The Beech Model 25 project was designed to provide the Army Air Force with a small, twin engine trainer suitable for developing pilot skills in retractable landing gear twins. It was to be produced with primarily wood construction because there was fear that aluminum suitable for airframes would become scarce as the war progressed. The original model 25 prototype crashed on May 5, 1941. Despite the accident, the design was promising, so Beech went ahead with further development of the design. Work on the trainer, now designated Model 26, began the next day. 1
Deliveries began in February 1942 and ended in 1943 after 1,771 were completed by Beech. Another 600 were produced by Globe Aircraft in 1944.
The Wichita, as it was named, was an important step in the development of twin engine fighter and two and four engined bomber crews, acting as an intermediate airplane between light, single engine trainers and the heavy, high performance twins.
Most likely it was completed on that date or a day or two before. On 5-22-43, she was flown to Freeman Army Airfield, Seymour, Indiana and then on to Blytheville, Arkansas, on 6-24-43, arriving the next day. There she served until she was declared surplus on 4-6-45.
1. Edward H. Phillips, Beechcraft, Staggerwing to Starship, Flying Books, Eagan, MN, 1987
Her construction contract, AC 19632, was approved on June 5, 1941 for a run of 1080 AT-10s, serial numbers 41-26252 through 41-27331. Contract AC 19632 was the third and largest production run of AT-10s. This Wichitawas plane 1071 of this batch and the 1420th AT-10 built, including all separate production runs. She was built in the Beech factory in Wichita, Kansas, as were all but the last 600 of the 2371 AT-10s built. That last run of 600 were were the ones constructed by the Globe Aircraft Company in Fort Worth, Texas.
There were ten Women Airforce Service Pilots assigned to Blytheville, either from other bases, or after training was completed at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas. The official archive of the WASP is located at the library of Texas Woman’s University and the figures shown in this report come from there.
Most of this group of WASP flew as B-25 co-pilots and AT-10 pilots, but WASP flew over 70 types of aircraft during WWII. Assignments included engineering test pilots, instrument check pilots, ferrying, and flight checks for returning overseas pilots. Thirty-eight Women Airforce Service Pilots gave their lives flying for their country. 3
The following pages have information obtained from the pilot cards of the ten Women Airforce Service Pilots who may have flown our AT-10 at Blytheville Army Airfield, generously made available to me by Texas Woman’s University, the nation’s largest university primarily for women.
TWU is home to the national archives of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Please do not use images contained in this update without obtaining proper permission from the official archive of the Women Airforce Service Pilots at Texas Woman’s University.
Continued research into a WASP or other pilot connection with 41-27322 will be conducted with a goal of locating a logbook entry showing that a specific pilot, male or female flew this airplane during World War II.
2 Courtesy of The WASP Archive, The TWU Libraries’ Woman’s Collection, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas
3 Final Report on Women Pilot Program by Jacqueline Cochran, WASP Archives, Texas Woman’s University, originally sent to the CommandingGeneral of the Army Air Force on June 1, 1945
On August 8, 2016, Cadet Air Corps Museum AT-10 Project board members Sam Graves and Brooks Hurst arrived at the AirCorps Aviation hangar at Bemidji Regional Airport bearing “gifts”. The gifts were, of course, the components saved for many years to eventually use as the backbone in a restoration and rebuilding effort to once again put an AT-10 in the air.
There are no flying AT-10s and only one complete example in existence at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, shown in our cover photo.
You may have noticed that the remaining parts of these AT-10s are the metal sections. Many AT-10s were purchased surplus for the two Lycoming R-680-9 radial engines, usable in Stearman crop dusters, among others. The airframes were left sitting abandoned at various airfields around the country. Moisture and neglect over the years allowed wood rot to decimate the main portions of the airframe, so the AT-10s, like MacArthur’s old soldiers, faded away.
For those who wonder what a cleco is, it is an easily installed and removed temporary fastener used in aluminum aircraft assembly (among other applications).
Somewhat as a sewing pin is used to hold material together, the cleco functions as a temporary fastener to clamp the aluminum skins to one another or to underlying frame sections as holes are drilled, skins are trimmed, and as other fitting procedures are done.
Originally developed by the Cleveland Pneumatic Tool Company, they are a standard item in any aircraft sheet metal shop. Color coded, the copper color of these clecos indicates that they are #30 for an 1/8 inch hole.