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Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing


INTRODUCTION

The Beechcraft Aircraft Company was started by Walter and Olive Ann Beech In April of 1932, the aim being to build a biplane with a single engine and negative-stagger wings for business and sporting purposes.
 
MODEL 17
 
The Beechcraft Model 17 was designed by Ted Wells and Walter Beech in the early 1930s. In total 785 aircraft were manufactured, including civil and military variants, and 20 aircraft were produced after the Second World War. In addition, 20 units were licence-built in Japan.
 
The model number is a carry-over from Walter’s Curtiss-Wright days (the last aircraft designed by the company being the CW-16). Construction of the fixed-gear Model 17R prototype was completed on 2 November 1932, with the maiden flight occurring on 4 November 1932. On 20 December of 1932 the Model 17R received its approved type certificate. For details about the various models see the second table (where the aircraft are grouped by model number).
 
The prototype had excellent performance, but Walter Beech felt that the aircraft could be improved. The Model B17L was the result of the Beechcraft engineers spending a year to upgrade the type. Flight-testing of this model commenced on 2 February 1934. Although the Model A17F could outperform the Army Air Corps pursuit aircraft of the time, very few were sold. During 1935 the Beech brand was boosted by a Model B17R that undertook a successful round-the-world flight.
 
Further improvements were introduced in 1936. These resulted in the wing flaps being relocated and the undercarriage shortened. The new models were designated C17L, C17B and C17R. Another set of enhancements culminated in seven new models (D17R, D17S, D17A, D17W, E17B, E17L and F17D) being introduced between February 1937 and April 1939.
 
IDENTIFYING THE VARIANTS
 
To identify variants of the production Beechcraft Model 17s a series letter prefix and an engine letter suffix were used:
 
Grouped by engine type
 
D17A  350 hp Wright R-760-E2
 
B17B 285 hp Jacobs R-830 (L-5)
C17B 285 hp Jacobs R-830 (L-5)
E17B 285 hp Jacobs R-830 (L-5)
 
F17D 330 hp Jacobs R-915 (L-6)
 
B17E 285 hp Wright R-760-E1
C17E 285 hp Wright R-760-E1
 
A17F 690 hp Wright R-1820-F11
A17FS 710 hp Wright SR-1820-F3
 
B17L 225 hp Jacobs R-775 (L-4)
C17L 225 hp Jacobs R-775 (L-4)
E17L 225 hp Jacobs R-775 (L-4)
 
17R 420 hp Wright R-975-E2
B17R 420 hp Wright R-975-E2
C17R 420 hp Wright R-975-E2
D17R 450 hp Wright R-975-E3
 
D17S 450 hp P + W R-985-SB
 
D17W 600 hp P + W R-985-SC-G           
 
Grouped by model number
 
17R; 1932/33; 2 built (construction numbers 1 and 2)
 
A17F;   1934; 1 built (construction number 5)
A17FS; 1935; 1 built (construction number 11)
 
B17L; 1934/36; 45 built (construction numbers 3, 4, 6 to 10, 12 to 19, 21, 23 to 37, 39, 41 to 48, 57 to 61)
SB17L; 1 built (construction number 40, float plane, delivered 6 November 1935 to Thomson Airways)
 
B17B; 1934; 1 built (construction number 20)
B17E; 1935; 4 built (construction numbers 22, 38, 49 and 51)
B17R; 1935/36; 15 built (construction numbers 50, 52 to 56, 63 to 66, 68 to 72)
 
C17B; 1936/37; 36 built (construction numbers 67, 85 to 89, 91 to 98, 101 to 104, 106, 110 to 112, 123, 125 to 135)
SC17B; 3 built [construction numbers 90, 99 (this one an amphibian variant, the only Model 17 in this configuration) and 121]
C17L;  1936/37; 6 built [construction numbers 83, 100, 105, 107, 109 and 124 (this one delivered as ZS-BBC on 29 January 1937 to Captain O Thaning – the Danish Consul)]
C17R; 1936/37; 16 built (construction numbers 73 to 77, 79 to 82, 114 to 116, 118 to 120, 122); construction number 115 = C17R/ JB-1
SC17R; 1936; 1 built (construction number 113, delivered 12 December 1936 as CF-BBB to WL Brintnell in Canada; ski-equipped)
 
