G-17 Staggerwing Model Airplane
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The Beechcraft Model 17 was the first aircraft produced by Beech Aircraft. A biplane with an atypical backward stagger (the upper wing inversely staggered behind the lower), it was a gamble for the company. Produced during the Great Depression, the expensive aircraft was designed as a high speed, comfortable business plane. The aircraft is more popularly known as the Staggerwing and first flew on November 4, 1932. During its time, it was considered to be the premier executive aircraft, setting the standard for private passenger airplanes for many years to come. The Staggerwing's unusual wing configuration and unique shape resulted in a design that maximized the pilot's visibility while minimizing the aircraft's tendency to stall. Its retractable conventional landing gear, which was uncommon at that time, coupled with streamlining, light weight and radial engines helped it perform significantly better than other biplane designs. The luxurious cabin could hold up to five passengers. Sales started slowly at first, and the Staggerwing's high price tag warded off any potential buyers. Only 18 aircraft were sold during the first year of production. However, the handbuilt Staggerwing gradually captured a substantial share of the passenger aircraft market. By the start of World War II, more than 424 planes had been sold. The Staggerwing's speed made it a favorite of air racers during the 1930s. An early version of the Model 17 won the 1933 Texaco Trophy Race. In 1935, Captain H. L. Farquhar, a British diplomat, successfully flew around the world in a Model B17R. Aviator Jackie Cochran set a women's speed record of 203.9 mph and an altitude record of 30,000 feet while flying a Staggerwing. The aircraft also performed well in the Bendix race between 1936 and 1938. As World War II approached, a number of Staggerwings saw service in various countries. The Second Spanish Republic used the aircraft as bombers during the Spanish Civil War. China used it as ambulance planes in the fight against Imperial Japan. On October 2, 1941, Beech delivered a special camouflaged plane to Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld who used it for refugee work while he was in exile in London.