Turbine Conversions for Bonanzas and Malibus

JetPROP specializes in Piper Malibu/Mirage turbine conversions, similar to the one in this converted Malibu.

By:       Norm Goyer

I have flown in stock A36 Bonanzas and Piper Malibus, and they, in a word, are great airplanes. But I have also flown in these aircraft after they have had their big recips removed and small turboprop engines installed. These once “great” airplanes have instantly become “outstanding” aircraft. They are quieter, faster, climb better and require far less maintenance. After landing in one you might even get to park in the front of the visiting aircraft tarmac area. For everything “outstanding” there is usually a downside, and in the case of turbine conversions, it is usually spending more money. There is also the added required training to meet insurance requirements. Is it worth it? Now that depends on how much you use your aircraft and or the state of your finances. There is also a considerable down time needed to make the conversion, but it which will make you a “jet pilot” for all the world to envy.

Tradewind converts the Beechcraft A36 to turbine power with Allison/Rolls Royce turbines.

Conversions have been available for many years and among the several companies supplying this service, which have an excellent reputation, there’s JetProp for Pipers and Tradewind for Beech A36 aircraft. Let’s talk about Malibu/Mirage conversions. A few years ago I flew in one of these conversions all over the state of Florida while working on a airport real estate piece for an article. I was very impressed with the performance of the big Piper with the JetProp STC conversion. Performance in all parameters was up at least 30%. The FAA granted this STC at AirVenture in 1998, and since then, Malibus have been modified and are in the hands of very happy owners. No wonder! The conversion installs a Pratt & Whitney PT-6A turbine engine and a Hartzell four-bladed reversible propeller. The conversion also consists of a new dual battery system, installation of dual lighted and heated wingtip pitot tube, new engine instruments and the controls necessary for the conversion. A new header tank is installed in the right third of the forward baggage area. This STC applies to either the Malibu or the Mirage. JetProp-certified converted aircraft are subjected to the same high-strength and safety standards that were used when the original aircraft was certified.

This A36 Bonanza has been converted to turbine power with the Tradewind STC.

Tradewind Turbine conversions for Beechcraft A36 aircraft is another highly regarded firm. The company’s Amarillo, Texas, plant has been converting Bonanzas to turbine power, with its 30% increase in performance, for over a decade and the projects keep rolling in. When you start with a high-quality airframe such as the Beechcraft Bonanza, and then add a reliable, much higher-power engine, you then have an aircraft that will give you years of outstanding performance, with much lower risks for engine or related airframe problems. Tradewind installs the Allison 25, a 450-shp engine that almost doubles the power of the stock 300 hp Continental. The top speed of the aircraft is only restricted by airframe considerations. All aspects of your cross-country flight is improved; takeoff distance, climb-to-altitude and cruise speed are all way above standard. For instance; a piston A36 will cruise at 170 knots, while the Tradewind will be very happy at 220 knots; takeoff roll in an A36 is approximately 1900 feet, a Tradewind less than 600 feet. Now that is very close to STOL performance. Climb performance at top of climb is 600 fpm vs 2500 fpm. Even though the Tradewind conversion is expensive, it is still many hundred of thousands less than a comparable new turbine-powered aircraft.

When owners of either Piper or Beech converted-turbine aircraft are quizzed as to why they made the investment, the vast majority responded; “I have had just one-too-many engine failures in the past. I demand the added reliability and safety record of the turbine engine when compared to large six-cylinder reciprocating engines”. Sounds about right to me.

For more info on the above companies, log on to their websites for costs, performance increases and airframe limitations.



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