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Bonanza Society boosts ruddervator replacement design prize

The American Bonanza Society Air Safety Foundation has increased the financial incentive it hopes will motivate development of replacement ruddervator skins for V-tail Beechcraft Model 35 Bonanzas that often face grounding if their out-of-production magnesium skins require repair.

The ruddervator control surfaces on the tails of Model 35 Bonanzas are skinned in expensive and hard-to-find magnesium that is notoriously vulnerable to corrosion. APOA file photo.

On October 15, the foundation announced that the ABS/ASF Manuel Maciel Ruddervator STC Prize of $500,000 will be awarded to “the first firm that certifies and markets kits to replace ruddervator skins on V-tail Bonanzas” covered by Type Certificate 3A15 or Type Certificate A-777, or both.

There are an estimated 5,000 airplanes in the fleet of V-tail Bonanzas. The original prize created in 2019 was $100,000. ABS Air Safety Foundation President Greg Stratz said the board unanimously approved the prize increase. ABS members were also asked to make matching donations raising the prize fund to as much as $1 million.

A separate award, the ABS/ASF Manuel Maciel Structures Engineering Prize, offers up to five prizes of $20,000 each to a “firm or individual that designs an alternative to original ruddervator skins or a replacement for the entire ruddervator assembly that meets all requirements for FAA certification.” The winning research and findings would be made available for free use by any entity that pursues FAA certification, manufacturing, and support of the designed product.

“There are many parts availability issues faced by owners of legacy Beechcraft, but in almost all cases there are solutions available for the aircraft owner willing to pay the market price,” said Thomas P. Turner, executive director of the ABS Air Safety Foundation. “The difference with ruddervator skins is that there is no solution available at any cost. The purpose of this prize is to make it financially attractive for industry to create a solution that keeps these iconic airplanes flying, using funds donated to the Foundation specifically to support its members. It’s part of ABS/ASF’s mission to protect lives and preserve the Beechcraft fleet.”

The problem’s persistence stems from the corrosion-prone magnesium composition of the ruddervator skins, the requirement for lightweight ruddervators, and their delicate balancing necessary to avoid aerodynamic flutter.

“Because of the balance requirement, very few repairs are approved on ruddervators other than complete replacement of the ruddervator skin,” the prize announcement notes.

The deadline for submitting entries in both prize categories is December 31, 2026.

On a separate track, the foundation continues working to resolve the ruddervator skin availability issue with Textron Aviation, Beechcraft’s owner, the Bonanza owners group said.

AOPA ePublishing staff
AOPA ePublishing Staff editors are experienced pilots, flight instructors, and aircraft owners who have a passion for bringing you the latest news and AOPA announcements.
Topics: Single-Engine Piston, Ownership, Airworthiness

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