The iconic Bonanza has long ago established itself as one of general aviation’s most respected piston singles. And the 36-series still earns high marks for its roomy and upscale passenger dwelling, good fit and finish and timeless good looks. While still in production in limited numbers by Textron as the G36, the 36-series Bonanzas are in huge demand, and good ones with mods, improvements and low time sell at impressive prices. Even in a market dominated by airplanes with more modern styling, safety features and built-in tech, for many there’s simply nothing quite like owning and flying a Bonanza.
Beechcraft Bonanza: 75 years strong
While the Bonanza airframe has been in continuous production since the late 1940s, in 1967 Beech had no choice than to fill a hole in its lineup to compete with Cessna’s six-place retractable people-hauling 210. It had stretched the fuselage of S35 V-tail 19 inches, which allowed for fifth and sixth so-called “family seats.” But these were hardly capable of seating full-sized adults. So, for the 1968 model year it was a remix, introducing a stretched version of the Bonanza with six seats, a conventional tail and aft cabin doors. Originally powered by a six-cylinder Continental IO-520-B engine, the 36 was aimed at the utility and charter market, and the airplane ultimately served better in that role with a “club seating” arrangement, which came in 1970.
Over the years the 36 Bo remained largely unchanged, although Beech added more equipment as standard, including an autopilot in 1976, and also turbocharging in 1979 with the 300 HP Continental TSIO-520-UB-powered A36TC. Then came the B36TC in 1982, which had the Baron 58 wing—a serious hauler because it carries 102 gallons of fuel. Meanwhile, 1984 brought the normally aspirated Continental IO-520 to the Bonanza, plus a new instrument panel and gone was the “throw-over’ control yoke in favor of traditional controls and better placed engine instruments.
As you’d expect, all of these improvements meant a bigger price tag and the base price of the A36 Bonanza had essential quadrupled over the price of the original 36. Prices haven’t relaxed, and Bonanzas keep getting a new lease on life. These days with new paint schemes, modern interior upgrades and fresh avionics, it’s often difficult to tell an older 36 Bonanza from some newer ones, although the G36 that came along somewhere around 2006 had Garmin’s G1000 integrated avionics, which sets it apart from the others, while carrying an eye-widening price premium on the used market.
Beechcraft Bonanza 36 handling, performance and safety
Since these are go-places cross-country machines, performance is certainly respectful but not blistering fast. Cruise speeds for the normally aspirated A36 is roughly 165 knots, with 1000 FPM-plus climb rates the norm when lightly loaded. Want to run with a turbocharged Cirrus, Cessna T210 and Mooney 231? You’ll need the A36TC and B36TC, which easily haul along in the 170- to 180-knot range in the middle altitudes. In fact, climb the longer-winged B36TC above 20,000 feet and you’ll have bragging rights to the 190-knot club. But the price to pay is fuel burn—at least 18 GPH to keep cylinder head temps in check.
When loading the A36, plan on around 950 pounds in the cabin with full fuel, while watching the CG limit with passengers aboard. You’ll sacrifice some load-hauling capability with the A36TC. Full-fuel cabin loading is 800 pounds at best. The B36TC does slightly better—900 pounds in the cabin with full fuel as the gross weight went up by 200 pounds. That means you might be able to load in another full-sized passenger compared to the A36TC for the same mission.
In our most recent NTSB accident scan, we looked at 100 accidents involving Model 36 Bonanzas spread out over 20 years. Engine and mechanical issues topped the list, at a whopping 23 percent of the total, while inflight loss of control came in second at 17 percent. The Bo has a reputation for solid handling on the ground, so we weren’t surprised to find only a couple of runway loss of control (RLOC) events. Still, transition training from instructors who are experienced with the airplane is a must, and we’d first look to the American Bonanza Society. It’s also the best source of information for anything related to the Bonanza, offering training and maintenance clinics, fly-in events and a good magazine. You’ll also find advice on the never-ending list of mods that make these airplanes even better. Find the ABS at www.bonanza.org.
Current used Bonanza 36 market
“The market for A36 and G36 Bonanzas is the strongest I’ve seen in over 40 years in the business,” George Johnson (“The Bonanza Man”) told us this past Fall. Johnson, who runs Carolina Aircraft in Greensboro, North Carolina, said his company would typically have over 20 airplanes in its inventory going into a new year, but his inventory of Bonanzas shrunk to less than five. Of course, that means a huge price premium for almost any of the 36 models that hit the market. We can easily recommend Carolina Aircraft as a good source for clean Bonanzas and Barons, although the firm sells other models, too.
According to the Spring 2022 issue of Aircraft Bluebook, a 1972 A36 has an average retail price of $190,000, while a 1985 B36TC is $270,000. Want a G36 with Garmin’s G1000 integrated avionics? Pony up every bit of $550,000 for a 2009 model. But before striking a deal on any Bonanza, first check with your insurance company. We’ve heard from plenty of senior pilots who have dealt with skyrocketing rates and non-renewals for coverage on their Bonanzas. If there’s any good news for them, there seems to be plenty of buyers willing to pay the high price for Bonanza ownership. Many Bonanzas sell before they are even listed on the market.
For a deeper dive into the used Bonanza 36 market, head to Aviation Consumer and the Used Aircraft Guide, where you’ll get a detailed model history, historical resale values, recent FAA AD’s, competing model speed/payload/price comparisons and a detailed current NTSB accident scan summary.