This is the story of owning and operating a 1993 Beech Bonanza A36 in the UK and some of its adventures and flights. I have owned this plane for nearly six years now.
On Saturday we agreed to go on a flyout that initially planned to go to Sherburn from Blackpool but due to poor weather this was changed to Wolverhampton.
We flew from Blackpool at around 1500 feet and got bounced around quite considerably in the Bonanza so we slowed to 135Kt but it still wasnt great.
On the way back we decided to go back possibly via Caernarfon (EGCK) and also fly IMC at flight level 60. The weather was much smoother at this level with hardly a bump on the return. We were overhead EGCK at FL060 but after a radio call we establised the weather wasnt great down there despite us popping out of the cloud for a few minutes and allowing us to look down on the field.
We carried on back to Blackpool at 200kt with a healthy tailwind. Being able to fly IMC really improved our journey on this occasion.
I checked the weather this morning and it looked possible to complete my planned journey for the day to Glasgow (Cumbernauld). Looking outside the window the sun was shining so I set off for the 45 minute drive to the airfield to jump in G-Fozz, my Bonanza A36 with a couple of colleagues and we launched off from Blackpool.
Immediately after taking off I looked towards the Lake District and thought that we may be able to outclimb the lump of cloud that regualarly hangs over the mountains so we shot up to flight level 50 and headed north.
Once we reached Barrow In Furness it became apparent that my lump of cloud went a great deal higher than I first thought so I called Walney and advised them I was going to descend around their field and head north hopefully below the cloud
Descent complete, it became apparent that as I was flying north again the visibility was vanishing fast and we soon became IMC at lowl level and with big hard hills to the right of us.
I quickly turned around and headed south again back into glorious sunshine. I landed at Blackpool, called the people I was due to meet and cancelled our meeting and arranged to hold it via a tele-conference call later. The meeting went well but its not the same as flying to a meeting. It makes aviation seem more fun and useful.
Anyway what all this told me is that I need to work harder and save up for a de-iced, TBM700 or something similar. A while ago when I bought my shiny Bonanza A36 I told myself I needed the licences to go with it so I could get really mobile so I did my night rating and my IMC but actually I realise that even if I was the best pilot in the world (which I dont claim to be) I would still be limited by mother nature.
Tomorrow I have the opportunity to go to Glasgow again for a different meeting but at this meeting the weather doesnt look like it will be kind to me again!
I have been keen to get some real IMC practice to keep me fresh and remembering what to do for the time when I really need it and on Thursday I got chance to take a couple of hours and another pilot (vastly more experienced than me) to go and do a flight that would be typical for me.
We left Blackpool in the A36 Bonanza and climbed to flight level 50 and into cloud and headed towards Edinburgh to request an ILS letdown to break off for VFR to the west to Cumbernauld where I intended to land for a brew but due to ATC having to manouver us around various other traffic we were running a little later than I wanted to so we turned around at Cumbernauld and headed back to Blackpool.
On the way back we picked up some light icing which is only the second time I have experienced it. This limited our altitude to no more than flight level 45.
Over the sea between Walney and Blackpool we descended to 1500ft with a radar service from Warton to become VFR and completed an uneventful flight back into Blackpool. The total trip time was two hours.
It was a great experience and I added a little bit more to my knowledgebase and proved to myself that the training works. I was able to fly from Blackpool to Edinburgh without seeing the ground and then return again without being able to see out of the window.
I really like IMC flight and the Bonanza A-36 is a nice IMC platform with the quality autopilot and loads of other equipment such as the HSI, Stormscope and the Garmin 430's. Unfortunately my Bonanza is not fitted with an altitude pre-select box which I would really like but it does have approach mode which means it will do its own decent on an ILS. This is very impressive. I do hope to add the Alt pre-select soon though.
All in all a very enjoyable experience which I hope to repeat to a different location soon for some more practice.
About 18 months ago I visited Aerofair at North Weald with a friend and his friend who happened to deal in aeroplanes and while I was there I purchased a pair of Sennheiser HMC400 Noise Cancelling headsets for my Cessna 182.
The headsets came with a battery pack and also the plugs to wire them into the plane. During the flight home the front seat passenger and I were most impressed with how it made the plane seem it was flying without the engine running. In fact if I am honest I had to keep switching the noise cancelling off to reassure myself everything was OK.
During the journey home I was discussing the imminent arrival of my latest child and what problems it would cause with lack of seats in the Cessna and my passenger (who sells planes) suggested he could sell the Cessna easily for me and he knew where there was a beautiful Beech Bonanza A36. I had to say I was skeptical that he could sell the plane quickly but I thought I would give him a try.
Within a week he had an offer on the table and within two weeks the plane had been inspected and a deal finalised and before long the Cessna 182 had gone.
Anyway back to the Bonanza and the Sennheiser headsets. I decided that when I purchased a new plane I would get the headsets permanently wired into that. I don't know if anyone reading this has tried this but it seems impossible to remember to switch off the battery packs of noise cancelling headsets. You can remember to switch off your GPS etc but brains are just not programmed to switch off a little dangling battery pack when you are leaving headsets in a plane. Perhaps it is not so bad when you remove your headsets but it is just impossible if you don't. Inevitably when you come to use the headsets the battery packs are flat and you end up with no noise cancelling. Its bloody annoying and during my 18 months ownership I have hardly ever used the noise cancelling feature of my Â£800 pair of headsets.
Still it took me 18 months to do something about getting the built in power supplies fitted to the new Bonanza A36 and in the end it was only when Simon from Pool Aviation organised for it to be done for me that it actually happened.
Thankfully the work has now been completed so next time I go flying I will look forward to a lovely if strangley quiet flight.
The costs for the headset update were as follows:
Repair to one headset as cable had frayed: £58.00
Fitting of plus and wiring into Bonanza A-36 system: £380
Update of both Garmin 430 databases £94
A total bill of around £580.