surprising show of coordination) I was more than ready to launch.

It would be good VFR all the way to DuPage, and the first half of the trip even gave me a slight tailwind at my cruising altitude of 9,500 feet. Up there, after making "the big [mixture] pull" as Braly likes to call it, I saw 173 KIAS, 1,513 degrees TIT, 346-degrees CHT on the number-six cylinder, and a fuel flow of 18.5 gph. This was with WOT and 2,500 rpm, and an OAT of +3 degrees Celsius. That gave me a true airspeed of 200 knots - and groundspeeds as high as 212 knots. The airspeed indicator was firmly buried in the middle of the yellow arc (no, there wasn't any turbulence) and life was good.

The airplane still has some funny things about it, though. That mag compass is one. Fuel flow surges when using fuel from all but the right main tank was another. And that heavy right wing is another. So is the fuel selector, which has very soft detents, which may explain the fuel flow fluctuations. In any event, the fluctuations go away if you turn on the boost pump to the low position. And the heavy-wing problem disappeared after burning some fuel out of the ancient-looking Osborn (or is it Brittain?) tuna-style tip tanks. An hour into the flight, and the airplane was all trimmed up very nicely, thank you.

I'm happy to report that the KNS-80 worked fine - as did my III Pilot. Familiar VORs slid beneath me as I made my way north. I recall their names from memories of similar routes flown over the years, in a cadence: Okmulgee, Neosho, Springfield, Vichy (vectors around the Saint Louis Class B � as usual), Capital, Pontiac.... Those were times when a KNS-80 was the hottest new box on the block! Anyway, my ragtag collection of avionics helped bring me to DuPage just as night was falling on Saturday, March 3. I taxied up to the JA Air Center's hangar and sadly left my newfound, if dowdy-looking, friend and religious icon for the next batch of technicians.

The next time I see N14422, I know that she'll have undergone yet another conversion - into a high-tech, glass-cockpit incarnation with enough brightly colored avionics to strike you sightless. Gone will be the cranky mag compass, the KNS-80, the defunct Beech B-4 autopilot, the tattered glareshield. Later, the funky fuel selector will be replaced with a new one, the tuna tanks yanked off and replaced with modern ones, the overwintering-wolverine interior swapped out for one with plush comfort and the smell of new. Sound sentimental? Don't worry, I'll get over it.

Look for the next installation of these reports next week, when Steve Ells will return to set the stage for the Bonanza's panel overhaul and introduce us to the new players - featuring Meggitt glass cockpit displays, and much, much more.

Hey, anyone want an old KNS-80?

Click on images for a larger view.
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Horne (on wing) takes his leave of Ada while Tornado Alley Turbo chief engineer George Braly makes sure he hangs on to his headset.
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Braly (in foreground) gets ready to indoctrinate Horne in the Church of Lean of Peak Operations (COLOPO).
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Oh brother! Like that panels' blue paint job? Then you'll love the B-4 autopilot (placarded inop), the marker beacons (also inop), and the number two VOR (there ain't none). But look at the way it climbs with a big load at 5,000 feet...
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N14422's indicated airspeed at cruise at 17,500 feet.

Meggitt Avionics