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How did Beechcraft get those butter smooth controls ?

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rbarnes

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I've always wondered what Beechcraft's special sauce was for their not just well balanced and harmonized controls, but the butter smoothness of them as well. Every Bonanza and Baron I've had the pleasure to fly felt the same and I'm told the KingAir's do too. Was there something special they did or just a combination of all the right parts in all the right places with a lot smart engineering ?
 

TFF

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They knew what they were replacing; they knew it was a high end aircraft. It was right after WW2, lay people knew if someone called a plane a dog. There was a lot in the line. The Bonanza is probably the best overall, but a Viking flys sweeter.
 

Victor Bravo

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or just a combination of all the right parts in all the right places with a lot smart engineering ?
I think you answered your own question there :) I have zero PIC time in the Bonanza, so I can't comment from experience. I am also aware that the Fairchild airplanes were supposed to have exceptionally delightful controls, but I don't have any time in those either.
 

TarDevil

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There are things I wanted to do in my V35 but would never let myself.

I did some work for a small cargo outfit way back. The chief pilot, who was an airshow pilot and occasionally did displays in King Airs (my best friend experienced some rolls with this fella in an E90), offered to give me some "dual" in my Bonanza. I called it off when my client started spreading the word.

That's always been a big regret.
 

wsimpso1

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The market -as observed above- was savvy, all of the competitors knew the market was going to be tough for these high end singles, so they all had to be good. Viking, Navion, and Bonanza were all in it, so they had to bring their A games.

They all worked on having low control forces, good control harmony, low friction systems. Low control moments are NOT hugely impacted by the wing airfoil, but by the amount of aero balance, which means you have to not just design it, but fly it and adjust cross sections and tab designs and the like and fly it again until it is right. Another effort is to design to eliminate free play in the systems. Since you always have either long cables or a lot of joints, you can scheme it so that the system stays loaded in one direction - that takes out much of the dead bands or slopthat seriously degrades feel. One other thing to remember is we humans have thresholds. Keep slop and breakout forces small, and we think they are not there. Keep the rest of the input to response smoothly prrogressive and we think it is seamless... important things to know when scheming out our systems.

All three are great birds. There are stories about of proud Bonanza owners going for a flight in a Navion, and finding it handles even better, but consoling themselves that at least their Bonanza is faster.

The lead airplanes for fire fighting are high power King Airs with a smoke system. The idea is they are flying in vicinity of forest fires, in valleys, on routes that might work for a big tanker, and trying it out a few times. They are high powered and operating at the low end of their weights, all so they can safelly find a good route in and out for the tankers, then lead them through it. I know one of those pilots, and she loves her job. I am sure that Beechcraft is part of the reason.

Billski
 

Pops

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The only Beechs that I have flown is the B-18, Twin Bonanza, Musketeer, Sundowner, never flew a single Bonanza. Loved the B-18 and the Twin Bonanza, Musketeer and Sundowner were heavy, slow and underpowered, but very stable for an IFR platform. Scraped out a Musketeer one time , I think I still have a few small parts in boxes somewhere.
Have flown the Vikings and love the controls and like the speed. I'll take the controls and comfort and cockpit size of the Viking over a Mooney any day.
Was going to buy a 1954 Bonanza with a new engine and new radios one time but someone else beat me to it. Darn.
When there is a good price on a good airplane you need to be fast.
 
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BJC

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There are things I wanted to do in my V35 but would never let myself.

I did some work for a small cargo outfit way back. The chief pilot, who was an airshow pilot and occasionally did displays in King Airs (my best friend experienced some rolls with this fella in an E90), offered to give me some "dual" in my Bonanza. I called it off when my client started spreading the word.

That's always been a big regret.
Do you remember Stevens Aviation in Greer, SC? It started as the flight department of J. P. Stevens Co. It now is Stevens Aerospace & Defense Systems. At KMLJ, I pumped tons (literally) of avgas into their Beech 18’s and, later, jet A into their King Airs. Their chief pilot, when headed back to Greer without any passengers, would wait for the execs to depart, flash his sly grin, and say, “Watch this, Byron.”

“This” was a roll on takeoff, done adroitly in both the -18 and the King Air.


BJC
 

TarDevil

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Do you remember Stevens Aviation in Greer, SC? It started as the flight department of J. P. Stevens Co. It now is Stevens Aerospace & Defense Systems. At KMLJ, I pumped tons (literally) of avgas into their Beech 18’s and, later, jet A into their King Airs. Their chief pilot, when headed back to Greer without any passengers, would wait for the execs to depart, flash his sly grin, and say, “Watch this, Byron.”

“This” was a roll on takeoff, done adroitly in both the -18 and the King Air.


BJC
Remember Stevens well. Did a bunch of ILS hood work there. Can you tell me the pilot's name?
It was fun egging corporate pilots to do things when the seats were empty. Easier done on a small uncontrolled field!
 

BoKu

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While Steve Smith and I were preparing to build tapered carbon fiber wings for RVs (still in progress, BTW), Steve did several tests in one of the smaller NASA wind tunnel to evaluate various leading and trailing edge treatments for ailerons. He was looking for low breakout forces and a nice linear plot of hinge moment per unit deflection. I think he ended up with something very similar to what the Bonanza (and pretty much everything built in the Bonanza fixtures) has.

...and say, “Watch this..."
Oh my. In my circle that's something we try not to think or say.
 

