Created in 1970, the Beechcraft Sierra started its life as the Beechcraft Musketeer Super R – A24R and was renamed in 1972. The Sierra is essentially a Musketeer with retractable landing gear and was built to take advantage of the additional power the new Lycoming IO-360-A1B produces by reducing the parasitic drag of the landing gear.
Since it was for all intents and purposes a Musketeer, the Sierra was also available in both four-seat and six-seat configurations. The Sierra has a maximum takeoff weight of 2,750 lbs, produces 200 hp (149 kW), and has a service ceiling of 14,350 ft. (B.A. Corporation, 1984/1977)
The Beechcraft Sierra was updated twice. The first update, B24-R, was introduced in 1974 with a new Hartzell propeller, minor changes to the fuselage, and quieter Lycoming IO-360-A1B6. 3 Years later, Beechcraft made some aerodynamic changes that increased the cruising speed by six knots, which resulted in the final variant of the Sierra: the C24-R. In total, 793 Sierras were produced from 1970 to 1983, after which the entire Musketeer line was discontinued. (Airliners.Net)
Beechcraft has a reputation for building high-quality aircraft that are robust. The proof is in the materials used in the construction of the Sierra. The landing struts are made from a combination of casted magnesium and forged aluminum, and the wing spars from stamped aluminum and extruded aluminum, in the front and back, respectively. These materials, along with the parts they are used in, contribute significantly to the strength and dexterity of the aircraft.
Today, the Sierra has mostly been adopted by training schools for commercial pilot training due to its complex setup and flying clubs because they are comfortable, relatively easy to fly, and extremely sturdy.
Beechcraft Sierra Specifications
During its thirteen-year production run, the exterior dimensions of the Sierra didn’t change even though minor changes to the fuselage were made, such as larger baggage doors. Aircraft produced by Beechcraft had a reputation for being comfortable, and the Sierra followed suit.
Sierras are available in either a four or six-seat configuration, and because the cabin was 3 ft 8 in wide, both offered plenty of elbow room. The cabin has a length of 7ft 11in and is 4 ft high, which offered the first two rows plenty of room for adults, and in the six-seat configuration, space for children in the last row. In addition, the maximum baggage area of 20 cu.ft made it possible to carry plenty of items.
The Sierra models were all powered by the air-cooled, fuel-injected, horizontally opposed four-cylinder Lycoming IO-360s with slight variations between the models. The A24-R was powered by the IO-360-A2B, while the same IO-360-A1B6 powered the B24-R and C24-R. Both models produced 200hp and at a maximum RPM of 2,700.
All three models have fuel tanks with a total capacity of 59.8 gallons, like the Musketeer. To accomplish this, the landing gear system was designed to retract outwards so that the same fuel tank placement could be used. However, the useful load of the models differs: the A24-R and B-24R have a useful load of 52.2 gallons, while the C24-R could utilize five more gallons increasing the useful load to 57.2.
The A and B models of the Sierra have a best cruise speed of 131 KIAS which allows them to fly for 591 NM before calling it quits. However, thanks to some aerodynamic changes, the C24-R has an increased best cruise speed of 137 knots and an increased range to 647 NM.
The table below highlights the specifications of the first (A24-R) and last (C24-R) models of the Beechcraft Sierra.
|Engine||IO-360-A2B, 200hp * 2700 rpm||IO-360-A1B6, 200 hp * 2700 rpm|
|Fuel Capacity (Gallons)||59.8 total, 52.2 useable||59.8 total, 57.2 useable|
|Fuel Burn (Gallons) @ 75% Power||12.3||10.5|
|Best Cruise Speed (Knots)||131||137|
|Service Ceiling (ft)||14,000 (estimated)||14,350|
|Best Range (NM)||591||647|
|Gross Weight (lbs)||2,550||2,750|
|Basic Empty Weight (lbs)||1,570||1,720|
|Max Payload (lbs)||980||1,030|
Beechcraft Sierra Performance and Flight Characteristics
The Sierra wasn’t meant to be sporty, and comparing it to the competition makes it apparent. Instead, it’s more akin to a minivan, but it had something a lot of the competition lacked: comfort. The large fuselage might have made the Sierra suffer from drag, but it allowed passengers to sit comfortably regardless of its configuration.
The Sierra’s comfort extended to its flight characteristics. Owners say that the aircraft responds well to inputs, behaves predictably, and is very stable in light turbulence. In addition, the Sierra has an aileron-rudder interconnect, which aids in preventing spins. These are some of the features which make it an attractive training aircraft.
