The general aviation industry is nothing if not a poster child for boom-bust economics. Nearly every major manufacturer has had salad days followed by retrenchments and, often, complete shutdowns. (A few have been through dark periods several times over.)
But not Beechcraft. Through the inevitable ups and downs of the GA industry, Beechcraft has kept its durable line of singles in continuous production in some way since the first Bonanza appeared in the late 1940s. Thats quite an achievement.
One of Beechcraft/Raytheons steady sellers has been the 33 series, which began life as a down market version of the venerable V-tail but eventually morphed into a strong product of its own, actually outlasting the V-tail by more than a decade. (The only piston single still made by Beechcraft/Raytheon is the six-place A36.)
Although the V-tail gets most of the glory, the straight-tail 33 series is every bit as good an airplane and owners who have upgraded the early models with IO-550 conversions rave about the performance. Moreover, there are enough Bonanzas out there now to support a vigorous market in other upgrades, keeping these airplanes relevant well into the 21st century.
Beech practically invented the modern retractable single just after World War II, when it introduced the original Bonanza. There was really no competition for it for years. In the late 1940s, Cessna was putting out airplanes such as the 120, 140 and 170 and Piper was building tube-and-fabric airplanes; the Cub and Super Cruiser. By comparison, the Bonanza looked like a starship, if youll pardon the pun.
But Piper and Cessna woke up with airplanes such as the Comanche and, in 1960, the 210. Beech met them head on with something called the Model 33 Debonair, which also appeared in 1960. The new airplane was based on the V-tail, with the same wing, fuselage and landing gear. However, by this time, the Bonanza had built up a powerful brand image. The company didnt want to hurt sales of its flagship by cheapening it so it made considerable changes to the 33 to distinguish it from its V-tailed sibling.
Of course, the tail was the big difference. The 35s distinctive V-tail was replaced by a well-proportioned conventional empennage. Less in evidence was the change in powerplant: The Bonanzas 250-HP Continental IO-470-C was replaced by a 225-HP IO-470-J. Gross weight was somewhat less.
To reduce the price to compete with the Comanche, Beech also removed much of the equipment that came with a typical Bonanza. Little things such as paint detail, vertical speed and turn-and-bank indicators and sun visors. The result was a rather Spartan airplane, but one that sold for about what the competition was charging.
The Debonair didnt exactly take the market by storm. Some 233 were built that first year, compared to more than 800 Comanche 250s and 400 V-35 Bonanzas. But sales were good enough to retain the line and Beech got busy with lots of changes.
The A33 in 1961 brought with it some additional equipment, extra windows, a hat shelf and a boost in gross weight, from 2900 to 3000 pounds-still less than the 35 Bonanza but not bad. The B33 came out the following year, with a new panel and a different variant of the Continental IO-470, the K. It remained in production through 1964. Total production: 426.
The C33 in 1965 got another boost in gross weight, but this was more than offset by an increase in empty weight. There were several other minor improvements as well. The earlier Debonairs had a bench seat in back and this was replaced by individual seats and a fifth seat (not very useful) was offered as an option. Larger rear windows were made available and the storage shelf was made larger. The C33 remained in production through 1967, with 306 coming off the line.
The following year, 1966, saw a secondary model, the C33A. It was fitted with the V-35s Continental 285-HP IO-520 B/BA, making it for all intents and purposes a straight-tailed Bonanza. The C33A was built for two years, 1966 and 1967, with a total production run of 179.
For some reason, there was no D33. The 1968 model was the E33 Bonanza and the company continued producing the 225-HP version as well as the 285-HP E33A model. The only real difference, other than the name change, was a new windshield. Of particular note was another 33 variant produced during this time, the E33C, which has the distinction of being certified for aerobatics.
Major differences between the -C and the -A are a strengthened tail, positive-pressure fuel pump and a cabin door that can be jettisoned. Those wanting one will have to look hard, because aerobatic Bonanzas are rare. Total production of the E33C for the two years they were made amounted to 25. There was also an F33C, total production: five aircraft. These airplanes command a hefty premium on the used market. Expect to pay at least $25,000 extra for the privilege of flying beyond the limits of the utility category.
The F33, last of the 225-HP Bonanza 33s, was introduced in 1970 and lasted only a year, with 20 built. It differed by having larger rear windows and more baggage space. Its sibling, the 285-HP F33A, was the model that would continue in production until 1995, when Beech phased it out. Oh, one more: the G33, which was built in 1972 and 1973, with a total production run of 49. It had a 260-HP Continental IO-470N.
