Baron Before and After
Beechcraft B58 Baron
When Christopher Leonard began looking at upgrading from his late-model Cessna Skylane to a new G58 Baron, he realized he had a problem. The roughly $1.3 million twin from Hawker Beechcraft is undeniably shiny and new, and it has all the bells and whistles, but the price tag was just too high for Leonard to go it alone. He thought briefly about finding a partner for the twin, but partnerships carry their own risks and disadvantages. So he decided to try a third option: buy a used Baron and make it as much like a new one as he could. The goal: to get the Baron in like-new shape for one-third the cost of a new one.
To that end he bought a 1990 58 Baron and got to work with the plans. It had some strong points to begin with, including relatively low total time (just over 2,000 hours), relatively new Teledyne Continental IO-550 engines (Leonard added GAMIjectors right off the bat), known-ice approval, air conditioning and a good autopilot (the Bendix/King KFC 220). But it wasn’t looking close to new anymore, and Leonard wanted to do something about that, as well as to modernize the panel and the interior.
One of Leonard’s primary concerns was getting the job done in a reasonable length of time. Luckily, he found a refurb shop, Tejas Aero Services of San Marcos, Texas, that was able to do both paint and interior and to work with Crystal Avionics of nearby New Braunfels to do the radio work on site in San Marcos during airplane downtime. The entire job, believe it or not, got finished in just eight weeks.
The results seem to speak for themselves, but if you had X-ray eyes, you’d see the quality of the work is more than skin deep. Tejas started with a complete strip and prime, followed by three coats of base paint with additional coats for the color. The scheme was inspired by one done by Scheme Designers. Leonard drew up the first sketch, and the folks at the software company smoothed out the edges for him. The interior features new wool carpeting, completely rebuilt seats with new padding and covering, AmSafe seat-belt airbags for the front two seats, new lights and window surrounds.
The avionics are anchored by the Garmin G500 with synthetic vision (SVT), the GAD-43 to drive the autopilot (instead of the iron gyro), upgraded GNS 530 (to WAAS), new 430W, a PS Engineering Bluetooth-capable audio panel, the JPI EDM-760 engine-monitoring unit, new powder-coated panel, Garmin GDL-69 satellite weather receiver, a panel-mounted Garmin 696 in an AirGizmos mount and more.
The result is an airplane that offers much of the comfort and capability of a new Baron but at just about that one-third cost of a new Baron that Leonard was originally shooting for. And for Leonard, it’s a great way to get around with better speed, carrying capacity and comfort than the 182 had and with the security of two engines and known-ice approval.