Early 80s A36 Bonanza vs. Saratoga

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by bartscher, Mar 29, 2009.

  1. bartscher

    bartscher Filing Flight Plan

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    A while back I posted to get impressions of used SR-22s vs. Mooney Ovations. In addition to the 4 seaters, I'm interested to get people's impressions of the early 1980's A36 Bonanza vs. Piper Saratoga which both have more space and useful load.

    The mission is 2 adults and 2 kids with luggage for trips of 500nm to 1000nm. Probably 650lb s of total people and luggage.

    If this goes beyond being an academic question, I'll definitely want to join the ABS to get more questions answered on Bonanzas, and I'm assuming that the Piper Owner's Assoc also has some info on the Saratoga although PA-32 owners don't appear to be as fanatical about their planes as the Bonanza guys.

    I've got about 25 hours in a Cherokee Six 300 and zero time in an A36. I did sit in a G36 at Oshkosh and was disappointed that the headroom and front seat space were pretty tight (I'm 6'2"). I'm not sure if that seat was set up wrong for me though and I didn't spend a lot of time figuring it out. The PA32s have all kinds of interior space but they handle more like a truck and everyone I know who has flown a Bonanza has said great things about how they fly. Since I'm getting out of flying a warbird, it would be nice to still have something more fun to fly (sadly the aerobatic Bonanzas are all too old and are all the smaller fuselage).

    Also, the Bonanza panel and yokes appear to have been changed (upgraded??) in 1984. Is the newer panel and different yoke & power quadrant a real improvement or is it just different?

    Anyway, I'm interested in impressions from people who have flown both. (i.e. how fun to fly, relative speeds, useful loads, interior space, reliability, maintenance costs, etc...) There is a nearby FBO with a new G36 and an early 80s Saratoga that I'll have to try out at some point (although the G36 is totally out of the budget, I assume it flies like an A36 that is 25 years older).

    Thanks,
    Eric

    Example planes:

    1982 A36 Bonanza
    http://www.controller.com/listings/...422.htm?guid=F0992149069241C1ACB21FB14BD3770F

    1984 Saratoga SP
    http://www.controller.com/listings/...980.htm?guid=F0992149069241C1ACB21FB14BD3770F
     
  2. Dean

    Dean Pattern Altitude

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    You are going to get about a dozen plus different answers, the Bo owners are going to say their plane is superior over the Saratoga, and the Saratoga owners are going to say their's is. Then the Lance owners are going to jump in and say theirs is. And it is just going to go on and on and on.
    Find the plane YOU like, fits your mission and budget and buy it. Take the family every place you can and enjoy it.
     
  3. bartscher

    bartscher Filing Flight Plan

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    True, but I'm interested in hearing the arguements why each group prefers their plane. Also, I'm really interested in hearing from the folks who have time in both.

    Thanks,
    Eric
     
  4. gismo

    gismo Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I've flown both but don't have a lot of time in either. The useful load in both varies from example to example and has diminished significantly over the years with addition of things like AC, refreshment and entertainment centers etc. so check the actual numbers on anything you're considering. Equipped the same I suspect they'd have about the same range/payload relationship although the Bonanza might do better given it's greater efficiency.

    Other differences:

    The controls in the Bo are much more harmonized and light. After flying a Bonanza the Saratoga will feel like a truck. OTOH, the Saratoga is a lot more stable and therefore easier to fly in IMC, pick your poison.

    The Bonanza is likely about 15 Kt faster on the same fuel burn and it will fly higher and climb better at max weight.

    The Saratoga doesn't have the tail wag that all Bonanzas do (the 36 isn't as waggy as the shorter 33), it's handling vice is a very heavy nose when landing, especially with just two up front.

    The Saratoga has a nose baggage compartment that's very handy for balancing out the load plus a wider CG range.

    The Saratoga cabin is about 5 inches wider than the Bonanza. The Bo is wide enough for most folks but two linebackers will feel cramped sitting next to each other in the front of an A36.

    The double doors on the side of the 36 make it very easy to get into the rear seats and allow the insertion of some very large cargo.

    Bonanza are built extremely tough and hold up well to rough use. Saratogas are a bit less "robust".

    Replacement parts from Beech for a Bonanza often come with jaw dropping prices. To mitigate that many owners look to salvage yards for "good used" parts. Piper prices aren't cheap but they are typically less than Beech.

    A 1984 Bonanza will have the more conventional control setup with two separate columns sprouting from the panel along with a landing gear switch on the left side and a flap switch on the right. Prior to 84 the flight controls had a single column coming out of the center of the panel with either a single "throw over" yoke or a dual yoke with a wheel on each side. A dual yoke is required for any flight training except for simulated instrument training unless the CFI has a waiver for the lack of dual controls. The single yoke has the advantage of clear space in front of the front passenger and it can be adjusted up and down by the pilot. The dual yoke blocks access to some of the avionics and controls, especially on the ground when the yoke is fully forward.