Pops

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Was flying for an aircharter, the maintenance shop finished with a Barron and needed to deliver it to the owner. The aircharter owner told me to go ahead and leave with the Cessna and he would catch up with me somewhere and I can fly him back after he dropped the Barron off. He caught up with me and it was a traveling airshow with the Barron for a good while.
 

BJC

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Remember Stevens well. Did a bunch of ILS hood work there. Can you tell me the pilot's name?
It was fun egging corporate pilots to do things when the seats were empty. Easier done on a small uncontrolled field!
That was over 55 years ago, so, no, I don’t recall his name right now.


BJC
 

wsimpso1

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It occurs to me that I could detail the process issues I identified when I was designing my control system. Maybe I missed something. Anybody have anything to add?

Control forces are about control surface moments and aero balance. This is not as simple as it first seems. The control has to have some modest on-center feel, and then as it moves away from center, the forces have to feel like they progress linearly - more deflection means a smooth increase in forces. There is an interplay between the inherent control moment, control area ahead of the hinge vs area behind the hinge, and progression of any any balance horn as it protrudes into the airstream. This design region seems to not be well defined or well understood, but there are plenty of examples out there of both good feeling and bad feeling airplanes, with at least some of that attributable to aero balance. Benchmarking and monkey-se monkey-do engineering both can play a role here.

Low friction will help make any system feel better, as it is easier to fly if what you feel when you apply forces or impose deflections and only feel what the surface is doing, having to feel it through the friction. How to achieve low friction is an interplay:Anyplace you have a rotating bearing, the friction in the bearing is a fraction of the forces applied. So, when ever possible, low forces in each element are helpful. This comes from both well aero balanced control surfaces and from designing linkages to keep forces small.

Very small lever arms may seem compact, but they raise forces at the various joints, which requires larger bearings and control elements and drives larger forces and thus friction at all joints. Larger operating radii are helpful at reducing the forces on the joints. Ball bearings on pulleys and bellcranks and idlers can be a big reducer of live loads over bushings.

Friction can also arise deceptively. At the control surface we bearings that may seem smooth in their static operation. The airframe is classically defined as a soft structure, and parts change shape under flight loads. The tail loads do bend the fuselage a tiny bit inf flight, but the wings and tail planes, they bend with g's and this is not tiny. Then control surfaces sag under their loads in a shape usually different from the deformed shape of the wing and tails. Classic bushings and short pieces of piano hinges can have enough angular deformation in opposite directions from wing/tail plane and control surface deformation that they bind with substantial increases in control forces. Perhaps self-aligning bearings or maybe even self-aligning ball bearings will help a lot as control hinges. Something to check out at as you run your system design. Then the wing deforms in one curve under g's while the control system sags from its supports, creating more opportunities for both bearing bind and contact between structure and control system. This is why some airplanes use self-aligning rod end bearings and seem to have a lot of clearance around the control runs or fairleads in places where it looks like the cables run straight. In sailplanes this can result in a number of pushrods and idlers along the long bendable wing or some roller guides along the pushrods. These features also allow thinner and lighter pushrods.

Then there is reduction in free play. Cables get tensioned to take out slop, but if the cable changes length a different amount than the airframe does, you can still find weather conditions that leave slack. The rest of the time, when the cables are tight, they add to loads on every bearing they include, which adds friction.

Go to push-pull rods, and the friction in pulleys and bellcranks due to cable tension is removed, but now you have a bunch of control rods each with two joints on each. A typical rod type aileron control system has fourteen rod ends, four bearings in the stick system, four more in bellcranks/idlers. Typical elevator system has The slop and friction in each of these bearings add up, so maybe the friction of all those cables and pulleys might not be so bad... Well, we know that we can make bushings into preloaded ball bearings, use spherical joints, keep operating radii as large as practicable, so friction can stay load. What do we do about lash? We can do things that keep the system lightly loaded in one direction all the time... Ailerons are made to order for this as they are lifting and so tend to see load reversal during the transition from positive to negative g - we still must check that as the aerobalances go into and out of faired positions they do not see moment reversals.

Elevators tends to be balanced near zero, and so the four bearings and four rod ends can have some slop that you can feel. Some folks find that annoying, but there are simple fixes even for that. One way is to put in a soft down spring and the trim tab works against it, taking out the play by keeping the system lightly loaded almost all of the time. Vaughn Askue talks about pitch trim systems and their interplay in his book.

Combine all of this and you can have pleasant gradients, no percetible slop or reversals, and excellent control. Serious engineering though. Additions welcomed...

Billski
 

TFF

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Part of the art of this is perceiving the strength in moving the controls.

Moving ailerons, stick or wheel, is using a weak strength position. Elevators is a stronger position; more natural motion. Rudders have a lot of muscle behind it. The hard part is making all feel like you are giving the same effort. Your body not working the rudder any harder than the ailerons.

Back when the Bonanza was designed , it was designed by people who designed golden age airplanes. Designed WW2 airplanes. Lots of airplanes were designed in those years. Ergonomics was the ability to control, not about your butt falling asleep. Iteration and experience of the time wins.

I think many times today, heavy not so harmonious controls is on purpose. The SR22 has heavy controls on purpose. They don’t want the sleek body make you think fighter pilot. The minute you move the controls the brain feedback is, “ I got to work for this”. Plants the seed of woh cowboy. The brain adapts so it’s completely useable as intended.
 
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