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1944 Beechcraft Staggerwing ND-17S // The John Wayne Plane // N67550

Auction Start: November 8, 2023
Auction End: November 15, 2023 12:00 pm

ND-17S Details







Auction Start Date:
November 8, 2023
Auction Start Date:


Serial No:








Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Description: The John Wayne Staggerwing started its life as a WWII reconissance aircraft and currently epitomizes the glamour of the Golden Era of the silver screen. This iconic aircraft, powered by a formidable 450 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-985 Series engine, boasts a rich history and timeless appeal. With a freshly renovated interior that gleams with vintage luxury, this aircraft is a true gem of its era. Its remarkable condition, rated at an impressive 9.5/10, ensures that it continues to capture the imagination and admiration of aviation historians and cinephiles alike. Register to bid if this exceptional example of a staggering belongs in your collection
Airframe Details

• Beautifully kept exterior and new interior.
• Spacious interior
• Acclaimed to be transport for John Wayne and Betty Davis
• Powerful with stable flight characteristics


  • 4084.5 Hobbs 1143
  • Fuel Capacity: 170 gal
  • Top Speed: 212
  • Cruise Speed: 201
  • Stall speed: 60
Engine Details
  • P&W R-985 Series 450 hp
  • 1153 SMOH
  • Oil tank shut off valve and oil cooler bypass valve for cold start.
Propeller Details
  • Overhaul 2018 
  • 20 SMOH
Avionics Details
  • Transponder King KY197A
  • COMM 1: King KY197A 
  • COMM 2: King KY197A
  • LORAN: Apollo Dual Narco 121
  • ADF: Narco 141
  • King audio panel KMA25 TSO
  • Outside air temp
  • Clock
  • Hobbs
  • Cylinder head temp gauge
  • Oil temp
  • 2 VOR 
  • Turn Indicator
  • Oil and Fuel pressure gauge
  • Manifold pressure gauge
  • PRM gauge
  • Heading bug
  • Time indicator
  • Altimeter
  • Directional Gyro
  • Airspeed indicator
  • Artificial horizon
Additional Features
  • Engine Breathers, air intake under engine cowling
  • Classic steam gage instruments
  • All around excellent condition 9/10
Pale yellow with bronze bird pin strips and bronze on cowling. Restored in 1985 in Santa Paula, CA by Bob Van Ausdell. Details available in log books. Recovered with Ceconite 102 and painted with Imron lunar yellow and hangar kept
Exquisite reupholstery by current owner (2020) in oyster shell off-white and taupe.
Auction Details
Contact Phone: 254-735-5030
Contact Email:
Registration Number: N67550
Make: Beechcraft
Model: ND-17S
Required Deposit: $8,000
Buyers Premium: 4%
Start Date: November 8, 2023
End Date: November 15, 2023 12:00 pm
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John Wayne’s Iconic Ride: Exploring the Legacy of the Beechcraft Staggerwing D-17S Biplane

History and Background

The Beechcraft Staggerwing D-17S, also known as the Beech Model 17 Staggerwing, is an iconic American biplane that was designed in the 1930s as a premier business executive transport [3]. It was created by Ted A.Wells and first flew in 1932.The Staggerwing quickly gained popularity for its luxurious cabins and Art Deco style, setting it apart from other aircraft of its time.

The Staggerwing was not only known for its aesthetic appeal but also for its exceptional performance. Its innovative design featured a unique negative wing stagger, which maximized pilot visibility and reduced interference drag. This design element, along with the aircraft’s fabric-covered fuselage and retractable landing gear, contributed to its outstanding performance and handling characteristics.

During its production, the Staggerwing underwent several changes and improvements. The initial models, such as the D-17 and D-17A, were powered by a Wright R-975-E3 Whirlwind radial engine, while later models, including the D-17R and D-17S, featured a more powerful Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior engine. These engines not only provided the necessary power for the Staggerwing but also gave it a distinct sound that enthusiasts and pilots still appreciate today.

AOPA published an excellent article recently on Staggerwings. View the article here.

Significance in Warbird History

The Staggerwing D-17S holds great significance in warbird history. During World War II, it was used by both the US Navy and the Royal Navy for transport and reconnaissance purposes. Despite being designed as a civilian aircraft, the Staggerwing proved its versatility and reliability in military operations. Its speed and climb records even surpassed those of many military fighters at the time.

