The Beech Baron 58 is an airplane for those who have, shall we say, arrived. It carries a well-deserved reputation for solid construction, good performance, sweet handling and a certain style. It also carries a rather enormous initial price tag and an equally well-deserved reputation for high parts and maintenance costs. But if you can afford one, there are few twins in its class that can approach it.
The Baron shares genes with the Bonanza, making use of essentially the same landing gear and systems, along with a fuselage similar to the six-place 36 series. Its direct ancestry goes back to the 95 Travel Air, which begat the 55 Baron.
The Model 58 Baron was introduced late in 1969 (as a 1970 model). Essentially, it was a 10-inch fuselage stretch of the 55 series, with a list price of $89,850, just about $6,000 more than the shorter E-55 Baron. Average equipped prices were up around $117,000. The extra room in the fuselage did a lot to boost the 58s utility, and it quickly became one of the all-time favorite Barons. A big, double aft cargo door and three-bladed propellers were popular options. The aft doors became standard very quickly, and are the same as those on the 36 Bonanza. The three-bladed props became standard two years later.
Engines on the first 58s were Continental IO-520-Cs of 285 HP each. These engines had the so-called light crankcases, notorious for cracking. Later, the IO-520-CB became standard. Earlier 58s may be fitted with either.
The 58 was such a solid design that few changes were made in the first several years of its production. Thats not surprising, since Beech had worked out the details of the 55 nicely by the time the 58 was introduced. The 58, by the way, is approved as an amendment to the same CAR (or CAM) 3 certificate that covers the 55s. Creating new airplanes out of existing type certificates is something that some manufacturers, notably Piper, developed to a fine art in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1976, Beech introduced two new airplanes based on the 58: The turbocharged 58TC and the pressurized 58P, both with 310 HP Continental TSIO-520-Ls. These engines, too, had light cases, later supplanted by the heavy-case LBs. Recommended TBO on the L/LB is 1,400 hours. The WB is 1,600. The 58s C/CB now is 1,700 hours.
These two airplanes differed from the 58 in more than just equipment. Both were built to FAR 23 standards, and both empty and maximum takeoff weights were significantly higher, with a net gain of useful load in both cases.
The most obvious visible difference among the three is that the aft door is on the port, or left, side of the 58P fuselage and is a single door. The now-standard double doors (originally identified as cargo doors) are on the right side of the 58 and 58TC. The interior configuration is the same in all three 58s, except that the center fuselage windows in the 58P are not openable for ventilation on the ground.
In 1979, the TC and P models were upgraded to the TSIO-520-WB rated at 325 hp. Maximum takeoff weight was increased from 6,100 to 6,200 pounds. Pressure differential of the P was slightly increased from 3.7 to 3.9 psi.
The 58TC was discontinued after the 1982 model year, with a total production run of only 151 aircraft. It couldn’t match the popularity of the P Baron, which outsold it nearly three to one. The GA slump caught up to the P Baron too, however, in 1986.
Meanwhile, the normally aspirated 58 kept plugging along right through the depression. A major change happened in the 1984 model year: The 58 got an engine and power upgrade to the Continental IO-550-C rated at 300 HP. Maximum takeoff weight was increased 100 pounds, to 5,500.
The panel was also revised, with the new one a model of good design. The big news was that Beech bit the bullet on switch placement: It reconfigured the arrangement of the gear and flap switches to the accepted industry standard of gear selector on the left, flap selector on the right. Beech had been criticized for adhering to the old backwards U.S. Army/airline configuration that was featured on the Beech 18 and all subsequent Beech twins until Dukes and King Airs were reconfigured.
There’s nothing at all wrong with arranging the gear and flap switches that way. However, when the rest of the industry elects to go in the opposite direction, predictable confusion occurs. Just imagine what would happen if, say, General Motors decided that the gas pedal should be the one on the left. It was a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. Beech twin operators are used to the non-standard arrangement. Introducing similar airplanes with critical controls relocated invites trouble, just as the pilot new to the brand stands in danger of selecting the wrong lever. And, of course, the predictable happened. One of the first new 58P customers, a long-time Baron operator, retracted the landing gear of his spanking-new, very expensive twin shortly after taking delivery.
