Working Together – Building Our Future

70th Raytheon Anniversary

1924 to 1937

The company’s 70th anniversary was celebrated September 21, 2002. This is the first of a series of special historical reports commemorating the celebration.

  • 1924: Walter H. Beech founds Travel Air Manufacturing Company.

In 1924, a group of aviation pioneers, Walter H. Beech, Clyde Cessna, and Lloyd Stearman founded Travel Air Manufacturing Company. Beech became president and general manager of Travel Air, and within four years Travel Air became the largest producer of both monoplane and biplane types of aircraft.

Walter Beech - Model 2000 Travel Air

Walter H. Beech and Model 2000 Travel Air on Sept. 23, 1925.

  • 1926: Walter H. Beech wins first place in the Ford Reliability Tour.

Walter H. Beech and Brice H. Goldsborough flying a Travel Air 4000 monoplane, on a grueling 2,575-mile air race across the Midwest won the Ford Reliability Tour in 1926.

  • 1929: Travel Air purchased by Curtiss-Wright Corporation.

Travel Air was producing 25 percent of all commercial aircraft in America when Curtiss-Wright Corp. purchased the company in 1929. Sales of all aircraft during 1930 showed the effects of the 1929 stock market crash. In 1931, the Wichita plant closed due to economic conditions. Walter H. Beech was sent to New York, assuming charge of all commercial sales

Travel Air Factory

The 41,000 square-foot Travel Air factory was the first building purchased, which was later to become Beech Aircraft Plant.

  • 1929: Travel Air “Mystery S” wins Thompson Trophy Race.

A newly developed Model R Travel Air, later named “Mystery S” with a 400 hp Wright engine was entered in the 50-mile closed-course competition. The monoplane surpassed all other competition, including Army and Navy pursuit planes. This was the first time a civilian plane had out performed military aircraft in speed competitions.

Mystery S

Doug Davis had a winning speed of 194.9 mph flying the Travel Air “Mystery S.”

  • 1932: Beech Aircraft Corporation established in Wichita.

In the darkest year of the great depression, when business spirits were generally as low as prices, Walter H. Beech and Olive Ann Beech moved back to Wichita. In April 1932, they established the Beech Aircraft Corporation. Mr. Beech was the president and Mrs. Beech was secretary-treasurer

Walter BeechOlive Beech

Walter H. Beech Olive Ann Beech

  • 1932: The first Beechcraft Model 17.

A Model 17 biplane, the Staggerwing, made its initial flight on Nov. 4, 1932. It had a top speed of 200-plus mph, cruised at 180, and a landing speed of 60 mph. A week later, it was demonstrated to the public at Wichita Municipal Airport. With a basic design and very favorable stall and recovery characteristics, optimum controllability at all speeds, easy, quick ground servicing and compactness, the Model 17 proved to be the choice of aircraft for the depressed economic times.


Walter H. Beech posed in 1934 with this 225hp B17L Beechcraft Staggerwing.

  • 1936: Victory in the coveted Bendix Transcontinental Speed Dash.

Mrs. Louise Thaden and Blanche Noyes were chosen to compete in America’s most famous cross-country race, The Bendix Transcontinental Speed Dash. The two women aviators flew from Bendix, N.J, to Los Angeles in a Model C17R Staggerwing. The entries included some of the highest-powered aircraft in existence, including new twin-engine transports with speeds exceeding 200 mph.

Louise Thaden

The national speed record for women was set by Louise Thaden in a Beechcraft Model 17 in St. Louis, winning a $2,500 award for the female pilot who finished first.

  • 1937: Beech Aircraft Corporation purchases Travel Air factory.

Beech Aircraft Corporation purchased the former Travel Air Factory from Curtiss-Wright Sales Corporation for $150,000. Beechcraft’s original plant was not large, but boasted a quality product, skilled dedicated workers with confidence in the future of their company.

Travel Air Factory

Beech Aircraft purchased the Former Travel Air buildings in 1937, which became home offices and current day Plant I.

  • 1937: Company demonstrates Model 18 twin-engine monoplane

On Jan. 15, 1937 a new all-metal twin-engine monoplane, the Model 18, completed its initial flight. The first Model 18 Beechcraft showed excellent performance, and was met with immediate acceptance and popularity.

Model 18

On Jan. 15,1937, Walter H. Beech approved the first flight of the new Model 18 design that lasted for more than 30 years.

Reprinted by courtesy of Raytheon Aircraft.