Monday, 2 December 2013

Beechcraft Model 17 Stagger Wing High Performance Light Aircraft

The Beech Model 17, popularly known as the “Staggerwing” (the name comes from the top wing being set, or staggered, behind the bottom wing) was first flown on November 4, 1932, setting the standard for private passenger airplanes for many years to come.

The Model 17's unusual wing configuration—the upper wing inversely staggered behind the lower—and unique shape resulted in a design that maximized the pilot's visibility while minimizing the aircraft's tendency to stall. The fabric-covered fuselage was faired (joined so that the external 
surfaces blended smoothly) with wood formers (a frame attached to the truss of the fuselage in order to provide the required aerodynamic shape) and stringers (longitudinal members of the frame of the fuselage, usually continuous across a number of bulkheads or other points of support; also known as “longerons”). The Staggerwing's use of retractable landing gear, uncommon at that time, combined with streamlining and reducing the weight of the materials, produced an aircraft that could achieve a top speed of 201 miles per hour (323 kilometres per hour) (but with a landing speed of a stall-proof 45 miles per hour [72 kilometres per hour]), and able to climb at 1,600 feet per minute (488 meters per minute) to a maximum altitude of 21,500 feet (6,553 meters).

Sales started slowly at first; the first Staggerwings' high price tag (between $14,000 and $17,000, depending on the size of the engine) scared off potential buyers in an already depressed market for civil aircraft. Only 18 Model 17s were sold during 1933, the first year of production, but sales 
steadily increased.

Each Staggerwing was custom-built by hand. A luxurious cabin trimmed in leather and mohair, carrying up to five passengers in comfort, quickly won over the flying public. The Model 17's impressive performance also made it a favourite among pilots—

its use of powerful radial engines (ranging from 225 to 710 horsepower [168 to 529 kilowatts]) made it faster than most military aircraft of the era. This reputation soon translated into sales; before long, the Staggerwing captured a substantial share of the passenger aircraft market. By the start of World War II, more than 424 Model 17s had been sold.

The Staggerwing's speed also made it the darling of the air 

racers of the 1930s. An early version of Model 17 won the 1933 

Texaco Trophy Race. In 1935, a British diplomat, Capt. H.L 

Farquhar, successfully flew around the world in a Model B17R, 

travelling 21,332 miles (34,331 kilometres) from New York to 

London, by way of Siberia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, 

North Africa and back across Europe. Louise Thaden and Blanche 

Noyes, piloting a Beechcraft Model C17R, together won the 

prestigious Bendix Trophy Race in 1936, marking the first time 

that women had won that celebrated race. Famed aviatrix 

Jacqueline Cochran set several women's speed records, 

established an altitude record of over 30,000 feet (9.144 

meters), and finished third in the 1937 Bendix Trophy Race, 

all while flying a Staggerwing. The aircraft made an 

impressive showing in the 1938 Bendix race as well.

As World War II loomed on the horizon, a number of Model B17Ls 

were pressed into service by the Republican forces as bombers 

during the Spanish Civil War. China ordered a number of 

Staggerwings to use as ambulance planes in its fight against 

Imperial Japan. 

Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing High  Performance Light Aircraft 

 A key to that success was the Beech Model 17, but the high 

performance of the initial Model 17R, of which only two 

examples were built, meant that it was very much an 

experienced pilot's aeroplane, and unsuitable for the far 

wider market that was sought. First flown during November 

1932, an exciting event witnessed by the company's staff of 

eight employees, the Model 17R was able to demonstrate a 

remarkable speed range of 97-322km/h. The most conspicuous 

feature of its configuration was the backward stagger of its 

biplane wings. Such an arrangement had been selected to 

provide the pilot with a good field of view, to help 

structural integration, and because wind tunnel tests had 

shown that this particular layout offered a good combination 

of speed and stability. Basic structure was of .welded steel 

tube, largely fabric-covered; the braced tail unit was 

conventional; but the narrow-track tailwheel landing gear, 

with a non-swivelling tail-wheel, had an unusual feature. The 

main units were enclosed within large streamline fairings, but 

the wheels could be retracted some 0.15m (6in) in flight so 

that they were completely within the fairings. Enclosed cabin 

accommodation was provided for a pilot and three or four 

passengers, and the 313kW Wright R-975-E2 radial engine was 

mounted within an unusual tunnel-type cowling.

The excellent performance of the 'Staggerwing', as the type 

became popularly known, meant that the company's efforts were 

concentrated upon making it easier to handle, especially on 

the ground, which led to a number of improvements, including 

wider-track main units. However, the real turning point to 

wider market acceptance came with the Model B17L, first flown 

in late February 1934. This introduced a new lower wing of 

deeper aerofoil section, allowing sufficient room for the main 

landing gear units to retract fully into it. This, coupled 

with a 168kW Jacobs L-4 radial engine, gave much more docile 

handling characteristics, while retaining a speed range of 72

-282km/h. With just a little more power, provided by the 213kW 

Jacobs L-5, the Model 17 became the marketable commodity that 

was eventually to establish Beech as a major aircraft 


In all, 781 Beech Model 17 Staggerwings were manufactured in 

eight different series during 16 years of production. Hundreds 

of Staggerwings are still flying today, six decades after its 

introduction, still compared favourably to modern private 

aircraft. Technologically advanced for its time, the 

Staggerwing's timeless aesthetics place it in a class by 


General characteristics

    Crew: 1
    Capacity: 3 passengers
    Payload: 125 lb (56.7 kg) of baggage
    Length: 26 ft 10 in (8.18 m)
    Wingspan: 32 ft (9.75 m)
    Height: 8 ft (2.44 m)
    Wing area: 296.5 ft² (27.55 m²)
    Empty weight: 2,540 lb (1,150 kg)
    Loaded weight: 4,250 lb (1,930 kg)
    Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1 "Wasp Junior" 

radial engine, 450 hp (340 kW) at 2,300 rpm


    Maximum speed: 212 mph (184 knots, 341 km/h)
    Cruise speed: 202 mph (176 knots, 325 km/h)
    Landing speed: 45 mph (39 knots, 72 km/h))
    Range: 582 nm (670 mi, 1,078 km)
    Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,600 m)
    Rate of climb: 1,500 ft/min (7.6 m/s)
    Wing loading: 14.3 lb/ft² (70.0 kg/m²)
    Power/mass: 0.11 lb/hp (170 g/kW)

        Beechcraft Single-Engine Aircraft
    Beechcraft 40
    Beech Models
    Beechcraft Bonanza Models
    Beechcraft King Air Models
    Beechcraft Airplanes Models
    Beechcraft Model 16



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