Douglas A/B-26 Invader

Beech Aircraft Corporation, Wichita

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In 1943, the rising demands on the Douglas Aircraft Company caused them to look to the Beech team to produce more than 1,600 complete sets of wings for the A-26 Invader attack bomber. On Sunday, November 5th 1944, the entire wing assembly for the army’s new Douglas A-26 Invader attack bomber was being made in Wichita by Beech Aircraft.

Production shifted from building the all-wood AT-10 to complex all-metal Invader wings. This called for practically a 100 percent reconversion, not only of facilities and machinery, but also employee skills.

Strangely enough, The Beechcraft AT-11 was used to train bombardiers, navigators and turret gunners. More than 90% of U.S. bombardiers were trained in the AT-11. The aircraft was such a stable, rugged design that it was used by the U.S. and other countries from 1939 until well into the 1970's

This aircraft had a different assignment with 122nd Bomb Squadron. It was used as an advanced trainer for pilots in transition from single-engine to multi-engine aircraft. After completing required flying time in the AT-11 they were ready to move on to the Douglas A-26 "Invader" for continued training and certification.


 Below, the Beech Aircraft Corporation in Wichita, Kansas





Beechcraft was founded in Wichita, Kansas in 1932 by Walter H. Beech and his wife Olive Ann Mellor Beech. The company began operations in an idle Cessna factory. With designer Ted Wells, they developed the first aircraft under the Beechcraft name, the classic Model 17 Staggerwing, which first flew in November 1932. Over 750 Staggerwings were built, with 270 manufactured for the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.

Beechcraft was not Beech's first company, as he had previously formed Travel Air in 1924 and the design numbers used at Beechcraft followed the sequence started at Travel Air, and were then continued at Curtiss-Wright, after Travel Air had been absorbed into the much larger company in 1929. Beech became President of the Curtiss-Wright's airplane division and VP of sales, but became dissatisfied with being so far removed from aircraft production and quit to form Beechcraft, using the original Travel Air facilities and employing many of the same people. Model numbers prior to 11/11000 were built under the Travel Air name, while Curtiss-Wright built the CW-12, 14, 15 and 16 as well as previous successful Travel Air models (mostly the model 4).

In 1942 Beech won its first Army-Navy ‘E’ Award production award and became one of the elite five percent of war contracting firms in the country to win five straight awards for production efficiency, mostly for the production of the Beechcraft 18 which remains in widespread use worldwide.

After the war, the Staggerwing was replaced by the revolutionary Beechcraft Bonanza with a distinctive V-tail. Perhaps the best known Beech aircraft, the single-engine Bonanza has been manufactured in various models since 1947.The Bonanza has had the longest production run of any airplane, past or present, in the world. Other important Beech planes are the King Air/Super King Air line of twin-engine turboprops, in production since 1964, the Baron, a twin-engine variant of the Bonanza, and the Beechcraft Model 18, originally a business transport and commuter airliner from the late 1930s through the 1960s, which remains in active service as a cargo transport.

In 1950, Olive Ann Beech was installed as president and CEO of the company, after the sudden death of her husband from a heart attack on November 29 of that year. She continued as CEO until Beech was purchased by Raytheon Company on 8 February 1980. Ted Wells had been replaced as Chief Engineer by Herbert Rawdon, who remained at the post until his retirement in the early 1960s (he continued as a part-time consultant to Cessna President Dwane Wallace in Wichita until shortly before his death).

In 1994, Raytheon merged Beechcraft with the Hawker product line it had acquired in 1993 from British Aerospace, forming Raytheon Aircraft Company. In 2002, the Beechcraft brand was revived to again designate the Wichita-produced aircraft. Randy Groom, now President of Groom Aviation LLC, was President from 2003 to 2007, when Raytheon sold Raytheon Aircraft to Hawker Beechcraft. Since its inception Beechcraft has resided in Wichita, Kansas, also the home of chief competitor Cessna, the birthplace of Learjet and of Stearman, whose trainers were used in large numbers during WW2.



The Wichita Aviation Industry is the "Air Capital of the World" and represents the manufacture of more than half of the world's general aviation light aircraft and business jets, in addition to being a major supplier to the builders of commercial airliners.