One reader has had Barons configured both ways. He reports: Different models, and even different years of the same model, will have these handles reversed. My 58TC had the gear on the left and the flaps on the right. My 58 has the gear on the right and the flaps on the left. You can imagine how much I enjoyed the four months that I was flying both airplanes! Talk about being careful.
Beech did not change the gear and flap handles and rest there. The cockpit was completely redesigned. The center control column, with the throw-over yoke (or large bar for dual control airplanes), was replaced with individual control columns.
Most Barons are equipped with dual controls. The large control bar obscures many key switches, gauges and controls. Larger pilots find the yoke sits low enough so that legs can interfere with control inputs. This is especially a problem if there are two large people in the cockpit, particularly if the person seated in the right seat is not a pilot. Interference with control input has happened at critical times. The new control arrangement mounts the yoke a bit higher, which helps eliminate the problem for most pilots. It also makes more of the panel visible and accessible.
Smaller turbine-type engine instruments are used. This and the rearrangement of many subsystem elements frees up a lot of the panel for avionics (28 percent more space, the ads say). Even with radar installed, there is plenty of space for extensive avionics installation.
One of the most important changes came late in the 58 series life cycle: Known-icing approval, which was not obtained until 1984 or 85 for the 58 (the 58P was approved earlier).
Many Barons are equipped with boots, electric or alcohol props and alcohol windshield anti/deice equipment. Even with placards in the cockpit and notices in the operating manual, many pilots assume that the presence of the equipment equals approval. This is a false assumption that can lead to a host of problems, from physical danger to enforcement action from those friendly and helpful folks at FAA.
Another important variation in configuration to watch for is fuel capacity. Most 58 series have at least 166 gallons usable fuel capacity, although a few normally aspirated 58s have the standard 136-gallon capacity. An increase in optional fuel capacity was introduced in 1976. The addition of wing tip tanks increases usable fuel to 190 gallons.
Pilots flying a mixed fleet of Barons have something else to watch for besides cockpit configuration. Four hours into a flight is rather late to recall that the 58 you are flying today has 136-gallon capacity, not 166 or 190. It is easy to get confused, especially since we all tend to be lax and assume rather than confirm at times.
The 58 Baron is still in production, along with the 36 series Bonanzas. No significant changes have been made to the airplane since the 1984 model year. A new one will set you back just about three-quarters of a million dollars, or more than double a 1984 model.
In the used-aircraft market, there is a lot of competition for the 58 series, from the Aero Commander 500 and 600 series piston twins, Piper Aztec, Seneca, Navajo and Aerostar through the Cessna 300 series (exclude the 336/337) and 402 and 414.
The closest competition to the 58 series consists of the Cessna 310 and turbo 310/320, Piper Navajo, the Aerostar series and the Cessna 340. The Cessna models win in the elbow-room category. The Barons take the visibility prize. In terms of operational considerations, most pilots would give the nod to the Barons for their combination of handling characteristics, fairly high structural load capabilities, including maneuvering and gear and flap speeds, and fuel management simplicity.
As light twins go, all of the 58s have comparatively good payload with full fuel. A typically equipped older 58, with auxiliary fuel giving a total of 166 gallons usable, can lift 724.5 pounds and fly for approximately 5.5 hours at an intermediate power setting – a still-air range of just over 1,000 NM – with IFR reserves.
The new 58 can carry six people (that’s FAA 170 pounders) and luggage 600 nautical with reserves. A typically equipped 58P has a full-fuel payload of just over 700 pounds and a range at roughly 60 percent power of more than 1,100 NM at either 15,000 or FL 250 (TAS is 201 at the lower altitude and 218 at the maximum of FL 250).
All three versions have loading flexibility. With baggage space in the nose and aft cabin as well as smaller space between the cockpit and middle seats with the club seating arrangement, there are a lot of options for maintaining loading within the allowable CG range.
