Western Trips

Monday, October 1, 2012

Beechcraft 18 / Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum

If your western travel plans include the Columbia River area of Oregon, make a point to stop and visit the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River Oregon. Without a doubt, you will find this one of the most unique airplane and vintage auto museum in the U.S. Once restored by our volunteers, all of the antique cars and planes at this excellent museum can and do run. 

The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum features over one-hundred vintage and classic autos plus about seventy-five flyable antique aircraft. This is all under one roof. Aircraft, automobiles, motorcycles, tractors, military jeeps are all on display. One of the impressive vintage airplanes on exhibit at WAAM is the Beechcraft airplane E18 S shown below. This is the post World War Two "Super 18" and is remarkably restored.

beech 18
Beech E-18S Super 18
The Beech 18 and the Beech E-18S Super 18 

The Beech 18 was designed by Walter Beech as far back as 1934. The purpose was to design a monoplane aircraft that would compete with the biplanes such as the Curtis Condor which were in common use.

The first of the Beechcraft 18's were built in 1937 by Beech Aircraft in Wichita Kansas. It was built as a civilian transport and throughout it's lifetime acquired some nicknames such as the "Exploder", the "Bug Smasher" and the "Wichita Wobbler". Many also refer to this aircraft as the "Twin Beech". The timing of the introduction of this aircraft proved to be beneficial for Beechcraft. Prior to World War Two, Beech had been outsold by Lockheed almost two to one. In fact, the last flight of Amelia Earhart was aboard a Lockheed 10 which did have some similarities to the Beech 18. Beechcraft was able to sell forty of these planes in 1940 but things were about to change in a big way.

Two additional aircraft are highlighted with articles and photos on Western Trips. The links for these historic planes which are on display at the Pacific Coast Air Museum near Santa Rosa California are...The First Responder F-15 Jet and the Grumman S-2A Tracker.

World War Two Beech 18

When the clouds of war arrived, Lockheed reverted to build larger planes and that left an opening for Beechcraft. As it turned out, Beechcraft sold the U.S. military about 5,000 of the E-18's through the end of the war. Many of the Beech 18's were used for training both pilots and navigators. Among the Twin Beech versions were the AT-7 for navigation training, the AT-11 for bombing and gunnery training, the F-2 for high altitude photography and the C-45 for transport. After the war, the Beechcraft Model 18 remained popular. About 1,000 were built between 1946 and 1953.

beech e-18s
E-18S could carry total of two crew plus seven passengers
 Civilian Beech E-18S

The model shown in this article, the E-18S "Super 18" is a post war version of the Model 18 built in 1957. This one was built about four years after the E-18S was first introduced. Like all Model 18's the fuselage was all metal.

The most significant difference with the Beech E-18S from the earlier Twin Beech 18's was it's taller fuselage. The fuselage was 9 inches higher which offered much better cabin headroom. The wings on the Super 18 was extended by six feet and this allowed for a higher maximum takeoff gross weight. The elevator is a single piece, equipped with two trim tabs. An estimated three thousand were built between 1953 and 1963. These were primarily for business travel. The E-18S could accommodate a crew of two along with seven passengers. The E-18S could be and was also used as a freight carrier. Other uses for the Model 18 over all of the decades have been for aerial spraying, sterile bug release, dry ice cloud seeding, aerial firefighting, airborne mail pick up and drop, ambulance service and you've seen this aircraft in many motion pictures. The Beech Model 18 was considered a good light passenger airliner. The first airline to use the Model 18 was Philippine Airlines and the last plane built was sold to Japan Airlines.

beechcraft e 18s super 18
Beech E-18S rear stabilizer
Eventually the new H-18 would be brought on the market in 1963. This last model offered an optional tricycle undercarriage. It's estimated that 109 H-18's were built with the tricycle undercarriage and about 240 earlier Model 18's were fitted out with the new tricycle landing gear. Beechcraft's last H-18 model was built in 1970. Many people consider that period of 1946  through the 1960's as being the classic period for general aviation. Today's popular Beechcraft Bonanza was designed during this period.


The Beechcraft E18S Super 18 would fly with a variety of engines. The common engine were two Pratt & Whitney R-985's delivering 450 horsepower each and driving constant speed propellers. These were referred to as the "Wasp Juniors". The R 985's were built from the 1930's through the 1950's and were nine-cylinder air-cooled radial power plants. Added power was obtained with superchargers. These engines were classified as medium power plants being a smaller version of the R-1340. The R-985's were also employed in the Lockheed Model 10's.  Beech Model 18's were built with the Wasp Junior engine until 1970. Many planes still operate today with the Wasp Junior engines, mostly in antique planes and agricultural aircraft.

beech at-11
Beech AT-11 over West Texas in 1940's
A Collectors Airplane

Many Beechcraft 18's are now in private collector's hands and they are a prized find. Many of the available aircraft have been bought by either freighters or collectors. The history alone including it's heavy use during World War Two make them in many ways a flying museum.You should be able to find old Beech 18's for sale on the internet at both aircraft auction houses and by individual owners.

The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River Oregon is located three miles south of I-84. Hood River is about 63 miles east of Portland. The museum address is 1600 Air Museum Road. The museum is open seven days a week from 9A-5P. You'll enjoy one of the largest displays of restored and flyable aircraft in the country and the the beautiful Beech 18 shown above is just one example.  It's a great addition to your Columbia River Oregon road trip planner.

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips. Beech AT-11 photo is from the public domain)

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