Men like Lloyd Stearman, Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna, E.M. Laird, J.M. Mollendick and George Weaver were responsible for starting the aircraft industry in the area. With Mollendick as the financial backer, Laird started the Swallow Airplane Company to build the Swallow that had been designed in Chicago. Interestingly, Beech, Stearman, and Weaver all worked for Laird and Mollendick until each went on to establish his own company. Stearman's company later was purchased by The Boeing Company of Seattle, now Spirit AeroSystems. Today Spirit is Wichita's largest employer with more than 20,000 employees.

The Beech (now Hawker Beechcraft) and Cessna companies continue today, as does Learjet (now Bombardier Aerospace Learjet), founded by William Lear in the mid 1960s. It was through the efforts of these aviation pioneers that Wichita earned the title of "Air Capital of the World." With all companies still located in Wichita that title firmly remains today.

The count of Wichita-area employees for the following companies -
  • Cessna Aircraft Company = 12,017 (established 1927)
  • Spirit Aerosystems Inc = 10,500 (2005)
  • Hawker Beechcraft Corporation = 7,692 (1932)
  • Boeing Integrated Defense Systems Wichita = 3,000 (1940)
  • Bombardier Learjet = 2,540 (1962)

This is from the 12/05/2008 Wichita Business Journal, page 18.

The following information was compiled by Richard Harris and sent on January 14. We are grateful for this addition to the information.


Throughout the city's history, since 1920, Wichita (and its aircraft companies headquartered here) have produced approximately a quarter-million aircraft -- more than any other city on earth. In 1929, the aircraft industry's national association, the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce (today's Aerospace Industries Assn.), cited Wichita for producing the most aircraft of any American city, awarding it the title "Air Capital City" -- a title which the city has claimed ever since, expanding it to "Air Capital of the World."

During World War II, Wichita exploded, almost overnight, from 111,000 residents (in 1939) to 184,000 (by 1943), from the growth in its military aircraft production -- drawing workers from around the state and adjoining states, too. Wichita's aircraft industry employment has remained high almost ever since, as the industry has grown into Kansas' second-largest, after agriculture.

Since 1920, Wichita aircraft-manufacturers have included:

Airbus (engineering facilities only)
Great Lakes
Seibel Helicopter
Spirit AeroSystems
Travel Air
...and more!

Wichita-built aircraft have included biplanes, sport planes, race planes, gliders, crop dusters, helicopters, seaplanes, training planes, personal aircraft, and business jets. Wichita is generally regarded, worldwide, as the "Detroit of the general aviation aircraft industry" -- at one point in the 1960s building over half of the world's light aircraft.

Wichita has also built hundreds of piston-engine and turboprop airliners, jet fighter-bombers, spy planes, and most of America's largest bombers -- including every B-52 still flying. Most of the U.S. military's training airplanes are Wichita products.

Wichita-based manufacturers have also supplied major sections or systems to many other military and commercial aircraft (including the fuselages of Boeing's most popular airliners), and to most of America's manned spacecraft.


Near the end of 2008, approximately 40,000 people worked in Wichita's aircraft manufacturing industry -- approximately 1 out of every 6 aircraft-manufacturing workers in the United States -- particularly at the city's five main aircraft-manufacturing plants (approximate numbers based on media reports):

Cessna 12,000
Hawker Beechcraft 7,000
Bombardier Learjet 2,500
Spirit AeroSystems 10,000
Boeing IDS 2,500

Subcontractors, ranging from parts suppliers to machine shops, employed at least 4,000 more in Wichita, providing everything from ball bearings to aircraft engines.

Many of Wichita's aviation workers are not city dwellers, but suburban, small-town and rural residents -- including thousands of farmers who include bring their farm-mechanic skills to high-tech Wichita factory work as an adjunct to their farming income.


In 2007, one-fifth of the civil aircraft built in America came from Wichita.
Nearly a thousand aircraft (977 to be exact, mostly business jets), were manufactured in Wichita factories, including:

Cessna 467
Hawker Beechcraft 430
Bombardier Learjet 80

Wichita-headquartered Cessna also manufactured another 807 aircraft at other factories -- ranging from its Independence, Kansas facility (employing
1,300) to smaller specialized aircraft factories in Oregon and China.