Beechcraft is an aviation brand that was originally part of Beech Aircraft Corporation but is now a brand of Textron Aviation. This company manufactures a wide range of general aviation, military aircraft, and commercial aircraft. While this is a well-known brand in the aviation industry, there are many things that people do not know about this company. Here are 20 things that you probably didn’t know about Beechcraft.
1. They Were Founded in 1932
The Beech Aircraft Company was founded by Walter Beech in 1932. Walter Beech was a pioneer aviator who was born in Pulaski, Tennessee, on January 30, 1891. He had flown with the United States Army before joining the Swallow Airplane Company where he initially worked as a test pilot before becoming the general manager of the company. Beech was the president of Beech Aircraft Company while his wife, Olive Ann Beech, was the secretary and the vice president of engineering was Ted A. Wells. The company also had an investor by the name of C.G. Yankey in the position of vice president and K.K. Shaul acted as the treasurer. They used an idle factory that was once used by the aviation company Cessna as the base for their operations.
2. Walter Beech Had Previously Owned Another Aviation Manufacturing Company
When he founded Beech Aircraft Company, it was not the first aviation manufacturing company that Walter Beech had owned. Prior to founding the Beech Aircraft Company, he had formed a business called Travel Air in 1924. His company was then absorbed by the much larger Curtiss Wright, with Travel Air being just one small division of the larger company. The aircraft manufactured by Curtiss Wright followed on from the model numbers of the aircraft manufactured by Travel Air. When Beech became dissatisfied at Curtiss Wright, he founded Beech Aircraft Company and also continued to follow the model numbers as previously used by Travel Air and Curtis Wright.
3. The Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing Was Their First Plane
The first aircraft designed and manufactured by Beech Aircraft Company was the Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing. This aircraft flew for the first time in November 1932. The company went on to produce more than 750 of these aircraft, 270 of which were specifically manufactured during World War II for the United States Army Air Forces.
4. Their Base is Beech Factory Airport
The base used by this company to this day is Beech Factory Airport. This is their head office, their manufacturing facility, and also the location where they have a runway to conduct test flights. This privately-owned facility is in the central business district of Wichita in Sedgwick County, Kansas. It is now also used as a public airport and has an average of 89 aircraft operations per day. Wichita is also home to the competitor company Cessna and the birthplace of both Stearman and Learjet.
5. They Won Awards for Production Efficiency in the War
During World War II, this company became known for its excellence in production standards and efficiency. In fact, it won awards to this effect. The first such award they won was the Army-Navy ‘E’ Award in 1942. This is an award for production efficiency. Beechcraft are one of just five percent of the war contracting firms to have won this award for five successive years. In the value of World War II military production contracts, this company was ranked 69th in the United States.
6. They Began Manufacturing the Bonanza Following the Second World War
The Bonanza is one of the best-known models of aircraft manufactured by Beechcraft. They first began manufacturing the Bonanza during World War II. This was the aircraft that replaced the Staggerwing. At that time, it became the best-known aircraft produced by the Beech Aircraft Company. It had a distinctive V-tail that made it stand out from its predecessors. The Bonanza holds the accolade of having the longest production run of any airplane in the world.
7. Olive Ann Beech Became the Company’s President in 1950
Following her husband’s death from a sudden heart attack on November 29, 1950, Olive Ann Beech was installed as the CEO and president of Beech Aircraft Company. She held these positions until the company was taken over in 1980. Olive Ann Beech was not just the wife of Walter Beech who was lucky enough to businesswoman who has made a significant contribution to aviation history. In fact, she is often referred to as the ‘First Lady of Aviation’ as she has won more honorary appointments, awards, and special citations than any other woman in the history of aviation. She had met her husband when she was working as a secretary for Travel Air and moved with him when he founded his new company, Beech Aircraft Company. She played an important role in the development of the company. Sadly, Olive Ann Beech died in Wichita, Kansas, on July 6, 1993.
8. The Raytheon Company Merged Beechcraft with Hawker in 1994
The Raytheon Company had purchased Beech Aircraft Company in 1980. They then acquired the Hawker product line from British Aerospace in 1993. In 1994, the Raytheon Company decided to merge Beech and Hawker. The two companies formed the Raytheon Aircraft Company. However, Beechcraft was revived in 2002 before Raytheon sold them on to Goldman Sachs in 2006 and the company was then called Hawker Beechcraft.
9. Textron Bought the Company in 2014
Hawker Beechcraft was declared bankrupt in 2012 but emerged as a new entity called the Beechcraft Corporation in 2013. This was a much smaller company than the original and some lines, such as the jet line, were discontinued. The company had turned its finances around by October 2013 and went up for sale. Textron bought the company, including the discontinued jet line of Hawker, for $1.4 billion on December 26, 2013.
10. Only One Beechcraft Model 16 Was Ever Built
Most models of aircraft produced by the Beech Aircraft Company were manufactured in large numbers. However, the exception to this was the Beechcraft Model 16. There was only one of this model ever manufactured. The simple reason for this was that Olive Ann Beech did not like the look of the aircraft. The Beechcraft Mosel 16 was built in 1970. It was a single-engined. All metal aircraft that was intended for use as a training aircraft. It was similar to the Beechcraft Model 19, but it had shorter wings and a smaller tail section.
