1957 Beechcraft Model D18S: A Greater Level Of Stupidity

1957 Beechcraft Model D18S

A couple of weekends ago I took a flight lesson out of a small airport in Blaine, Minnesota. This was my second one-hour session. The first was about two years ago and it was fantastic. Every awesome thing you’ve heard about flying an airplane is true. I suspect it’s also true what airline pilots say in that, after a while, you’re just driving the bus. Still, for those of us that don’t do it regularly, flying an airplane is outstanding, and dreams of getting that solo license quickly spread over your gray spongy bits like a red mist.

Shockingly, the flight instructors don’t start you out in Learjet. Something smaller, perhaps, even if you’ve done it before.

Cessna 172SP

These little Cessna 172SP models are very analog, not unlike a vintage car. The gauges yawn and casually wake up when you flip the power toggle, the flight controls are all via cable and bell crank, and you adjust the fuel mixture and engine speed with manual controls on the panel down by your knees. Speaking of the pancake four-banger motor, it likes a certain level of oil, which is more than none but less than the flight manual calls for; too much and it just releases the excess on to the ground.

Furthering the goofy old car analogy, before you go anywhere it behooves you to walk around the vehicle looking for parts attempting to separate themselves from the whole as well as wayward fluids. Bugs generally won’t hurt a Cessna, but damage from birds will.

The session went just fine, with Jake the instructor calling the shots but yours truly doing most of the flying. When you feel your guts compress in a 2 g turn at 45-degrees over, you can’t believe what an astronaut or even a Formula 1 driver goes through. Remembering to breathe is key to not passing out. Also shockingly, Jake insisted he land the plane.

The Anoka County Airport’s security is probably as good as it needs to be. Meaning, after my lesson I was free to drive around the airport grounds and scope old and/or interesting aircraft. Tucked in a corner were a bunch of vintage planes and accompanying ground equipment and vehicles likely used in the annual air show. Scattered around the grounds were private aircraft (presumably) and a few automobiles and motorcycles. Arnold Palmer was just leaving in his private Cessna Citation 10 jet, which up until recently he – at 80-something years old – would fly himself.

1957 Beechcraft Model D18S

Then I spotted it, a 1957 Beechcraft Model D18S, for sale in all its dull aluminum glory.

Compared to cars, I know very little about airplanes, except that I tend to stare in wonder at old ones. Still, the same type of allure exists with both. I’ll never be able to explain to the non-believers why old metal makes me weak in the knees to the point where I think, “Well, that couldn’t be too hard, could it?”

I’m really only talking about old airplanes – the ones with shiny skin and propellers driven by massive engines that sound like hell with the lid off. I think I fundamentally understand how a jet engine works. But once I figured out how a radial piston engine turns fuel into noise, there wasn’t any contest. Watching the little jets go around the pylons at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada does little for me. Seeing the same course run by pilots in WW2 birds being flown like they were stolen… sign me up again and again.

1957 Beechcraft Model D18S

1957 Beechcraft Model D18S

This Twin Beech appeared to be all there in that it had all its wings, engines (large Pratt & Whitney 9-cylinders), and tires. Little else could be discerned from a walk-around, but I did notice it was missing a window or two and that it was chained to the ground, possibly as a theft deterrent or maybe to keep it from blowing away. It also had a padlock on the door, which appeared to be slightly ajar. What else? I have no idea and I haven’t called the phone number. Yet.

1957 Beechcraft Model D18S

1957 Beechcraft Model D18S

1957 Beechcraft Model D18S

But what would it cost to make this dusty relic into a viable airplane. Based on some quick internet research, budget $90,000 for a living, breathing aircraft that needs work but would probably get you to your destination. For a “done” plane with modern avionics and all its certificates? Probably in the $200,000 neighborhood. Assuming this D18S was even $20,000 (likely a low number), I have to figure restoring it would be financial self-immolation for even the stoutest of amateur geeks. And that’s you doing the work, valuing your time at $0.00/hour.