The original Debonair was definitely a downmarket airplane compared to the 35 Bo. Over the years, though, the Deb was given ever more lavish equipment and more power and evolved into what is, in effect, a 35 Bonanza with a straight tail. Yet for many years, the perception that the V-tail was somehow better meant that 33 models were cheaper, for essentially the same airplane.
For example, a 1970 V35B sold new with average equipment for a little over $54,000, while the F33A (same engine and airframe, different tail) went for about 10 percent less. On the used market, the F33A actually sells for a little more, as of fall 2003.
The success of the 33 Bonanza is due in no small part to the 35 Bonanzas in-flight break-up problems, which dogged the V-tail through the early 1980s and eventually led to its demise. There was an AD to strengthen the tail and it worked well. Nevertheless, the V-tails reputation was damaged to the point that it was pulled from production. Looking again at the competition, the Bonanza has held its value better, although its advantage is slipping. The 1970 Piper Comanche 260 brings only $8000 less than a 1970 F33A and is about on par with the less-powerful 225-HP F33. In the post 9/11 downturn, Beechcraft in general took less of a beating on value than did other aircraft.
This is where Bonanzas really shine. They have some of the best-harmonized controls in the business. Pilots love the handling, but are also quick to point out that its important to stay ahead of the airplane, particularly in IFR conditions. On the other hand, staid, solid handling typically translates into good suitability as an instrument platform, too.
Thats not to say the Bonanza isnt a good instrument airplane. It is. But it really helps to have a good autopilot. Typical of single-engine retracts with high wing loading, the stalls are sharp but not that difficult to recover from with proper technique. Landings are easy, provided the pilot watches power settings and airspeed closely. The 33 is fast enough to make it one of the better piston singles for cross country flights. Pilots of the 225-HP airplanes typically flight plan for 150 knots and 12 GPH. The more powerful 33s are faster, of course and use more fuel. Figure 165 to 172 knots on 13 to 15 GPH for a 285-HP model. Climb performance is also relatively good.
The airplanes are slippery; lower the nose, and theyll pick up speed readily. Early Debonairs have a relatively low maximum gear speed: 122 knots. However, the 154-knot limit on B33 and later models helps during descents and pattern work. Maximum flap speed is a low 104 knots on early Debonairs, but it was raised to 113 knots on the C33 and to 123 knots on the F33A. Flap levers in airplanes built in 1979 and later have a detent for an approach setting (15 degrees) that can be selected up to 154 knots.
The cabin of the 33 is quite comfortable, with appointments of typically high Beech quality. Later 33s offered a fifth seat that, like most such afterthoughts, is really more a decoration than something a person would want to sit on. Rear-seat passengers in the 33 often complain about the airplanes tendency to Dutch roll in turbulence and many pilots have had yaw dampers fitted.
One characteristic of the 33 (and 35) Bonanzas is that the CG will shift as fuel is burned. Its important to do a weight and balance calculation for both ends of the flight. The airplane doesnt like aft CGs and in the words of one pilot, it gets squirrely if the CG isnt kept forward. Its easy to get out of the aft CG limit, too.
The cockpit is well laid out, though it does have its quirks. Visibility is quite good. The unusual Beech control yoke arrangement blocks part of the panel, but for the most part it shows good design.
The early models were far better than those of contemporary aircraft. Overall, the Bonanzas have robust, well-designed systems. The gear, for example, is a very sturdy electro-mechanical design thats strong and far less prone to trouble than some other types. Flaps are electric.
Worth mentioning is the oft-cursed backwards flap and gear handle arrangement. While Beech put the gear on the right and flaps on the left, the rest of the industry did the reverse. No big deal once youre used to it, but it requires paying attention. Early models had an odd fuel system, too. When the optional extended-range tanks were installed, fuel drawn from the auxiliaries goes to the fuel pressure regulator, and the excess is returned to the system…but it drains into the left main tank. If there isnt enough room, it gets vented overboard. So its important to run the left main down before switching to the auxiliaries. The older 33s also had fuel gauges that would read only one tank at a time.
Maintenance is costly on Bonanzas and its very important to find a mechanic who knows the airplane well. Weve heard of many instances of poor maintenance that came about simply because of lack of familiarity. One pilot noted that maintenance has cost about $60 per hour, exclusive of engine reserve.