The 58TC and 58P are biased toward the forward CG limit. In fact, with many airplanes, full fuel and two people up front (only one in some) can put weight and balance out beyond the front limit.
One 58P owner says: This forward CG was so notorious that the Beechcraft pressurized Baron school I attended told us to put a 50-pound bag of sand in the aft baggage compartment. Another writes: The CG on my 58TC was right at the forward limit with just the front seats occupied. Any luggage had to go in the back. This was inconvenient with golf clubs. The owner of the 58TC also says the oxygen bottle took up too much space in the nose baggage bay to fit in golf clubs, but there is plenty of room for them in the nose of his 58.
There are very few pilots who do not like the handling characteristics of Beech Bonanzas and Barons. Generally speaking, they have light control pressures and are highly responsive. This extracts a price in turbulence, especially in instrument conditions.
While Barons are generally considered good instrument platforms, and the 58s the best of the group, workload is relatively high because of the responsiveness.
Comparatively high gear and flap operating speeds help the design fit in easily in high-density areas. The basic good handling extends into the lower end of the envelope for the pilot properly trained and familiar with its characteristics. Many operators praise the short-field capabilities of the 58.
However, this is where the weight and weight distribution differences between the 58 and TC/P are clearly displayed. A couple of owners confess to operating out of marginal fields in areas where high-density calculations are a must.
One 58P owner writes that the normal 100-knot approach speed was a problem for him, Since I fly from a 3,000-foot strip in Louisiana. After I overshot one landing, I investigated it carefully. His solutions involved reconfiguring the airplane to put more weight aft, including relocating the battery and installing an air conditioning unit in the tail cone to replace the nacelle-mounted factory design. The changes moved the CG about 4-1/2 inches aft and reduced approach speed to 90 knots.
Another owner reports that 80 knots is a comfortable speed over the fence in a vortex generator-equipped 58, and the airplane still floats a bit at that airspeed (the book says stall in landing configuration is 74 knots; 1.3 times Vso is 96.2, or about 100 indicated on the ASI for most of us). His 58TC at 90 knots was on the margin: As slow an airspeed that I was at all comfortable with crossing the fence. When you pulled off the power, it landed right now, to the accompaniment of a stall horn and often a buffet.
The 58TC and P Vso is 78 KIAS; 1.3 times that is 101.4. The owner had vortex generators installed on his TC, which made it feel better. These devices are credited with reducing stall speeds seven knots on 58s and six on the TC; 1.3 Vso ends up at 87.1 and 93.6, respectively. These, of course, are gross weight numbers. They would be lower at typical landing weight. (As we’ve noted before, we highly recommend the installation of VGs on any aircraft they’re available for.)
But add the affects of temperature and humidity, and you are pushing the envelope at these speeds. Another factor is the forward CG bias of the TC and P. This makes landing main gear first difficult, especially using full flaps. This, in turn, makes squeezing into fields of marginal length for ambient conditions a bit dicey. The forward CG bias added to the tendency of so many pilots to land three-point or nose-gear first puts a lot of strain on the gear. This is true even of the 58.
Too many pilots approach and land with too much speed and too little pitch. This is aggravated in airplanes with a forward CG bias. Structures and systems suffer, and its easier to lose directional control.
One characteristic of Barons is a function of angle of incidence. When it is ready to fly, it wants to do so. Pilots who try to hold it on the runway encourage wheelbarrowing on the nose gear.
All that said, the 58 is a good-flying airplane throughout its intended speed range. It can handle fairly rough and relatively short strips better than some other twins when properly operated. The relatively fast gear-operating speed also reduces the time of maximum exposure (from lift off to positive climb after retraction).
People sit high in Barons. The chairs are fairly high, which encourages a good position and relative comfort for fairly long flights. The biggest shortcoming is cabin width, which is most notable for the pilot manipulating the controls.
Visibility is good from all seats. From a passenger standpoint, the middle seats, particularly with club seating, are the most comfortable. The big aft door and separate over-wing door to the cockpit make loading more graceful than many other light twins.
Noise level is about standard for the class: noisy, despite all the claims about super soundproofing, etc.
The two best aids for noise and vibration are cruise climb and cruise power settings with lower RPMs and good dynamic balancing of rotating components.
The good part about parts supply for the 58 is that the normally aspirated version is still in production. One owner writes: Maintenance costs are about average for a high-speed normally aspirated twin. Beech parts remain very expensive items, but fortunately we rarely have to buy from Beech. All 58 series owners who have responded to our request for input refer to the high cost of maintenance. One says: Proper preventive maintenance eats a big chunk of change every year, and that’s with minimal or no labor cost. Just the same, I know of nothing in its class that does as well.
To enjoy dependable and comfortable transportation, one 58P owner says has required detailed knowledge of systems and a relatively high maintenance cost because of these many systems annuals run about $10,000. The owner of a 1975 58 says, after four years of operation, that it is the least expensive airplane he has owned. The owners who have written seem very realistic or at least resigned to the cost of operating sophisticated airplanes.
According to Service Difficulty Reports, the propulsion system has been the most troublesome. Several owners mention fuel tanks as a constant headache – a 58P owner says he anticipates a fuel cell overhaul with every overhaul at a cost close to $2,000 – but there have been surprisingly few SDRs on tanks.
There has been a plague of engine-mount problems on the 58. Whether this can be attributed to age or design (although the first fix redesign had some interference problems) is difficult to tell from the reports. However, the design has been in the field for 23 years and has flown in a variety of roles, from owner-flown use at less than 100 hours a year to commercial use, including flight training, at several thousand hours per year. There is an AD (91-15-20) calling for recurrent inspections and repair or reinforcement of cracked mounts.
Some service technicians suspect that many engine and accessory problems with the later powerplants are the function of vibration (many recommendations for dynamic balancing show up in the SDRs) and thermal shock. Both can be controlled by the owner/operator to a large extent.
Another system with recurring problems is the landing gear. Beech used to emphasize the fact that the Baron gear-the same as on the former Air Force and Navy T-34 trainers – had been drop-tested to a rate of 600 FPM. However, in the real world of poor directional control/side loads and three-point landings and wheelbarrow takeoffs, the gear and surrounding structure suffer. Knowledgeable operators spend a fair amount on preventive maintenance of the gear system, ensuring that elements are kept clean and properly lubricated in addition to thorough, regular inspection.
In addition to minimizing vibration and carefully managing engine temperatures, many of the SDRs suggest careful inspection, especially with older airplanes. Many developing problems in the gear, flight controls and other systems are difficult to spot in good enough inspections by technicians who unfamiliar with the 58.
There are quite a few recent ADs that are specific to the 58 series. The most recent is 97-9-9, calling for inspection of the window upper longeron for cracks and missing rivets. 93-1-23 called for replacement of the fuel crossfeed check valves. 92-23-4 mandated modification of the engine control mount supports.
Of particular note is the need to inspect the wing forward spar carry-through structure, as covered by 90-8-14. This is described in detail in the report on the 55 Baron, elsewhere in this book.
A variety of engine packages are available from Beryl DShannon, RAM and Colemill to make the Baron go faster. To help slow it down, Spoilers Inc. offers the products its named for. There are also gap seals from Smith Speed.
VGs are available from a couple of different manufacturers. We tested V/G Systems (formerly Friday International) product, for the July 15, 1987 issue of The Aviation Consumer. Bottom line: They work as advertised. They’re also available from Beryl DShannon and Micro AeroDynamics.
There are also intercoolers available for the TC, from American Aviation.
Baron owners don’t have an association of their own, but the Wichita-based American Bonanza Society supports the Baron along with the Bonanza. The ABS publishes an informative newsletter and conducts service and proficiency clinics at about a dozen locations each year. American Bonanza Society, Mid-Continent Airport P.O. Box 12888, Wichita, KS 67277. (316) 945-6913 or www.bonanza.org.
