Page 27 - Volume 13 Number 1
P. 27

   In February or March 1932, Walter Beech leased two buildings from the Cessna Aircraft Company to build the first Beechcraft. The campus had been closed since 1931 and its president, Clyde V. Cessna, locked out of his own factory. (Textron Aviation)
who was looking forward to flying the biplane on its maiden voyage into the skies above Kansas.
As time for the first flight approached, reporters flocked to the Cessna factory armed with a barrage of questions. One of those questions was: “Mr. Beech, how many have you sold so far?” The answer was, zero. Another reporter asked about the price. Walter replied, “About $15,000-$18,000.” Beech readily admitted that the Model 17R was an expensive machine and a costly gamble, but his faith in the bullish biplane remained unshaken.
During a business trip late in October, Walter had tried in vain to secure a buyer for the Beechcraft, but he did have plenty of prospects. Businessmen from across the nation, many of whom Beech had known from his days at Travel Air, expressed interest in the Model 17R but not one red cent was forthcoming in the form of a deposit.
Finally, late in October the powerful Beechcraft was prepared for its first flight. Resplendent in its paint scheme of Insignia Red and Maroon, the Model 17R was a flying machine like no other. If its performance matched Ted’s predictions, Walter Beech would add another impressive accomplishment to his long list of achievements in aviation.
Wearing its assigned DOC registration of 499N on the lower left and upper right-wing panels, November 5, 1932, the first Beechcraft took off from the sod runways adjacent to the Cessna factory. At the controls for that historic event was “Pete” Hill, and the flight proved to be routine. On Nov. 7, with the R-975 roaring at full throttle, the airplane attained an indicated airspeed of 199.5 mph, and two days later, with Walter Beech at the helm, the biplane hit the magic 200 mph mark.
Beech was quick to inform the local press about the flights, and by Nov. 11 the Model 17R was front page news. Beech told the Wichita Eagle newspaper that the airplane possessed the speed of the famous Travel Air

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