One bugaboo that has always haunted Beech owners is the cost of parts. Paying high parts prices simply goes with the territory when flying a Bonanza. In that respect, its rather like an expensive luxury car; once you get into this league, you have to expect to pay a lot. Example: a prop spinner back plate from Beech costs an astonishing $2000. Fortunately, parts are readily available.
There have been several type-specific ADs to hit the 33 in recent years, some minor, some not. The most recent, 97-14-15, is no big deal: it calls for making sure the door handles lock properly. But the prior couple are more onerous: 95-4-3 mandates repetitive inspections of the front wing spar carry-through frame, along with repairs and reinforcements if cracks are found. And 93-24-3 calls for repetitive inspections of the rudder forward spar and repairs if cracks are found. 89-5-2 covers the elevator (inspect, replace if cracked).
Other significant ADs of recent vintage cover the engine (97-26-17, ultrasonic inspection of the crankshaft, replace if found defective; 86-13-4, pressure check the cylinders every 50 hours until replacement) and prop (97-18-2, repetitive inspections).
Mods, Owner Groups
Having been around for awhile, the 35/33 series Bonanzas have drawn the attention of modifiers. One popular one is converting to an IO-550 engine, for which a number of STCs exists. These include Beryl DShannon (www.beryldshannon.com and 800-328-4629), Atlantic Aero (www.atlantic-aero.com and 800-334-2001).
Tornado Alley Turbos (www.taturbo.com and 877-359-8284 makes a performance-enhancing turbonormalizing modification and its sister company, GAMI, (www.gami.com) offers GAMIjector tuned injection nozzles and improved baffling kits for the Bonanza. Want de-icing? Boots are available and also weeping wings from TKS (contact 888-291-5387.) Precise Flight (www.preciseflight.com and 800-547-2558) offers speed brakes and oxygen systems.
Micro Aerodynamics has vortex generators for the Bonanza line (800-677-2370) and so do Beryl DShannon and Knots 2U, Ltd. at www.knots2u.com and 262-763-5100. Tip tanks-which also increase gross weight-are available from Osborne at www.jlosborne.com. Hartzell offers a range of improved two- and three-blade propellers for the Bonanza series. Contact 800-942-7767.
As for owner groups, they dont come any better than the American Bonanza Society at www.bonanza.org or 316-945-1700. Owners also speak highly of the World Beechcraft Society at www.worldbeechcraft.com and 425-267-9235.
First lesson, November 2002; completed private pilot certificate, July 2003; First aircraft purchase: Beech Bonanza F33A. During the final stages of my lessons for the private, I have to honestly say that I spent half of my study time researching airplanes to purchase. My conditions were simple, yet hard to fill.
I wanted a true four to five place aircraft with speed, range and comfort. After tons of research, I found a 1974 Beech Bonanza F33A. Four adults, true airspeed of 176 knots, full fuel and still room for luggage. Added to this aircraft was the IO-550 for 300 HP, tip tanks for 30 more gallons to add to the 74 usable gallons in the main tanks, Garmin GNS530 with Bendix/King KFC 200 autopilot for navigation and auto-control, WX-1000 for thunderstorm awareness and GAMIjectors for better performance and engine efficiency.
Its quick, its solid, its stable and its amazing. After rotation and gear up, the airplane jumps from field elevation to 3000 feet in less than 3 minutes. Once level, the airspeed indicator pushes over 175 knots and the airplane cruises at 15 GPH. Crosswind landings are not much of a problem for the steady and sturdy Bonanza. Landing the aircraft was the biggest adjustment from landing a Cessna. The attitude is more nose down, the airspeed is higher, you aim for the numbers and then pull back and keep it off the ground until the airspeed bleeds off and the airplane settles on its mains.
The big difference between the F33A and the A36 Bonanza is the length. The F33A can have an aft CG issue if you arent careful with the weight and balance. It has a useful load of over 1100 pounds but you have to keep the big people up front. In regards to comfort, the airplane is roomy for my 6-foot-2-inch 215-pounds frame. Although the seat is all the way back, its right where it would go even if I had another two inches to go back.
I was able to acquire an insurance policy with the conditions that I had to earn my instrument rating and have 15 hours dual time with an instructor who had 25 hours in the F33A. The premium of the insurance policy was $6400. Okay, its up there, but it will go down once the policy is due again. Next was the annual, which was due the same month of the purchase. I did an extensive pre-buy inspection with the intention that I was going to roll it into an annual. The annual cost $4500. I did some non-mandatory maintenance so that I would feel that I was starting with a fresh airplane. Monthly maintenance has been limited to the fact that its a 1974 model rather than a Beech Bonanza.
