The Beechcraft Model 18 (or "Twin Beech", as it is also known) is a 6- to 11-seat, twin-engined, low-wing, tailwheel light aircraft manufactured by the Beech Aircraft Corporation of Wichita, Kansas. Continuously produced from 1937 to November 1969 (over 32 years, a world record at the time), over 9,000 were built, making it one of the world's most widely used light aircraft. Sold worldwide as a civilian executive, utility, cargo aircraft, and passenger airliner on tailwheels, nosewheels, skis, or floats, it was also used as a military aircraft.
During and after World War II, over 4,500 Beech 18s were used in military service—as light transport, light bomber (for China), aircrew trainer (for bombing, navigation, and gunnery), photo-reconnaissance, and "mother ship" for target drones—including United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) C-45 Expeditor, AT-7 Navigator, and AT-11 Kansan; and United States Navy (USN) UC-45J Navigator, SNB-1 Kansan, and others. In World War II, over 90% of USAAF bombardiers and navigators trained in these aircraft.
In the early postwar era, the Beech 18 was the pre-eminent "business aircraft" and "feeder airliner". Besides carrying passengers, its civilian uses have included aerial spraying, sterile insect release, fish stocking, dry-ice cloud seeding, aerial firefighting, air-mail delivery, ambulance service, numerous movie productions, skydiving, freight, weapon- and drug-smuggling, engine testbed, skywriting, banner towing, and stunt aircraft. Many are now privately owned, around the world, with 240 in the U.S. still on the FAA Aircraft Registry in August 2017.
Design and development
Beechcraft AT-11 over the West Texas prairies, around 1944
Private Beech H18 with the optional tricycle undercarriage visiting Lannion
By the late 1930s, Beechcraft management speculated that a demand would exist for a new design dubbed the Model 18, which would have a military application, and increased the main production facilities. The design was mainly conventional for the time, including twin radial engines, all-metal semimonocoque construction with fabric-covered control surfaces, and tailwheel undercarriage. Less conventional was the twin-tailfin configuration. The Model 18 can be mistaken for the larger Lockheed Electra series of airliners, which closely resemble it. Early production aircraft were powered either by two 330-hp (250-kW) Jacobs L-6s or 350-hp (260-kW) Wright R-760Es. The 450-hp (336-kW) Pratt & Whitney R-985 became the definitive engine from the prewar C18S onwards. The Beech 18 prototype first flew on January 15, 1937.
The aircraft has used a variety of engines and has had a number of airframe modifications to increase gross weight and speed. At least one aircraft was modified to a 600-hp (447-kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1340 powerplant configuration. With the added weight of about 200 lb (91 kg) per engine, the concept of a Model 18 fitted with R-1340 engines was deemed unsatisfactory due to the weakest structural area of the aircraft being the engine mounts. Nearly every airframe component has been modified.
In 1955, deliveries of the Model E18S commenced; the E18S featured a fuselage that was extended 6 in (150 mm) higher for more headroom in the passenger cabin. All later Beech 18s (sometimes called Super 18s) featured this taller fuselage, and some earlier models (including one AT-11) have been modified to this larger fuselage. The Model H18, introduced in 1963, featured optional tricycle undercarriage. Unusually, the undercarriage was developed for earlier-model aircraft under an STC by Volpar, and installed in H18s at the factory during manufacture. A total of 109 H18s was built with tricycle undercarriage, and another 240 earlier-model aircraft were modified with this.
Construction of the Beechcraft Model 18 ended in 1970 with a final Model H18 going to Japan Airlines. Through the years, 32 variations of the basic design had flown, over 200 improvement modification kits were developed, and almost 8,000 aircraft were built. In one case, the aircraft was modified to a triple tail, trigear, humpbacked configuration and appeared similar to a miniature Lockheed Constellation. Another distinctive conversion was carried out by Pacific Airmotive as the PacAero Tradewind. This featured a lengthened nose to accommodate the tricycle nosewheel, and the Model 18's twin tailfins were replaced by a single fin.
