The classic Beechcraft Bonanza was introduced in 1947 and is still built today by Textron Aviation. The four-place aircraft sported all-metal construction and retractable landing gear for the sophisticated or executive pilot. Initially designed with the distinctive butterfly or V tail--a conventional tail model was offered too--it was the basis for later Beech aircraft.
On March 7-8, 1949, William P. Odom set a light-plane, nonstop distance record from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Teterboro, New Jersey, in the Waikiki Beech (see markings on left side), the fourth Bonanza built. Congressman Peter F. Mack flew the renamed Friendship Flame on a goodwill world flight from October 7, 1951 to April 19, 1952 (see markings on right side).
The Beechcraft Bonanza is one of general aviation's great success stories. This classic airplane first flew in 1947 and is still in continuous production with a conventional tail rather than the distinctive V-tail with which it first flew. In addition to a generous acceptance within the aviation world, where it is regarded as the Cadillac of the single-engine light-plane field, the Bonanza also rated high marks in the industrial design field. In a survey of 100 leading designers, design teachers, and architects, published in Fortune magazine, April 1959, the Bonanza was rated as one of the 100 best designs of mass-produced products.
The Bonanza's fine performance encouraged a number of people to select it for record-breaking flights. Probably the best known of these is the Waikiki Beech, in which William P. "Bill" Odom set two distance records. Beech Aircraft Corporation sponsored both of these record-breaking flights to demonstrate the efficiency and dependability of its airplane. In 1951, Congressman Peter Mack renamed the aircraft the Friendship Flame and made an around the world goodwill flight.
On January 12, 1949, Odom established a record for light-plane flights from Hawaii to the continental United States. The Bonanza was the first light plane to make this flight, a great circle distance of 2,406.9 miles, though Odom actually flew 2,900 miles. Severe weather over Nevada forced Odom to abandon his ultimate goal of flying the entire continent and return to Oakland 22 hours and 6 minutes after takeoff.
In the log book of the Waikiki Beech, under the dates of March 6, 7, and 8, 1949, is the following entry: "X-country record-breaking flight: 36 hours 01 minutes, Honolulu to Teterboro, New Jersey. Signed Wm. P. Odom." This brief entry summed up the flight, which covered 4,957.24 officially accredited great circle miles (5,273 actual miles). Of this distance, 2,474 miles were over the waters of the Pacific Ocean and 2,799 were over the North American continent. The flight was completed at a total cost of less than $75 for fuel and oil. The average fuel consumption was 19.37 miles per gallon and average speed was 146.3 miles per hour.
A smooth takeoff from Hickam Field, Honolulu, began this record-making flight. It was uneventful, proceeding as planned except for two detours to avoid bad weather enroute. As he passed over Ohio, Odom changed his shirt and used his electric razor. When he stepped out of the Bonanza at Teterboro, he was clean-shaven and neatly dressed, as any young executive might be on arrival for a business conference. Following the Honolulu-to-Teterboro flight, Odom made a national tour with the Bonanza, after which it was turned over to the National Air Museum.
In 1951 the plane was returned to Beech Aircraft to be refurbished and lent to Congressman Peter F. Mack, Jr., for a solo worldwide goodwill flight. Leaving Springfield, Illinois, on October 7, 1951, the plane, rechristened Friendship Flame, visited forty-five major cities in thirty-five countries. Concerned with rising hotspots and international tensions, Mack met with ordinary citizens and dignitaries on his self-directed and self-funded global dialogue and peace mission. It provided a snapshot of a post-World War II and nuclear age world and made international headlines. Mack held talks with leaders of Middle East countries on the verge of dramatic change and stopped in Korea despite the ongoing war but was denied permission to enter the Soviet Union. Mack flew over mountains, deserts, and water in all kinds of weather and became the first person to solo the Pacific Ocean. On April 19, 1952, 113 days and 33,000 miles later, the plane returned to Wichita, Kansas.
The Waikiki Beech/Friendship Flame was the fourth Bonanza built: the only modifications made to the otherwise standard Model 35 were the fixtures and tubing required to install the extra fuel tanks, 126 gallons in the cabin and a 62-gallon streamlined tank on each wing tip. The Bonanza is regarded as a classic aircraft design of the post-World War II era and is easily identified by its distinctive V-tail. Though a number of other design refinements contributed to the efficiency of this airplane, the "butterfly tail" is the most distinguishing outward characteristic. This unique feature was tested during the waning years of World War II and found promising. The most important advantages of this design were the reduction in the number of parts and in weight. Control response with the V-tail is equivalent to conventional tail surfaces of 40 percent greater area.
Early in 1975 the aircraft was once again refurbished by Beech for exhibit in the new National Air and Space Museum. In recognition of its two significant record flights, the plane carries its Waikiki Beech markings on the left side and the Friendship Flame markings on the right side of the fuselage.