Model 35 Bonanza was the first truly modern light
airplane built after Word War Two. (Raythoen Aircraft)

H. Phillips

When introduced
in 1947, the Model 35 Bonanza set a new standard of performance and value
in the general aviation market.

After building
morethan 7,000 single- and twin-engine airplanes for the United States
military and its Allies during World War II, by 1945 the Beech Aircraft
Corporation had begun preparations for the company’s return to the postwar
commercial market. Company president Walter H. Beech already was making
plans to offer an improved version of the venerable Model 17, known as
the G17S, to his customers. But he also had a new airplane in development
that would, as did its biplane predecessor, become an American aviation
classic-the Model 35 Bonanza.

First flown
in December 1945 by test pilot Vern Carstens, the Model 35 featured a
V-tail empennage configuration that reduced weight without sacrificing
control. Although initial flight testing went well, tragedy struck in
1946 when a company pilot was killed during high-speed dive tests of an
early prototype airplane. The flight engineer, however, bailed out and
survived. He explained that flutter had caused the elevator balance weights
to detach from their mountings, and the V-tail separated from the fuselage.
At the time of the accident, Beech had orders and cash deposits for about
1,500 Bonanzas.

1949 Bill Odom and the "Wakiki Beech" flew
nonstop from Oahu, Hawaii to Teterboro, New
Jersey, setting a long-distance record. The airplane
is displayed at the Smithsonian National Air
and Space Museum. (Raytheon Aircraft)

Further testing
was conducted on three Bonanzas, day and night, for more than 1,500 hours
without incident. In addition, further dive tests were conducted using
a Model 35 flown by remote control. These tests proved that the basic
V-tail design and structure exceeded minimum requirements for certification.

In March
1947 the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Authority issued an Approved Type Certificate
for the Model 35. The Beechcraft factory in Wichita was soon producing
Bonanzas at increasing rates to meet demand, and the end of 1948 had built
1,500 airplanes. Early production airplanes were priced at $7,975. But
there were competitors. North American was building the Navion, Cessna
was designing its "Family Car of the Air" which never materialized,
and Piper Aircraft Company was planning to produce the Sky Sedan (but
never did). None of these airplanes, however, could compete with the Bonanza’s
combination of speed, utility, and overall value. In the years ahead the
Bonanza would outsell and out live the Navion, its only real competitor.

Soon after
the war ended Walter Beech had decided to terminate production of the
G17S in favor of the Model 35, and only 20 of the classic biplanes eventually
were assembled and sold. Unlike the Bonanza, the G17S was essentially
a hand-built machine. With its intricate but elegant spruce wood fairings
and steel tube fuselage requiring far too many man-hours to fabricate,
the airplane’s cost had risen to more than $20,000-an exhorbitant price
for an airplane whose performance had remained unchanged from the Model
D17S built before the war.

In 1949 Beech
Aircraft Corporation helped sponsor a long distance flight by Bill Odom
in an early Model 35. Odom planned to set a record, but Walter Beech saw
anopportunity to demonstrate the Bonanza’s performance and reliability.
Dubbed the Waikiki Beech, the airplane was the fourth Model 35 built and
had been used engineering flight tests. Fitted with additional fuel and
oil tanks, the airplane had a range of more than 5,500 miles.

1982 Beech Aircraft Corporation celebrated
the 35th year of Model 35 Bonanza production.
A V35B was painted in a special color scheme to
commemorate the event. (Raytheon Aircraft)

Odom and
the Waikiki Beech departed Hawaii on January 12, 1949 and flew east toward
their goal-Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. The Pacific Ocean crossing
was uneventful, but bad weather forced Odom to land in Nevada after flying
for more than 22 hours and covering 2,900 miles. A second attempt was
made in March. Again Odom and the Bonanza traversed the wide Pacific without
any problems and sped eastward toward New Jersey.

More than
36 hoursafter leaving Hawaii, the Waikiki Beech landed at Teterboro having
flown 5,273 miles and burning only 272 gallons of fuel. The Bonanza was
flown around the United States on a tour celebrating Odom’s achievement.
Later, the airplane was donated to the Smithsonian Institute where it
was placed on display.

In the years
following Odom’s flight, Beech Aircraft Corporation continued to improve
the Model 35. The fuselage was lengthened, gross weight increased, more
powerful, fuel-injected engines were installed, and performance improved
accordingly. By the 1970s the Bonanza had evolved into its final form-the
V35B. Maximum speed was more than 200 mph., and the airplane carried four
people comfortably at cruising speeds of more than 160 kt.

The 10,000th
Model 35 built, a V35B, rolled off the Beechcraft assembly line in February
1977, hailing a production run that had continued uninterrupted for 30
years. The company continued to build the Model 35 until 1982 when the
last airplane, serial number D-10403, was completed. It was delivered
to a customer in August 1984, and ended a proud era in the history of
Beech Aircraft Corporation.