Beech, whether it is a D-18 or a C-45, the name is iconic among most aviation enthusiasts who recognize the workhorse of the Beech company for its enduring dependability and versatility.
Charles (Chuck) F. Reed a private pilot and owner of an aviation museum, nurtured a lifeloon fascination with the Beech when he purchses two C-45s and brought them to his Pheasant Run Airport in Leroy Township (Madison), Ohio.
N87689 and N87692 had been based at the Benjamin O. Davis Aviation High School at Burke Lakefront Airport, Cleveland, Ohio since 1980. Formerly owned by the Navy and later used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the airplanes were deactivated and donated to the school for its aircraft/engine mechanics' training. When the school was closed by the Board of Education in the late 1980s, the Beeches sat idle. Chuck purchased them from the school system, bringing 87692 home in October 1995, and 87689 in November 2003.
The transport and storage of the C-45s was an engineering feat in itself, accomplished by a faithful crew of Chuck's friends. N87692 was towed on its main gear after the tail was secured on the bed of a pick-up truck. With a wide load permit and a police escort by Lake County Sheriff's Department lieutenant Ron Radovanic, who volunteered his time,, the entourage negotiated I-90 and narrow country roads and bridges for 38 miltes on the was to Pheasant Run. Richard and Joe Hrovat, longtime friends of Chuch and his wife Gretchen, documented the move with many pictures and moral support. The work crew had removed teh wings before the move, so the fuselage was pushed into one of the Reeds' hangars with the wings on a rack nearby.In 2003 when N87689 was transported, the procedure was much simplified. With a "no one is going to stop us and they wouldn't know what to do if they did" attitude, Chuck got a work crew together again and towed the airplane just like the other one but without signs and an escort. He intended it to be the "parts" airplane for N87692.
Unfortunately, progress on teh Beech wa sporadic. Many friends contributed much time and effort: Walter Germack, Jesse Dowler, Ben Tidy, Dick and Joe Hrovat, Dennis Teague, Bob Taylor, Mike Toman, Ritchie Orris, Christopher Joles, and Bill Martin. All of them, along with Gretchen, were less idealistic than Chuck and recognized that his vision of a complete C-45 at Pheasant Run was unrealistic. Although the engine run-up in 2003 was temporary morale boost, Chuck's health declined sharply starting in '05; in December of '08 he died of a neurological breakdown largely caused by injuries he'd sustained in an airplane accident in 1979.
A huge clean-out effort started at Pheasant Run after Chuck's death. He had been a "saver" in teh first degree; every building on the property had little more than paths down the middle of floors. Chris Joles became airport manager; friends rallied to help. Because the Beeches took up so much space in the hangars, Chris moved them outside in the spring of '09, putting N87692 at the front of the property near the road. It was quite the traffic stopper for several weeks as Chris, Gretchen and their friends finally had working room and space to develop the airport into a viable museum.
Dennis Teague had long been surfing the Internet in search of a home for the Beeches. By mid-summer, Grimes Flying Lab Foundation of Urbana, Ohio, contacted him and bought them and all the parts. They had many volunteers: Frank Drain, Roger Deere, Chris McConnell, Chris Asterino, Casey Furrow, Nick Furrow, Larry Furrow, Jerry Gecowets, and Jim White. They moved control surfaces and parts first and then contracted with a company from California to tranport the fuselages on a specially-designed flatbed trailer. John Williams, owner of Titan Aircraft Company in Austinburg, Ohio, brought in his excavator, and his son Jay positioned the machine's bucket with a sling to lift the airplane tails onto the rig.
The Grimes Flying Lab Foundation operates one Beech 18 that had served in the Air Force as a C-45. Located at Grimes Field, northeast of Dayton, the foundation is the legacy of Walter Grimes, the "father of aircraft lighting," who dedicated his company to meeting the needs of military aviation. That Beech had many hours of restoration work by the dedicated volunteers at Grimes, who plan to make N87692 a "fraternal twin," done in military configuration. Although Chuck Reed's vision of a twin Beech taking off from Pheasant Run was not fulfilled, his family and friends agree he would have approved of the airplanes' new home.
Compiled by Gretchen Reed
This will take you to Chuck's First Beech (Almost) in 1981.
N87692 was a C-454, S/N AF619, manufactured by Beech Aircraft Corp, Wichita, KS, in 1942. Its primary use was a transport aircraft. The engines are Pratt & Whitney R-985, (S/N L-42-18680/R-42-20694), with rated horsepower 450@2300 rpm, and max horsepower 500@2500 rpm. Both C-45s were orginally obtained as military surplus, last used for drug interdiction on the Mexican border out of Mission, TX.