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Beech Baron turns 50
By J. Mac McClellan
 
It has been a half century since Beech delivered the first Baron, a model 55, and the Baron flies on as one of only a handful of piston twins still in production.

In fact, Beech will build and deliver more Barons this year than last, and that’s unusual for any airplane model in this economic downturn—12 of them particularly special.

The dozen special anniversary Barons have been built with unique black and metallic gold paint schemes, and also a special interior with sculpted carpet and exotic leathers on the seats.

The basic anniversary airplane is the same G58 equipped with the Garmin G1000 system that Beech has been building for the past few years.

Beech’s first light twin was the Model 95 Travel Air launched in the 1950s that truly was a twin-engine version of the Bonanza.

Beech had used the Twin Bonanza name earlier for the Model 50, which is a much larger airplane than the Bonanza and turned out to be the foundation for what would become the Queen Air and then the turboprop King Air.

The Travel Air had a pair of four-cylinder Lycoming engines that were economical, but they did not have the power needed for fast cruise speed and bigger payloads, so Beech went to work on the Baron.

Evolving a classic
The original Baron 55 was certified as an amendment to the Travel Air Model 95 certificate, so that’s why you often see a Baron listed as a 95-55.

The Baron had 260-hp Continental engines, a swept vertical fin, and extended wingspan.

The changes made the Travel Air, with its straight vertical fin and short nose, look a little clunky. And the Baron had the speed that pilots coveted.

Beech expanded the Baron line with A, B, C, D, and E models of the 55, upping the horsepower to 285 per side in the C, D, and E and stretching the nose baggage compartment.

The really big change came 40 years ago when the Model 58 Baron was introduced to complement the 55-series.

The 58 is based on the longer cabin of the Bonanza A36 with its six seats and large aft utility doors. The 58 had 285-hp Continentals until 1984 when the power was upped to 300 hp per side.

At the same time the “throw over” control column was replaced by individual control wheels on each side, and the instrument panel was redesigned using 2-inch diameter turbine-style engine instruments.

Another change was to the engine controls, rearranged so that the throttle was on the left, prop control in the center, and mixture on the right.

Earlier Barons have the throttles in the center, prop levers to the left, and mixture to the right. That was a standard configuration in many twin-engine airplanes up through the 1940s and ’50s, but that had changed by the 1960s.

The tradition continues…
Production of the Model B55 Baron ended in 1982, but the 58 continues and has been improved more or less continuously over the years.

Such features as air conditioning and certification for flight into icing were added. But the really big upgrade came when the Baron and Bonanza were the first to get the full Garmin G1000 system, including the integrated autopilot a few years ago.

Beech uses Continental’s premium engines with flow-matched fuel injectors on the Baron, along with Hartzell scimitar propellers for unmatched smoothness.

The airplanes are built with what was once the optional 200-gallon fuel tanks, and almost every other piece of equipment you can think of is standard.

A new Baron 58 is priced at more than $1 million, but its excellent flying qualities, 190-knot-plus cruise speed, flexible loading capability, and twin-engine safety potential keep the airplane in demand.

Fifty years is a long time for anything to remain in production, but the end is not yet in sight for the Baron.

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