The Beech Model 18
Production of the Beech Model 18 began in 1937,
with 29 aircraft delivered before the start of
World War II. These included the following models: 18A, 18B, 18D, A18A, A18D, 18S, and B18S.
During World War II, 44 Model C18S aircraft were
produced for civil corporate use. Post-war production of civilian Beech 18s, numbered 1,803.
Wartime production of Beech Model 18s numbered 5,186. The grand total of Model 18s
produced for both military and civilian was
8,980, including 1,018 aircraft remanufactured
by the U.S. Navy following the war, and 900
remanufactured by the United States Air Force.
The FAA N-Number registry currently lists 703
Beech Model 18s.
stopping long enough in Urbana’s city square so residents
could welcome their old friend.
After much work and planning by dozens of dedicated people, the restoration project began. Su;ering from more than a
decade of being parked outside and left to the elements, the
fuselage was pressure-washed, corrosion was addressed by
replacing much of the sheet metal, and wing spar repairs were
made. ;e cockpit instrument panel was replaced and new
instruments and radios installed. ;ey replaced windows, the
windshield, and floor boards. A wingtip pod was missing and
had to be fabricated. Beyond repair, both engines were replaced.
;e project was not just an airplane restoration, however; it
was also a restoration of its substantial electrical and lighting
system. ;e goal was to restore the plane to its last configuration—the patriotic paint job and lighting system being tested
before the accident grounded the plane. All of the lighting wiring was replaced, connections were improved, and all grounding
was wired to a single ground circuit, instead of using the aircraft
structure. ;is reduced the voltage drag, and now all the lights
can run at the same time, pulling about 75 percent of the total
generator output. Before the plane was refurbished, the amp
load had to be closely monitored.
In its original configuration, the airplane had two batteries.
A third was added during the restoration; this one can be connected into the main electrical system to provide more power at
low rpm operation. It also serves as an emergency backup for
avionics and engine starting.
;e aircraft on display at EAA AirVenture 2009 was the
fourth, and last, of the Grimes Flying Laboratories. ;e story of
its restoration is one of thousands of hours of volunteer work
and monetary donations from many contributors. Grimes
Aerospace is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell
International Inc., and Honeywell donated radios to the project.
Much of the decorative paint was applied by hand and brush.
More than 100 Grimes lights are installed on the Flying Lab;
many are the original test lights, representing airliners, general-aviation airplanes, and even helicopters. Some of the lights
carry serial number 1.
;e project became the pride of Urbana, and after eight
arduous years of work, the test flight of the restored plane was
made in January of 2008. It flew once again over Urbana with
its lights flashing on July 4, 2008, destined to become a staple
of local celebrations.
Earl Downs has been flying since the age of 14. He is an instrument-rated
certificated flight instructor, holds an airline transport pilot certificate, and
is an airframe and powerplant mechanic. He owns Golden Age Aviation in
Cushing, Oklahoma, flies a Luscombe, and is building a Zenair 601 XL.
Reference: A Light in the Sky: A Biography of Warren G.
Grimes and a History of Aviation Lighting by Nancy Patzer;
published by Michael Major/Main Graphics