Walter H. Beech (1891-1950) founded the Beech Aircraft Company in 1932. Beech already had a long history flying and designing aircraft. A pilot since 1905, when he was 14 years old, Beech had partnered with Clyde Cessna in 1924 to start Travel Air. The new Beech Company’s first design was the Model 17, continuing the model designation series from Travel Air.
Beech was a gifted designer and the company’s first two products, the Model 17 Staggerwing and Model 18 “twin Beech”, were winners. After the war, Beech produced the Bonanza, one of the all-time most successful light aircraft, and a number of other general and light commercial aviation types.
Beech was purchased by Raytheon in 1980, merged with the business-jet assets of Hawker in 1994, and then spun off as the Hawker Beechcraft company in 2006. In 2013 this company was purchased by Textron, which also owns Cessna. The stated intention is to run the two former companies as separate divisions with their own brand integrity. Hawker Beechcraft continues to product King Air business aircraft and license-built Pilatus PC-9s, called the T-6 Texan II, for the U.S. and Canadian air forces.