The fork-tailed doctor killer. Is it too powerful, too complex, and with the "cool" V tail, too fragile for heavy handling? After all, it is the plane that killed the music.

For technical data about this single-engined aircraft, see Kesper North's excellent Bonanza writeup. Googling around, there's another aspect that deserves mention. You will see some oblique references: "was also a V-tail"; "why such a short checkout time"; and my personal favourite from a BBS that I have replicated above "that fork tailed doctor killer".

What's all this about? It seems a pretty undeserved moniker for a very popular aircraft, but could there be a grain of truth to it? Raytheon probably don't want us digging around...

Fear not! Let's call a spade a spade and try providing some reasons why this hinted corelation might exist. I think there are a list of major factors:

So now we have the factors, let's do the math:

Doctors are busy yet determined people. The kind of folk who don't really have time to get a PPL (Private Pilot's License), but manage to squeeze one in because they're also generally good at time management. So substitue the usual caveat of low hours for lowest hours possible to be a pilot.

Doctors are generally wealthier than the average, yet not stupidly wealthy and so when they buy their aircraft, tend to think in terms of price/performace and buy the fastest thing their budget will afford - because as we've already mentioned they are very busy and want to get where they are going. In aircraft, your "budget" quicks are 20 year old singles from Mooney or Beechcraft.

Performance aircraft like the Bonanza are built for the purpose of fast, good weather, daylight transits, just like expensive high performance sportscars of 20 years ago. And intended to be flown about as often as those cars are driven by those who still own them. They're once-a-week jobs, not workhorses. But like the old Mercedes that lives the last years of its life carrying supplies around the doctor's hobby farm, there are Bonanzas out there being flown more than they should be.

You're in your late forties. You've just proven to yourself that you can do anything by learning to fly. On your first solo you greased a landing and your flying instructor shook her head and said you could have had another career. You promised your daughter you'd be home for her baseball game and your son you'd be home for his recital, your Bonanza is fuelled up and waiting to go. You've visited this patient three times before, so you know the route and haven't really bothered to do the annoying paperwork of planning all that fully this time. The weather is looking a little grey and close (if you notice it at all). Do you: (a) fly home or (b) dissapoint your family yet again by phoning your partner: "The weather is marginal darling, I'm going to stay overnight here." (In the town your partner knows a high school sweetheart of yours is now living...)

Yep. You choose (a). You fly home.

"In local news, respected doctor and philanthropist your name here was killed today when his/her light aircraft crashed into Mt. Hightop in heavy fog. Investigators say that while the cause of the crash is not yet clear, they have not ruled out pilot error."


I need to say the following: Flying is still the safest way to travel. I have a PPL. Doctors are nice people. Flown well and maintained according to the rules, the Bonanza is a great and extremely safe aircraft.

Wiccanpiper says "My flying instructor used to call these 'V-tailed widow makers'!"

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