    A Bonanza is one of the easiest airplanes to land smoothly and consistently.

    A 36 Bonanza will likely have the option of club seating although some of the earliest ones didn't.

    There are many useful modifications available on the Bonanza. Some of the more popular are tip tanks (extend the range and they come with a 150-200 lb GW increase), Turbonormalization, and TKS deice.
     
  5. James_Dean

    James_Dean Pattern Altitude

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    What Lance said.

    The Bo is faster and sexier, but I can't fit my family and all our crap in it like I can my Saratoga. I can take all six of us, four car seats, a pack-n-play, quite a bit of luggage, a cooler, and go 500 miles without any problems. That ain't gonna happen in any Bo.

    Eggman
     
  6. sba55

    sba55 En-Route

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    I've flown both and I've got to say that it's really not as difficult a comparision as people make it out to be. Of course fanatics from either group will claim that their plane is better, but if you ignore the fanatics, it's simple.

    Except for the slightly smaller interior space, the Bonanza is significantly faster, handles much better, has a more active support community, and is built to higher quality standards. For 4 people, the slightly larger Saratoga cabin doesn't make a difference. That said, it's not an entirely fair comparison. Sort of like Kia vs. BMW. As Lance pointed out, Beech parts are more expensive, and the plane is more expensive, too. You are getting a more reliable plane with the Bo, but as with everything, there is a price to pay.

    For the Bonanza, I actually prefer the conventional (pre-1984) yoke. If you don't usually fly with other pilots, it's nice to have the added space for the right seat. The typical mx costs for the Bo are, if anything, slightly lower than those for other 6 seaters. It just doesn't break much.

    -Felix

    PS: A friend of mine flies an aerobatic Bonanza. It flies exactly the same as every other Bonanza, but it surprises with its 6 Gs :)
     
  7. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach

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    I generally agree with the comments above. Bonanza has more satisfying handling and has a more BMW-like feel overall. Saratoga handling isn't exciting but it is easy to fly (if you understand that a heavy Saratoga is different from a light Saratoga).

    Saratoga offers more flexibility in loading and is more comfortable for a crowd. Passengers love the Saratoga. BTDT. I enjoyed our old Bonanza but I'm sure my wife would have preferred a Saratoga for traveling.

    A friend of mine owned an Archer II in which he got his PPL. Shortly thereafter he lusted after a C-210. I suggested he look at a Saratoga instead. He did, and in 1985 he bought a factory-new Turbo Saratoga. He still has it.
     

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  8. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I have about 200 hours in a 1980 Bonanza A36 (including a trip from Pittsburgh to Pheonix and back) and about 50 in a 35 (1947 model).

    I agree with all the comments about Bonanza's posted so far, except the tail wag.

    I found none in the A36. The V tail model does, but it can be overcome by learning to fly with both feet on the rudder pedals at all times (well, most of the yaw motion can be caught in time) :smile:
     
  9. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    What Lance said, plus the 'Toga will be better for short/unpaved runways. Personally, I'd rather have the Bonanza just because of its flying qualities, but that's me.
     
  10. nyoung

    nyoung Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Hi. I had the same problem with the A36. I am 6'3" with a lot of my height in torso. There was an A36 partnership on my field that opened a while ago. I sat in the A36, and my hair brushed the top of the cabin. A headset would not have been possible. The pilot/co-pilot seats in the A36 rest on the wingspar, and I do not think have height adjustments.

    Meanwhile, I fit snugly, but nicely in my Cherokee 180. I have also spent about 50 hrs in a Seneca II, and fit fine in that. Seneca II has pretty much the same cabin as a Cherokee Six/Lance/Saratoga.

     
  11. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    There is fore and aft seat adjustment but not height adjustment.

    I'm 6'1" and had no problems in an A36.

    (One of the 35 design considerations was that a man should be able to wear his hat while flying).
     
  12. nyoung

    nyoung Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I should also add that one of the Seneca's had standard seats, the other had club seating. The club seating is probably cooler/neater for the passengers, but as a pilot, I did not like it. The chair directly behind the pilot kept me from reclining my seat to a a point where I was comfortable.

    I am currently looking for a partner in a Lance/Saratoga, and have rationalized that if we end up with a club-seating arrangement, I will have to remove or at least fold down the behind pilot passenger seat.


     
  13. kgruber

    kgruber En-Route

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    Mostly, you have to ask yourself, "do I like hand flying an airplane?"

