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Walter H. Beech

Pioneer Aviator

Founder of Beech Aircraft


Born Pulaski, Tennessee

Jan. 30, 1891—Nov. 29, 1950

Walter Herschel Beech began his illustrious career in aviation by building a glider of his own design at age 14. A rated U.S. army aviator in 1917, he later joined the Swallow Airplane Company where he quickly rose from test pilot to General Manager. In 1924, Walter Beech with Clyde Cessna co-founded Travel Air Manufacturing Company which was to become the world's largest producer of both monoplane and biplane commercial aircraft. They received international acclaim by establishing more than 200 performance records.

Upon the merger of Travel Air with the Curtiss-Wright Airplane Company, Walter Beech became President of the new corporation. However he desired a more personal participation in aircraft design and manufacture and so co-founded Beech Aircraft Company with his wife, Olive Ann, in 1932. His early Beechcrafts set many distance and speed records and won the prestigious Bendix and McFadden races. Perhaps the most novel among these, with design and performance features years ahead of its time, was the model 17 Stagger Wing Biplane.

During World War II, Beech turned the entire production of his company to defense, producing more than 7,400 military aircraft. The famed twin Beech AT-7/C-45 trained more than 90 percent of the U.S. Army Air Forces navigator/bombardier's and 50 percent of the multi-engine pilots.

In the postwar years Walter Beech again applied his design genius to producing a new line of light aircraft, the most famous of which was the "V" tailed Bonanza. Today, Beech Aircraft Company (now Raytheon Aviation) remains a leader in the design, development and production of personal, corporate and military aircraft, as well as in space research.

Invested 1982 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984

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Updated: February 03, 2011