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Onelife 23

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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 The Beechcraft factory in Wichita, Kansas, has been the home of the Bonanza since 1947. Today, workers like Becky Doerfler and her rivet gun (below, left) make sure that legacy lives on Brandishing her rivet gun, Becky Doerfler stands next to a Beechcraft Bonanza’s partly finished fuselage with its rows of golden rivet heads standing proud from the olive green primer paint on its flanks. How many millions of rivets, I wonder, has Becky set over her 40-year career at the Beechcraft factory in Wichita, Kansas? A long working life on a remarkable airplane. Remarkable because when Becky Doerfler fired her first rivet into an airframe when she started working at the Beechcraft Corporation in 1976, the Bonanza was already 30 years old. This year it celebrates its 70th birthday. And what a remarkable seven decades it has been. The story of the now legendary aircraft took its first steps during World Wr II, as thousands of military aircraft were pouring out of the Beech Aircraft Corporation’s factories. In these tumultuous times, founder Walter Beech was dreaming about a plane for peacetime and wanted to satisfy a demand for a fast yet easy-to-fly light aircraft that he was sure would come from businessmen, professionals and the thousands of pilots who had been trained for war. The aircraft that chief designer Ralph Harmon and his team came up with was the Bonanza, with a first prototype leaving the tarmac in December 1945. Production started in 1947 – exactly one year before the Series I Land Rover started rolling out of Rover’s Solihull factory. The rest, as they say, is history. Tom Turner is the editor of the official Bonanza enthusiasts’ magazine ABS Magazine and has been flying these aircraft for more than 30 years. The whoosh of exhilaration that he experienced the first time he took off in a Bonanza has never left him. “I was a young instructor at the time and one of my students who owned a 1950s model took me for a short ride. I was so impressed with the solid feel, the excellent visibility, the ergonomic simplicity of the cockpit, well, I’ve been flying them ever since.” To really understand the Bonanza’s success one must first look at its revolutionary design. Built in the flurry of post-war light aircraft designs that sought to capitalize on the huge developments in aerospace technology during the war years, the Bonanza offered something new, Tom explains. “Ergonomics probably didn’t even THE LEGACY LIVES ON The last of the current Land Rover Defender vehicles rolled off the production line in Solihull on January 29, 2016, bringing an end to a continuous production run that had stretched almost seven decades. Soon, however, the legacy of the iconic vehicle will be revived and an authentic successor to the Land Rover Defender launched before the end of the decade. exist as a concept back in the 1940s,” says Tom, “but that’s what Ralph Harmon and his colleagues did really well with the Bonanza, much better than any of the other small aircraft of that time. They realized that people didn’t just want an airplane, they wanted it to be ergonomic, to look good and to be comfortable and pleasant to fly.” According to Tom, the Bonanza’s interior borrowed many ideas from the advances in post-war automobile design, and it was that feeling of luxury and comfort that really appealed to the peacetime customer. Like the Series I Land Rover of the same era, the Bonanza’s construction method was ahead of its day, too. When the Bonanza went on sale, most light aircraft were still being constructed from a steel tube frame 63


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