About The “SoNoran Beauty” – Beechcraft, Model 18 – SNB-5

by Colonel Carl Ellison
1943 BEECHCRAFT SNB-5 (UC-45J) "SoNoran Beauty"
US Navy Bureau (BuNo) Number 39265

    • AIRFRAME: 9,368 total time military paint scheme.
    • ENGINE(S): Pratt/Whitney R-985, 450 horsepower (1,600 TBO).
    • INTERIOR: Dark red and gray fabric, solid wood flooring. Radio room with door & radio racks.
    • AVIONICS/PANEL: Garmin 250 GPS/Com Narco 811 Com Terra TMA 340D Audio Panel/marker beacon King KT76A Transponder PSE 3000 Intercom (4 place) Encoding Altimeter.

The Beech aircraft factory in Wichita Kansas built SNB-2, construction number 4737 in 1943, and the US Navy registered it as Serial Number 39265. It had a very mundane service record in WWII and beyond. It never flew in a war theater, but only served as a navigation trainer in the U.S at numerous Navy and Marine Corps Air Stations.

Its first duty station was in Florida, and by December 1943, it had its first accident. On a touch and go landing at NAS Miami, the gear retracted on the rollout, and the plane ground to a halt, damaging both engines, props, and cowls. The investigation cause was indeterminate, but the investigators suspected that one of the pilots raised the gear while still rolling, causing the gear to retract when it skipped over a bump in the runway.

It spent all of WWII at four Navy bases in Florida, Georgia, and Texas as a navigation trainer. From then until 1951, it was assigned to seven other Navy bases in Florida, Texas, California, and Oregon, and in 1948 was assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station at Quantico, Virginia.

In September 1951, 39265 returned to the Beech factory, where it was completely torn down, and converted to an SNB-5. By 1953, it was back on duty until 1965 at nine different NAS’s in Kansas, Florida, Illinois, and Minnesota. In 1962, all SNB-5s were re-designated as UC-45J’s, which was a name change only, with no actual modifications.

In July 1965, 39265 was mothballed at Davis-Mothan AFB in Arizona, where it sat for four years, Central Missouri State College bought it in 1969, apparently with no modifications, and registered it as N49265. From 1988 to 1999, a company called Kansas City Beech 18 owned N49265. They registered it with a Special Airworthiness Certificate in the Experimental/Exhibition Category, and flew it in numerous air shows. It retained the paint scheme from its last duty station at Twin Cities NAS in Minnesota, with “7E” on its tail.  Westport Airport in Wichita, Kansas bought N49265 in 1999 and kept it only two years. They modified the Navy paint scheme by removing the white paint, returning it to polished aluminum, and removing the Twin Cities markings.

John and Susie Johnson in Arizona bought N49265 in 2000 and kept it until 2009. In 2000, ATW Aviation in Marana, Arizona made extensive modifications per a Beech drawing to the configuration seen today. This is why many system drawings in the original Navy manuals are incorrect today. The FAA then gave a Standard Airworthiness Certificate in the Normal Category. The Johnson’s flew N49265 to many airshows in the western US, including the CAF Midland Airshow, Luke AFB AZ, Davis-Mothan AFB AZ, California, Washington, and Alaska. Sometime before 2004, they added the Sonoran Beauty nose art.

Finally, in April 2009, the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum bought N49265, and a CAF Mile High Wing member flew it to Boulder, Colorado from Tacoma, Washington.

The Mile High Wing took possession of the aircraft, returned it to flight-worthy status and it now resides at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, Broomfield, CO (between Boulder and Denver, just off Highway 36)