Rareplanes 1/72 Beech Staggerwing
KIT #: ?
PRICE: £3.00
DECALS: None provided.
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Vacuformed kit. Canopy by Pavla


A key to the Beech Aircraft Corporation early success was the Beech Model 17. First flown during November 1932 the model 17R was able to demonstrate a remarkable speed range of 60-200 mph. Not only the designer ignored the trend towards the monoplane design but had staggered the wings in opposition to the accepted layout. This gave the pilot more visibility and provided a forward attachment point for the undercarriage. The model 17 was ahead of its time and over half a century later the Staggerwing as it came to be known, still remain spotted at airfields. The layout had been selected to provide the pilot with a good field of view. Wind tunnel tests had shown that this particular layout offered a good combination of speed and stability. 

The basic structure of the aircraft was of welded steel tube covered largely with fabric. The narrow landing gear was unusual in that the main units were enclosed within large streamlined fairings with provision of wheels to be retracted in flight so that they were completely within the fuselage. The enclosed cabin provided accommodation for a pilot and three or four passengers. A 420 HP Wright R-975-E2 Whirlwind radial engine was mounted within a cylindrical cowling.  In 1934 model B17L took to the air with a new lower wing of deeper airfoil section, providing sufficient volume for main landing gear units to be retracted fully into it. This coupled with a 225hp Jacobs L-4 radial engine, gave much more docile handling characteristics. A little more power provided by a 285 hp L-5 the model 17 allowed Beech to establish itself as a major aircraft manufacturer.

A wide variety of Beech 17s were built for both civil and military use in a steadily improving series of varieties. With the expansion of the USAAF during 1941-42 an initial order for 27 was placed. This led to a total procurement of 207 Beech 17 designated UC-43. With the USA becoming involved in WWII an addition of 118 civil model 17 aircraft were impressed for military service. The US Navy acquired the type designated as the JB-1, then GB-1 to 10 more aircraft. Wartime procurement totalled 342 GB-2, 75 were supplied to the UK under the lend-lease used primarily for use by the Royal Navy, which named them Traveller, a name also adopted by the US Navy.


Rareplanes have provided a decent replica of the Beechcraft 17 Staggerwing over the years. I managed to acquire two of these models some 3 years ago and I have since built both of them. The all vacform parts have finely detailed surface and come on one sheet of white acetate.  There is provision of a clear canopy and a spare one too also vacform but in clear acetate. The kit contains full cockpit floor and instrument panel plus seats, forward firewall and aft division bulkhead. Items as rudder pedals, control steering wheel, and other detail to side of walls have to be scratch built. A radial engine, cowling and a propeller are provided and great care should be taken when separating these items from the rest of the backing sheet. The cowling is somewhat drawn thin and certainly needs careful work on it especially when removing the central front opening. Being an early kit no decals are supplied, neither white metal undercarriage legs. The windscreen of the canopy provided has the front too steep, thanks to Pavla Models that provided a prompt replacement to the second build. This is set ‘V72-10 Beech-17s’, which was originally intended for the Sword kit of the Staggerwing while I found it equally well suited to replace the one that comes with the vacform kit.


The kit parts were cut lightly around each moulded item and snapped off the excess plastic with small pliers. All cut edges were smoothened on a flat sheet of wet and dry sandpaper, until a good centreline joint is achieved. I was intrigued at the way Rareplanes suggested that the undercarriage should be made. This showed how a piece of thin wire can be used which obviously is the best way to make these as it would be rather delicate if constructed with normal plastic rod or stretch sprue.

 I found the instructions very clear with a perspective exploded view of the wings, interior cabin detail and undercarriage assembly detail. The interplane rigging is shown in front and side elevation views printed on another side of the instructions, but reference to Aeroplane Monthly December 1985 issue provided the perfect front cover picture for even better details. Wherever possible I used a finger hold ‘tail’ on smaller parts when rubbing and shaping them such as tail planes and undercarriage doors but I found it more practical to cut the part to the final shape, then stick a ‘T’ shaped masking tape to serve as a hand hold. This proved to be adequate when sanding down to the correct thickness. A dashboard layout drawing provided good reference for painting on the instruments.

 Cutting the engine-cowling centre blanking piece was no simple task. This was however best cut over a cork support from a wine bottle. The airscrew was replaced with a white metal one from cottage industry supplier. Filler was added to joining lines and wing joints, which was then faired smooth by sanding. Cutting and trimming the Pavla canopy to make it fit so perfectly required some care otherwise the rest of assembly was straightforward.


The instructions suggest two interesting colour schemes. One is a UC-43 Staggerwing in USAAF camouflage of olive drab upper and neutral grey lower surfaces. An alternative scheme is a WWII Traveller I in Royal Navy colours consisting of non –specular Sea Blue with intermediate blue sides while the undercarriage and vertical tail white. This had red/blue roundels. I have opted for this R Navy scheme and another one in Dark earth and brown camouflage applicable to an RAF Beechcraft.

 I have completed one of my Beechcraft to represent a Traveller I, which was used as a communication transport aircraft for the Royal Navy, with serial number FT522. A total of 75 of these Beechcraft Travellers were delivered and were ex-US Navy GB-2 and USAAF UC-43 and went all to the Royal Navy. Decals came from my spare decal box. Paint used was Compucolor CA11 Non Specular Sea Blue and Intermediate blue CA14 upper camouflage while lower surfaces and tail unit were Humbrol semi gloss white.

The other Beech 17 was an ex YC-43 originally used by the American Embassy, London 1939/41 and originally carried the Embassy badge on the fuselage. It was used by the military attaché Br. Gen Martin F Scanton, from Hatfield pre-war and later based at Hendon. After impressments as DR628 it was attached to the allied flight of No 24 squadron and frequently flown by HRH Prince Bernhardt of the Netherlands. With the war over in 1945 BR628 was returned to the USAAF and later appeared in America as NC91397. In 1950 it was returned to UK and went into storage at Lympne. Bought by commercial Air Services Ltd in 1951 NC91397 was re-registered G-AMBY in July. A British C of A was issued on 27.7.51 and on August 15th MBY left Croydon for delivery by air to its owners at Kumalo, Southern Rhodesia where it became VP-YIV. Last recorded as being owned by Rhodesia Nyasaland Air Charters Ltd at Lusaka (1963). Colours for this aircraft I used Humbrol dark earth and olive green for the upper surfaces and sky under surfaces.


There are now injection-moulded kits of the Staggerwing/ Traveller and in spite of this I ascertained that these two vac-form kits turn into a pleasing replica of the type, as they deserve a place in a historic aircraft collection.


Air Britain Impressments Log Vol No1 UK by Peter W. Moss. 

The Encyclopaedia of World Aircraft by Paul Eden and Soph Moeng.

Carmel J. Attard

March 2010

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