Flashback: Beech treks to outer limits with bold new Starship 1

 - October 3, 2022, 8:39 AM
NBAA Convention News October 4, 1983 p.1

With AIN Media Group's Aviation International News and its predecessor Aviation Convention News celebrating the company's 50th year of continuous publication this year, AIN’s editorial staff is going back through the archives each month to bring readers some interesting events that were covered over the past half-century.

REWIND: (NBAA Convention News October 4, 1983 p.1) With buzzwords such as “jetfan,” “tipsail,” and “tandem wing,” Beech Aircraft president and CEO Linden Blue rocked the business aviation community yesterday with official announcement of the firm’s oft-rumored high-tech turboprop, dubbed “Starship 1.”

A serious rival to Luke Skywalker’s “Star Wars” fighter in appearance, the radical eight-to-ten passenger, canard configured twin pusher, first of what Blue described as “a family of airplanes…which will lead the industry for the next 20 years,” is scheduled for FAA type certification under FAR Part 23 by late 1985.

FASTFORWARD: Beech backed up that announcement at NBAA’s 1983 convention with a flying demonstration by the 85 percent-scale proof-of-concept model over the static display at Dallas Love Field, which stopped traffic and dropped jaws. The Starship achieved certification in 1988 after a protracted campaign, but despite the project’s cost, which tallied in the hundreds of millions of dollars, never achieved the lasting fame its designers and supporters envisioned. Factors such as increased weight to satisfy certification requirements, new production processes that added to its pricetag, and perhaps even the aircraft’s unconventional appearance served to dampen market interest.

The company produced only 53 Starships and succeeded in selling less than a dozen, with the remainder offered for lease. One later company president noted, “there would be no more airplanes that look like Klingon battle cruisers.” The majority of the fleet was rounded up by the manufacturer and disposed.