C17E; 1936/37; Japan Air Transport Company Ltd imported one [construction number 78 (NC15836, delivered 15 August 1936 – first flown in Japan on 29 September 1936)]. After Tachikawa purchased the manufacturing rights, construction number 117 (carried no registration) was delivered dismantled and used as pattern aircraft for production.
 
D17R; 1937/40; 27 built (construction numbers 137, 148, 166, 167, 180 to 182, 184, 188, 214, 215, 217, 218, 235 to 237, 239, 253, 278, 289, 313, 325, 326, 328, 329, 397, 405)
D17S; 1937/42; 50 built (construction numbers 146, 147, 165, 179, 183, 185 to 187; 199, 200, 202, 203, 216, 254, 263, 264, 284 to 288, 306, 314, 327,354, 355, 362, 395, 396, 398 to 404, 406 to 409, 415 to 424)
SD17S; 1937; 4 built (construction numbers 168 (NC18566 delivered 11 August 1937 to GA Hobart); 201, 238, 279)
D17A; 1939; 8 built (construction numbers 305, 356 to 361, 363)
D17W; 1937; 2 built [construction numbers 136 (first model D17) and 164]
 
E17B; 1937/40; 50 built [construction numbers 138 (first Model E17) to 145, 149, 151 to 160, 162, 163, 189 to 198, 204 to 209, 212, 213, 219, 228, 231 to 234, 251, 274, 336, 388, 411]
SE17B; 1937; 4 built [construction numbers 150 (sea and land plane; NC18039 delivered 1 July 1937 to EW Wiggins); 210 (sea and land plane), 227, 280
E17L; 1937; 1 aircraft built (construction number 161)
 
F17D; 1938/42; 56 built [construction numbers 211 (first Model F17D), 225, 226, 229, 230, 240 to 250, 252, 255 to 262, 270 to 273, 275 to 277, 281 to 283, 307 to 312, 330 to 335, 337 to 339, 389 to 394, 410, 412, 413]
SF17D; 1941; 1 built [construction number 414 (NC21931 delivered 12 April 1941 to Maine Forest District)]
 
PREWAR BEECH 18 CONSTRUCTION NUMBERS AMONG MODEL 17s
 
62 (prototype); 169 to 178; 220 to 224; 265 to 269; 290 to 294; 315 to 324; 340 to 353; 364 to 384
 
PREWAR MILITARY AIRCRAFT CONSTRUCTION NUMBERS
 
295 to 297 (YC-43); 298 to 304 (GB-1); 385 to 387 (GB-1)
 
THE WAR YEARS
 
Wartime production comprised the Beechcraft model D17S, which had different designations in various air arms. In the USAAF and the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) it was known as the UC-43, while the US Navy designated it as the GB-2 and in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy it was known as the Traveller Mk 1. In total 412 aircraft were built: USAAF 270, USN 122 and FAB 20. Many USAAF and USN aircraft found their way to Britain, China, Uruguay and Brazil under the lend-lease scheme. Examples of the civilian D17S were impressed into service with the US military: USAAF 13 aircraft as the UC-43B and USN 10 as GB-1 and GB-2.
 
WARTIME MILITARY AIRCRAFT CONSTRUCTION NUMBERS
 
1013 to 1035 (GB-2); 3081 to 3116 (GB-2); 3117 to 3124 (UC-43); 3179 to 3186 (GB-2); 3187 to 3205 (UC-43); 4791 to 4865 (GB-2); 4866 to 4940 (UC-43); 6669 to 6936 (UC-43-BH/GB-2)
 
JAPANESE PRODUCTION

C17E construction number 78 (NC15836) was delivered to the Japan Air Transport Company Ltd on 15 August 1936. The aircraft was used as reference aircraft for production in Japan. Tachikawa purchased the manufacturing rights from Beech and received a dismantled C17E (construction number 117, which carried no registration number), which served as pattern aircraft for production. Twenty aircraft were produced in Japan.