Production got an early boost when Nationalist China paid the company US$750,000 for six M18R light bombers, but by the time of the U.S. entry into World War II, only 39 Model 18s had been sold, of which 29 were for civilian customers. Work began in earnest on a variant specifically for training military pilots, bombardiers, and navigators. The effort resulted in the Army AT-7 and Navy SNB. Further development led to the AT-11 and SNB-2 navigation trainers and the C-45 military transport. The United States Air Force (USAF) Strategic Air Command had Model 18 variants (AT-11 Kansans, C-45 Expeditors, F-2 Expeditors (the "F" standing for "Fotorecon", short for "photographic reconnaissance"), and UC-45 Expeditors) from 1946 until 1951. From 1951 to 1955, the USAF had many of its aircraft remanufactured with new fuselages, wing center sections, and undercarriages to take advantage of the improvements to the civil models since the end of World War II. Eventually, 900 aircraft were remanufactured to be similar to the then-current Model D18S and given new designations, constructor's numbers, and Air Force serial numbers. The USN had many of its surviving aircraft remanufactured, as well, these being redesignated as SNB-5s and SNB-5Ps. The C-45 flew in USAF service until 1963, the USN retired its last SNB in 1972, while the U.S. Army flew its C-45s until 1976. In later years, the military called these aircraft "bug smashers" in reference to their extensive use supplying mandatory flight hours for desk-bound aviators in the Pentagon.
Beech 18s were used extensively by Air America during the Vietnam War; initially more-or-less standard ex-military C-45 examples were used, but then the airline had 12 aircraft modified by Conrad Conversions in 1963 and 1964 to increase performance and load-carrying capacity. The modified aircraft were known as Conrad Ten-Twos, as the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) was increased to 10,200 lb (4,600 kg). The increase was achieved by several airframe modifications, including increased horizontal stabilizer angle-of-incidence, redesigned undercarriage doors, and aerodynamically improved wingtips. Air America then had Volpar convert 14 aircraft to turboprop power, fitted with Garrett AiResearch TPE-331 engines; modified aircraft were called Volpar Turbo Beeches, and also had a further increase in MTOW to 10,286 lb (4,666 kg).
The wing spar of the Model 18 was fabricated by welding an assembly of tubular steel. The configuration of the tubes in combination with drilled holes from aftermarket STC modifications on some of these aircraft have allowed the spar to become susceptible to corrosion and cracking while in service. This prompted the FAA to issue an Airworthiness Directive in 1975, mandating the fitting of a spar strap to some Model 18s. This led, in turn, to the retirement of a large number of STC-modified Model 18s when owners determined the aircraft were worth less than the cost of the modifications. The corrosion on unmodified spars was not a problem; it occurred due to the additional exposed surface area created through the STC hole-drilling process. Further requirements have been mandated by the FAA and other national airworthiness authorities, including regular removal of the spar strap to allow the strap to be checked for cracks and corrosion and the spar to be X-rayed. In Australia, the airworthiness authority has placed a life limit on the airframe, beyond which aircraft are not allowed to fly.
Unless otherwise noted, the engines fitted are Pratt & Whitney R-985 radials.
- Model 18A
- First production model with seating for two pilots and seven or eight passengers, fitted with Wright R-760E-2 engines of 350 horsepower (260 kW), MTOW: 6,700 lb (3,000 kg)
- Version of Model 18A capable of being fitted with skis or Edo 55-7170 floats; MTOW: 7,200 lb (3,300 kg)
- Model 18B
- Improved model with increased range and useful load, fitted with 285 hp (213 kW) Jacobs L-5 engines
- Version of Model 18B capable of being fitted with skis or floats.
- Model 18D
- Variant with seating for two pilots and nine passengers, fitted with Jacobs L-6 engines of 330 horsepower (250 kW), MTOW: 7,200 lb (3,300 kg).
