Beech 18 Floatplanes
Written in 2005
Several years ago I said there were two aircraft that I passionately wanted to get photos of. They were the Cessna 195 and Twin Beech floatplanes. In ’03 I got shots of Roger Currier’s two 195’s (N3488V and N145V) in Maine. That left the Beech. I’ve said that if there was ever an aircraft designed in heaven and sent to earth, it would be the Twin Beech floatplane.
In the summer of July ’05 my wife Elaine and I made a trip to Red Lake, ON for the Norseman Festival. I checked the JP Airline-Fleets directory, and sure enough, there were about a dozen Beech 18 floatplanes on our route! With some that were not in the directory, we got photos of 16 different aircraft! I already had shots of N1047B in Alaska.
Of the 17 Twin Beech floatplanes I have photos of, three are the C-18 series (short nacelle, originally #7850 gross) and the rest D-18 series (long nacelle, originally #8750 gross).
The three C-18’s were put on floats by Joe Marrs in the late 1950’s and early ‘60’s. (Parmerter) All of the D-18 series are the Bristol Aerospace, Winnipeg, MB, Canada conversion, starting in 1964.
Both the C-18’s and D-18’s are #8725 gross, based on the Edo/Bristol 56-7850 float capacity.
Only one aircraft (C-FZRI) has the short exhaust. All the rest have the original, long tailpipe.
I am so accustomed to every Twin Beech having its own combination of mods and gross weight increase kits that it wasn’t until I got home that I realized that all of the D-18 series, Bristol Aerospace aircraft are essentially the same. They have the Super ’18 wing tips, outside carb air scoops, raised angle of incidence on the stabilizer, cowl louvers, and no cowl flaps. All of the D’s have the Bristol escape hatch over the cockpit. The three C’s have operating cowl flaps and the original chin type air scoops.
Several cargo doors are used but the Beechcraft kit which basically retained the original cabin door, is the most common. Quite a few have the two-piece windshield installed. All are low-cabin aircraft. All but two have the original nose.
At least most had the landing gear lever removed. My guess is that these are on floats year-round and are not put back on wheels for the winter like many Cessnas, DeHavillands and etc.
The three C-18’s were all formerly AAF UC-45F’s. Of the D-18 series, there are two civilian D-18S’; one former USAF C-45H/G; three Canadian 3T; and eight Canadian 3N/3NM/3NMT series. The 3T is a C-45F that was remanufactured by MacDonald Brothers (later Bristol Aerospace) and does not qualify for U.S. certification. It is not surprising that there are eight 3N series as they were released by the RCAF in 1966/70 and were exceptionally good aircraft.
Ten and probably 11 of them had the Hamilton Standard 22D30-6533A-21S Hydramatics, as originally used on Canadian aircraft. Four had the three-bladed Harzells, one (N1047B) probably had the Hamilton Standard 2D30 counterweighted, constant speeds, and one I don’t have any idea.
I flew many Twin Beech’s over the years and they are one of my favorite aircraft. However, I’m also quite pragmatic about life. In spite of my own liking the aircraft as I do, I assumed that Twin Beech seaplane operators were probably using them because they were cheaper, and that they would replace them with something later (and better??) when they could. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
The biggest surprise on this trip was the affection and loyalty that Twin Beech floatplanes engender in their owners and pilots. The people I talked with had these airplanes because they wanted them. They loved to brag on them and not one person put them down or talked negatively about them. There was a glow of sorts on their face when they spoke of them. Certainly the R985 engine has something to do with that. Some Beech’s were part of a fleet mix with Cessnas, Beavers and Otters, including turbine.
This is a very different fleet from the U.S. freight dogs of years gone by. There was none of the “rode hard and put away wet” look. Most of them were bare metal with trim, and some were polished. They were obviously well cared for.
I asked a veteran Beech pilot up there how much they carry. He looked at me and said, “They have a useful load of about #3000.” I said, “I used to spray with them and we could legally fly with whatever we could safely carry - - often well in excess of #10,000 gross.” He looked at me again and said, “Well, okay, the Twin Beech will get anything out of the water that you can put in the cabin.” I talked with a friend here in Ohio who flew Beech’s on floats in Canada many years ago. He said that as long as the back of the float was out of the water, it would fly.
Overall, I was quite impressed by what I saw in Canada. But there’s a nagging question in my mind. I wonder how a high cabin, Hamilton Westwind III with PT6A-20’s would do on floats. Wow - - more power, somewhat lighter empty weight, modern turbine engines and more. It’s probably about 20-years too late for that, and besides, what’s a Twin Beech without a puff of smoke when you light it up!
In my notes on these aircraft I draw on Bob Parmerter’s incredible book, “Beech 18: A Civil & Military History”. I reference the book at times by simply saying “Parmerter”, generally with a page number. You can buy the book from the Beech Staggerwing Museum . The cost is $69.95, and it is a “must have” for the Beech 18 aficionado.