Beechcraft Bonanza

Beechcraft Bonanza: How It Got Its Name As The “Doctor Killer”


Beginning production in 1946, the Beechcraft Bonanza is arguably one of the oldest general aviation aircraft out there. Aside from the Cessna 172, the Bonanza was the most popular GA aircraft post World War 2. That being said, the name Bonanza is enough to make some pilots cringe; some even giving it the name “doctor killer”. But why is that? Is it justified? Find out more in today’s article!



Beginning production in 1946 and continuing its production to the present day, the Beechcraft Bonanza is one of the oldest, and most produced aircraft ever. After World War 2 ended, a new era of civilian aviation began. Not many people know this but, the Bonanza was actually built as a competitor to a very early model of Cessna; the Cessna 195. At the time however, it was not called the bonanza, but rather the Beechcraft model 35. The design of the Cessna 195 was fairly normal for the time period, being a tail-wheel, high-wing aircraft, but he Model 35 however, took a very different approach in regards to its design. In contrast to the 195, the Beechcraft 35 was built much more like a fighter than a civilian plane. Another interesting thing to note about the model 35 is that it featured a V-tail design which is still very unusual to see on aircraft today. All that to say, the Beechcraft model 35 was an extremely impressive aircraft both for its time, and its time that would come. That all sounds great, so why does it have such a tainted reputation nowadays?

Beechcraft Bonanza



Directly after the Model 35 was put into production and released to the public, a string of accidents started occurring in the new aircraft. There are too many to list, however it’s important to note that the Bonanza was not the only aircraft at the time involved in a spate of incidents. The model 35’s competitor, the 195, also had issues with its accident rates at the beginning of its production. The main reason that the Bonanza had more accidents is for a reason that many people tend to overlook. The Beechcraft Bonanza was produced in a much higher quantity than other aircraft at the time and for much longer. In fact, there are more than 17,000 Bonanzas in existence today! With more aircraft come more opportunities for accidents. Many people fail to realize this but I digress. The Bonanza doesn’t have a much higher incident rate than any other GA aircraft, there are just TONS of that particular aircraft in existence.  All that being said, is there anything about the Bonanza that could have caused these incidents?

Beechcraft Bonanza


Many people try to blame unique aspects about the Bonanza (like the V-tail) for the causes of its incidents but this just is not the case. If there was something about the Bonanza that was consistently causing catastrophic failures, there is no way that the FAA would let Beechcraft continue production of the Bonanza. Many people don’t think about this and just go with what everyone else is saying and call it a dangerous aircraft. Rather than the Bonanza being a dangerous aircraft, the real danger was and still is, with the pilots. This goes for really any aircraft. However at the beginning of its production, a vast majority of GA pilots were transitioning from less complex aircraft into the Bonanza. Flight training regulations were not nearly as strict in the 40s as they are now, but enough accidents occurred in the Bonanza that the BPPP (Beechcraft Pilot Proficiency Program) was put into action. After the BPPP, accidents were happening at a lower rate. This clearly shows that the danger is much more with the pilot than the aircraft. You would think after more than 70 years the stigma of the Bonanza being a dangerous aircraft would subside. But it hasn’t. It has arguably gotten worse over the years. But why is that? And why did the Bonanza get the name “doctor killer”?

Why The Name “Doctor Killer”?

Unfortunately, much of the Bonanza’s stigma is rooted in both jealousy and trend. The case of the Bonanza is not unique. The Bonanza is essentially the Cirrus SR-22 of earlier decades. Any pilot in GA has heard about how dangerous Cirrus pilots are. This is for the same reason that many GA pilots seem to have a vendetta against Bonanza pilots. Like I said, the hate for Bonanza is mostly rooted in jealousy from pilots who can’t afford nice aircraft like the Bonanza or the SR-22. This is where the name “doctor killer” comes from. It stems from the fact that wealthy hobbyists (such as doctors) buy expensive aircraft and crash them because they don’t know what they’re doing. Many, less fortunate pilots get frustrated as they think that many, wealthier pilots don’t have a passion for aviation and are essentially wasting an expensive airplane. All that to say, there isn’t anything about the Bonanza that makes it any more dangerous than other GA aircraft and the term “doctor killer” is rather unjustified. This is where 99{bad6c3812d83ec6e82343d8db27366cca17943d6555d281073d8815ed50b2d89} of the Bonanza’s hate comes from. Jealousy. But I digress.



In conclusion, the reason that the Bonanza got its name as the “doctor killer” mostly stems from the jealousy of everyday GA pilots wishing they could own a nicer aircraft. The hate is rather unjustified and taints just how great of an airplane the Bonanza really is. All I have to say is that if the Bonanza really was such a dangerous aircraft, it wouldn’t have been around for more than 70 years and counting. Feel free to share or comment! I hope you enjoyed today’s article and I’ll see ya in the next one. Fly safe all 🙂


Check out my last post on the Su-47 here!


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