The latest AOPA Air Safety Foundation "Safety Highlight" publication, featuring the Beechcraft Bonanza and Debonair model aircraft, is now available. Underwritten by a grant from the United States Aircraft Insurance Group, it is the last of four ASF-produced studies on the safety record of specific GA aircraft types. Earlier USAIG-funded Safety Highlights have examined accident histories of the Cessna 172, the Cessna 182, and the Piper PA-28 series; all are available without cost from ASF. Each study provides type-specific accident history and detailed operating suggestions for improved safety.
"We are delighted to sponsor this project, because it gets valuable safety information directly to people who operate these aircraft," said USAIG Chairman and CEO Harold Clark. As with previous USAIG-sponsored studies, copies of the new Bonanza/Debonair Safety Highlight will be sent free of charge to all registered owners of the aircraft models studied.
The new study compares the accident history of Beechcraft Bonanza/Debonair models (both share the same basic design) to a group of similar aircraft, including the Cessna 182RG Skylane, Cessna 210 Centurion, Mooney M20, Piper PA-24 Comanche, Piper PA-32 Saratoga, and the Rockwell 112 and 114 models. The Beech types were found to be slightly more likely than similar aircraft types to be involved in serious accidents but less likely to suffer minor accidents.
The latest ASF Safety Highlight also showed Beech models 33 and 36 (Debonair and Bonanza models with a conventional "straight" tail) involved in significantly fewer accidents due to mechanical problems than similar aircraft, while the Beech Model 35 (the classic V-tail configuration) suffered a "mechanical failure" mishap rate approximately the same as the comparison group of aircraft.
"We must remember that the V-tail model 35 was first produced in 1947 and last made in 1982, and older aircraft put additional maintenance burdens on their owners," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "Pilots of early model Bonanzas need to be especially careful about maintenance and have their aircraft inspected at appropriate intervals."
The newest ASF Safety Highlight also revealed that the Bonanza and Debonair models had fewer night accidents than the comparison group of aircraft. Most of the night accidents involved instrument-rated pilots on IFR flight plans, although not necessarily in instrument meteorological conditions.
ASF's Bonanza/Debonair Safety Highlight found differences in pilot-related causes of serious accidents for the V-tail Model 35 and the conventional-tailed models 33 and 36, compared to the group of similar aircraft. For both Beech types, the serious accident rate varied noticeably in areas of fuel management, descents, VFR approaches, and go-arounds. For the conventional empennage models, there were also differences in the accident rate during takeoff operations and IFR approaches.
Not surprisingly, weather topped the list of leading pilot-related serious accident causes for all aircraft in the study, although both Beech aircraft showed a slightly lower rate of involvement in weather accidents than the comparison aircraft.
"Poor judgment and decision making caused the majority of these weather accidents," said Landsberg. "Most Bonanzas are used to fly long cross-country trips, so pilots must be prepared for a variety of weather." Several suggestions to help pilots cope with the vagaries of weather on cross-country flights are provided in the publication.
The newest ASF Safety Highlights publication also includes a familiarization quiz (with answers) and a complete training course outline that can be used by pilots for initial checkout or recurrency training in the Beech Bonanza/Debonair models.
All ASF Safety Highlights are available without cost on the AOPA Web site. Single-copy printed versions are also available by request from the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation was chartered in 1950 to provide research on general aviation accidents and safety education for GA pilots. Last year, free ASF safety seminars reached some 33,000 pilots, with the innovative ASF "Seminar-in-a-Box" programs serving another 6,000, largely in more rural areas where the live seminars are not available.
USAIG, founded in 1928, provides insurance for physical damage to private, corporate, and airline aircraft, as well as liability insurance for owners, operators, and maintainers of aircraft worldwide.