Beech Model 18


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Beech Model 18

With the Model 17 well established, Beech began in 1935 the development of a six/eight-seat commercial transport identified as the Beech Model 18. This was a very different aeroplane from the Model 17, being a low-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, with a semi-monocoque fuselage of light alloy, a cantilever tail unit incorporating twin end-plate fins and rudders, and electrically retractable tailwheel landing gear. Float or ski landing gear was to become optional. Standard accommodation provided for two crew and six passengers, and the initial powerplant installation comprised two 239kW Wright R-760-E2 radial engines mounted in wing leading-edge nacelles.

The initial Model 18A was flown for the first time on 15 January 1937. Even the most interested eyewitness of the event might have been little thrilled by the appearance of yet another twin-engined light commercial and, perhaps, would have expected it to gain only very limited marketing success. He could not have been more wrong, for the type was not only to remain in production for a record 32 years, but has since proved a popular choice for conversion by a number of American companies, with modifications intended to provide improved performance or greater capacity.

However, this glimpse at the future overlooks the early period when perhaps only Walter Beech was convinced that the Model 18 represented a worthwhile project. An improved Model 18B with lower-powered engines also sold in only penny-packet numbers, and the first sign that the company was on the right track came with the Model 18D of 1939. This had 246kW Jacobs L-6 engines, providing improved performance and much the same economy of operation as the Model 18B. Only about 30 of these were sold in 1940, but the wartime demand for these aircraft was to total more than 4,000.

The first US Army Air Corps order, placed during 1940, was for the supply of 11 aircraft under the designation C-45, for use as staff transports, these being generally similar to the civil Model B18S. Subsequent procurement covered 20 C-45As for use in a utility transport role, with interior and equipment changes being made in the 223 C-45Bs that followed. Some of these aircraft were supplied to the UK under Lend-Lease, being designated Expediter I in RAF service. The USAAF designations C-45C, C-45D and C-45E were applied respectively to two impressed B18S civil aircraft, two AT-7s completed for transport duties, and six AT-7Bs similarly modified. Major and final production version for the USAAF was the seven-seat C-45F, with a slightly longer nose and of which no fewer than 1,137 were built. Lend-Lease deliveries from the procurement served with the Royal Navy and RAF as Expediter Us, and with the Royal Canadian Air Force as Expediter Ills. All of the foregoing C-45 designations were changed to a new UC-45 category in January 1943.

In 1941, the Beech AT-7 Navigator was introduced to provide navigation training; this was equipped with three positions for trainee navigators, plus a dorsal astrodome. A total of 577 was built, being followed by six AT-7 As with float landing gear and a large ventral fin. Nine AT-7Bs, basically winterized AT-7s were built to USAAF order: five were supplied to the UK, one being used by Prince Bernard of the Netherlands during his wartime exile. Final version of the Navigator was the AT-7C with a different powerplant, production totalling 549.

Another version of the Model 18 appeared in the AT (advanced trainer) category during 1941. This was the AT-11 Kansan (originally named Kansas), procured by the USAAF as a bombing and gunnery trainer. It incorporated a small bomb bay, had small circular portholes in place of the standard rectangular cabin windows, a redesigned nose to provide a bomb aiming position, and two 7.62mm machine-guns, one in the nose, the other in a dorsal turret. Production to USAAF orders totalled 1,582; of these 36 were converted for navigation training as AT-11As. Twenty-four AT-11s ordered by the Netherlands for service in the Netherlands East Indies were, instead, taken on charge by the USAAF: they were delivered subsequently to the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School at Jackson, Mississippi, in early 1942.


Last of the US Army Air Force's wartime versions of the Beech Model 18 were photographic reconnaissance F-2s, 14 civil Model B18S being purchased and converted with cabin-mounted mapping cameras and oxygen equipment. They were supplemented later by 13 F-2As with four cameras, converted from C-45As, and by 42 F-2Bs, which were conversions from UC-45Fs: these had additional camera ports in both sides of the fuselage. In June 1948, under a general revision of the USAF designation system, all of the surviving F-2 photo/reconnaissance aircraft were redesignated RC-45A. Similarly, AT-7, AT-7C and AT-11 s dropped their A prefix: at the same time a small number of drone-directors converted from UC-45Fs and given the designation CQ-3 became instead, DC-45Fs.

