Unveiling of the New Range Rover Velar | Step inside some of the planet’s most exclusive homes | Man’s relationship with dogs | An epic drive through the Isle of Skye | The legendary Beechcraft Bonanza takes to the Skies
WINGS OVER WICHITA
WINGS OVER WICHITA “THE ONLY THING THAT REALLY TELLS YOU HOW FAST WE'RE GOING IS WATCHING THE ENDLESS FIELDS SPEED PAST 2000FT BELOW” Lessons that were also learnt on the other side of the Atlantic that led to the Land Rover featuring an aluminium body riveted together just like an airframe. Light, strong and easy to assemble. Both the Land Rover and the Bonanza have a distinct look and feel that has remained largely unchanged throughout their long lives, yet both have gone through significant evolutions over the decades. The original design, the Model 35, featured a ‘ruddervator’, a very distinctive V-tail that combined the rudder, fin and elevators into one simple and weight-saving unit. Later editions of the Bonanza veered away from the ruddervator (eventually phased out in 1982) in favour of a conventional tail. Another significant modification came in the late 1960s when Beechcraft launched the Model 36, a ‘stretch’ version which added an extra ten inches to the fuselage, a simple-enough modification that enabled seating for six, up from the Model 35’s four. In similar ‘stretch’ fashion, over a decade earlier Land Rover had extended the Series One’s chassis from 80 inches to 86 inches and developed a 107-inch version, first as a pick-up, and two years later as the first four-door model. Since day one, however, it was the Bonanza’s interior comfort that set it apart from the competition, and today’s model is more equal of a Range Rover: beautifully stitched leather, fine carpet and impeccable fit and finish. Customers today are encouraged to come and see their aircraft being built and to get fully involved in choosing the interior specification from a huge array of materials and colours. Arriving at the Beechcraft Delivery Centre to take off in your shiny new Bonanza is indeed an emotional experience. Not least as you’re also following in the footsteps of esteemed owners such as Gordon Cooper, one of the pioneering Mercury astronauts who bought a Bonanza in the early 1960s. Its reliable performance and unfussy handling also made the plane a favourite with long-distance adventurers such as Bill Odom who became the first to pilot a light aircraft non-stop from Hawaii to mainland USA in 1949, and Peter Mack who in 1951 flew around the world aboard his Bonanza, the ‘Friendship Flame‘. While other planes have come and gone, demand for the Bonanza has never waned. At the end of the day, its winning recipe is simple, yet lasting: a reliable, comfortable plane that does its job steadily and without fanfare and, like the Defender, its solid reputation has earned it a huge and deservedly enthusiastic following. While 18,000 planes may not sound much, it’s a very big number for the aerospace industry and comparable to the two million Defenders that have rolled off the Solihull production line. While my own two-hour flight aboard the factory demonstrator was never going to break any records, it still set the pulse racing as in-house demo pilot Will Klein opened up the throttle and sent our Beechcraft hurtling down the 8,000ft runway. As the airspeed nudges 75kts and our wheels leave the tarmac, we immediately retract the undercarriage and head east. Without the magic of GPS navigation it would be very easy to get lost here. Kansas is flat and stretches out almost to infinity, the landscape only broken by the occasional wind farm. Klein points out an old roadhouse, once a busy stopping-off point in the days before the Interstates started to criss-cross the great expanse of nothingness beneath us. It’s still a popular destination for local pilots who fancy an excuse for a fly. Smooth, quiet and stable, the Bonanza’s powerful 9.0-litre engine sounding relaxed as we cruise along at 165kts. The only thing that really tells you how fast we’re going is watching the endless fields speed past, 2,000ft below. The sun has slipped away and we enjoy gazing down at the twinkling lights of downtown Wichita on our way back to Beech Field. Flying at night in a small aircraft is a magical, almost mystical experience. All too soon, our two hours are over. In the blink of an eye, Klein turns on the runway’s lights by tapping the radio’s transmit button a few times. Flaps extended, wheels down, and the Bonanza descends at a steady 75kts for a reassuringly smooth landing. It’s easy to see why the Beechcraft Bonanza has endured. Just like the Defender, the Bonanza’s ground-breaking design and solid construction gave it real heritage and soul – and a life far longer than its creators could ever have imagined. 64
Author Colin Goodwin (right) and Beechcraft demo pilot Will Klein (left) take the Bonanza to where it belongs: roaming the endless Wichita skies 65
Land Rover Magazine showcases stories from around the world that celebrate inner strength and the drive to go Above and Beyond.
In this issue, New Defender is put through its paces by two inspirational young adventurers as they prepare for an expedition to the South Pole. We also celebrate 50 years of Range Rover by taking a journey of discovery to Dubai. As well as looking back, we look to future as a group of visionaries explain the technologies that could change the future for all of us.