Developed in partnership with Carenado, the Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing is the first release in the Famous Flyers aircraft series from the Microsoft Flight Simulator team.
The Staggerwing earned a reputation for being one of the most luxurious and comfortable aircraft of its era. The art deco-inspired biplane sports an upper wing offset further to the rear than the lower wing, an unusual design feature that gives the Staggerwing both its name and much better forward visibility compared with most other biplanes.
It became popular among race pilots during the golden age of air racing. An all-women team consisting of pilots Louise Thaden and Blanche Noyes in a Beechcraft Staggerwing beat the rest of the field to capture the 1936 Bendix Trophy, one of the most prestigious air races in the world. Though that was the types only Bendix win, it also had strong finishes in the 1937 and 1938 races. Jackie Cochrane, a titanic figure among female pilots, used a Staggerwing to set women’s speed and altitude world records in 1938. Decades later, the Beechcraft Staggerwing made a return to competition at the Reno Air Races, with four of them contending against each other in a special one-off event at the National Championship Air Races in 1970.
The Staggerwing also saw service as a military aircraft. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, several Staggerwings were modified as light bombers by the antifascist Republican forces. In the Second Sino-Japanese War, China used the Beech Model 17 as an air ambulance to evacuate wounded troops away from the front lines. The United States Army Air Force and Royal Air Force also employed Staggerwings (designated the “UC-43” by the USAAF and “Traveller Mk. I” by the RAF) for use as light transport and utility planes during World War Two.
Between 1933 and 1949, 785 Model 17 Staggerwings were built. Though it didn’t achieve the same level of commercial success as the Beechcraft Bonanza, the Staggerwing developed a cult following vintage aircraft scene.