Beech 33 safety

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I just finished my private pilot training and am looking for my first
plane. I will frequently fly >200 miles and am looking for a 150kt+
plane that behaves well in turbulence( I live in the Eastern Sierra
Nevada). Do you think the Beech 33 is less safe than a Mooney or
Cirrus after IFR training?

-- David Barabe, July 9, 2007


I have flown the Bonanza F33A 150 hrs and similar hours in an older Mooney. I have not flown any Cirrus and my opinion on that airplane is based on published material.

The Beech 33 has the highest span loading of the 3, giving the best ride in turbulence. It also is certified in the Utility category, while the others are in the Normal category. That would give the Bonanza an edge concerning in-flight break-ups, but one of the much-praised handling qualities of the Beech 33 is its light control forces - particularly pitch control forces are light - inviting to overcontrolling in case of vertigo. And although the Mooney is certified in the Normal category, it is well-known for its robustness, and structural failures are quite rare in Mooneys. Which airplane would I rather be in when I encounter turbulence IMC? Probably the Mooney, although it is a close race. In case of lost control, I would extend the gear immediately, and the Beech 33 gear acts as a quite powerful airbrake, and is actually certified for emergency extension at all airspeeds up to VNE (200 KIAS). Still, in a Mooney I probably wouldn't loose control, and if I did, I would still extend the gear no matter what the airspeed - and the speed brakes, a popular option with newer Mooneys.

In the Cirrus, extending the gear is not an option. And in case of lost control, the CAPS system is only good to use up to 133 KIAS. If activated at a higher speed, it will just tear itself apart. To me, that means the system is useless in case of lost control in IMC (in the SR22 - in the slower SR20 it might make more sense). I imagine that any spiral dive will immediately result in a higher airspeed than 133 KIAS in a Cirrus SR22.

Of course safety is more than avoiding in-flight breakups and handling turbulence.

I believe that accident numbers will tell you that in general Mooneys are safer aircraft than Beech 33. And for the Cirrus, the jury is still out.

The Cessna 210 is (my experience only 20 hrs) known to handle turbulence very well also, but does not have a good overall accident record.

My answer would be: Yes, the Beech 33 is probably less safe than a Mooney. Is it less safe than a Cirrus? I do not think anyone knows yet, but the Cirrus has less controls to worry about for the inexperienced pilots: no gear lever, no mixture and no prop lever. Then there is the big red lever above the pilots...

Which would I chose for safety? Definitely the Mooney, if speed is a high priority, but I would also consider the Columbia 350, which is also certified in the Utility category. If speed was less important, I would go for the 135 KT Diamond DA40-180 Star, which to my knowledge has an accident record right up there with the Cessna 172.

-- Henrik Vaeroe, July 10, 2007

None of the above are less safe than a Cirrus if you go by stats.

Based on the information above, I would recommend you look at a Diamond Star with G1000. Even after an IFR, you will likely be short the experience you should really have to fly one of the above on business, but the Diamond is much easier to fly and is really forgiving of forgetfulness that newer pilots tend to have on business flights.

Unless you are going to routinely fly over 450 miles, the DA40 should meet your needs. Expect to find a nice used one around 235k.

-- Eric Warren, July 29, 2007