The Beechcraft 17 StaggerwingThis is the first complete production list of the Beech 17 on the internet, second edition. My main goal is describing all the individual airplane histories and events, in order to inform the Beech community and to connect with all the enthousiasts worldwide.
It is the result of many years of wading through books, magazines, the internet and personal exchange. The information presented I regard as open, publicly accessible. My effort is in combining all the information in one sole database to present an organised one-stop site. Photo's are either kindly offered by the people that are mentioned in the credits, or I found them on the internet. Also some photos are mine. When I’m able to trace the name of the photographer: he or she is mentioned. If you know the name of a photographer that is not mentioned yet, please feel free to inform me via the contact form.
Without the help of my friend Paul Kipping, this site could not have existed. He did all the (un)visible construction work, layout, and created what I wanted it to become!
This second edition differs in a few ways from the first: the most significant change is that the previous listing in blocks of about 30 airframes is gone. Instead there’s a search option where you can enter the registration and the search button directs you to only the hits for this search.
The photos are of smaller dimensions, and all have a watermark added. Bigger sized photos made by me are presented on my Flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/145873641@N02/albums/72157714600242823 Also there’s a map to show you the location of all remaining Staggerwings. When the airfield is not known, it shows the place where the registered owner lives.
I’ve tried to describe the development of the sub-types and their use. Since I’m not licensed there are no flight reports or checklists mentioned here. I only have been a passenger on some Model 17’s, on the rear or right hand front seat.
About the autor
In 1962 I was born and raised in The Netherlands, and I have a wife and two adult kids. My passion for aviation was evident by my early drawings, and at secondary school I started photographing and spotting planes. The spotting vanished gradually over the years, but aviation photography remained steady. I didn’t choose for a career in aviation, but for healthcare instead, keeping aviation just for a hobby. In the mid ‘70’s I saw the first photo of a Beech 17 and was immediately hooked. In Europe there aren’t that many based, so I had to wait untill 1980 to see my first one, and 13 years more for a second one. But the passion stayed. By focussing more on the Beech 17, my fun in aviation rose, and I started collecting books, magazines etc. and making a database on all the individual Staggerwings. The internet gave this all a great boost, and eventually in 2012 this site got online in the former basic version 1.0. Since then many visitors have contacted me, kindly offering their photos, additions and corrections on the content, and some contacts have grown into friendships, although being mostly long-distance. Over the years I acually met some of them, a great experience with a wonderfull recognition of each others passion for the 17. It also resulted in two Beech 17 flights, and even in the very plane I saw for the first time on a photo that started this all! I’m both a Life Member of the Staggerwing Club and of the Beechcraft Heritage Museum. The latter was a reward that I received on my first 2017 ‘Beech Party’ in Tullahoma (TN) for my effort to the Staggerwing community, a gift I cherish very deeply. The Beech Party is an annual event, in mid October, and is the sucessor of the Staggerwing Conventions that are held by The Staggerwing Club since 1974. Definitely a must for the Model 17 enthousiast!
Walter Herschel Beech (* 30-1-1891, † 29-11-1950) started the production of this Model 17 as his first aircraft in the early 1930's: a fast executive aircraft during the Great Depression, quite a daring project! Designer Ted Wells worked with Walter with Travel Air, and they continued when Curtiss Wright took over TA. Ted and Walter suggested CW to built this biplane that was designed byTed, but CW didn’t see a market for such a plane at that time, and they wanted to focus on monoplanes. Together with Olive Ann Beech, K.K. Shaul, Ted and Walter decided to resign and to start their own company to build this bird. And since CW’s last aircraft was a model 16 Light Sport, next in line was Model 17. C.G. Yankey was already a friend of the Beeches and he joined them as an investor, together these five people formed Beech Aircraft, and started manufacturing the Model 17 in a empty Cessna factory building in Wichita. In 1934, CW moved their production to Saint Louis and Beech purchased the former Travel Air facility that was abandoned since.
DevelopmentThe Staggerwing is a biplane with an a-typical wing stagger, with the upper wings further backwards that the lower ones. The purpose of this feature was only to improved visiblity for the pilot in comparison to the traditional biplane. Eventually there were more advantages to this concept, like the capability of storing the main gear when raised, and better stall performance: when reducing speed for landing the upper wings stall later than the lower wings, reducing landing speed and needed runway length.
