AOPA's 2001 Bonanza Sweepstakes - Sept. 28 Pictures and Commentary

November 11, 2009

Pictures and Commentary

Sept. 28 - One thing that always sort of bothered me about flying the Sweepstakes Bonanza was the, well, ratty interior. Before one flight my seat back broke, pitching me backwards and leaving me floundering around like an overturned turtle. Good thing that didn't happen in the air � you'd have to perform a sustained sit-up the whole time you're looking for an airport and landing. And I can't stay in the sit-up position much more than a couple of minutes. Tops.

Another nagging problem was that tiny Phillips head screw that jutted out from the left cabin sidewall. It was strategically located so that it dug a hole in my left arm as I flew around. You see, I'd subconsciously send my left elbow hunting around for an arm rest that wasn't there. In the process, I'd snag that durned screw.

And then there was the copilot's seat, which looked like it had spent a few years on a subway in Queens. It had cracks so big that the stuffing was coming out. It looked like someone had been slashing at it with a knife. I half-expected to see "Ricky" carved in the seat back, that's how funky that seat was.

Well, folks, the worm has turned. The Sweeps Bonanza has rounded third base and is heading for home - maybe your home!

My last two flights in the Sweeps Bonanza were spent swathed in the comfort of a swanky new interior, courtesy of Air Mod - the Batavia, Ohio, interior refurbishment specialists. What a change! Rich, Corinthian leather! Lumbar support! An armrest - padded, even! Soundproofing to the max! Cup holders!

My introduction to these wonders took place on a 4.2-hour flight from Air Mod's - and Sporty's Pilot Shop's - home airport (I69) east of Cincinnati to Wichita's Colonel James Jabara Airport (AAO). That comfy cabin made the long flight more bearable, that's for sure. And it was a good thing the Sweeps Bonanza has those 20-gallon tip tanks. According to the fuel truck's totalizer, the Bonanza burned 77 gallons on that long cross-country. That's three gallons more that the standard tanks' 74-gallon (37 gallons in each wing tank) fuel capacity.

The average fuel burn on that trip was 18.6 gph, so this Bonanza is no fuel miser. Then again, I was running at a max power setting, and the fuel burn included a number of climbs along the route.

The stay in Wichita was to allow Mike Fizer, our photographer, to get some beauty shots for an upcoming cover of AOPA Pilot. Mike also took a bunch of photos of the panel and interior, too. Excerpts from Fizer's photo sessions will also appear in an upcoming issue of the American Bonanza Society's monthly magazine. This, to tie in with the Sweeps Bonanza's appearance at the ABS convention next month in Mobile, Alabama.

Photos done, it was time for the next leg of my trip. This time it would be a two-hour jaunt southward, to Mineral Wells, Texas. That's the home of S-Tec and Meggitt, the outfits that are, as we speak, installing and certifying the Bonanza's new System Fifty Five X autopilot (with yaw damper and flight director) and the two-tube Meggitt MAGIC. The MAGIC consists of a primary flight display (PFD) and a navigation display (ND). The PFD is an electronic version of an attitude indicator, altimeter, airspeed indicator, vertical speed indicator, and heading indicator, all rolled into one. The ND is an upscale HSI that's capable of showing not just your route of flight, but multiple navaid sources and airports, too.

The autopilot will be a welcome addition. If the Bonanza has any shortcomings, it's in the lateral- and spiral-instability area. Let go of the yoke, and you'll soon be rolling off on a wing, building speed at an alarming rate as you head earthward. The Fifty Five X will take care of this, and cut the pilot's workload way, way down. When Associate Editor Steve Ells flies the Bonanza to Mobile in two weeks, he'll have his hands free to play with the avionics - or just sit back and admire the scenery.

Meggitt Avionics S-Tec Garmin