Beechcraft’s 36 Bonanza is an aircraft for the books.
At the height of its popularity, Beechcraft went about producing about 100 a year. In total, more than 4,000 Bonanza 36s were built. With over 55 years in production, the 36 is one of the few aircraft worth far more today than they were even at its peak.
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Bonanza A36: The Plane Pilots Aspire To Own
According to King Air Magazine, one of the most popular 36 models includes the 1968 36 with an IO-520 engine and a base price of $40,650. The fully equipped version of this aircraft had a price tag of $47,050, equivalent to about $386,951 by current standards. While expensive, sales for that same year reached $3.5 million within its first six months of production. The same 1968 aircraft has a more current price estimate of $245,932, equaling just over $2 million by late 1960s standards. Additionally, many 1970s to 1990s 36 Bonanzas are still wildly popular and in demand.
Why Is It Called The Doctor Killer?
You can look at the production of the Bonanza developing over three different models throughout its life:
The initial 35 Bonanzas are still among discussions referring to “the doctor or fork-tailed killer.” This is because Beechcraft made a bold choice from 1947 to 1982 by producing the Bonanza with a V-tail design. Design aside, its higher cost attracted many wealthy but amateur pilots, with several doctors among its buyers. However, the inexperience of these aircraft owners and pilots led to several high-profile crashes involving medical professionals, which gave it the name “The Doctor Killer.”
To counter arguments citing the aircraft itself as the problem, recent studies conducted by the AOPA have shown that many of these accidents resulted from pilot error.
Top 10 Modifications For Beechcraft’s A36 Throughout The Years
Learn more about the origins of Beechcraft’s 36 model and the modifications that help make it one of the most famous planes of all time.
1. Tail Redesign
Beechcraft eliminated the V-tail design and introduced a more traditional frame in 1984. Beechcraft does not bring the older tail design back but continues improving the technology and performance.
2. Avionic Upgrades
As usual, avionics are at the top of the list regarding popular aircraft modifications. For the 36, a few significant shifts in avionics include the years 1984, 2000, 2006, and 2022.
1984 introduces a new panel design, and the year 2000 welcomes Garmin to its series, upgrading to its G1000 avionics in 2006. The most recent model uses Garmin’s latest technology through its G1000 NXi avionics. Key features include:
- Autopilot control panel
- Electronic standby
- Glass touchscreen display
In short? Today’s technology is lightyears ahead of what you can imagine it looked like in the 36s earliest models.
3. More Automated Actions
Along with the addition of advanced technology comes more automation. For example, you can install the Dynon 3-axis autopilot system into 36 models. This updated software allows the pilot to control and command actions like following a pre-defined flight plan, flying direct to a waypoint, and more.
4. Changing Speed
Beechcraft sells its own long-fuselage straight-tail turbocharged models through the A36TC and B36TC. These variations have a max cruise speed compared to their non-turbo counterparts of 198 knots and 199 knots, respectively. But, aside from Beech’s turbocharged series, many aircraft owners find they can alter the performance of their 36 by making various engine upgrades, including about half a dozen options to increase its horsepower to 300. Thirty-six owners also like to switch out their piston engines for turbine engines. This type of engine is still lightweight and offers enhanced performance.
5. Performance Modifications
Additional STC changes allow aircraft owners to customize their flying experience truly. Furthermore, some changes make the aircraft more durable to elements like temperature, changes in oxygen levels, and differences in terrain.
6. Fuel System Alterations
Another popular modification Bonanza has seen over the years is the advancement of its fuel system. Earlier models had a 74-gallon system, but in 1980 Beechcraft made an 80-gallon system standard. A few years later, the B36TC was brought into the market with a 102-gallon system.
7. Improving Configuration
The 36 has seen other modifications to improve its setup inside. Many aviation enthusiasts still talk about Beech’s “backward” way of laying out their gear and flap switches in earlier models with the gear on the right and flaps on the left. Beech reversed this layout to reflect standard expectations to avoid confusion when using the aircraft.
Beech also worked on maximizing the amount of space of the 36 by increasing its gross weight up 200 pounds to 3,600 pounds on the B36TC. According to the AOPA, Beechcraft Bonanza’s 2022 G36 includes a 155-pound helpful load increase, making its gross weight 3,650 pounds.
8. Making More Room For Extras
Beech’s earlier models could comfortably seat 4 with the option of adding two more seats. Specifically, its 1979 model introduced third-row seating. But with families flying, there isn’t enough room for all six people on board, plus a ton of luggage. Ideas like SmartSpace solves this problem by adding baggage conversions to earlier models.
9. Changes In Seating
Beech’s 1970 A36 introduces club seating, which offers easier interaction among passengers. With older and newer models, owners can reasonably easily switch out materials used for seating for a more luxurious flying experience. Making this modification can increase its future sale value. As newer 36s are in production, luxury seating comes standard. For example, a 2022 G36 offers four different interior color packages, complete with a leather finish for each one. It’s seating also has adjustable lumbar support built right in.
10. Additional Comforts
Current 36 models have special treatment for increased corrosion protection and strengthened glass for added durability – an incredible shift from its first model ever produced. LED lighting offers better visibility, while heated prop features decrease the risk of ice buildup in colder weather.
Inside Beech’s 36 series, ergonomic club seating for passenger comfort is readily available in the G36. Modern features include powered headset jacks, dual USB ports, reading lights, and climate-controlled individual air vents. You can still benefit from buying a used 36 with factory air conditioning, but it won’t be nearly as updated as a more current model.
A Final Word From VREF
Before going modification-crazy with your 36, ensure you don’t buy an STC aircraft modification that is no longer supported. Finally, you must know who installed and modified the aircraft and access verified logs to ensure you’re not stuck with a lemon. Especially when it comes to complicated systems, your safety and investment are top priorities.
Need an appraisal for your potential new or used A36? Contact us today.