    If you do......... the Bonanza, without question.

    If you just like turning on the autopilot and hanging on for the ride, get the cheap one.
     
  14. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Are there A36 without autopilot?

    IMHO, best of both worlds -- hand fly a responsive airplane when you want/need to.
     
  15. sba55

    sba55 En-Route

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    The flying qualities are just one of the many differences. It's certainly not the defining difference. I use cruise control on the highway, too, but that doesn't mean that the car doesn't make a difference...
     
  16. gismo

    gismo Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I suspect that the reason you found no tail wagging in 50 hours of A36 flying is that you were riding up front where it's not as noticeable. And in a 36 you're sitting about 10 inches further forward than in a 35. I will guarantee you that every Bonanza (and Baron) made will wag it's tail in turbulence and that this is definitely not at all related to the V tail design.

    BTW did the A36 you flew have tip tanks? They increase the period of oscillation especially when full which makes it less objectionable.
     
  17. bartscher

    bartscher Filing Flight Plan

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    Interesting that the price appears to be very similar for the two aircraft of fairly similar vintages and conditions. The A36 might be slightly more expensive, but not much.

    I've got to go find an A36 to fly somewhere nearby to see how it really handles. I'm guessing the Saratoga isn't all that different than the Cherokee Siz I used to fly except quite a bit faster.
     
  18. bartscher

    bartscher Filing Flight Plan

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    I was wondering if the headroom could be fixed by reclining the pilot's seat a bit. Is it possible to turn the second row to face forward in any vintage of A36, or is this only possible in certain vintages? I haven't seen many with all forward facing seats, and none of them have been newer than the 70s.

    It looks like the cabin would be pretty comfortable if the right middle seat were taken out and the left middle seat were turned forward. This would provide easy access to the middle row and lots of legroom for the right rear seat. Also the pilot's seat could recline without hitting the middle row. I see examples of planes where one of the rear seats is removed to provide a longer cargo area, but I haven't seen the middle row taken out.

    Thanks,
    Eric
     
  19. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    200+ hours in an A36 -- with tip tanks.

    I noticed no oscillation in the A36 in any level of turbulence. I notice plenty in the V tail (until I learned how to dampen it)
     
  20. sba55

    sba55 En-Route

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    Re. the tail wag issue - this can also be fixed by installing a 3-axis auto pilot with a yaw damper. It's a nice thing to have anyways....
     
  21. gismo

    gismo Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Then I'll bet the tip tanks were the biggest difference. There's no doubt that the 36 feels more stable than the 35 in turbulence, but if you look out the wing on a 36, even one with tips you will see the wing making an elipse around the horizon in turbulence.
     
  22. gismo

    gismo Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I'm certain that you can install the 2nd row facing forward in any 36 Bonanza but the reverse isn't true (in some of the older models they can only face forward). But most of the 36 fleet has the 2nd row facing to the rear for various reasons including the ease of entry/egress and the "cabin class" feeling. The downsides are many though. Riding backwards is more likely to induce airsickness, legs interfere with each other if opposite seats are occupied, the copilot seat cannot recline very far, nor can either of the rear facing seats.

    I have seen some with the entire second row removed but I've never seen one set up the way you described. Probably because it's more convenient to leave out one or two of the rear seats to make room for cargo. Also the rear seats have less shoulder room and head room than the 2nd row and the lower seat cushions of the 3rd row are closer to the floor IIRC.
     
  23. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Possibly. I haven't flown an A36 without tip tanks, so can't comment on those.
     
  24. Joe B

    Joe B Pre-takeoff checklist

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    When I bought the Toga a few years ago the deciding factor was the amount of space available in that airframe for luggage. With 3 kids - when we go someplace we use it all!

    Useful load can vary a lot depending on options installed. Check it on each aircraft.
     
  25. t0r0nad0

    t0r0nad0 Pattern Altitude

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    I'm not sure about turning the seats around, but I know the local AOPA Rep and her husband have removed the middle row of seats altogether in their A36. I am also a "long-torsoed" person and have experienced headroom issues in the copilot's seat of my mentor's A36 and his BE-58. I have been able to alleviate the problem by reclining the seat slightly. You have to find the right balance though - since it sits so nose-high on the ground, it is tough to see over the panel to taxi with the seat reclined too far.

    The only A36 I've flown was without tip tanks and the tail wag was noticeable - until I turned on the Yaw Dampener :). I also flew an F35 Bonanza, and I don't recall the tail wag being as bad in that one.
     
  26. gismo

    gismo Touchdown! Greaser!

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    There are significant variations in seat cushion thickness that affect headroom in Bonanzas and Barons.
     
