With the country being in a state of lock-down, and affecting us all, I was scrolling through my Kindle looking for good books to read and this book popped up: I’ll take the 18, the story of the Beech 18 and freight flying
I thought let me look at it and I found yet another great book.
The book is written by Scott Gloodt, based on his experiences flying the aircraft when he had just qualified as a young commercial pilot and was looking for any flying hours, to build experience and move up in the world of commercial aviation
In amongst his stories and experiences, the book deals with the history of the Beech 18, from its development in 1937, when it was developed as a VIP transporter, and during the war years, as a navigator trainer and light transport aircraft, up to modern times, when they were converted to, and saw their lives out, as freighters. 9000 of these aircraft were built and it proved to be Beechcraft’s most successful product produced. A great many were built for Air Forces, primarily in the Americas and in the Far East – the last one off the production line going to the Japan’s Self Defence Force.
The aircraft was built as a tail dragger, although a few of the last aircraft off the production line were built with a tricycle undercarriage. It was powered by two radial engines, of various sizes and manufacturers. As the later models were developed and built, so the engines were improved and better avionics were installed.
When companies upgraded to bigger, and better corporate aircraft, the Beech 18 went the way of many other aircraft. Operators saw the need for freight aircraft and so many of them were converted into freighters and it proved to be a very popular conversion.
The author goes on to describe how he got his first job and how he did his conversion onto the aircraft and the relationship he had with it over the many years that he flew them. He fondly mentions some of the instructors and teachers he met, and also some of his fellow co-pilots. Some were legends and some were helpful and he often remembers how many incidents on those flights, helped him to overcome other situations that he encountered in his later flying career. Every aircraft, as we all know, has their own character and little idiosyncrasies and he fast learnt how to treat the aircraft with love and care and how each aircraft would respond. We were reminded at various stages of his freight flying career of Ernest Gann and his well known book, Fate is the Hunter and the similar situations that he got into. His was one of love and hate, but there was more love. He grew to utterly respect the aircraft and he enjoyed his time with them. There is no doubt he grew to love the plane, its idiosyncrasies and how he overcame the many problems that it gave and how with some gentle treatment and handling, it managed to get him out of many scary situations.
He talks with a passion of how much fun it was to fly around at night, confidently building hours and going to places he had never been to. Some of the confidence was also blissful ignorance and due to lack of experience and knowledge. Some situations were quite scary and it was very much a case of “a boer maak n plan”, to get the job done!
He talks of the cut-throat opposition and how ruthless they were – if someone wanted freight moved and if you as a pilot and/or your company did not want to do it, there was always another pilot or company to do the job. So often they headed out into situations and weather that no sane pilot would fly in, but it was experience gaining and hours building!!!! Never look a gift horse in the mouth. And it was a chance to log hours and earn some much needed money!
These little operators in the 1950 – early 70s were the forerunners of the many huge and successful overnight, and courier, operators that exist today. The likes of Federal Express and DHL all used these operators as a basis to start their operations. They performed a vital role around America, in those days, helping to get the economy going after the War and often were used to fly precious medical supplies to small little places.
Many of them were also used to support the American Defence industry and many of those contracts proved very lucrative to get, if you were able to secure one.
It is a great book. Easy to read and there are some fascinating stories in it. It should be compulsory reading for every youngster, who wants to embark on a career, as a pilot. The path he chose was not an easy one, and that is evident in the book, but with discipline and listening to the stories and experiences of more senior pilots, it is possible to manage and overcome any situation. You are never too young to learn and the path to the top is not an easy one, and you must be prepared to start at the very bottom, but it is achievable.
Its right up there with Fate is the Hunter, and should be the next book any aviator needs to read.
Read it, you won’t be disappointed.