If you want speed, range and useful load, then the F33A Bonanza is the best single engine plane in its class. It can compete against many light twins in all three categories. For a newly rated pilot, its a lot of machine and a lot of new equipment to learn. But it is not a stepping-stone airplane; its an airplane that will take care of your needs for many years to come.
-James J. Girardi
Smithtown, New York
In 1995, with my airline career drawing to a close, I started looking for an aircraft that would allow me to continue to fly and to travel, without having to suffer the slings and arrows of traveling on space available. I considered the Piper Comanche, both single and twin versions, the Cessna 210 and other similar high performance aircraft. In the end, I decided on a Beech 33 Debonair.
I had flown the Beech model 35 briefly when I got my ATP on the GI bill in 1972 and did not like the Bonanza wiggle waggle. But I liked all the other handling and performance characteristics of the Beech aircraft. I purchased a 1966 Beech C33 which was made available by the dissolution of the partnership that owned it.
When I bought the airplane, it had the original IO-470K, 225-HP engine, which had about 650 hours on a major overhaul. The airplane was all I had hoped it would be with respect to comfort, ease of handling and performance. The optional 80 gallon fuel tanks gave me six hours of range at 150 knots. The IO-470K burned about 11.5 GPH at 9000 feet.
After a couple of years, the engine began to show its age and I decided to replace it. In making that decision, I realized that if I was going to get a new engine, I might as well grab for all the gusto I could get. I arranged to have an overhauled IO-550 installed. This was a major big deal, since I had it done on a field approval.
I did this because at the time, the only company that had an STC for the engine conversion would not sell the STC unless they sold me a factory reman engine. I did not want one of those because I had not heard anything good about the factory engines. Good thing too, because if I had bought one, I would have been right in the middle of the infamous crankshaft AD.
I paid the overhaul company $10,000 for an IO-550 core which had about 1000 hours on it. The overhaul included Superior Millennium cylinders and GAMIjectors and cost another $25,000. The blueprint overhaul process includes grinding and smoothing the intake valves and balancing the crankshaft and other internal components. I can honestly say that it is the smoothest running piston engine I have ever seen.
Gary and Jerry Hammock of Hammock Aviation, Ennis Texas did the engine change. They also installed the new tip tanks. The engine and tip tank installation, which included an annual inspection, cost about $10,000. With the cost of the engine, tip tanks, new prop, new EI digital engine instruments and so on, I spent almost as much as I had paid for the airplane originally.
The installation of the IO-550 turned the previously staid Debonair into a real airplane. I can now depend on 1000+ FPM initial climb rate and 170+ knots TAS at 9000 feet. If we ever had a standard day-which we almost never have here in the South-I am sure I would see upwards of 175 to 180 knots. Fuel burn at 9000 feet is about 15 GPH.
The airplane is equipped with an S-TEC 60-2 autopilot. I think that without the autopilot, I would not want to own the airplane, or any airplane for that matter. But with the autopilot, and the Northstar M-3 GPS, cross-country flights are a pleasure.
Annual inspections, also done by Hammock Aviation, usually cost between $1000 and $1500, depending on any other work that I have done. I have the airplane insured for $120,000 and the annual premiums are about $2000. The premium is slightly higher because I operate the airplane from a grass airstrip.
One item of interest: the fuel burn per cross-country flight did not increase with the new engine. Although the burn rate increased, the total trip fuel burn remains the same because the time enroute is shorter.
I highly recommend the 35-33 with the IO-550 to anyone who wants a comfortable, reliable cross-country aircraft. Just be sure you have an autopilot.
Hammock Aviation now has an engine conversion STC for various Bonanza model and engine combinations.
We operated an acrobatic Bonanza-N133DA-for 18 months in our flying club in Sugar Land, Texas. Beech made about 170 total of the E33C and F33C. Ours was a 1978 F33C, CJ 145. It was equipped with the large stall strips on the leading edge of the wings, sometimes known as the shelf for your coffee cup during preflight. These are mandatoryin order to remain in the acrobatic category.