The US Navy and US Marine Corps also used the Model 18 extensively, to the extent of more than 1,500 examples. Initial procurement related to a version similar to the US Army's F-2, this being designated JRB-1, and followed by a JRB-2 transport, and JRB-3s and JRB-4s equivalent to the C-45B and UC-45F respectively. The designations SNB-1, SIMB-2 and SNB-3 were applied respectively to aircraft that were equivalent to the USAAF's AT-11, AT-7, and AT-7C. US Navy ambulance and photographic versions were the SNB-2H and SNB-2P respectively; the SNB-3Q was an electronic counter-measures trainer.

During 1951-2, in-service USAF UC-45E, T-7 and T-11 aircraft were re-manufactured to zero-time condition and modernised, emerging with the new designations C-45G and C-45H. The former had an autopilot and R-985-AN-3 engines, the latter no autopilot and R-985-AN-14B engines. At the same time, US Navy SNB-2s, SNB-2Cs, and SNB-2Ps were remanufactured under the designations SIMB-5 and SNB-5P. Later, with introduction of the tri-service unified designation scheme in 1962, in-service SNB aircraft were redesignated TC-45J and RC-45J respectively in the training and photographic roles.

With a return to peace, Beech resumed manufacture of the civil Model 18, and in 1953 introduced a new larger and improved version of the D18S. Known as the Super 18 (E18S), the prototype was flown for the first time on 10 December 1953. Structural improvements included external refinements to reduce drag, Geisse safety landing gear for cross-wind operations, the provision of. a separate flight deck, and improved soundproofing. Progressive improvements continued throughout the production of 754 Super 18s, the last examples of the final Model H18 version being built during 1969.

In September 1963 Beech introduced optional retractable tricycle landing gear which had been developed by Volpar Inc. of Los Angeles, California. This company also offered conversions of standard Beech 18s to Volpar Turbo 18 standard, with tricycle landing gear and TPE331 turboprop engines, and also the lengthened turboprop-powered 15-pas-senger Volpar Turboliner. Conversions offered by other manufacturers have included the nine-passenger Dumod I and 15-passenger Dumod Liner, offered by Dumod Corporation; and Pacific Airmotive Corporation's 10-passenger PAC Tradewind and turboprop-powered PAC Turbo Tradewind. Still available from Hamilton Aviation in late 1981 were the Hamilton Westwind II STD and Westwind III turboprop-powered conversion of 17-and eight-passenger capacity respectively.

Beech Model 18A three-view drawing (992 x 682)

 MODELBeech Super H18
 ENGINE2 x Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-14B radial piston engine, 336kW
  Take-off weight4491 kg9901 lb
  Empty weight2651 kg5844 lb
  Wingspan15.15 m50 ft 8 in
  Length10.73 m35 ft 2 in
  Height2.84 m9 ft 4 in
  Wing area33.51 m2360.70 sq ft
  Max. speed354 km/h220 mph
  Cruise speed298 km/h185 mph
  Ceiling6525 m21400 ft
  Range3060 km1901 miles

Beech Model 18

Comments1-20 21-40 41-60
Bill Heaphy, e-mail, 15.09.2020 05:21

A Mr. John Cummings mentioned the C-45 /D-18 that was at the Hickam Aero Club at the then Wheeler AFB in Hawaii. My buddy and I used to fly that plane also in 1961-62. She was called 15 Victor. Many years later while working for an airline my FO mentioned that plane. He told me it somehow wound up in Northern California, privately owned, and while making a landing at the famous Mustang Ranch overshot the runway and was totaled!!


John M Fletcher, e-mail, 11.09.2020 11:23

I flew N73E in the early 60's out of the old Huntington, Wv ",Downtown Airport" which was across the Ohio River in Chesapeake, Ohio.

