This Beechcraft Model 18 (or “Twin Beech”, as it is also known) is a six to 11-seat, twin-engined, low-wing, tailwheel aircraft manufactured by the Beech Aircraft Corporation from 1937 to 1969 – (over 32 years, the world record at the time). It is one of the world’s most widely used light aircraft and was sold worldwide as a civilian executive, utility, cargo aircraft, and passenger airliner on tailwheels, nosewheels, skis or floats. It was also used as a military aircraft.
During and after World War II, over 4,500 Beech 18s saw military service – as light transport, light bomber (for China), aircrew trainer (for bombing, navigation and gunnery), photo-reconnaisance, and “mother ship” for target drones – including United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) C-45 Expeditor, AT-7 Navigator, AT-11 Kansan; and United States Navy (USN) UC-45J Navigator, SNB-1 Kansan, and others.
In World War II, over 90% of USAAF bombardiers and navigators trained in these aircraft.
In the early postwar era, the Beech 18 was the pre-eminent “business aircraft” and “feeder airliner.” Besides carrying passengers, its civilian uses have included aerial spraying, sterile insect release, fish seeding, dry ice cloud seeding, aerial firefighting, air mail delivery, ambulance service, skydiving, freight, weapon – and drug – smuggling, engine testbed, skywriting, banner towing, and stunt aircraft.
Personally, the thing gives me the twitch. We very rarely get involved with live TV but “Prized Apart” was one. A big budget Saturday night game show running over 6 weeks I think. It was filmed at Farnborough airport and the mission appeared simple enough; get a Beech 18, paint it, fly it into Farnborough then every Saturday night open the door for that weeks smiling winner. The problem was some particularly strange and brutal weather. Freezing fog, damp, mist, rain and overnight minus loads degree. The washable paint just never dried properly. Every morning it was like cornflakes you could just wipe off. I think we repainted the bleedin thing 4 times before we gave up and vinyl wrapped it, getting charged £1200 for one night in a Farnborough hangar. The Production were so happy they had agreed a fixed price! Thank God it bombed and there wasn’t a second series..
Shoot Aviation are in the Ops Room at White Waltham Aerodrome, just 25 miles west of London, UK
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