The Baron 58 series is generally considered to be stout as light twin airplanes go, despite the tender nose gear. Aside from urgings to better training and better pilot and maintenance technique, there are one or two other caveats that apply to the 58 and other airplanes.
While it is the pilots regulatory responsibility to oversee refueling, most leave it to line people to handle. Especially if the wing tip tanks are installed, refueling should be supervised to ensure that the refueler does not damage the tank with the nozzle. And if the airplane is not going to be flown for a couple of days, especially in warm weather, the tanks should not be filled until it is time to depart. Expansion can cause damage.
Also, while the Baron is fairly sturdy, the doors don’t accept abuse or carelessness any better than those on any other airplane. This is particularly critical on the 58P, but it applies to all.
On the 58P, the rear door pressure seal can be damaged by careless loading of cargo and passengers. Using the door as a handle can distort it, again ruining the pressure seal. But in any of the Barons, careless operation of the doors, putting weight on them or damaging the seals will result in air leaks or even doors that are prone to pop open.
The pilot should not trust loading or door operation to anyone else. Doors, especially the cockpit door, tend to open just as lift is generated. While this usually does not create an overwhelming aerodynamic or flight handling problem, if any, pilots have lost control of their aircraft because of surprise or distraction.
The airplane is good-looking, has good performance, competitive payload/range numbers and good handling characteristics. The 58 is a very appealing airplane for those fortunate few who can pay the tab. In that respect, one operator suggested that the relatively large number of 58s currently on the market is a reflection of the fact that more people are being forced to quit flying because of the economics involved.
Another operator hopes this is true. The 58 is a very attractive airplane for his charter operation. But the older models do not have known icing approval, the upgrade is too expensive and the later models have held their value too well to make them commercially viable in terms of the rates he would have to charge.
The 58 appears to be one of those twins a lot of pilots would like to own, if only they could afford it.
I purchased a new Baron 58 in late 1994. The performance, flying qualities, and comfort of the airplane are outstanding, but after a nearly trouble-free first year and a half, the airplane started suffering from a large number of annoying and expensive problems, eventually leading me to sell her earlier this year.
My airplane delivered performance at least as good as the book values; 65 percent power at 7000 feet delivered 190+ KTS on 29 GPH. Even at gross weight climbs are brisk, over 1000 FPM to most cruising altitudes.
The aircraft has a solid, slightly heavy feel. The short-body Barons are quite a bit more agile, but the 58 is a very solid instrument platform, and I think it is an excellent compromise.
The cabin is very spacious, although with full fuel (166 gallons) my aircraft (with A/C and full de-icing) could only carry 550 pounds of people/bags. Visibility outside is not all it could be; the side windows are large but the panel is very high since the 83 redesign.
The first year I owned the aircraft I had few problems, and the annual was uneventful except that the inner gear doors were slightly bent due to the landing gear being misrigged, presumably at the factory.
At about a year and a half old, the aircraft started developing a series of problems. First, the IO-550s were plagued by high iron readings in oil analysis. Oil consumption was up to a quart every six to eight hours, and a borescope showed premature cylinder barrel wear with very little crosshatch left. Switching from Aeroshell 15W-50 to straight 50 weight oil seemed to reduce the iron values somewhat. By the time I sold the airplane at 500 hours, the engines were burning a quart every three hours or so.
The vacuum system was plagued by intermittent high vacuum readings – clear off the top of the gauge. Three trips to Raytheon in Ft. Lauderdale could not fix the problem, which was finally diagnosed to a faulty instrument air pressure gauge by Raytheon in Wichita. The windshield de-icing plate was forever leaking and fogging up; despite resealing three times it was never completely free of fog. Both main landing gear struts were leaky and needed rebuilding. Along the way there were various small annoyance problems with the cowl flaps, de-icing boots, one RPM gauge, the nose wheel shimmy damper, auto-lean, and one of the NAV radios.
The second annual was a real shock: 43 discrepancies adding up to almost $17,000 – on a two-year-old airplane! Major items were re-rigging most of the cost: Control-cables and (once again) bent inner gear doors due to the landing gear being out of rig.
