‘V for Victory’ also meant ‘V for Bonanza’ – G-VTAL

By: shortfinals

Jun 02 2011

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Category: aircraft, Aviation, British Isles, England, Great Britain, Kemble, military, Second World War, United States

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Aperture:f/8
Focal Length:22mm
ISO:200
Shutter:1/250 sec
Camera:NIKON D40

With a V-tail, smooth styling and tip tanks, this Beech V35 Bonanza looks to be a modern machine. Amazingly, the design harks back to December 1945, when Ralph Harmon’s masterpiece first flew in prototype form. The first production Bonanza flew in 1947, and was an instant hit; fast (200 mph cruise) and with a well-appointed interior, it became the ideal touring machine for a family – providing that cost was not an object, that is! It was predictable that many returning US veterans who had learnt to fly in the USAAF, USN and US Marines would want to continue to fly, and an explosion in civil flying was predicted. The Beech Aircraft Corporation of Wichita, Kansas aimed to cash in on this rush to private flying, recognising that a well-equipped, fast and stylish aircraft would carve a niche in the market. Unlike Europe, which had suffered a massive financial collapse, material devastation and political upheaval during WW2, the United States had enjoyed strong economic expansion, and was poised for a consumer boom. The initial production model V35 had a 165 hp Continental E-185-1 engine and carried four. Soon, more powerful engine options and other changes allowed 5 or even 6 seats. The unusual V-tail, consisting of two ‘ruddervators’, was claimed to reduce drag and structural weight, thereby increasing performance (this arrangement was later mimicked by the French Fouga CM.170 Magister jet trainer). Retractable undercarriage and complicated systems and engine controls meant that this was not an aircraft for the beginner.

Here we can see a pretty ‘V-tail’, G-VTAL (serial number D-7978) at Cotswold Airport, Kemble, Gloucestershire. It was built in 1965, so is representative of the mid-period of the V35’s production run from 1947 to 1982. In case you are wondering why the aircraft carries Swiss flags on both tail surfaces, it is because it was formerly on the Swiss register as HB-EJB, (as well as having a German identity as D-EFTH); it was brought onto the British Civil Register in February, 2003. Power comes from a six cylinder Continental Motors Corporation IO-520-BA of  285 hp, driving a three-bladed Hartzell propeller.  The present owner is Edmund Ovenden of Bodmin, Devon.

As well as fitting modern radios and navigation aids, most owners tend to look at increasing their Bonanza’s available power, either by rebuilding the engine with modern ‘Millenium’ brand cylinders, or fitting a newer IO-550 engine (same weight as a IO-520) which gives 300 hp; the cost of this exchange is around $30,000. You can fit a ‘turbonormalizer’ – a device which restores sea-level power at high altitude – rather than fitting a turbosupercharger, which stresses the engine more, but I am still not convinced that the extra fuel consumption is worth it! If you desire one of these attractive aircraft, you can still buy a new ‘conventional’ tailed Bonanza, which means that the family of Bonanza variants have been in production for more than 60 years! Second-hand ‘V-tails’, with high total hours, can be had for as little as $16,000 (one for sale in Arizona at this price), with ‘modernized’ examples at around $88,000 (one in Florida).

The ‘V-tail’ with the original (smaller) control surfaces, and complicated systems was a bit of a handful, leading to a high pilot workload. This gave rise, directly, to the most famous Bonanza crash of all time. On 3rd February, 1959, pilot Roger Peterson took off in N3794N, a B35 V-tail owned by Dwyer Flying Service, from Madison, Iowa. He was carrying three musicians on the next leg of their ‘Winter Dance Tour’; the Bonanza crashed shortly afterwards due to pilot error, killing all on board. The other occupants were J.P. ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson, Ritchie Valens and one Buddy Holly (Charles Hardin Holley). Yes, this was ‘The Day The Music Died’.

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