Practically every pilot who has flown a Beechcraft Bonanza wants one. The aircraft’s stately appearance combines with exceptional flying characteristics and commendable performance to create a desirable package. But six-seat Bonanza A36s are expensive and only getting more so. The V-tail Bonanza is a better bargain, and doesn’t sacrifice any of the Bonanza mystique.
Beechcraft began making the V-tail in 1947 and continued in various configurations until 1982. More than 13,000 were produced, and with so many different options, it can be hard to pick the right one. Adding to the confusion is that a host of major modifications—such as tip tanks, bigger engines, and significant panel upgrades—are prevalent in the used fleet.
One place to start is with weight. The original model 35 retails for an average of $22,000, according to Vref, but is limited to a maximum gross takeoff weight of 2,550 pounds. The final V35Bs added a larger engine and two more seats, and topped out at 3,400 pounds.
Many have heard of the V-tails’ reputation as an unsafe airplane prone to structural failure. Early problems with structural failure prompted the FAA to issue an airworthiness directive decades ago that beefed up the tail spars, and accidents have since decreased. Tom Turner, a respected safety advocate in the Bonanza community, analyzed NTSB records and found that between 1962 and 2007 there were an average of about three V-tail structural failures a year, most due to VFR flight into IMC, thunderstorm encounters, and airframe icing. During the same period the similar Debonairs and Bonanzas A36 sustained only 11 structural failures. Despite this history, many owners say the V-tail Bonanza is a safe and reliable airplane that offers typical Bonanza gravitas for tens of thousands of dollars less in acquisition costs.
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For more information contact the American Bonanza Society.