  27. wabower

    wabower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    A former partner was in charge of our A-36 interior refurb. After triple-density foam was installed in front seat cushions, I looked like Quasimodo at the yoke.
     
  28. john smith

    john smith Pre-takeoff checklist

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    One thing I learned when flying Bo's... always calculate the landing weight CG.
    With the four-seaters, the CG moves forward as fuel is burned. If you are not aware of this, it could lead to an aft-CG stall condition.
    The RV-4 suffers the same fate. A number of crashes early in the RV-4's history prompted Van to reset the aft CG limit farther forward.
     
  29. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    That unfortunate attribute was adjusted somewhat in the A36.
     
  30. bartscher

    bartscher Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for the feedback on A36 interior configurations. Does anyone know if the newer Saratogas can have the second row facing forwards? I have seen numerous Lances and Chrokee Sixes with forward facing seats (the Six I used to fly had 7 forward facing seats). However, I don't think I have ever seen a photo of a Saratoga interior with anything but a club arangement in back.

    Thanks,
    Eric
     
  31. Joe B

    Joe B Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Forward-facing was an option on all the initial Togas. Most were sold as club seating but they can be converted back and forth if you can pick up the forward-facing seats and hardware from a salvage shop. Those seats might be expensive so this might not be economic, but it's possible.

    When New Piper introduced the Toga II's in '94 they went club seating only. I don't know if the equipment list allows the conversion to straight seating for the '94 and later airframes.
     
  32. john smith

    john smith Pre-takeoff checklist

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    There are several advantages to club seating:
    - although legs are intertwined, pax can stretch out
    - ease of loading/unloading pax
    - ease of communicating with middle row pax
    - more room to put the beveraage cooler where everyone can get to it
     
  33. gismo

    gismo Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You wrote that backwards, but I think you understand it correctly per the rest of the post.
     
  34. grattonja

    grattonja Line Up and Wait

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    If your mission is 2 adults and 2 kids, you'll find you won't want to touch the club seating. Your kids will LOVE how much room they have (I'm assuming wife will be in right seat up front with you), and the rear facing seats are good places for flight bags, and stuff that two kids on a long trip will NOT be able to live without.

    We fly two pilots and one kid in an older fixed gear 'toga and love the ability to haul so much stuff to and from vacation with our useful load.

    Jim G
     
  35. john smith

    john smith Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Yep, I goofed up.
    You are correct, the CG moves aft as the fuel is burned.
     
  36. Ken Ibold

    Ken Ibold Final Approach

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    If this is the conclusion you've drawn, you've not compared them adequately. A Bonanza will cost about 15 percent more than a Saratoga of the same year, with the same condition and the same times. A Bonanza that's priced as low as a Saratoga will be priced so for a reason.

    A early Saratoga will be priced about 20 percent higher than a Lance that's 5 years older but similarly equipped. The Toga will fly a bit better but the Lance will beat it in useful load.

    Personally, I have owned 2 Lances. I would have loved an A36 for myself, but the other four in the family and the dog much prefer the space and loading flexibility of the PA 32. I don't believe the Piper's build quality or engineering are particularly stellar, but given my budget I chose (twice) to have a cherry top of the line Lance than a dogged out Bonanza. Your mileage may vary. Oh, and in real world performance, a straight tail Lance at max gross will do about 150 knots on 15 gph. So yes, they're slow.
     
  37. bartscher

    bartscher Filing Flight Plan

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    Thanks for the feedback. I guess I should have clarified that the prices were approximately the same, and for older aircraft, I have been considering 1984 = 1982 = 1978 when it comes to age. There are nice Bonanzas and nice Saratogas in roughly the same price range with similar hours and equipment.

    Do the LoPresti mods on the Lance ad much in the way of speed? There are certainly good deals on the Lance, and I was wondering if the modified Lances get close to a Saratoga in speed.

    Also, thanks to whoever posted the 70s or early 80s vintage Piper ad that compared the cabin of the 210, A36, and PA32.

    Thanks,
    Eric
     
  38. wabower

    wabower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    To get a feel for the differences between the two airplanes, I would encourage you to compare them (physically, not on a spec sheet) side-by-side. Only then will many of the differences be apparent.

     
  39. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Thus, you should probably disregard anything Felix says! :rofl:

    I also have height problems in the Beeches. I'm 6'4", and I hit my head on the curved top of the cabin in them. The 'togas have a more square cross section, and I fit very well in them. The extra width is nice too.

    But, as with all airplanes, there are tradeoffs both ways. Pick your poison! :yes:
     
  40. sba55

    sba55 En-Route

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    Funny Kent, and not informative. At least I have significant time in both, unlike yourself.