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Staggerwing Serial #1
Walter Beech believed that the market was in need of a “fast, four-place plane with long cruising range”. By early 1932, Curtiss-Wright engineer Ted Wells was completing the design of a graceful biplane. The initial design, named the Curtiss-Wright Model 17, had begun in 1931 when Wells was still working at the Travel Air factory in Wichita.

The design incorporated many innovative features. The stagger of the wings is the opposite of the standard configuration of the day. This provides the advantages of improved pilot visibility and the aerodynamic effect of stall resistance. The lower wing stalls first, causing the nose to drop and gain airspeed. A split rudder was incorporated in the original design in lieu of modern-day flaps to slow the aircraft for landing. Interior appointments mirrored the luxury automobile with nice fabrics, leathers, and woods. The main wheels retracted into the fairings to further reduce drag.

After Wells had finished the drawings, Walter Beech attempted to interest Curtiss-Wright senior management in producing the new aircraft. When they refused, he and Olive Ann Beech decided to form their own company. They, along with Ted Wells, K.K. Shaul, and investor C.G. Yankey founded Beech Aircraft Company on April 19, 1932 in Wichita, KS.
Beechcraft Model 17R, NC499N, c/n 1, was test flown by Wilbur “Pete” Hill on Nov. 5, 1932. On May 24, 1934, Dewey Noyes took delivery of NC499N for the Ethyl Corporation. On Dec. 11, 1935, the aircraft crashed in New York. Stephen Pfister located the remains in 1984 and began the meticulous reconstruction effort. On October 8, 1990, the Staggerwing Museum Foundation dedicated the restored NC449N in honor of Pfister.
Additional Photos
Additional Information

Model: 17R
c/n 1, mfg. Nov. 2, 1932
Number Built: 2 (17R-1 & 17R-2, NC58Y)
Gross Weight (lbs): 4,500
Empty Weight (lbs): 2,677
Wingspan (ft): 34'4"
Length (ft): 24'3"
Engine: Wright R-975E-2 "Whirlwind"

Model 17R Specifications

Type Certificate: 496, issued Dec 20, 1932
Selling Price: $11, 827.35 (in 1934)
Cruise Speed (mph): 170-180
Landing Speed (mph): 60
Fuel-STD/OPT (gals): 145
Range (mi): 800-1050
Output (hp): 420

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