Ours was born into the KLM training family as PH BNM and lived there until a brief stay in the UK followed by its import back into the US.Because of the large amount of equipment KLM required (dual pitot systems, full dual instrumentation including dual RMI) the airplane was equipped with 12-volt, 24-volt and 400 Hz 110-volt (buzzed like an airliner during transmission). As a result of all this gear, the CG was well forward at 80.14 (range 77 to 86.7). I believe it essential to check weight and CG before looking at an airplane to buy. I have seen some F33s as far aft as 83 inches with attendant load restriction. Ours was a bit heavy at 2329 pounds empty weight, some from the extra structure to allow acro and some due to the incredible amount of radios and instruments.
The airplane was a jewel to fly. Its stall characteristics were straight, honest and gentle. Having flown many Bonanzas in the Beechcraft Pilot Proficiency Program, I would suggest that a thorough pre-buy flight that includes a series of stalls clean and with flaps will reveal how the airplane is rigged.Some I have flown are pretty aggressive with strong wing drop. This need not be if the plane is rigged properly.
Operating costs were $40 per tach hour maintenance.We do 100 hour inspections in our Club – averaging $4000, we are pretty picky. Engine reserve was $11 per hour. Fuel burn averaged 13 GPH block-to-block for an IO-520BB Continental.
As an interesting aside, I was a passenger on a KLM 747 400 from IAH to AMS and happened toshow a picture of our bird with its Dutch numbers to the FA.The flight attendant took the pic up to the captain and, as it turned out, he trained in our airplane.
He was so moved that he invited me into the cockpit jump seat from push at IAH to FL 300, all the while dreaming of the wonderful experience he had in this airplane.
I have owned a 1966 C33A (285-HP IO-520) for three years with two partners. Simply put, we feel that the Debonair is the fastest and least expensive way to go fast. I routinely see 160 knots in cruise at 15 GPH. Even with new airplanes on the market, there are few affordable airplanes that go faster than 160 knots.
We expected to have to do some upgrading when we bought her since she is 37 years old. We had to rebuild the landing gear motor, one fuel bladder was replaced, the other was replaced prior to purchase, a Garmin 430 was installed, Whelan strobe lights installed, GAMIjectors, JPI engine analyzer and recently, a Century 2000 autopilot. The nice thing about this Debonair is that, unlike some of the Model 35 Bonanzas, its hard to get it out of CG. With full tanks, it can carry 780 pounds.
After owning a 1981 Cessna 172, this airplane flies 100 percent better. Upon landing in the Cessna, I would have to do what I call the Cessna shimmy, making lots of corrections to land the airplane. The Debonair feels and flies solid. Landing in the Debonair is easy; power off, trim nose up, gear down, flaps down, maintain 80 MPH on final. Its stable even in crosswinds.
This airplane has an electric attitude indicator which I feel is important to have in case of a vacuum failure. There has not been a problem obtaining parts.
Many people told us that Beech parts were more expensive than Cessna parts but after paying bills on both brands, they are both expensive. Hey, nobody said flying was cheap.
Annuals have cost a little more but then this airplane has a constant speed prop and retractable gear. It has been more reliable than the Cessna and is built better and to higher standards.
Perhaps the only complaint I have is that the seats are hard to sit in for long periods of time. With proper fuel management, it could fly for five hours but three is all I really want to sit still for. I think after 37 years, the seats need some reconstruction and that, along with the interior, will probably be our next project.
My best estimate of cost to operate is about $100 per flying hour. This includes insurance, hangar ($1800/year), gas, annual (about $1000 on average) and taxes (about $1000).
-David B. Malin
In 1995, I bought my first airplane, a 1965 Debonair. It has served me well and is all the airplane I will ever need. We have traveled extensively in it, from our home in New Jersey to Seattle, Grand Cayman, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, Bahamas, northern Manitoba.
We go to Florida a couple times per year (5.5 hours to central Florida). Note that Debonairs and Bonanzas are the same aircraft with the same type certificate; I will use the terms interchangeably. Mine says Debonair on the side. I did not understand how good an aircraft I bought in 1995. I did not imagine how useful it would become. It also costs more than I planned. But it is well worth it. The aircraft carries a little ice well. Especially when light, climbing through an icy layer to sunshine on top is a winter time standard. I carry oxygen and go high frequently, especially in the winter. No airplane is as easy to make a nice smooth landing as the Bonanza. Its those gigantic shock absorbers.
I had 700 hours time with a couple hundred in the Piper Arrow when I bought my airplane. I have flown 1300 hours in the Debonair since I bought it; about 175 per year. My initial checkout was little more a couple circuits around the pattern plus a little air work, about two hours. But to fly a Bonanza properly requires more training than that, by someone experienced in type.