One notable example of the Staggerwing’s military use is its role in the British Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. The Staggerwing was utilized as a communications and transport aircraft, with its spacious cabin and long-range capabilities making it ideal for these purposes. Its reliability and performance in these roles further solidified its reputation as a dependable and versatile aircraft.

The Staggerwing’s warbird legacy extends beyond its military use during World War II. After the war, this Staggerwing was acquired by civilian owners and continued to be used for various purposes, such as private transportation and aerial photography. The aircraft’s robust construction and timeless design made it a sought-after aircraft even in peacetime.

Features and Specifications

The Beechcraft Staggerwing D-17S is renowned for its distinctive features and impressive specifications. Powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior radial engine, it delivers a reliable and powerful performance. The engine’s 450 horsepower allows the Staggerwing to achieve a top speed of around 200 mph. With a range of approximately 600 miles, the Staggerwing offers excellent versatility for long-distance flights.

In addition to its powerful engine, the Staggerwing boasts several design features that contribute to its exceptional performance. The negative wing stagger design not only enhances pilot visibility but also reduces interference drag, allowing for smoother and more efficient flight. The retractable landing gear not only improves the aircraft’s aerodynamics but also enhances its overall performance and efficiency. These design elements, combined with the Staggerwing’s strong and lightweight construction, result in a biplane that offers both speed and maneuverability.

This Staggerwing has “breathers” installed, air intake is placed higher up so when taking off and landing in dusty conditions the engine intake is spared some of the debris.

Notable Individuals and Their Connection to the Staggerwing

The Staggerwing D-17S has been flown by several notable individuals, contributing to its rich history.One such individual is the legendary actor John Wayne, who owned a 1944 Beechcraft Staggerwing. John Wayne, known for his roles in Western films, was also an avid pilot and aviation enthusiast. He used his Staggerwing for both personal and business travel, showcasing the aircraft’s versatility and appeal to high-profile individuals.

Another famous figure associated with the Staggerwing is actress Bette Davis. She had the opportunity to fly in the Staggerwing as a passenger with John Wayne, experiencing firsthand the comfort and luxury of the aircraft. The Staggerwing’s association with these iconic personalities adds to its allure and historical significance, making it an object of fascination for aviation enthusiasts and fans of classic Hollywood.

Recent Reupholstery of the Interior of N67550

The interior of a vintage aircraft like the Staggerwing D-17S is a crucial aspect of its restoration and maintenance. The interior of this aircraft was reupholstered in 2021 by the current owner with the utmost attention to detail. He chose a striking oyster white leather which compliments the soft lemon yellow exterior with red and bronze details. 

Restoration of the interior of this vintage aircraft was conducted with attention to detail and a commitment to maintaining historical accuracy. From sourcing period-correct materials to recreating the original design elements, every aspect of the interior restoration must be meticulously executed. By doing so, enthusiasts and restorers can ensure that the Staggerwing’s unique charm and historical significance are preserved for future generations to appreciate.

The recent reupholstery of the Staggerwing D-17S interior serves as a testament to the dedication of those who strive to maintain the authenticity and beauty of vintage aircraft. The restoration process often involves extensive research to ensure the interior accurately reflects the original design and materials used during the aircraft’s heyday. By undertaking such restoration efforts, enthusiasts and restorers play a vital role in preserving the Staggerwing’s historical significance and ensuring its continued enjoyment for aviation enthusiasts.

Perfect stitching and embroidered iconic B adorn this oyster white interior.

Finding More Information

For further information about this Beechcraft Staggerwing D-17S that is coming up for auction, explore the information in this blog post including access to many more images, logbooks and how to get an appointment to view the aircraft and register to bid.

The Fighter Collection website offers a wealth of information about the Staggerwing, including its history, technical specifications, and notable performances. It provides a deeper insight into the aircraft’s capabilities and its place in aviation history. Additionally, the Wikipedia page on the Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing offers a comprehensive overview of the aircraft’s design, production, and various models. It serves as a valuable resource for those seeking a detailed understanding of the Staggerwing’s development and legacy.

