Beechcraft: A History

Beechcraft is entering a new era and returning to its roots.

Beechcraft
Beechcraft
When Walter and Olive Ann Beech launched Beech Aircraft in the early 1930s, they couldn’t possibly have been able to envision the explosive growth of their little company and of aviation in general over the next decade. Here in this undated photograph, the Beeches look out over the busy factory floor at military versions of the company’s famous Model 18 twin.
Beechcraft: A History
Beechcraft: A History
Walter Beech’s first airplane wasn’t a Beechcraft at all but a Travel Air. The wholly conventional round-engine rag-and-tube taildragger was firmly rooted in the technology of the 1920s.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
The first airplane that Beechcraft built, the mid-30s Model 17 Staggerwing Beech bridged the gap between slow open-cockpit biplanes of the past and the modern, all-metal tricycle wonders that were soon to come.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
Perhaps the most revolutionary airplane in lightplane history, the distinctive, V-tailed V-35 Bonanza was a fast, light, comfortable and easy-to-fly four-seater that made personal transportation in light airplanes a reality.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
Arriving on the scene in 1961, the Baron turned out to be Beechcraft’s real twin version of the Bonanza. Light, fast and maneuverable, the Baron was everything the Twin Bonanza wasn’t.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
An outgrowth of the Twin Bonanza, the Queen Air was a supercharged cabin-class piston twin that would serve as the basis for the King Air. It had a successful run of its own, however, with close to a thousand examples produced over the course of nearly two decades.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
The introduction of the King Air brand in the early 1960s was the start of a dominant market presence for Beech in the private turboprop twin market. Entries from Cessna, Piper and Swearingen couldn’t rival the runaway success of the King Air.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
As the B58 Baron brought more room and power to the Baron lineup, so too did the A-36 add much to the Bonanza’s bag of tricks. The A-36, with club seating, a large side passenger entry door and more powerful engine, is still in production today.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
The Musketeer was an attempt by Beech to compete with Cessna and Piper’s better selling airplanes, the Skyhawk and Cherokee respectively. While considered a lesser airplane than its competitors at the time, the Musketeer ultimately proved a dependable and comfortable entry-level four-seater.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
The four-plus-two seat Sierra was Beechcraft’s entry-level high-performance single, intended to compete against the Piper Arrow and the Cessna Cardinal RG. Like its competitors, the Sierra was slow but boasted a very roomy cockpit.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
The addition of the 58 Baron to the lineup in 1969 gave the twin community a powerful and fast Baron with club seating in back, tons of baggage space and the latest panel. The airplane continues in production to this day.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
The adoption by Beechcraft of the Diamond Jet in the mid-1980s was the first of several high-profile adoptions by Beech of business aircraft. The Beechjet, subsequently renamed the Hawker 400A, was a good seller for Beech for a quarter of a century.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
A fast, piston-powered pressurized twin, the Beechcraft Duke was one of the sexiest personal transportation airplanes of the day.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
The Skipper was Beechcraft’s belated attempt to compete with the Cessna 152 in the two-place training market. The Skipper, a great flying little airplane, entered production in 1979, about ten years too late, as it turned out. Only a few hundred were ever built.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
The Beechcraft Starship was the company’s attempt to change the game with an all-composite clean-sheet forward wing design that would go fast and far. The design, while successful in many ways, was expensive to build and was not a commercial success.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
Still in use as a commuter airplane by airlines the world around, the 19-seat Beech 1900 is a solid and dependable little airliner. Beech built nearly 700 of the airplanes between 1983 and 2002.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
The ultimate expression of the King Air family is the King Air 350, a crewed airplane that hauls a prodigious load and goes a long way, competing ably against light jets for companies looking for short-haul transportation solutions when carrying ability, not speed, is foremost.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
Beechcraft won the United States military’s JPATS competition with the T-6 Texan II in the early 90s. The airplane is a development of the Pilatus PC-9. The trainer is in use by several branches of the U.S. military, as well as several foreign air forces as a trainer.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
The Beech Premier was the company’s first attempt at a home-grown turbojet. Designed to compete against the popular CitationJet, the Premier 1 was the first turbojet with a composite fuselage.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
Conceived as the Horizon, the Hawker 4000 was Hawker Beechcraft’s super midsized jet entry. The program was delayed several times; it ultimately earned its FAA certification in 2006. Hawker Beechcraft built around 175 4000s.
Beechcraft
Beechcraft
With the reformation of Beechcraft, the company has expressed interest in developing new hybrid models, like this King Air single, shown in an artist’s rendering, while continuing to produce all of its current propeller driven airplanes and none of the jets, taking the company back toward its roots.