I know that old Barons need a great deal of costly maintenance, and I expected that by buying a new airplane I would get four or five years of mostly trouble-free flight after which I would sell her. I was very disappointed to not even get two good years out of the airplane, and decided to trade her earlier this year for a Mooney Ovation at 2.5 years and 500 hours.
Insurance was a hefty $14,000/year, combining with hanger fees to make fixed costs about $20,000/year. Fuel and maintenance (without engine reserves) worked out to $200/hour at 200 hours per year, although this number would certainly have been higher had the aircraft not been under warranty for the first year. I don’t really know what a sensible method would be for calculating engine reserves, given the problems I had with the IO-550s.
I have owned a 1982 58 Baron for six months. This is my second Baron; my first was a 1977 55 Baron.
While all Barons are great airplanes, the 58 offers a little more flexibility as far as loading and passenger comfort go. I have four children now so the 58 will suit me fine for a few more years. My company owned a Panther Navajo in the past, but the unpredictable maintenance steered me towards the Baron. Overall, the Baron seems to strike a good balance between acquisition cost, operating cost, and performance.
I watched the market for about nine months before I bought my airplane. Good planes dont stay around long. Id watch out for planes that keep reoccurring among dealers and in and out of Trade a Plane. I recommend buying a well maintained airplane up front and paying a fair price. Do a good pre-purchase inspection. Stay away from a poorly maintained plane: It will kill you with ongoing maintenance.
I fly about 200 hours per year and my costs are as follows: Insurance – $4825/year ($3025 for 275k hull,1800 for 5 million liability), Maintenance including annual – $50/hour (first annual was $2500, an attribute to good previous maintenance), Hangar $260/month, Fuel – @ $75/hour. Don’t forget to figure property taxes too. I don’t figure reserve costs/hour but you need to be prepared to shuck out $25,000 per engine/prop overhaul.
Performance is 180 knots summer, 185 knots winter, burning about 30 GPH at 6000 feet. I’ve got boots and a hot plate which I think slow me down a few knots. Fuel burn can be less at higher altitudes. I’ve got gamijectors ordered and cant wait to become a believer.
Upgrades Id recommend are: G & D window inserts – quieted the cabin down substantially and reduced heat in the summer. Rosen Sun visors really help with windshield glare. VGs – a must for short fields (I operate frequently out of a 2600 foot grass strip). Beryl DShannon windshield – adds a few knots.
Barons are easy airplanes to fly with a good checkout. Most insurance companies will require a factory approved check out (ABS, Flight Safety, or Simcom) or a bunch of time in type. Id recommend recurrent training of some type too.
My operating company leases and operates a 1985 58 Baron with about 1800 hours TT.
The plane is flown by our local FBO at Mt. Pocono most of the time and I fly it also on a private basis. The aircraft had new engines installed at about 1500 hours: One engine had developed cracked cylinders, so we decided to replace engines rather than replace cylinders with only a few hundred hours to go. TBO on the IO-550 is 1700 hrs which we didn’t make.
The aircraft was purchased in 1991 with approximately 700 hours TT on it. We repainted it and did some upholstery work so it looks great and flies beautifully. It is equipped with VGs which delay the stall, but when it does break it does so rather abruptly with limited pre stall buffet .
The aircraft is a pleasure to fly and trues out at about 192 KIAS although I normally plan on 170 knots for time calculations. We cruise at 23 square and burn 15.5 GPH per side at 6-7000 feet.
The plane is pure pleasure to fly. It lifts off at 80 knots and climbs out at 1000 FPM depending on load so it gets to altitude rather quickly. If you can afford it is a delight to own as it is rock solid as an instrument platform and behaves well in turbulent conditions.
The only negative we’ve found is that one has to be careful that the copilot door is tightly latched as it has popped open in flight if not properly latched prior to takeoff. The door simply trails about an inch open and the only safe way to close it is to land.
Mount Pocono, Pa.
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