In addition to online resources, the Beechcraft museum in Tullahoma is a wonderful place to visit to learn more about this aircraft and all Beechcraft aircraft. Visiting these museums and attending air shows or aviation events can provide firsthand experiences and opportunities to learn more about this classic biplane. Interacting with knowledgeable experts and enthusiasts can also offer valuable insights and anecdotes about the Staggerwing’s history and significance.

The Significance in Aviation History

The Beechcraft Staggerwing D-17S holds a significant place in aviation history. It represented a pinnacle of design and performance during its time, with its unique features and luxurious cabins setting it apart from other aircraft of the era. The Staggerwing’s impact extended beyond civilian use, as it also played a role in military operations during World War II. Its beauty, versatility, and historical significance make the Staggerwing a beloved classic in the aviation community.

The Staggerwing’s design and performance innovations influenced the development of future aircraft and set new standards in the aviation industry. Its negative wing stagger design not only improved visibility for the pilot but also reduced drag, leading to more efficient flight. This design element would go on to inspire future aircraft designers and engineers, shaping the direction of aviation technology.

The Staggerwing’s significance in aviation history also lies in its contribution to the advancement of executive transport aircraft. In the 1930s, it emerged as a premier business executive transport, offering unparalleled comfort, speed, and style for its time. Its luxurious cabins and Art Deco style appealed to high-profile individuals, including celebrities and business executives. The Staggerwing set a new standard for executive aircraft, showcasing the potential of aviation as a means of efficient and luxurious travel.

Production and Comparison to Other Vintage Aircraft

The production of the Beechcraft Staggerwing D-17S spanned from the 1930s to the end of World War II. After the war, production ceased, and the Staggerwing was eventually replaced by the Beechcraft Bonanza. Although the Staggerwing is no longer in production, surviving aircraft can still be found today, cherished by aviation enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.

When comparing the Staggerwing to other vintage aircraft of its time, it stands out due to its distinctive design, exceptional performance, and historical significance. Each vintage aircraft has its own unique characteristics and charm, but the Staggerwing continues to captivate aviation enthusiasts with its timeless beauty and legacy.

One notable aircraft that can be compared to the Staggerwing is the Waco YMF-5, another classic biplane from the same era. While both aircraft share similarities in terms of their design and era of production, they have distinct differences. The Staggerwing’s negative wing stagger design and retractable landing gear set it apart from the Waco YMF-5, giving it a unique appearance and enhanced performance capabilities.

Current Condition and Where to See Surviving Staggerwings

Several surviving Staggerwings can be seen on display in museums worldwide, showcasing the aircraft’s historical importance and aesthetic appeal. These museums provide a valuable opportunity for aviation enthusiasts and history buffs to get up close to the Staggerwing and appreciate its engineering and craftsmanship.

One notable museum that houses a Staggerwing is the Fantasy of Flight Museum in Polk City, Florida. This museum is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history of aviation, and it features a meticulously restored Staggerwing as part of its collection. Visitors to the museum can explore the Staggerwing and learn about its significance in aviation history.

In addition to museum displays, you can own a piece of silver screen and Staggerwing history buy registering and bidding on this D-17S. It is in excellent condition. The current owner is ready to let it fly away to a new home. With enough capacity for your family and friends to pile in with their luggage, 5 seats plus 2 jump seats and a generous range this aircraft will turn heads on ramps. Its stable flight characteristics and powerful 450 hp engine make it a joy to fly. 

The auction for N67550 starts on November 8, 2023 and goes on for a week. Inquire by phone or email to register to bid today.

One comment

  1. […] The restoration of John Wayne’s D17S was a labor of love, carried out by expert craftsmen who sought to preserve the aircraft’s original beauty and historical significance. Every aspect of the restoration was carefully considered. Exemplary upgrades such as a fuel selector to manage the 5 fuel tanks for both length of flight and weight and balance. A newer alternator has been installed for more consistent operation. Cleveland upgraded wheels and brakes. Electric fuel pump with high boost and low boost options. Gear motor maintenance and upgrades have been made, including adding new chains. The interior was renovated in 2021 with oyster white leather. The result is a stunning aircraft that pays homage to both John Wayne’s legacy and the golden age of aviation. Find more pictures and information on the AirSpace website here. […]

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