Page 23 - Volume 13 Number 1
P. 23

    In 1929 Walter Herschel Beech played a key role in merging the Travel Air Company into the giant Curtiss-Wright Corporation. At age 38 he was among an elite group
of young executives destined to become future leaders of America’s aviation industry. (Mary Lynn Oliver)
The engine Ted chose to power his flying machine was the Wright Aeronautical R-1510 that produced 710 horsepower. Ted calculated that the biplane would be capable of speeds approaching 250 mph, fly 1,000 statute miles nonstop and land at only 60 mph. In 1931 no such airplane existed. Not even the United States Army Air Corps possessed an aircraft that could match the gusto of Ted’s machine.
unrest was on the rise and mobsters like Chicago’s infamous Al Capone were making both headlines and millions of dollars selling bootleg liquor. Crude oil sold for 10 cents a barrel, a loaf of bread cost a nickel, and worst of all, the people had lost confidence in themselves, President Herbert Hoover, the federal government and their future.
Ted’s radical cabin biplane embodied every characteristic Beech wanted in a business aircraft – high speed, long range, good visibility for the pilot; comfortable seats that rivaled those of a Cadillac sedan, and a low landing speed.1
To Walter’s way of thinking, if Curtiss-Wright did not want to build Ted’s airplane, then Beech would tap into his financial assets and take the biggest gamble of his life – start his own airplane company. Facing an uncertain future in St. Louis, Beech preferred to risk failure than fade into oblivion behind a desk. Having the full support and financial savvy of his wife, Olive Ann, Walter asked Ted about creating their own company. Wells readily agreed, and the determined trio severed their ties with the old and set a new course for the future.
Beech had been contemplating resigning for more than two months. The value of the stock he had obtained in 1929 had fallen to a mere $0.75 cents per share by January 1932. In addition, Curtiss- Wright lost $450,000 in 1931, and Walter knew there was little prospect for advancement under the existing economic conditions. The die was cast, and early in March 1932 Walter submitted his resignation to the Curtiss-Wright Corporation and laid plans to return to Wichita, Kansas – the birthplace of his aviation career. One month earlier he had visited the city, affectionately known as the “Peerless Princess of the Prairie,” to quietly present his bold idea to important officials of the defunct Cessna Aircraft Company. They were pleased to
Wells showed his preliminary
drawings to Walter Beech, who in
turn proposed that Curtiss-Wright
build the ship. His idea was flatly
rejected by company brass, but
Walter realized that Ted’s airplane
had great potential despite arriving
smack in the middle of the worst
economic debacle America had
experienced. In 1932 Wall Street was
still in shambles, tens of millions
of people were unemployed, civil   learn that their old friend was

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