- Version of Model 18D capable of being fitted with skis or Edo 55-7170 floats, MTOW: 7,170 lb (3,250 kg)
- Model A18D
- Variant of 18D with MTOW increased by 300 lb (140 kg) to 7,500 lb (3,400 kg), fitted with Pratt and Whitney R-985 engines with 450 hp each
- Seaplane version of Model A18D, but same MTOW as S18D, fitted with Edo 55-7170 floats
- Model A18A
- Version fitted with Pratt and Whitney R-985 engines of 450 horsepower (340 kW), MTOW: 7,500 lb (3,400 kg)
- Seaplane version of Model A18A, fitted with Edo 55-7170 floats, MTOW: 7,170 lb (3,250 kg)
- Model 18R
- Model with Pratt and Whitney R-985-A1 engines with dual-stage blower for increased power at higher operating altitudes, 450 horsepower (340 kW), seven built, one to Sweden as an air ambulance, six to Nationalist China as M18R light bombers
- Model 18S
- Nine-passenger pre-World War II civil variant, served as basis for USAAF C-45C
- Model B18S
- Nine-passenger pre-World War II civil variant, served as basis for USAAF F-2
- Model C18S
- Variant of B18S with seating for eight passengers, and equipment and minor structural changes
- Model D18S
- First post-World War II variant introduced in 1945, with seating for eight passengers and MTOW of 8,750 lb (3,970 kg), 1,035 built
- Model D18C
- Variant with Continental R9-A engines of 525 horsepower (391 kW) and MTOW of 9,000 lb (4,100 kg), introduced in 1947, 31 built.
- Model E18S
- Variant with redesigned wing and MTOW of 9,300 lb (4,200 kg); 403 built
- Model E18S-9700
- Variant of E18S with MTOW of 9,700 lb (4,400 kg); 57 built
- Model G18S
- Superseded E18S, MTOW of 9,700 lb (4,400 kg); 155 built
- Model G18S-9150
- Lightweight version of G18, MTOW of 9,150 lb (4,150 kg); one built
- Model H18
- Last production version, fitted with optional tricycle undercarriage developed by Volpar and MTOW of 9,900 lb (4,500 kg); 149 built, of which 109 were manufactured with tricycle undercarriage
- Six-seat staff transport based on C18S; 11 built
- Eight-seat utility transport based on C18S; 20 built
- Redesignation of all surviving F-2, F-2A, and F-2B aircraft by the USAF in 1948
- Based on C18S, but with modified internal layout; 223 ordered, redesignated UC-45B in 1943
- Two Model 18S aircraft impressed into the USAAF, redesignated UC-45C in January 1943
- Designation given to two AT-7 aircraft converted as passenger transports during manufacture, redesignated UC-45D in January 1943
- Designation given to two AT-7 and four AT-7B aircraft converted as passenger transports during manufacture, redesignated UC-45E in January 1943
- Standardized seven-seat version based on C18S, with longer nose than preceding models; 1,137 ordered, redesignated UC-45F
- AT-7s and AT-11s remanufactured in the early 1950s for the USAF to similar standard as civil D18S with autopilot and R-985-AN-3 engines; 372 aircraft rebuilt
- Multiengine crew trainer variant of C-45G; AT-7s and AT-11s remanufactured in the early 1950s for the USAF to similar standard as civil D18S, 96 aircraft rebuilt
- AT-7s and AT-11s remanufactured in the early 1950s for the USAF to similar standard as civil D18S, with no autopilot and R-985-AN-14B engines; 432 aircraft rebuilt
- TC-45H 
- RC-45J 
- In 1962, all surviving U.S. Navy SNB-5Ps were redesignated RC-45J.
- TC-45J 
- In 1962 all surviving U.S. Navy SNB-5s were redesignated TC-45J.
- UC-45J 
AT-11 at the Barksdale Global Power Museum
- AT-7 Navigator
- Navigation trainer based on C18S, with an astrodome and positions for three students, powered by 450-hp Pratt & Whitney R-985-25 engines; 577 built
- Floatplane version of AT-7; six built
- Winterised AT-7; nine built
- Based on C18S with R-985-AN3 engines; 549 built
- AT-11 Kansan
- Bombing and gunnery trainer for USAAF derived from AT-7, fuselage had small, circular cabin windows, bombardier position in nose, and bomb bay; gunnery trainers were also fitted with two or three .30-caliber machine guns, early models (the first 150 built) had a single .30-cal AN-M2 in a Beechcraft-manufactured top turret, later models used a Crocker Wheeler twin .30-cal top turret, a bottom tunnel gun was used for tail gunner training, 1,582 built for USAAF orders, with 24 ordered by Netherlands repossessed by USAAF and used by the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School at Jackson, Mississippi.
- Conversion of AT-11 as navigation trainer; 36 converted
- Conversion of UC-45F, modified to act as drone control aircraft, redesignated as DC-45F in June 1948
- Photo-reconnaissance version based on B18
- Improved version
- Photographic aircraft, based on the C18S, fitted with fairing over cockpit for improved visibility, 11 built
- Light transport, based on the C18S; 15 built
- Photographic version, similar to C-45B; 23 built
- Utility transport version, equivalent to UC-45F'; 328 built.
- JRB-6 
- Similar to AT-11; 110 built
- Navigation trainer similar to AT-7, 299 built
- Navigation trainer
- Ambulance conversion
- Photo-reconnaissance trainer
- Navigation trainer
- Electronic counter-measures trainer
- SNB-5 
- SNB-2s and SNB-2Cs were remanufactured, and designated SNB-5.
- SNB-5P 
- Photo-reconnaissance trainer
RAF/RCAF Lend-lease designations
- Expeditor I
- C-45Bs supplied to the RAF under Lend-Lease
- Expeditor II
- C-45Fs supplied to the RAF and Royal Navy under Lend-Lease
- Expeditor III
- C-45Fs supplied to the RCAF under Lend-Lease
Post-war RCAF designations
C-45Ds delivered between 1951 and 1952
- Expeditor 3N
- navigation trainer - 88 built
- Expeditor 3NM
- navigational trainer that could be converted to a transport - 59 built
- Expeditor 3NMT
- 3NM converted to a transport aircraft - 67 built
- Expeditor 3NMT(Special)
- navigation trainer/personnel transport - 19 built
- Expeditor 3TM
- transport with fittings so it could be converted to a navigation trainer - 44 built
- Expeditor 3TM(Special)
- modified RCAF Expeditors used overseas in conjunction with Project WPB6 - three built
- Conrad 9800
- Modification increasing the gross weight to 9,800 pounds with a single piece windshield 
- Dumod I
- Executive conversion with Volpar tricycle landing gear, new wing tips, enlarged fight deck and refurbished 6–7 seat cabin with larger windows. Originally named Infinité I. 37 converted by 1966.
- Dumod Liner
- Stretched airliner conversion. Similar to Dumod I but with forward fuselage stretched by 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m), allowing up to 15 passengers to be carried. Originally named Infinité II.
- Hamilton HA-1
- conversion of a TC-45J aircraft
- Hamilton Little Liner
- Modification of D18S with aerodynamic improvements and new, retractable tailwheel, capable of carrying 11 seats
- Hamilton Westwind
- Turboprop conversions with various engines
Hamilton Westwind III conversion at an airfield in Tennessee
- Hamilton Westwind II STD
- Stretched conversion powered by two 840-hp PT6As, and with accommodation for up to 17 passengers
- Hamilton Westwind III
- two 579-hp PT6A-20s or 630-hp PT6A-27s or 630-hp Lycoming LTS101s.
- Hamilton Westwind IV
- two 570-hp Lycoming LTP101s or 680-hp PT6A-28s or 750-hp PT6A-34s or 1020-hp PT6A-45s
- PacAero Tradewind
- Conversion of Beech D18S/C-45 to five- to 11-seat executive transport with single fin by Pacific Airmotive
- Rausch Star 250
- Built as C-45F 44-47231, this aircraft was re-manufactured at Wichita by Beech in 1952, to become TC-45G 51-11544. From 1959 Rausch Engineering Inc. of South San Francisco, California, converted N8186H to tricycle undercarriage, using forward retracting main gear from a P-51 and rearward-retracting nose-leg from a T-28, adding a 3 ft (0.91 m) nose extension, 4 ft (1.22 m) rear fuselage extension, re-roofed fuselage for increased headroom and enlarged cabin windows. The modifications did not obtain FAA certification despite 58 hours of flight testing, with the aircraft eventually being broken up at Antioch, CA, in 1978.
- SFERMA-Beechcraft PD.18S
- Modification of Beech 18S powered by two Turboméca Bastan turboprops
- Volpar (Beechcraft) Model 18
- Conversion of Model 18 with nosewheel undercarriage
- Volpar (Beechcraft) Super 18
- Volpar (Beechcraft) Turbo 18
- Beech Model 18s fitted with the Volpar MkIV tricycle undercarriage and powered by two 705-hp Garrett TPE331-1-101B turboprop engines, flat-rated to 605 hp (451 kW), driving Hartzell HC-B3TN-5 three-bladed, reversible-pitch, constant-speed feathering propellers
- Volpar (Beechcraft) Super Turbo 18
- 2x 705 hp (526 kW) Garrett TPE331
- Volpar (Beechcraft) C-45G
- C-45G aircraft modified with tricycle undercarriage
- Volpar (Beechcraft) Turboliner
- 15-passenger version of the Turbo 18 with extended fuselage, powered by 2 705-hp Garrett TPE331-1-101Bs
- Volpar (Beechcraft) Turboliner II
- Turboliners modified to meet SFAR 23
Accidents and incidents
The Beechcraft Model 18 family has been involved in the following notable accidents and incidents:
- April 25, 1951: Cubana de Aviación Flight 493, a Douglas DC-4 bound from Miami to Havana, registration CU-T188, collided with a U.S. Navy SNB-1, bureau number 39939, on a practice instrument approach to Naval Air Station Key West. The collision and ensuing crashes killed all 34 passengers and five crew aboard the DC-4 and all five crew aboard the SNB. The accident occurred at midday, weather was clear with unlimited visibility, and both flight crews had been cleared to fly under visual flight rules, being expected to "see and avoid" other aircraft; the student flying the SNB was wearing view-limiting goggles, but the other SNB crew were not, and were expected to keep watch. Ground witnesses said that neither aircraft took evasive action prior to the collision, and the Civil Aeronautics Board attributed the accident to the failure of both flight crews to see and avoid conflicting air traffic.
- December 10, 1967: American soul music singer Otis Redding, four members of his backing band the Bar-Kays, the pilot, and another member of Redding's entourage were killed in the crash of Redding's H18, registration N390R, into Lake Monona on approach to Truax Field in Wisconsin. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was unable to determine the cause of the crash, noting that the left engine and propeller were not recovered. Trumpet player Ben Cauley, the sole survivor, subsequently revived the Bar-Kays together with another band member who was aboard a different aircraft.
- September 20, 1973: American folk music singer-songwriter Jim Croce, four members of his entourage, and the pilot were killed when their chartered E18S, registration N50JR, crashed into a tree on takeoff from Natchitoches Regional Airport in Louisiana. The NTSB attributed the accident to reduced visibility due to fog, and to physical impairment of the pilot, who had severe coronary artery disease and had run 3 mi (4.8 km) to the airport. An investigation conducted for a lawsuit against the charter company attributed the accident solely to pilot error, citing his downwind takeoff into a "black hole" of severe darkness, causing him to experience spatial disorientation.
- September 26, 1978: Air Caribbean Flight 309, an air taxi flight by a D18S, registration N500L, crashed on approach to Isla Verde International Airport in Puerto Rico, killing the pilot and the five passengers aboard the aircraft and causing substantial property damage and injuries to bystanders on the ground. The pilot could not communicate with approach control and was following directions relayed by local tower controllers, who told the pilot to make a turn and maintain separation from a Lockheed L-1011 that was overtaking the flight, but the pilot did not turn, and the D18S passed underneath and very close to the L-1011. Both the NTSB and a U.S. District Court ruling attributed the crash to the D18S pilot's failure to correctly follow visual flight rules and air traffic control instructions to maintain separation from the much larger L-1011, causing a loss of aircraft control due to wake turbulence. A contributing factor was the pilot's difficulties in communication with controllers.
Specifications (UC-45 Expeditor)
Beechcraft C-45 3-view drawing
Data from Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II.
- Crew: 2 pilots
- Capacity: 6 passengers
- Length: 34 ft 3 in (10.44 m)
- Wingspan: 47 ft 8 in (14.53 m)
- Height: 9 ft 9 in (2.97 m)
- Wing area: 349 sq ft (32.4 m2)
- Empty weight: 5,420 lb (2,458 kg)
- Gross weight: 7,500 lb (3,402 kg)
- Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1 "Wasp Junior" radial engines, 450 hp (340 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 225 mph (362 km/h, 196 kn)
- Range: 1,200 mi (1,900 km, 1,000 nmi) at 160 mph (260 km/h; 140 kn) and 5,000 ft (1,500 m)
- Service ceiling: 26,000 ft (7,900 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,850 ft/min (9.4 m/s)