Most owners of Beech Bonanzas and Debonairs know that their wing attach bolts have been singled out for special scrutiny over the years. As part of the Sweepstakes Debonair’s annual inspection, these bolts were checked for corrosion. There’s a lot of lore and yarns about the wing-bolt issue. However, an Airworthiness Directive has never been issued to replace them periodically. The only service recommendation, according to the American Bonanza Society, is to inspect them every 15 years. Personally, that seems mild to me. I mean, these bolts hold the wings on the airplane, no?
So to be on the conservative side, we pulled the bolt covers (they’re at the wing root, on the upper surface of the wing) and saw–light surface corrosion. Well, what did you expect after 50 years? Then came a debate. Do we pull the bolts and take a close look at them? I think you know the answer to that one. We pulled the bolts and they did, indeed, have corrosion. The fittings were OK, and the drain holes in the “bathtubs” that surround the bolts were open, which meant that any water had been draining through the critical area–and not pooling inside it and creating serious corrosion. (Does anyone else think that a wing-attachment design that tends to trap water is somehow ill-conceived?)
When I got word of this, paranoia struck. Where in the world would we find replacement wing bolts for a 50-year old airplane? Turns out, Beechcraft still makes them, and they’re still in stock. Santa Fe Aero Services ordered up a set, had them overnighted, and they were at the shop the next day. What price peace of mind? For the entire set of eight wing bolts, a total just shy of $1,000.