Beech's twin-engined Model 18 helped helped the advance and growth of commercial aviation in the years before World War II. First flown in 1937, the Beech 18 was perfect for the private owner or charter operator. At the outbreak of World War II, versions of the plane was used by the Army and Navy as pilot, gunner, bombardier, and navigator trainers, photographic reconnaissance planes, and personnel transports. The last of the over 7,000 civilian and military versions of the Model 18 series were built in 1969.
The Museum's Beech was built in 1942 and rebuilt in 1951. It is equipped with two Pratt & Whitney R-985 AN-14B engines. After 17 years of serving the Army and Air Force, the C-45 was sold to Mercy Flights, Inc., based in Medford, Oregon. Nicknamed "Iron Annie" and "The Bandaid Bomber," the C-45 evacuated over 1,150 people from remote areas in Oregon and northern California to city hospitals for medical care. This plane also flew missions to locate downed aircraft and assisted in fire fighting operations before being retired in 1980.
The First Lady of Aviation
Olive Ann Beech and her husband Walter established the Beech Aircraft Corporation in 1932. He was president and she was secretary-treasurer. During World War II, Mrs. Beech temporarily headed the company while her husband was ill, helping prepare the military versions of the Beech 18. When Walter died in 1950, Olive Ann Beech was chairman of the board and president of the corporation. Under her leadership, Beech made aircraft, missile targets, aircraft components, and cryogenic fluid systems for the nation's space programs. Olive Ann Beech, named "The First Lady of Aviation," was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1981.
Most of the American pilots who flew the big bombers and cargo planes during World War II flew Beech Model 18-type aircraft near the end of their training. After pilots had mastered the small single-engine trainers, the next step was bigger, two-engine craft. But pilots were not the only ones Beeches helped train -- around 90 percent of the nation's navigators and bombardiers as well as many aerial gunners learned their trade in Army and Navy versions of the 18.