TINKER HISTORY: Beechcraft AT-11

  • Published
  • By Greg L. Davis
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Beechcraft AT-11 is one of many variants of the popular Model 18 introduced by Beechcraft in 1937. The Model 18 and over 25 variants feature an all-metal design in the form of a low-wing monoplane, twin engines, cantilever tail with twin vertical tails and rudders. The aircraft sits on two main landing gear with tailwheel steering configuration. The Advanced Trainer, thus AT, of the C-54 light transport has two notable modifications; a bomb bay capable of carrying small training bombs and a redesigned Plexiglass nose with bomb aiming position.

Tinker’s association with the AT-11 is relatively short and mysterious. The official history logs note 26 aircraft processing through the center for maintenance between Jan. 1951 and June 1953. This number is similar to the number of aircraft ordered by the Army Air Corps for use by the Netherlands and repossessed later by the U.S. It can safely be presumed these are the same aircraft that upon return to the U.S. were closely inspected, repaired and overhauled before becoming operational flyers.

The AT-11 was mainly used as an initial bombardier and aerial gunnery training platform which operated at low relative cost. The bomb bay carried up to ten 100-pound bombs to allow the two student bombardiers to train while the aircraft was flown by the two pilots. There were also two 7.62mm machine-gun positions used for aerial gunnery training on stationary and towed-targets. 

Following World War II the aircraft was retained in service in their training role or as pilot proficiency or light transports until the mid-1950s when many were sold to the public as surplus assets. Many AT-11 and other Model 18s soldier on today as one of the most popular twin-engine classics in private hands and on the air show circuit to keep the type visible to the public.

Manufacturer: Beechcraft

Aircraft type: AT-11

Nickname: Kansan

Crew: Four (two crew, two students)

Power plant: Two Pratt & Whitney R985 radial engines producing 450 horse power each.

In-service dates: 1941-late 1950s

Number produced: 1,606

Tinker connection: Maintenance, repair and overhaul