Beech 18 Seaplane Story

The Beech 18

The well known “Twin Beech” { Beechcraft Model 18, } is a twin-engine, low-wing, conventional-gear aircraft that was manufactured by Walter Beech’s company Beechcraft of Wichita, Kansas. This model saw military service during and after World War 2 and has a huge history of modifications with over 200 STCs [ Supplementary Type Certificates ] Surely this must be one of the worlds’ most versatile aircraft – Ever !
Uses included the following – probably not a complete list !

* Passenger Aircraft.

Amigo Airways Beech 18 TKOF 900 Horsepower !

* Freighter

*Aerial Firefighting

*Aerial Ambulance.

*Banner Towing

* Mail Delivery.

* Skydiving

* Cloud Seeding with Dry Ice

* As a flying testbed for engine modifications.

*** As a SEAPLANE on Passenger and Parcel services***


Military Usage – Beech 18

The Twin Beech or Beech 18 design commenced in the late 1930s with a view to acquiring US military sales. Apart from the twin tail fins which gave it a similar appearance to Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Mark 10 Electra type, it was very much a conventional design of semi-monocoque all metal construction, twin radial engines, tailwheel undercarriage, and control surfaces which were fabric covered – similar to the Grumman Agcat I flew in the 1990s. The radial engines are usually the Pratt and Whitney R985 Wasp Junior models.

First Flight

On January 15, 1937, the Beechcraft Model 18 made its first demonstration flight at the factory in Wichita, Kansas, and it continued in production for thirty-two years. Construction of the Beechcraft Model 18 ended in 1970. It set a record that still stands today for longest continuous production of a piston engine aircraft. Through the years, 32 variations of the basic design had flown, over 200 improvement modification kits were developed, and almost 8,000 aircraft had been built, with 60 modified as seaplanes.
More about the Beech 18

 Beech 18 Seaplane C-GGGF

This magnificent example of a Beech 18 on floats is owned my Canadian mate Randy Hanna, whom I’ve known since 1982 . He operated Amigo Airways using the Beech 18 on floats and retired the aircraft 6 years ago and went on to fly elsewhere.  A Legendary Aircraft flown by Legendary Pilots ! It was restored in 2011 and is currently for sale in mid blue.

Sale Details Here

Cruises 125 MPH
Fuel Burn average 44 Imp Gal/Hr
Handles like a big Piper Cub.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               900 Horsepower for Takeoff
Complete with dual entertainment systems for crew and separate for passengers including DVD and TV – As a bonus, one can always enjoy the British Columbia Breathtaking Scenery !


DHC 3 Otter single turbine

The Beech is 25 knots faster

DHC3 Turbine Otter Front View

Burns 150 lbs per hour less fuel.
Carries 2-3 fewer passengers.
Costs a fraction to insure versus an Otter,
Cost of Beech is about one fifth of a turbine Otter

DeHavilland DHC 6 Twin Otter
Beech Cruises same speed as Twin Otter.
Half the crew, half the fuel per hour, carries half  the load

But, not half the cost- closer to one tenth !

Overall, a fraction of the capital cost and insurance.

Trans Maldivean Twin Otter

So why not more operating on floats since they built over 8000 of them? A local BC workshop is considering opening a conversion run of wheels to floats. Who knows.
Watch this space !

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10 thoughts on “Beech 18 Seaplane Story

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    • Vancouver Island Air has been operating Beech 18′s on floats for 22 years. We also operate a Turbine Otter. We refer to the Otter as the bus and the Beech as the sports car. There is no aircraft on floats that rides as nice or handles gusts as good as an 18. The power is there when you need it and this aircraft has plenty of reserve.

      Good luck Peter and Randy with your new venture.


      • G’day Larry,
        Thanks for commenting on my article. The late Peter ” Rusty ” McLeod was a good mate of mine for years and loved the Beech 18, and I couldn’t understand why he went onto the Goose – and its’ tragic consequence. I miss our regular email sessions and his visits here on the Gold Coast. Have known Randy for over 30 years [ refer to the 2 links below ] and was one of the webfooted community for 25 years, and as Randy sometimes calls me, a “survivor ” Have done some stories of my career and one weird seaplane on
        A BC visit has been on my list for some time, so maybe we could catch up for a coffee and a yarn.
        Thanks again for the comment as it helps build the credibility of the blog/website.
        Fair Winds
        Harry AND

  2. Hi Harry,
    The Beech 18 is sure a marvellous little aeroplane, but it occurs to me that its operation on floats must have drawbacks in that one pilot on his own couldn’t hope to cope with docking. How many people would be needed to handle the machine at a dock in strong wind? Apart from approaching the dock and securing the ropes, where a single pilot would be hard pressed to exit a back door, the departure from the dock would present similar problems. He would have to untie the ropes, enter through the cabin, and get an engine started, all while the aircraft was under no control and subject to the vagaries of wind and waves.
    And mooring. How could one pilot approach and catch a mooring while having to exit an awkward door, crawl along the float under a low wing, past a propeller blade and attach the mooring to the front bollard? I can visualise a frustrated pilot finding his aeroplane sailing past the mooring just beyond arm’s reach while he kneels on the front of the float, and knowing he has to return to the cockpit by the same laborious route in order to start up and go through the whole procedure again. It would make a hilarious movie!
    These problems aside, I think there’s nothing more versatile than a high-winged single-engined floatplane for a one-man band, and of course the Beaver is an absolute icon in this regard. And not forgetting the various sized Cessnas too. We’ve both been through similar love affairs eh Harry?
    For multi-engined floatplanes it’s a different ballgame. Different facilities and more manpower requirements remind me of the challenges we faced when operating the Nomad on floats. With helpers around, water-handling was a breeze, but when I was on my own, my hair should have gone grey overnight.
    Just a few thoughts from another old webfoot pilot, and thanks for the article Harry. Notwithstanding the single pilot idea, the Beech 18 sounds like a fascinating people-mover with the right organisation.
    Cheers, Russell.

    • Dear Lina,
      Thankyou for that lovely remark. It’s an addiction as well as a passion, so there is little hope for me in the non aviation world.

  3. So these are the planes that fly over Sydney most weekends in summer, writing messages in the sky. You can’t help but be drawn to what they are writing. As for the Beech 18 – they are so high in the sky you hardly get a glimpse.
    Another nice looking specimen Harry :)
    Jan Littlehales would like you to readCupcakes – in Ten MinutesMy Profile

    • G’day Jan,
      Not sure which aircraft is doing sky-writing these days, but when I lived there it was usually a turbocharged Cessna 206 or 210. Sydney Seaplanes operate DeHavilland Beavers and Cessna Caravans all on floats with the Caravan being amphibious. There is an article about Sydney Seaplanes on the site.

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