Details of the CAF Gulf Coast Wing Navy JRB-6 Navigator named Little Raider

The Gulf Coast Wing of the Commemorative Air Force announced the acquisition of the newest member of the CAF fleet in August of 2016.

Destined to join the Living History Flight Experience program, the 1947 Beechcraft model D18S arrived at the Gulf Coast Wing’s then-home base at Hooks Airport in Spring, Texas, traveling from her former home in Ft. Worth. Routinely referred to as a “Twin Beech,” over 9,000 of these aircraft were produced at Beechcraft in Wichita Kansas, making it one of the world's most widely used light aircraft. 4500 of them saw military service during and after WWII.

Commonly referred to with the military designation of C-45, these aircraft were used in the military as light transports, light bombers, and photo-reconnaissance planes. Large numbers of them also saw service as aircrew trainers for bombing, navigation and gunnery.

In World War II, over 90% of USAAF bombardiers and navigators trained in these aircraft, so the aviators who flew in the nose of the Gulf Coast Wing’s B-17 Flying Fortress Texas Raiders almost certainly trained in a variant of the C-45 like this one.

About 250 of the aircraft remain airworthy today.

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Photo Credits

Manufactured in 1947, Little Raider saw only civilian service, not military service. She had a corporate career supporting the oil industry, and was in private hands when the Gulf Coast Wing acquired the aircraft in 2016.

Sporting tail number N197L, the twin engine tail dragger is painted in Navy livery and marked as a USN JRB-6 Navigator. She carries two Pratt & Whitney R-985 radial engines generating 450 horsepower each, and is now configured inside to seat six, including pilot and co-pilot.

Dubbed Little Raider via a selection process conducted by the Wing, the JRB is fitted out for public flights, and has joined Texas Raiders in the CAF Living History Flight Experience program. The compact and sturdy airplane flies smoothly and efficiently and is surprisingly quiet in the cabin, so she is perfect for a family flight.

Little Raider tours with the CAF B-17 Texas Raiders and travels independently as well, and also performs fly overs and night time holiday light excursions.

History and Specifications

Beechcraft’s twin-engine Model 18 helped the advance and growth of commercial aviation in the years before World War II. First flown in 1937, the Beech 18 was perfect for the private owner or charter operator. At the outbreak of World War II, versions of the plane was used by the Army and Navy as pilot, gunner, bombardier, and navigator trainers, photographic reconnaissance planes, and personnel transports.

The last of the civilian and military versions of the Model 18 series were built in 1969.


  • Span: 47 ft. 8 in. - Length: 34 ft. 2 in. - Height: 9 ft. 2 in.
  • Weight: 9,300 lbs. maximum
  • Armament: None
  • Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney R-985s of 450 hp each

Beechcraft built a total of 4,526 of these aircraft for the Army Air Forces between 1939 and 1945 in four versions:

  • AT-7 Navigator navigation trainer
  • AT-11 Kansan bombing-gunnery trainer
  • C-45 Expeditor utility transport
  • F-2 for aerial photography and mapping

The AT-7 and AT-11 versions were well-known to WWII navigators and bombardiers, for most of these men received their training in these aircraft. Thousands of AAF pilot cadets also were given advanced training in twin-engine Beech airplanes.

During the early 1950s, Beechcraft completely rebuilt 900 C-45s for the Air Force. They received new serial numbers and were designated C-45Gs and C-45Hs, remaining in service until 1963 for administrative and light cargo duties.


  • Maximum speed: 219 mph - Cruising speed: 150 mph
  • Range: 1,140 miles
  • Service ceiling: 18,200 ft.

Complete History at: