Saturday, November 1, 2008

BEECHCRAFT “STAGGERWING”


1932–48



STANDARD DATA: (G-17S) Seats: 4-5; Gross weight: 4,250 lbs.; Empty weight: 2,800 lbs.; Fuel capacity: 170 gals.; Engine: 450 hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed: 212 mph; Cruise speed: 201 mph; Stall: 60 mph; Initial climb rate: 1,500 fpm; Ceiling: 20,000 ft.; Range: 1,300 nm; Takeoff distance, 50 ft.: 1,130 ft.; Landing distance, 50 ft.: 980 ft.

One of the all-time classic airplanes produced in the United States is the Beech Staggerwing. The original version of the Model 17 was first flown in 1932 and was powered by a 420 hp Wright Whirlwind. The next preproduction model was fitted with a 690 hp Wright Cyclone, but although the basic design would appear to give stable flight characteristics, the horsepower was excessive, resulting in “porpoising” due to the short fuselage. The first production model, built from 1934 to 1936, was the B17 powered by a 285 hp Jacobs (B17B), a 285 hp Wright (B17E), a 225 hp Jacobs (B17L) or a 420 hp Wright (B17R). In fact, throughout the Staggerwing’s production, no less than eight different engines ranging from 225 hp to 690 hp were used. The most popular model was the D17S with a 420 hp, nine-cylinder, air-cooled Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior radial engine, built from 1937 to 1945. The C17 was produced from 1936 to 1937; the E17 was built from 1937 to 1944; the F17 was built for the military from 1938 to 1944; and the last in the series was the G17 built from 1946 to 1948.

An early refinement of this classic five-seater was the installation of the retractable landing-gear system, but the most significant feature was the negative stagger of the wings. There are many reasons for this design, beginning with the fact that automatic stability in a stall is achieved because the lower wing stalls first and, since it’s in a forward position, lowers the nose of the airplane before the upper wing has a chance to stall.

The upper wing retains its lift, and that wing’s position above the center of gravity provides pendulous stability at stall speeds. Additionally, the negative stagger permits good pilot visibility to the side and back and allows for a flat bottom on the fuselage, which enables belly landings to be made without any possibility of nosing over. Cabin doors can be entered without inter-ference from the lower wing, and servicemen can stand on the lower leading wing to reach the fuel ports in the upper wing.

After World War II, approximately 20 G17 models were built and sold new for $29,000. They were fitted with enclosed gear fairings, cowl flaps, a longer windshield and a larger vertical fin, and the engine was moved forward 12 inches. At 9,700 feet, pulling 65% power, the G17 exceeds 200 mph. Most of the time it cruises at 53% power at 185 mph, burning around 22 gph with its 450 hp radial. Six fuel tanks (two in the upper wing, two in the lower wing, one forward fuselage tank and one rear fuselage tank) carry 179 gallons to yield a 7- hour endurance or 1,300-mile range. A total of 781 Staggerwings were built, of which 353 were commercial and 428 were for the military.



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