Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's not every day...

that a legend drops by.

The Beechcraft Starship was revolutionary in it's day and in some ways still is today.

The photos are of one of the 50 production models ever built. One of less than 20 still in existance. One of fewer than ten still flying.

They are all composite construction. (Including the wing which still isn't done today.) The "Glass Cockpit" was scary voodoo in the late '80s but is pretty standard today.(Glass cockpits are like TV screens instead of dial instruments.)

In typical Raytheon fashion, it was mismanaged. The first airplanes were launched at a time when aircraft sales were down all over. Couple that with the radical design and sales were flat. Add to that it was expensive. Numbers vary but say $5 million a copy. Add to that, the damn thing scared the FAA. They had never certificated an all composite airplane and handed down edicts that added 2500 pounds to the thing.

To pour some salt on it Raytheon Aircraft (Parent Company) said, "Hey buy one of these and we will give you free maintenance. For life!" Then, tasked Raytheon Aircraft Services (Child Company) with performing the maintenance.

So what did the Child Company do? Ran up legendary invoices maintaining them. "Hey, it's a complex airplane and difficult to work on." Parent Company bought the story and watched the project go farther into the red.

That earned the Starship a reputation as a "Maintenance Hog" which it supposedly isn't.

That didn't help sales either. In '95 Raytheon pulled the plug and halted production. They took control of as many copies as they could and began to scrap them out. Chopped them up and burned them!!!!!!!!!!

When I spied this one on the ramp this afternoon I began to spit kittens and ran for the camera. Of course, the batteries were dead. Never fear.

1 comment:

Bob Barbanes said...

Maaaaan, the Starship was one of the coolest planes EVER! What a tragedy that the FAA never let Beech realize the full potential of the design. My boss has been sniffing around the fixed-wing field lately - he wants an airplane. When he sees that Piaggio Avanti he swoons like a teenage girl at a Sinatra concert (or for you youngsters, a teenage girl at a Mika concert). Must be something about a plane with the props on the "wrong" end. But really, doesn't it make more sense to put the thrust-producers on the back?

Nice pics!