Model 17’s are built with a tube frame, wooden formers and stringers, and coverd with fabric, and they pair thrust with speed. The fuselage and wings are designed as sleek as possible to reduce drag for best performance. The I-struts between upper and lower wings are streamlined, and eventually the landing and flying wires were succeeded by aerofoil sectioned steel rods to reduce drag further. A 7 or 9 cilinder radial engine pulls this luxurious and comfortable 4 to 5-seater to a cruise speed of about 180mph and a top of just over 200mph, even faster than the average 1932 fighter plane could perform! The instrument panel is shock mounted to reduce needle movements by engine vibration. The cabin is typically upholstered with leather or mohair, and even the luggage compartment behind the passengers couch has a high level of finish.Most Model 17 yokes are of the single ‘throw-over’-type, a double T-bar was optional, just like an extra right-hand door. The center fuel tank is mounted beneath the cabin floor, just behind the wheels bay. In takeoffs and landings this tank has to be selected. There are four wing tanks located close to the wing root, giving it a range of some 580 mi / 1000km. All Staggerwings were built by hand: very labour intensive and costly and resulting in individual variations, so currently restoring a 17 consumes both time and costs, to get it all lined up and working as planned, matching current standards and regulations without the original factory aligning tools that didn’t survive.
The fuselage type is specifief with the prefix letter A- to G-, engines are resposible for the suffix -A, -B, -D, -E, -F, -FS, -L, -LS, -R, -S, -W. Only the first two built (17R cn 1 and 2, no prefix to the type) and two high-performance examples (A17F cn 5 and A17FS cn 11) had a fixed gear that could be raised a few inches into “wheel pants” in the front of the lower wings. All other models have a fully retractable gear, quite a novelty in those days. The two 17R’s also had a split rudder in order to improve handling and as a speed brake, but they weren’t very effective and the idea was put aside. On the photos of cn 1 you can see that the landing and flying wires are not all running parallel, and thus double function as a sort of incidence wires for more rigideness, preventing torsion.The 17R handled in flight very well and stable, but needed the full focus of the pilot on takeoff and landing with that engine power and narrow main wheel base. Number 1 was adjusted several times, with changes to the cowl like individual cylinder openings, widening the wheel base and changes to the tail wheel. With a price tag of $ 12,000.- the 17R’s were very expensive, and they were hard to sell. And the high performance A17 series were even more difficult to market. Walter and Ted came up with the B17 series, a more affortable Beech for $ 8,000,- with reduced power, a lighter frame with wooden spars instead of the metal ones and a fixed prop, but with the fully retractable gear. Now sales picked up, and in 1934 there were 30 planes built.
To meet desires of customers, over the years Beech developed the Model 17 further, offering a variety of engines helped to market the Model 17 significantly. In order to reduce redesigning the engine mounts were matched to the engine selected while keeping the center of gravity the same. To prove their ruggidness there were a few B17’s mounted with wooden fuselage skids that were demonstrated on airshows, landing intentionally with their gear up, and with the prop stopped horizontally, suffering just minor cosmetic damage that was fixed on the spot.
What later was recognised as flutter was a major problem for the Model 17. Some planes got into fatal trouble, torn apart in mid air, while others experienced some terrifying moments while cruising. First time was with the high performance A17FS in a 260mph dive(!). Later problems occurred in turbulent weather conditions. Beech reputation was at risk, and he tackled the problem with the damaged planes that survived, and testing on some airframes the problems were solved by adding plywood and weight to certain wing areas, and limiting the Vne. This solved the flutter problem. In the database it is mentioned with the corresponding airframes.
The C Series was introduced, and featured a negative 4 degree angle of incidence to keep the tail down on landing, and with a shortened landing gear, in order to reduce ground loops risks. The C17LS was a downgraded C17L with a less luxurious interior and a fixed wooden prop.