The takeoff performance of a Sierra is nothing to write home about. According to the POH in full takeoff configuration, at sea level and on a standard day, with a gross weight of 2,750, the average climb rate is about 891 FPM with a takeoff distance of 1,169ft.
While the POH of the Sierra C24-R specifies a service ceiling of 14,350 ft, owners of the aircraft say the performance begins to suffer significantly around the 10,000 ft mark if it’s loaded to its limits. While cruising at 75% power, the average fuel burn for the A24-R is 12.3 gallons per hour, while the C24-R burns 10.5 gallons. In reality, when leaned well, the Sierra can be very economical, offering a GPH of around 6.
Landings in the Sierra can be tricky and originate from the lack of control authority of the stabilator at low speeds. The Sierra has a high approach speed of 60 KIAS in full landing configuration, which is relatively fast compared to the competition. However, when the approach speed is slower than recommended will result in hard landings and wheelbarrowing.
Attempting to land with more speed to err on the side of caution could result in floating and a hard landing if a go-around is not done. The landing gear of the Sierra doesn’t help the characteristics either. Beechcraft decided to move away from oleo struts and seated the landing gear on rubber donut-like supports, which offer little shock absorption. The lack of shock absorption has been noted to cause the aircraft to porpoise and collapsed nose gear in extreme cases.
The consensus to landing the Sierra smoothly is to maintain Vso throughout final and maintain power into the flare, followed by a smooth reduction to idle. On the plus side, the Sierra has a very wide stance which makes crosswind landings using the crab-and-kick method much easier to perform.
Beechcraft Sierra Maintenance
The Sierra is a rare aircraft, but since it shares the design and so many parts of the Musketeer and associated models, maintenance is not as expensive as one would expect. Even so, the aircraft should be maintained by a technician who has experience with single-engine Beechcraft.
Post-1969 Lycoming IO-360’s are considered to be bulletproof and are some of the most popular engines used in piston-engine aircraft. In addition, these engines have a time between overhaul (TBO) of 2,000 hours or 12 calendar years, whichever comes first.
According to overhaulbids.com, the average cost for a brand new engine for the C24-R is $50,824, while a factory rebuilt engine will set you back $32,047, and finally, a factory overhauled engine will cost $28,647. (Lycoming 360 Overhaul Cost, n.d.)
The rubber donuts the Sierra uses instead of the more common OLEO struts are very simple and can last up to five years with little maintenance, but it has to be inspected for cracks during every inspection. If the part needs to be replaced, it is advisable to redo the whole set, which can cost between $3000 – $4000, but it can be significantly cheaper from a third party. In addition, donuts on the main gear have to be replaced simultaneously to keep the aircraft level, which will make landings softer and more predictable. Failing to do so can cause damage to the wing.
There are several airworthiness directories for the Sierra, most of which are over two decades old. The most recent ones include aileron rod end bearings (89-24-9), replacement of the fuel boost pump (88-10-1), and inspection of the stabilator hinge every 100 hours (87-2-8).
Beechcraft replacement parts are notoriously expensive, but the product support the company provides is top-notch. If brand new parts are out of reach, the Musketeer line had a large enough production run that good quality, used parts are easily available. All in all, general maintenance on a Sierra is inexpensive, and owning one is cheap if preventative maintenance is done periodically.
Beechcraft Sierra Common Problems
Most of the common problems the Sierras face are because of poor maintenance and tough usage. The Sierra is used as a training aircraft, which is a testament to its strength. But it would be incorrect to say that human factors cause all the issues.
Issues that are undoubtedly caused by human factors are because the landings on Sierras are tough, wheelbarrowing, bouncing, and porpoising are common. In addition, during hard nose landings, it’s possible for the engine mounts to crack and for the firewall to warp. Checking these areas can indicate what the aircraft has been through and what to expect going forward.
When it comes to the cowling area, there are a few more issues. Cracking has been seen where the engine induction airbox is mounted to the Benedict RSA injector flange. One of the biggest problems in the cowling is the starter solenoids sticking, which results in the motor engaging when the master is turned on.
The nose gear is also susceptible to collapse because of the suspension and nose heaviness of aircraft. Common fault points are the nosegear actuators, yoke,, and downlock springs, but the entire assembly has to be given special attention. There is also a service bulletin issued by Beechcraft (SB-2683) for an auxiliary downlock switch, but many Sierras in use don’t have it.
