BEECH AIRCRAFT'S most successful light utility and training aircraft, the four- to six-seat Bonanza, has now been in service for 50 years. Since its first flight on 22 December, 1945, a total of more than 17,000 Bonanzas has been built, and the type is still in production, with about 100 produced in 1995.

The prototype Model 35 Bonanza bore little resemblance to the aircraft first delivered to customers in early 1947. It had a geared Lycoming engine driving a wooden fixed-pitch propeller, and was fitted with new laminar-flow wings, similar to those on the North American Aviation P-51 Mustang fighter during the last days of the Second World War.

In the end, the more conservatively minded designers at Beech won the day, and the production Bonanza reverted to the traditional NACA 23000 wing section, with better low-speed handling characteristics. Beech also introduced a Continental direct-drive engine and a constant speed propeller.

Source: Flight International