By Scott Slocum
creaming on the down line to finish, the wind noise is crazy. She seems more nose-down than usual and my peripheral vision is confused, as things are passing under me faster than I can process. A glance at the airspeed indicator reveals 226 miles per hour, can that be right? I can’t descend any steeper as VNE isn’t far away and in the five years we have been together, my 36 Bonanza has never seen this kind of speed! Now on the center line, the flagman is looking at me and I find myself leaning forward to gain every ounce of speed possible. The Bonanza passes right over his head at 200 feet, going full out and then straight up like a Reno racer climbing for cooling altitude after passing the checkered tower. Slowly coming back on the power and setting up for landing, I wonder about my time. Did I beat that V-Tail? Did I miss a turning point? … three green, fuel on fullest, mixture still all the way in and prop set. My jaw is tight. Is that from clenching my teeth or smiling for the last 35 minutes straight? Either way, what a rush!
Photos by Scott Slocum
That was my first experience running in the “Sport Air Racing League” out of Taylor, Texas this past November. The quest for more speed has been a topic ever since I started using my 1976 A36 for air to air photography. “How fast will she do with the doors off,” is the common question when we are shooting warbirds and jets for the pages of magazines like this one. With the two cabin doors removed, and power setting at 25 squared, we typically see around 180 to 183 miles per hour at 4,000 feet, pressure altitude. The placard limitation in that configuration is 190 mph indicated, so there is room for improvement, but with the 300 horsepower conversion and a good paint job done already, there didn’t seem to be much more that could be done to speed her up.