AFTER THE WAR

Model 17 construction after the Second World War comprised the improved G17S, which was powered by the 450 hp P + W R-985-AN4. It was fitted with a new engine mounting, exhaust, cowling and windshield, which enhanced the aircraft’s fuselage lines. In addition, the chord of the vertical fin was increased. Construction of the G17S ceased in 1948. The very last Beechcraft Model 17 (a G17S) was assembled from parts available at the factory in 1949. Model G17S construction numbers ran from B-1 to B-20.

Generally the name Staggerwing for the Beechcraft Model 17 was used during the period after the war only.
 
DETAILS ABOUT THE TWO AIRCRAFT DEPICTED IN THE IMAGES
 
construction number 4885; manufactured 1942; Beech UC-43-BH/Beech D17S Staggerwing; this aircraft is one of 270 UC-43-BH designed by Beechcraft for the American military; this particular aircraft was obtained under contract AN.31386; identity record: 43-10837 [received 30 March 1943; Wright Field, Middletown, Baltimore; North Atlantic Wing 10 June 1944; Reconstruction Finance Corporation (for disposal) 9 June 1945]; registered CR-LBF (Vivisao dos Transportes, Angola September 1946); registered NC60004; reregistered N1591V (Aero Service Corporation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1955); to African Surveys, Baragwanath, South Africa; rebuilt in Durban; registered ZS-CLM (TH Aiksh, Durban 1959; to AJ Torr, Johannesburg 1968); registered ZS-AJT2 (to Torr  May 1970; a/c turned over September 1978; being restored 1979; registered WH Barnard, Clocolan, RSA 1988); G-LAJT (registered 27 April 2005, deregistered 1 May 2008 as to USA), engine P & W R-985-AN-14B; N17GL (certificate issued 23 May 2008)

construction number 6768; Beech UC-43-BH/Beech D17S Staggerwing; this aircraft is one of 270 UC-43-BH designed by Beechcraft for the American military; this particular aircraft was obtained under contract AN.31386; identity record: 44-67760 [delivered 30 March 1944; Fort Dix 6 April 1944; Newark by rail 22 April 1944]; Lend-Lease Britain, departed 28 April 1944; FT506 Royal Navy, served with 782 Squadron, Donibristle, Scotland; to JJM van Zyl, Constantia, South Africa; reregistered ZS-BBZ to J Bowie, Cape Town, South Africa July 1946; to A Mechin, Johannesburg, South Africa 1971; to Rotorwing (Pty) Ltd August 1971; destroyed in a hangar fire, DF Malan Airport 11 December 1976; fuselage frame stored SAAF Museum, Pretoria, South Africa June 1983

This article is based on the book The Beech 17, compiled by Peter Berry, Air-Britain 1992 as well as Beech Aircraft and their Predecessors, AJ Pelletier, Putnam, 1995. Information was also gleaned from the following website:
Joebaugher.com (http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1943_2.html
 
 
COPYRIGHT IMAGES: Gabriel le Roux/Aviationpics.co.za 2015
 


Here the clean lines of the Beech D17S are shown. Also note the cowling, propeller spinner and biplane configuration of the aircraft.


This image illustrates ZS-AJT2 at Tempe Airport in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, South Africa, on 1 June 1991. The number 33 indicates that it took part in the States President’s Air Race – a national event.


The original slide of this image was also taken at Tempe Airport on 1 June 1991. The name “Spirit of Albuquerque” can be clearly seen.


In this image the negative stagger of the wings is clearly illustrated. The original photograph was taken at DF Malan Airport (FACT) on 7 April 1974.
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