11. They Created a Prototype of an Automobile
Although this company is best-known for manufacturing aviation crafts, they have also ventured into other fields of engineering and design. They even created a prototype of an automobile. This post-World War II automobile was called the Beechcraft Plainsman. Despite the company’s best plans to produce an automobile, the design only reached the prototype stage before it was cancelled.
12. They Have Manufactured Target Drone Aircrafts
Amongst the other products manufactured by this company are target drone aircrafts. One such product was the Beechcraft AQM-37 Jayhawk which was an air-launched target drone aircraft that featured a single rocket engine. Another was the Beechcraft MQM-61A Cardinal. This was a drone aircraft that boasted a single horizontally-opposed two-strike piston engine. The final product of this type manufactured by Beechcraft was the Beechcraft MQM-107 Streamer. This differed from the others as it was an unmanned target drone aircraft.
13. The Beechcraft T-1A Jayhawk Was Used to Train Pilots
One product manufactured by this company was the Beechcraft T-1A Jayhawk and this was an aircraft that was manufactured specifically with the intention of training pilots. This is a military version of the Beechcraft Model 400. The training it was used for was teaching pilots how to fly larger aircraft.
14. The Beechcraft AT-10 Wichita Was Built Primarily of Wood
Most people think of aircraft as being airborne vehicles that are predominantly manufactured using lightweight varieties of metal. However, the Beechcraft AT-10 Wichita was built predominantly from wood. This was an aircraft that the company built during World War II as a trainer for pilots. It had a wingspan of 44 feet and measured 34 feet and 4 inches in length. This aircraft could achieve a maximum speed of 198 miles per hour and was designed for a two-man crew. Beechcraft designed this plane for the United States Forces in collaboration with the Globe Aircraft Corporation.
15. The Beechcraft Super King Air Had Its First Flight in 1972
One of the planes for which Beechcraft is best-known is the Beechcraft Super King Air. This aircraft was flown for the first time in 1972. This was a light general aviation aircraft of which there were originally two models; the Model 200 and the Model 300. The Beechcraft Super King Air is a line of planes that Beechcraft continue to manufacture to this day. However, the models they now produce are the 250, the 350i, and the 350ER. The latter is only available for special operations involving the government or military.
16. The Beechcraft T-6 Texan II/AT-6 Is the Most Recent Model of Aircraft
The most recent model of aircraft designed and manufactured is the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II/AT-6. This model of aircraft had its first flight in 2000. This aircraft was initially built by Raytheon Aircraft Company but is now one of the aircraft produced by Beechcraft. It is a single-engine turboprop aircraft that is used by the United States Air Force for the purpose of basic pilot training and for training to become a Combat Systems Officer. It is also used for Naval Flight Officer training by the United States Marine Corps and the United States Navy. Furthermore, it is used for training by the Air Forces of Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Morocco.
17. The Beechcraft Model 18 Remains in Widespread Use Worldwide
The Beechcraft Model 18 is now one of the models that is most widely manufactured, and this remains in widespread use in many locations across the world. This light aircraft was first manufactured by the Beech Aircraft Company in 1937 and production of this line continued until 1969. During this period of time, over 9,000 of the aircraft were produced. They were sold and used for a variety of purposes, including cargo, military, utility, civilian executive, and passenger airlines. These aircraft have between six and eleven seats in them, depending on the model. These aircraft continue to be in use to this day.
18. The Baron Was First Introduced in 1961
One of the most popular and widely manufactured aircraft by Beechcraft is the Baron. There have been various models of the Baron, but it was first introduced in 1961. This is a light, twin-engined piston aircraft. Although it was officially introduced in 1961, this aircraft was actually flown for the first time the previous year. The aircraft was initially developed by Travel Air, but the design was created for manufacture by Beech Aircraft Company. Beechcraft continued to produce this line of aircraft until 2018.
19. They Built a Prototype Called the Beechcraft Model 73 Jet Mentor
Beechcraft once built a prototype for an aircraft they called the Beechcraft Model 73 Jet Mentor. It was a propeller driven, single-engined aircraft that they had intended to use as an aircraft for military training. Beechcraft created this prototype when they were trying to win a contract with the United States military. The main differences between this aircraft and the previous piston-engined aircraft produced by Beechcraft were visual. Beechcraft first flew their prototype on December 18, 1955. The prototype was considered by both the USAF and the USN. However, the USAF opted instead for the Cessna T-37 while the USN went for the Temco TT Pinto. As there was a lack of interest in ordering the Beechcraft Model 73 Jet Mentor, it never went into production. However, the basic design was developed and led to the production of the Beechcraft Model T-34 Mentor.
20. Beechcraft and Cessna Were Almost Combined to Create One New Company
Beech Aircraft Company and Cessna were once rival companies. However, both Cessna and Beechcraft are now owned by Textron. In 2014, Scott Donnelly, the CEO of Textron, said that they were considering combining the companies to create a new light aircraft manufacturing concern. The main reason for this was to save Textron money. It was initially estimated that they could save up to $85 million annually if the companies were combined. However, Textron has so far decided to keep both these companies as separate brands. They have given no reason for this decision.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker