Known by dozens of military designations, the Beechcraft Model 18 is one of the most successful light aircraft in history. More than 9,000 were produced, roughly half of them for military use during World War II and the early postwar years.
A successful design even before the war, the Twin Beech truly came into its own during the conflict. It served as an passenger transport, air ambulance, light cargo transport, and even in spotting and photo reconnaissance roles, but its primary mission was as a trainer. It’s estimated that 90% of American bombardiers and navigators during WWII were trained on Beech 18s, and the type also served to train pilots and gunners.
Its versatility allowed it to soldier on in military service well into the postwar era, and the type wasn’t retired in US service until 1976. Many were upgraded and modified to provide ever-expanded capabilities, including drone control and electronic warfare, and they could be fitted with skis or floats, allowing them to land almost anywhere on the planet. Beech 18s of various models were widely used by the CIA’s infamous “Air America” during the Vietnam War. In civilian life, the Model 18 served as an executive transport, small airliner, air ambulance, cargo hauler, and pleasure aircraft.
In military service, the Twin Beech was known variously as the C-45, AT-7, AT-11, F-2, JRB, and SNB, depending on the model’s mission and which branch was operating it. They were a common sight at NAS Barbers Point, serving as utility aircraft with VC-1.
Hundreds of Beech 18s still fly today, including almost 300 in the United States. Hawaii is home to five currently-registered Twin Beeches.
Known affectionately to Museum staff as “The Beechasaurus,” our C-45 is a rescue. Accepted by the Navy on 15 March 1945 as a JRB-4 utility transport, our data cards begin telling her tale in 1950 as a low-hour aircraft at NAS Pensacola. Modified to an SNB-5 navigation trainer, she bounced between transport pools and training bases up and down the east coast until being placed in storage in 1958. Returned to service in 1962, under the new unified designation of TC-45J, and then quickly to UC-45J, she went from coast to coast until until being shipped off to MCAS Kanehoe in 1967. After a few short years, she was retired in 1972 and gifted to the University of Hawaii, where she was beaten upon, torn apart, and rebuilt over and over across the years.
Though in rough shape, we’re proud that we’ve saved this historic WWII aircraft from being cut up for scrap, and look forward to the day when we can finally restore her to her proper glory.
|Role:||Utility and trainer aircraft|
|Length:||34 feet 2 inches (10.41 meters)|
|Wingspan:||47 feet 8 inches (14.53 meters)|
|Height:||9 feet 8 inches (2.95 meters)|
|Empty Weight:||6,175 lbs (2,800 kg)|
|Max. Weight:||8.727 lbs (3,959 kg)|
|Powerplant:||2x Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1 “Wasp Junior” radial engines, 450 hp (336 kW) each)|
|Max. Speed:||225 mph (195 knots, 360 kph)|
|Range:||1,200 miles (1,000 nm, 1,900 km)|