With the D Series the type was redesigned, with an 18 inch longer fuselage to optimise stablility and elevator effectiveness, the wings got a new profile, the ailerons were moved to the upper wings, the cabin was widened, toe brakes replaced the Johnson bars that made braking better to modulate, the windscreen was more angeled for improved aerodynamics, and the tail feathers became cantilevered, with weight balances under the elevators (D and G Series), while the E and F series kept the tail wires. They were developed as a cheaper alternative to the D series, and differ only to each other in the engines selected, so by changing the engine it can result into a conversion from E to F Series, to match the Approved Type Certificate.The last built D17 was used as a development aircraft to built the ultimate Model 17, the G Series. It had an even more aerodynamic windscreen, longer and redesigned engine cowl with cowl flaps and a more narrow front, larger tail surfaces, and an even more luxurious interior.
Model 17’s were also used as floatplanes, and they proved their value in remote areas like Canada, Alaska and New Guinea. Some were built as a floatplane (with an extra S as prefix, like SD17S), with their retracted gear built in, so the Edo floats could be removed to convert it to a landplane. Others were delivered as landplane but were converted into floatplanes. There was one sole amphibian Stag (with two main wheels and two at the rear of the floats), but it proved very unstable and unpractically in ground handling, so after a few flights the amphibian floats were removed, making it a landplane. A few 17’s were put temporary on skis, mounted on the gear. This was not a Beech option that a customer could select, so the skis are all custom built.
In the database there are many remarkable flights to be discovered: round-the-world flights, air races, clandestine missions, missionary works, reconnaisance work at the outbreak of WW II, an Antarctic expedition, a Reno Staggerwing race, and many more.
The Staggerwing was also intensively used as a military liasion transporter by 16 nations. After one JB-1 and three YC-43’s there were long batches of UC-43 built for the USAAF, GB-1’s and GB-2’s for the US Navy (all called Beech Traveler), and Travellers for the British forces (with a double ‘l’). Many civil Stags were impressed into military service when the US became involved in WW II. All the USAAF Travelers received a military type designation that links them to their civil identity, and they differ only slightly with them, like the loop antenna in front of the main gear, and some instruments on board. Some GB-1’s were impressed civil aircraft from various Series, thus their engine wasn’t always the 450hp P&W R-985.
On this site dates are given as jjjj-mm-dd. Events are presented in chronological order. Often used abbreviations are:
|ATC||Approved Type Certificate|
|ntu||not taken up|
|CoA||Certificate of Airworthiness|
|1 - 61||pre-war|
|63 - 168||pre-war|
|179 - 219||pre-war|
|225 - 264||pre-war|
|270 - 289||pre-war|
|295 - 314||pre-war|
|325 - 339||pre-war|
|354 - 363||pre-war|
|385 - 424||pre-war|
|1013 - 1035||1941|
|3081 - 3124||1942|
|3179 - 3205||1942|
|4791 - 4940||1943|
|6669 - 6768||1944|
|6869 - 6936||1944|
|B-1 - B-20||1946 (with final assembly between 1946 and 1949)|
Furthermore there are 20 C17E airframes licensed built by the Tokyo Hikoki Seisaku Jo (The Tokio Aircraft Works), Tachikawa, Tokyo: 14 in 1938, 5 in 1939 and 1 in 1940. Designated cn's are not known to me, and they don't fit in the Beech cn range. There is at least one that was used by the military and it received a serial (57), the other registrations are in the civil Japanese batch J-….
|17-||prototype and 1st production Beech|
|A17-||690-710hp high power development serie|
|B17-||fist production batch, with retractable gear|
|C17-||second production batch, improved replacement for B17 series|
|D17-||larger, further improved replacement for high power C17 series|
|E17-||replacement for the low power C17 series|
|F17-||similar to E17 series|
|G17-||improved D17 series with longer fuselage & closed cowling|
|S in front of any type indicates installed floats.|
|Ski-operated Staggerwings have the same type as the wheeled version|
|-17S||Pratt & Whitney R-985||450|
|-17W||Pratt & Whitney R-985-SC-G||600|
Military - civil equivalents:
|type:||ATC - Approved Type Certificate:|
|D17W||- (no ATC, experimental)|
This site is not static, and while I keep on searching everywhere it is updated on a regular base. If you have additions, big or small, please let me know via the "contact" button. Thanks in advance, and enjoy your tour!Dré Peijmen