Problems with landing gear don’t stop there. The springs on the main gear are in charge of holding the gear in a clamped position and tend to lose tension over the years, resulting in the gear collapsing when landing with a sideload. There tends to be corrosion on the housing of the landing gear as well.
To prevent inadvertent gear retraction while on the ground, Beechcraft opted to used airspeed sensors rather than squat switches. As a result, if the gear-up switch is hit when there is any sort of airspeed reading, it won’t hesitate to retract.
At the back of the Sierra, the tail cone is prone to cracking, and replacements aren’t as sturdy as the original component. And finally, the Sierra is susceptible to corrosion on the airframe. Corrosion has been found on the injector servo but has been confirmed to result from poor maintenance. The area around the fresh air duct sees the worst corrosion, so much so that the Beech Aero Club got involved and found a supplier to replace parts of the air ducts. This conversion requires around 12 hours and close to $500 in parts.
Corrosion can also be found on the main wing spar behind the fuel tanks and in areas near the aileron. Corrosion on the wing spar is costly to fix because of the design of the Sierra, and in most instances, is a death sentence.
While it seems like there is a long list of things that can go wrong on a Sierra, most owners say that with a keen eye and regular maintenance, these problems are non-existent.
Beechcraft Sierra Price
According to PlanePHD, there are roughly 155 Sierras that are registered in the U.S. (not including the A24-R model). There are currently six available for sale on Trade-A-Plane with prices ranging from $70,000 for a frame with a total time of 3790 hours to $125,000 for one with 2058; both aircraft are 1978 C24-R models. The prices vary wildly depending on the condition of the plane and modifications made to it.
For a buyer looking for a comfortable, fuel-efficient, and robust aircraft, the Beechcraft Sierra is a solid option.
Beechcraft Sierra Insurance Options
The Sierra and its parent aircraft, the Musketeer, have excellent safety records and highly robust aircraft, making it easy to insure.
According to BWI Fly, for liability coverage of $1,000,000, an experienced owner of a Sierra who aims to use the aircraft for private use can expect to pay around $340 – $515 per year and $480 – 630 per year for a combination of the liability and hull coverage of $30,000.
For the same liability coverage amount, pilots with less than 300 hours under their belts can expect to pay $600 – 895 per year, and the cost increases to $913- $1,260 when hull coverage is brought in.
Beechcraft Sierra Modifications
The lack of modifications for the Sierra can be attributed to the lack of aircraft produced. Glass avionics systems (such as the Garmin G100XNi) can be retrofitted with little effort. But external modifications are sparse.
The ABS plastic wingtips that the Sierra comes with from the factory are prone to cracking. Therefore fiberglass wingtips and fairings, which are much more robust, tend to be one of the first modifications owners make. These can be bought from Globe Fiberglass (www.globefiberglass.com) and Met-Co Aire (www.metcoaire.com).
To increase performance, a vortex generator kit is available for the wings, vertical stabilator and stabilator are available from Micro AeroDynamics (www.microaero.com). The company claims the kit can reduce Vs as much as 10 knots.
Beechcraft Sierra Similar Aircraft
The main competitor to the Sierra has always been the Piper Arrow III. Other aircraft would be the Beechcrafts very own fixed gear Sundowner.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What are the main differences between models?
Answer: The Sierra models changed very little throughout its production run, but the most significant change would be the increased useable fuel load of the C24-R.
Question: How fast is the Beechcraft Sierra?
Answer: The number depends on the model, but the A24 and B24 cruised at 131 knots, while the C24 could reach 137 knots.
Question: What is the range of the Beechcraft Sierra?
Answer: Depending on the factors of the flight, the range can vary from 591 nm to 647 nm.
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Beechcraft musketeer insurance cost. (n.d.). BWI Fly. Retrieved August 17, 2021, from https://bwifly.com/beechcraft-musketeer-insurance-cost/
Beechcraft Sierra. (n.d.). Pilots of America. Retrieved August 16, 2021, from https://www.pilotsofamerica.com/community/threads/beechcraft-sierra.71611/
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Lycoming 360 overhaul cost. (n.d.). Overhaulbids. Retrieved August 17, 2021, from http://blog.overhaulbids.com/lycoming-360-overhaul-cost/
Silitch, M. (n.d.). Beechcraft sierra. Retrieved August 9, 2021, from https://www.aopa.org/go-fly/aircraft-and-ownership/aircraft-fact-sheets/beechcraft-sierra