2800 × 40 ft long with a cemetary at the West end. It was operated as an "air taxi" under the regs now known as Part 135.

Now 86, I think the regs were known as CAR 29?
Operating single pilot ifr , I was flying Army Corps of Engineers & dignitarys such as Senator Robert Byyd, including the day John Kennedy was killed.


John A Garrison Jr, e-mail, 05.12.2017 08:14

I flew these aircraft for ~approximately 2200 hours in the late 70s and early '80s, flying freight out of MEM. Of all of the birds that I flew, the 18 was my favourite. I liked to fly the conventional gear the best, because it kept me sharp, and I also liked to train new pilots in them. I miss that sound of an idling dragster when taxiing.

Old Twin Beech Pilots Never Die, They Just Get Greasier!


Arthur E Bowen, e-mail, 09.10.2016 20:58

I was stationed at NAS Glynnco Brunswick GA. I flew many hours doing GCA approaches for radar operator training. After one long boring flight we were going about to land when we were unable to lower the main gear. we tried every thing including manually to no avail. Naturally after landing on the grassy area between the strip and taxiway to minamize damage, they raised the plane using airbags. A mechanic crawled in and sure enough the gear came down with no problems.


Bladecutter, e-mail, 01.05.2015 23:26

I worked with Gordon & Clayton Hamilton in 75, involved with the 18 conversions...low level...rebuilt a lot of Oleos, worked on paint crew. and did some parts replacing. using PT-6's on most of the Birds, but one that was Built for Connie Kallitta, the drag racer, for His shipping firm. 9 foot stretch, spilt evenly fore and aft of main spar, cabin raised 9", dubble cargo doors the exterior spar strap & had Garret dash 10's. Looking for a spec sheet on this particular Bird, if anyone knows where i may find


Richard Weber, e-mail, 17.03.2015 22:48

Bought a 1943 model which the log books indicated was used to ferry generals around during WWll purchased in 1973 to fly our mobile home dealers into the factory in Pa. and Me. Lebabon Homes I lost one engine coming into Reading Airport made a long down wind landed and while taxiing to North Side Aviation had to make two left hand turns after the first all I could do was 360's called for tow and ground said to call the tower when I got to the FBO when asked why I didn't declare and emergency I replied there wasn't any, was asked what if they had told me to go around then I said I would have declared an emergency. They thought I was practicing one engine landings. Was taught by an old pilot how to make smooth landings set it down on one wheel let it settle and roll out never had a bounce. Had to teach two pilots for Suburban Air Lines how to bring one in with out getting current in one landing.Now 89 and still miss flying the old bird


Ted Moss, e-mail, 07.11.2013 02:39

My first job in aviation (1972) was a mechanic for a civilian operation (Priority Air Dispatch, Tappahannock Virginia) hauling military explosives. We had three C-45's and three Piper Aztecs. Still remember installing the spar straps, 100 hour inspections etc. etc. Best aircraft Beechcraft ever built. It is worth a visit to Tullahoma Tennessee for a tour of the museum. My experience has led me from Regional Airlines, Corporate flight department, FBO, major airline and charter. By far the Twinbeech is still the love of my life...

reply, 17.05.2013 04:58



Peter McHardy, e-mail, 01.10.2020

Didi the same with SEMO airways and Stage to name a couple.


McCan, e-mail, 28.04.2013 23:41

Flew "Army 29646" while I commanded the Third Corps Flight Section in 1968-9. This was Lt. Gen. Powell's aircraft to commute between Ft. Hood, TX and Ft. Sill, OK. where the artillery was kept. Didn't like the restrictions the Air Force demanded we "Lowly" Army types fly below 12,000ft!


Mauro, e-mail, 12.04.2013 11:38

What versions were used during more than 40 years in Italy? TIA


Bill Riddell, 11.07.2012 01:39

When serving in a Navy Utility Squadron (VU7 North Island)during the Korean War we had one SNB which was used primarily for "junkets" with occasional "training" flights thrown in. It was a fun airplane loved by all. Wish I had one today.


