Three pioneers of aviation, Clive Cessna, Lloyd Stearman and Walter Beech formed the Travel Air Manufacturing Company in 1924 to produce a safe, efficient airplane for the man on the street. This company was absorbed by the Curtis Wright Company in 1930 leading Walter Beech and his wife Olive to form the Beech Aircraft Corporation in 1932. Following Walter's death in 1950 Mrs. Beech took over as chairperson of the firm.
The Beech 17 and 17R were first flown in January 1932 but were found to be suitable for experienced pilots but not for the amateur market which had been targeted. The plane demonstrated a remarkable speed range of 60-200 m.p.h.. The most characteristic feature was the staggered wing that had been developed to provide good structural integration, a good field of view for the pilot but principally because wind tunnel tests showed that it offered good stability and speed.
The earlier models showed great promise but it was the Model B17L that proved to be the winner. Introduced in 1934 this plane had a deeper airfoil in the lower wing that provided room for the landing gear to retract fully into it. For power this model was given a 225 H.P. Jacobs L-4 radial engine and later a slightly more powerful 285 H.P. Jacobs L-5. Over the following years many variations of the Staggerwing were produced for both civil and military use such as C 17, D17, E 17, F 17 and in the immediate post war period the G17S.