Working Together – Building Our Future

1938-1947: THE WAR YEARS

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

1938 Beech Aircraft Corporation’s sales exceed one million dollars.

Hard work and determination paid off when Beechcraft sales exceeded a million dollars for the first time. It was during this year that Beech Aircraft began expanding its facilities, increasing employment, and stepping up production to meet the demands of the National Defense program.

Walter H. Beech and Olive Ann Beech view war time production lines at Plant 1.

1940 Model 18 Twin Beech wins Macfadden Trophy.

H.C. Rankin and Mr. Beech in the Twin Beech completed the 1,084-mile non-stop run from St. Louis, Mo. to Miami, in 4 hours, 37 minutes, and an average speed of 234 mph. The victory promoted Beechcraft sales commercially and enhanced the company’s prestige as a prime contractor for military aircraft.

This Model 18S Beechcraft won the 1939 Air Corps evaluation competition, and the 1940 Macfadden Trophy.

1941 Beech starts assembly of wartime aircraft.

As the world was thrown into turmoil, Beechcrafters went to work. Military versions of the model 18 were equipped as bomber and gunnery trainers. Military versions were designated as AT-7 and AT-11 by the U.S. Army and SNB by the U.S. Navy. The Model 17 was used as a personnel and utility transport. The unique Beech-designed twin-engine AT-10 was built predominately out of plywood due to aluminum shortages.

Three shifts of employees worked around the clock to build AT-11 bombing trainers during the war years.

1942 Beech earns first “E-Award.”

Beechcrafters and their company became one of the elite five percent of war contracting firms in the country to win five straight Army-Navy “E” awards for production efficiency.

First Army-Navy “E” Award accepted for all Beechcrafters by Mr. And Mrs. Beech in October 1942.

1943 Production shifts from AT-10 to A-26
Invader wings.

In 1943, the rising demands on the Douglas Aircraft Company caused them to look to the Beech team to produce more than 1,600 complete sets of wings for the A-26 Invader attack bomber. Production shifted from building the all-wood AT-10 to complex all-metal Invader wings. This called for practically a 100 percent reconversion, not only of facilities and machinery, but also employee skills.

Metal-bending replaced wing-doping at Beech.

1944 Beech XA-38 “Grizzly” attack bomber flies.

The first Beechcraft ever designed for tactical military service, the XA-38 Grizzly was designed as an attack bomber. On May 7, 1944, the Grizzly surpassed even the fastest military pursuit planes, but lack of suitable engines in time prevented the Grizzly from seeing service for WW II.

Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly attack bomber was a distinct contribution to art of aircraft design.

1945 Victory in war ends production of military aircraft.

During WW II, more than 14,000 Beechrafters produced 7,400 airplanes for the U.S. and Allied armed forces. With Japan’s surrender, the aviation industry faced a grim assignment: the transition from military to civilian production.

This victory formation included air crews and Beechcraft AT-11 trainers.

1945 First flight in 1945 of new Model 35 Beechcraft V-Tail Bonanza.

An important event in aviation history occured in 1945 with the first flight of the new Model 35 Beechcraft Bonanza. This four-place, all-metal monoplane was powered by a 165hp Continental engine, fully retractable landing gear and a unique two-element V-tail. The Beechcraft Bonanza was to become one of the best known of all business aircraft, and certainly the most popular of all high-performance single-engine planes.

This Model 35 Beechcraft Bonanza was first flown on Dec. 22, 1945.

1946 Beech builds aluminum Dymaxion House.

After WW II, Beech Aircraft, with the help of architect Buckminister Fuller, built an all-metal house as a housing option for returning GIs. This unique house was suspended on a center post, which permitted it to be rotated to absorb solar energy.

This three-ton aluminum structure had two bedrooms, two baths and living/dining room–the house was never mass produced. The retail cost at that time would be $6,500, or the cost of a Cadillac.

1947 First Bonanza certified and delivered.

The Model 35 V-Tail Bonanza was certified on March 25, 1947, and the first commercial deliveries began. More than 500 orders were placed for purchase before any detailed information was released on the airplane’s performance. For about $7,000, customers could fly in car-like comfort at 180 mph.