TONY PETRULIO, e-mail, 05.06.2012 05:43

Many fond memories. Late fifties to mid sixties. Hard to imagine the spar problems.


scottb60, e-mail, 21.05.2012 07:16

The Queen Air was barely a departure, and the King-Air was pretty much the same. Why improve on perfection?

I was always a little leery of the bathtub wing bolts, but never had a problem. I flew Bonanzas, Barons, and King Airs and rode in an 18 once.


William S. Vaughn, e-mail, 21.05.2012 04:55

I flew SIC BE18S's in the mid-60s on nighttime "STAR" airmail routes between MAF and DAL about the time they were falling out of the sky because of spar failures. We were climbing out of Dallas when we hit some chop and there was a godawful "bang!" noise come from the center section. Don, my pilot, and I looked at each other with a plaintive "maybe now's a good time to kiss something or someone because this is it" look and held our breath. Obviously I'm still here and so is Don, so nothing happened but we sure had the mechs checking it out when we landed.


William S. Vaughn, e-mail, 21.05.2012 04:54

I flew SIC BE18S's in the mid-60s on nighttime "STAR" airmail routes between MAF and DAL about the time they were falling out of the sky because of spar failures. We were climbing out of Dallas when we hit some chop and there was a godawful "bang!" noise come from the center section. Don, my pilot, and I looked at each other with a plaintive "maybe now's a good time to kiss something or someone because this is it" look and held our breath. Obviously I'm still here and so is Don, so nothing happened but we sure had the mechs checking it out when we landed.


Mike Caughey, e-mail, 05.11.2011 07:54

Stationed at NAS Lemoore, CA 1962-1965 AMD had 3 of these SNB-5's. Each had a distinct personality. Got to fly a couple of times. Flew to Alameda once and landed 5 times in one pass, (Pilot was getting checked out in model). I am gueessing he flunked, I hope so.
Not wonderful landing in crosswind.


Hal Schedler, e-mail, 23.08.2011 03:06

I flew the C-45 at Smokey Hill AFB (Shilling), Base flight, while I served as Adjutant for Gen. Jim Wilson.....!!! I was a Lieutenant at the time and went on to fly the RC-121, at Otis, C-123. Saigon, C-47, DaNang, KC-135, Mather, etc. I also have 1000 hours in the B /A-26, Korea (K-8). I loved the C-45 and drool when I see one just sitting at the Museum at McClellan.


David Winer, e-mail, 13.08.2011 19:21

In 1957 I had a love /hate relationship with the SNB (Super Navy Bomber). Recently trained as a fighter pilot and eager to fly the sleek jets, I landed in an outfit that had an SNB for running errands up and down the east coast. I was soon required to operate this ancient PROPELLER craft with a TAILWHEEL. Arrgh. After I got over the disappointment I became quite proficient with this plane. I actually enjoyed it and had numerous adventures. (Once I made a gunnery run on a lumbering Air Force DC3 (C45?). The victim-pilot feathered an engine in response to the "virtual" damage.)


Gene Dudzik, e-mail, 30.05.2011 02:15

As a Navy Parachute Rigger stationed at Navyside Andrews AFB, Washington DC, we had I think about forty SNB-1. They were used for proficiency flying. I drew flightskins in them and had a chance on a few occasions to fly some. All those NC-3 parachutes were hell to keep up with every 90 days. Great site!


Mike Cloutier, e-mail, 17.05.2011 04:01

I flew airmail and freight in C-45's and D-18's for Buker Airways out of Springfield, Vt. I was based out of Portland Maine for the most part of my 11 /2 years with Harold Buker flying nightly to LGA or JFK. Some of the most rewarding and memorable days of my life---in spite of the eight engine failures, catching fire three times, 20 degrees below outside and 18 below zero inside, frosted over windshields, along with flying 218 hours the first month I was there. (no maximums back then--- sleeping bag in the back of the plane). I do still cherish those days and the memories of all the guys I worked with. The best days of my life.


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