Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Walter Herschel Beech 1891-1950

Walter Herschel Beech began an illustrious career in aviation with a solo flight on July 11, 1914, in a Curtiss pusher. A rated Army aviator and flight instructor in 1917, he barnstormed after his enlistment ended in 1920, finally joining the Swallow Company in 1923, where he quickly rose from designer, salesman, and test pilot to general manager. In 1924 he co-founded Travel Air with Clyde Cessna , which would become the world's largest producer of both monoplane and biplane commercial aircraft, internationally acclaimed for establishing more than 200 performance records. With the merger of Travel Air and Curtiss-Wright, Beech became president of the new corporation.

However, he desired a more personal participation in aircraft design and manufacture and so co-founded Beech Aircraft Company with his wife, Olive Ann, on April 1, 1932. His early Beechcrafts set many distance and speed records, and won the Bendix and McFadden races. Most novel among these, with design and performance features years ahead of its time, was the Model 17 "Staggerwing" cabin biplane.

During World War II, Beech turned the entire production of his company to defense, producing more than 7,400 military aircraft. His AT-71/C-45 trained more than 90 percent of the USAAF navigator and bombardiers and 50 percent of its multi-engine pilots.
In the postwar years Beech again applied his efforts to producing a new line of light aircraft, the most famous of which was the V-tailed Bonanza