the register


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This airplane, S/N 17R-1, was the prototype Beech Staggerwing model. It was the first one built. It was flown solo to Peterson Field twice, both times piloted by L.G. Larson. They arrived at Colorado Springs the first time between July 31 and August 6, 1933. Larson didn't enter an exact date in the Register. He arrived from Wichita, KS, but did not cite a departure date or destination.

Their second visit was a month later on Sunday, September 3, 1933 at 11:00AM. Again, they arrived from Wichita. This time the stayed at Colorado Springs for a week. The Register cites Larson departing on Friday, September 8, 1933 at 12:55PM, westbound back to Wichita.

According to the Beechcraft B-17 Web site, NC499N, S/N 17R-1,was manufactured on November 4, 1932 by the Beech Aircraft Company, Wichita, KS. Its first flight was on November 5th, and on November 9th it was flown at 200mph over an observed course. This first Staggerwing had fixed landing gear. The photograph of NC499N, below, from the link, was taken ca. 1934-35 at Newark, NJ. It was originally painted Insignia Red, with Dark Maroon striping and registration numbers.

NC499N, Beechcraft, Prototype Staggerwing, Ca. 1934 (Source: Link)

Within a year it competed in and won the Texaco Trophy at the All_American Air Races at New Orleans, LA, and was displayed for eight days at the Pan American Air Races in New Orleans, LA. It was sold to Ethyl Gasoline Corporation of Newark, NJ in April, 1934 ($11,827,35). In Ethyl's hands, it had several modifications, including an engine change to a Wright R-975E2. On May 24, 1934, it was delivered to pilot Pitcairn Field Register pilot Dewey L. Noyes on May 24, 1934. It was delivered about a month after it was purchased, probably to give it time to be painted and/or modified for Ethyl fuel testing.

NC499N had a brief history. Noyes was killed in NC499N on December 11, 1935. The New York TImes of December 12, 1935 documented the accident, which occurred about 50 miles southwest of Rochester, NY. You can view the article in its entirety at Noyes' link. At the time of the accident Noyes flew for the Ethyl Company. Weather was a major factor in the crash (ice), which killed him and his passenger, another Ethyl employee.

The crash must have been extremely violent (but what crash isn't) because the article at the link states, " Investigators said it was difficult to determine if the craft had been a monoplane or a biplane." It was a biplane, specifically our NC499N. The crash left the airplane in such poor shape that Ethyl abandoned it and buried it on the spot.

Not to be deterred by a simple burial, the aircraft was excavated, rebuilt and flown. Scroll down to page 5 of this link to see a photograph of NC499N as it appeared in 2008. The airplane is currently owned by the Staggerwing Museum Foundation, Inc. of Tullahoma, TN. An image from the Museum's Web site is below, foreground. The drawings are of the original, fixed landing gear Staggerwing. The profile shows exactly why the airplane was named thus: the bottom wings are forward of the top wings. The only Golden Age biplane so constructed.

NC499N, Staggerwing Museum Foundation, 2016 (Source: Link)
NC499N, Staggerwing Museum Foundation, 2016 (Source: Link)

According to the FAA database online, its airworthiness certificate expires July 31, 2017. I do not know if the Museum is flying it or if it's on static display.