Of course, I mentioned this to my father. He’s great for this sort of folly, because he’ll tell you all the reasons it’s a silly idea…

“Let’s see, if we get it as a project – it’ll take about 18 months and $75,000 to get an A&E [or A&P] License to work on the aircraft. Another $100,000 to restore it. Maybe $25,000 for hanger space. But just think – we’ll have a $200,000 airplane that only cost $225,000 and a shitload of time. Oh, and I forgot the cost to get a multi [engine] rating. If a boat is a hole in the water that you just throw money into, an aircraft is the Grand Canyon.”

… and then invariably follow up with:

“But, then again, maybe I’m just that stupid.”

And that’s kind of the thing, isn’t it?

Epilogue: I happened to be having drinks with my friend Vernon last night and mentioned I had stopped at the airport, not ten minutes away from where we were standing, to take additional photos for this piece.

Vernon actually knows the plane, and said it had been sitting in that grass since the early 1990s. Turns out, his dad was one the main plane wrenches at that airport. Further, his dad still keeps a hanger at Anoka with a couple of planes sitting in it, though he doesn’t fly any more. Vernon has a lot of hours in many cockpits as well and said there’s little he likes more than being in the air. I suspect Vernon and his dad have many stories to tell.

And that’s kind of the thing, too, isn’t it?

1957 Beechcraft Model D18S

In case you’re interested, I’ll just leave this right here:

Always For Sale, Price Varies


16 responses to “1957 Beechcraft Model D18S: A Greater Level Of Stupidity

  • ScottB

    Thanks for posting that, Satan. Nice to get a guest poster once in a while. Though how Jonathan got you to post on his blog is probably a great story. And that’s kind of the thing, too.

  • Elan

    Just follow the instruction on the red sticker and you’ll be fine.

  • Brandon Fried

    I know a guy named Hitchcock who would love this project!!

  • private christian schools

    Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I
    clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr…

    well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to
    say wonderful blog!

  • ken

    I’m going through the same thing….want an 18 but the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  • Ken Perkins

    That looks like a diamond in the rough it looks like it would not take much to bring it back and I’ll give them a call Thank you big time.

  • Jonathan Bush

    @Ken – Wow! Let us know how it goes!

  • Mark Jacob

    I touched a similar airplane in 2007, finally flew it in 2014. If you love to fly its worth the time, effort and cash. Plan on 1 hour fuel stops. 20 min to pump 150-175 gallons of 100LL and 1/2 gallon on oil into it. then 40 minutes to talk to all the old guys that will gather around. There is nothing like pushing the money levers forward and letting those Pratt and Whitney R-985s make a little noise. Fly by rule is in effect.

  • Thomas Kerr

    I am right now where you were when you spotted this aircraft. I came here on a search for “Twin Beech 18 for sale”. Please talk me down before I do something reckless and financial scope altering…

  • Jules S

    Sadly for Thomas Kerr a greater level of stupidity was achieved on Jan 27 2016 when my husband and I purchased the Beech- we call her Jane as Anoka County Airport is Janes Field. Jane is currently still in her same spot although we’ve begun to restore her- we will be moving her to a hangar on/about 4/1/16 as it’s too cold to work on her outside. We’ve been stalking her for 20 yrs- FINALLY got the deal done. It’s created quite the stir at the airport- every day we’re there at least one person stops by to see what’s going on. We’re more than happy to chat about her- if you’re in the neighborhood and we’re there feel free to stop by and say hi-
    hangar is close to her current location.. 🙂

  • Jules S

    Thank you so much for the words of encouragement! It won’t be a $200K + concours restoration, but we’re okay with that- our goal is to get her flying and enjoy her. We feel we have to rebuild her-the history is important to maintain. It’s all too easy to cast these old planes aside for newer “better” technology. Of course there’s also the cool factor..someone said to us recently that the Beech 18 is the Harley of the sky… 😉

  • Andreas

    OMG, I just got my private and was looking for a used Cirrus SR22 to possible lease back to my local flight school to stop the bleeding when I saw pics of the Beechcraft C-45 or 10 or any version of it. I just fell hopelessly in love with an airplane.

  • Jay

    Sold mine 10 years ago ……… miss her every day !!

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