My engine originally was the 225 HP version found in many Debonairs. That engine was built for 80-octane gasoline and is approved for auto fuel. However, I never used auto fuel and in 1999, I upgraded to the 260-HP engine. The difference is most pronounced at higher altitudes. With 225 HP, at max gross, it was struggling at 10,000 feet on a hot day. Now it cruises IFR around the Rockies at 15,000 IFR. A later model 33 with the 285 HP is a good choice, too.
Currently I run lean-of-peak (LOP) at 11.5 GPH at 158 KTAS with GAMIjectors (a good modification). This gives me almost six hours of fuel to dry tanks with the two 40-gallon tanks. Currently Im in the process of adding Osborne tip tanks, which will add another 40 gallons of fuel. Tip tanks increase MGW, which is the reason Im adding them.
These aircraft have either the throw-over yoke (which I like) or the dual yoke with the big horizontal bar. Dual yokes are sometimes needed for initial and/or recurrent training; they can be rented. I never had to do that. The legality of training without the dual yoke is a complex mystery to me. Some say its OK, some dont. These aircraft are sensitive to aft CG. With four people, I cant put any luggage in the luggage compartment. So pack light and put it at your feet. Theres room.
When I bought my airplane, I could carry 700 pounds in the cabin with 80 gallons of fuel (full tanks). My wife is small, so carrying four people was usually possible. During the engine upgrade, the STC required weighing the aircraft. Alas, it was 150 pounds heavier empty than calculated. The tip tanks increase my gross weight by 150 pounds to get back my pay load.
Many say that Bonanzas need an autopilot. Mine came with a wing leveler which wasnt working. Although I was proficient flying Arrows IFR without autopilots, doing the same in the Debonair was difficult. I got the wing leveler fixed and do not feel the need for anything else. I use it constantly.
I do feel the need to stay more current in the Debonair than in the Arrow. It is a very slippery aircraft; spatial disorientation can be fatal quicker in the slippery airframe. As my first aircraft, I was leery about buying a retractable. Everyone told me that the Bonanza gear was bullet proof. Well, it might be for the first 30 years, but it certainly has not been trouble free for me. Ive cranked the gear down in anger three times. Ive replaced the motor (no hydraulics and only one motor). Ive replaced expensive parts on the nose gear a few times. Ive replaced the up-lock cables on the main gear.
Ive overhauled all three shock absorbers. I will say that the gear is well suited to rough grass fields. It provides a lot of ground clearance, the main gear is very strong (same as used on the Baron) and it is easy to keep the nose wheel light. Ive been into 2000-foot grass fields over a hundred times, including in heavy rain and some snow. Its a piece of cake.
The cost of owning the aircraft has the uncertainties associated with unpredictable maintenance of an old, complex aircraft. It is also hard to differentiate between capital improvements that increase the usefulness and value of the aircraft (tip tanks, engine upgrades) and regular maintenance. I figure, all told, it cost me $18,000 per year to fly the aircraft 175 hours. Thats tied down outside in New Jersey.
Other maintenance issues are, in no particular order, the magnesium elevators (replace every 25 years with new magnesium for $5000), and TCM engine issues. I wont get into TCM engine issues too much because they are common to a wide range of aircraft with so-called big bore Continentals. A knowledgeable guy told me that hed rather own a Lycoming, but hed rather fly behind a Continental. Ive had serious ADs on a new FREM and replaced all cylinders at 700 hours. Pretty typical.
Maintenance should be performed by someone familiar with the type. The ABS offers an aircraft inspection program around the country, which is a good value.
Insurance was $1350 the first year (I was an IFR rated commercial pilot), then $1150 with some type experience. As I increased the hull value from $45,000 (what I paid for it) to $75,000, insurance went up slightly. Then we had 9/11 and the insurance costs went up. But I got more ratings (ATP, CFII). This year, they accepted $1 million smooth coverage for the first time at $1875, so I took it.
The support organizations are terrific and are the best, bar none. The American Bonanza Society (ABS) is a class act, and they run the Bonanza Pilot Proficiency Program which provides Bonanza specific flight training around the country (Ive gone three times). Also worthy of mention is the World Bonanza Society and the Beechowners e-mail list (see madaket.netwizards.net/vtail/), both of which are valuable. It is often said that there is no better aircraft in its class than the Bonanza. Its true.