...Bonanza Wins Over SR-22 In Minnesota Bid...

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Perhaps of more immediate concern (irritation might be a better word) to Cirrus is how to get more respect at home. It was revealed last week that the Minnesota Department of Transportation recently bought a brand-new $727,000 Beech Bonanza to replace the 27-year-old Bonanza it had been using for airport safety inspections. A top-of-the-line Cirrus SR-22, fully decked out with just about every type of electronics available in light aircraft -- and built at Cirrus Design's headquarters on the field at Minnesota's own Duluth International Airport -- comes in almost $300,000 less at $434,000. That interesting collection of facts prompted charges by several Minnesota politicians that the bidding rules were set to ensure only the larger Bonanza fit the requirements. "Everything went wrong and I think they rigged the bid," Sen. Wes Skoglund told WCCO-TV. "We bought an inferior product."

However, transportation department spokesman Robert McFarlin said the Cirrus "didn't meet the state's working needs." WCCO paraphrased McFarlin's comparison of the two aircraft by saying transportation officials "wanted a bigger, beefier utility plane with a longer service life." It could be that the seat count was the determining factor in the bid. The Bonanza holds six but, as with many six-place singles, the practical use of all six seatbelts is limited. (Throughout the following sentences, please note your mileage, suppositions, calculations -- and weight -- may vary.) In the Bonanza's case, according to company specs, a full load of passengers may limit the fuel load to close to 154 pounds -- about 25 gallons or 1.5 hours with that thirsty IO-550-B up front. To fill the tanks with 444 pounds, at least two seats have to be empty to meet the maximum takeoff weight of 3650 pounds. According to Cirrus the SR22 can take three full-sized people (or four smaller people) to a maximum of 664 pounds and fill up with 486 pounds of fuel. Speeds, range and performance characteristics are close enough to not be significant factors in the debate. Cirrus didn't get into the argument except to say, by way of company statement, that it hopes the fracas "will be an educational experience for all."