The Beechcraft Baron is a light, twin-engined piston aircraft originally developed by Beech Aircraft Corporation and currently manufactured by the Hawker Beechcraft Corporation, an Onex Corporationg Holding. The Baron is a variant of the Beechcraft Bonanza, and was introduced in 1961. Beech also offered a Twin Bonanza line, which featured some design commonality with the Bonanza but in all respects were entirely different airplanes and could not be considered to be true "twin bonanzas".
Design and development
The progenitor of the Baron was the Beechcraft 95 Travel Air, which incorporated the fuselage of the Bonanza and the tail control surfaces of the T-34 Mentor military trainer. To create the new airplane, Beech replaced the Travel Air's tail with that of the Beechcraft Debonair, streamlined the engine nacelles and rechristened the aircraft as the Baron.
In 2008 a new Baron costs roughly $1,000,000. Since its inception, the Baron has always been near the top of the light airplane hierarchy. As expensive to operate as it is to buy, the 'next step up' from a Baron is a very big one. Faster aircraft, with greater range and more load-carrying capability are generally turbine-powered and far more expensive.
Barons come in two basic types: the Baron 55 (short body), Baron 56 (short body) and Baron 58 (long body), with several subtypes.
The early Baron 55, 55A and 55B were fitted with 260 hp (194 kW) Continental IO-470 engines and had gross weights of 4880 to 5100 lb (2,200 to 2,300 kg). These had a typical cruise speed of 190 knots (350 km/h) at 7000 ft (2100 m), and came with 116 or 136 US gallon (440 or 515 L) fuel tanks.
The 55C, 55D and 55E models had an increased cruise speed of 200 knots (370 km/h) due to the 285 hp (213 kW) Continental IO520s. The gross weights of these later models increased to 5300 lb (2400 kg). They were about a foot (0.3 m) longer than the 55B Barons, and came with 136 or 166 US gallon (515 or 628 L) fuel tanks.
Model 55 Barons were produced from 1961 to 1983, and some 3155 were produced.
Beech produced in limited quantities, a 56 model Baron, which featured the short fuselage of the 55 series Baron with Lycoming TIO-541 engines which were turbocharged and produced 380 hp each. At the time, it was the fastest Beech aircraft, rivaling even the early King Airs offered by Beech at the time.
Introduced in 1970, the more powerful Baron 58 has club seating, double aft doors, and a gross weight of 5400–5500 lb (2450–2500 kg), and is fitted with either the Continental IO-520 or IO-550 300 hp (224 kW) engine. The Baron 58 can cruise at 200 knots (370 km/h) at 7000 ft (2100 m), and is equipped with either 166 or 190 US gallon (628 or 719 L) fuel tanks.
In 1976, the turbocharged Baron 58TC and pressurized Baron 58P were introduced. These variants were powered by turbocharged Continental TIO-520s of 310–325 hp (230–240 kW), had an increased 6100–6200 lb (about 2800 kg) gross weight, and were certified under FAR23 with a new type certificate. The Baron 58P/58TC models were capable of cruising at 200 knots (370 km/h) at 8000 ft (2400 m) and 220 knots (410 km/h) at 20000 ft (6100 m), and were typically equipped with 190 US gallon (719 L) fuel tanks.
A big change in panel/system layout on 58/58TC/58P occurred in 1984, including relocating throttle, gear, flap, propeller and mixture controls to industry-standard positions.
Although the turbocharged 58TC/58P variants were discontinued in 1985, the normally aspirated Baron 58 was still in production as of 2008.
A common complaint is that there is very limited room for the pilot and co-pilot. The main wing spar goes under the pilot's seat thus preventing any ability to lower the seat. Indeed, the seats immediately behind the pilot's can be seen to be noticeably lower by about six inches. Any pilot over 5 ft 5 in height will have very restricted headroom.
The current production version is the G58, featuring a glass cockpit, improved passenger cabin and changes to selected airframe details.
The T-42A Cochise is a military version of the Baron 55 for use by the United States Army as an instrument training aircraft. The Army Aviation School took delivery of 65 aircraft, a further five were bought for delivery to the Turkish Army.
Published - July 2009
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