Beechcraft RC-45J (SNB-5P) 29585

Updated 10-26-09

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Originally built as a navigation trainer during World War II, this Beechcraft was assigned Bureau of Aeronautics number 29585 for service with the US Navy. BuAer 29585 was overhauled and configured for service as a photo reconnaissance trainer in the 1950s, and it served with the Navy's Photo School at Pensacola, Florida until its retirement to desert storage in 1972. After 24 years of storage the airplane was acquired by Taigh Ramey, who made it airworthy once again while preserving the airplane's unique and historical configuration and equipment. This wonderful Beech has been sold to a great guy in the Seattle area and will soon be heading to her new home.

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Photo taken by Perry Bales (Number One Air Show Fan) at Lake Tahoe Airport in 2001. Thank you for this and all of the other pictures that you gave us. We will miss your smiling face, and we will always remember your kindness, generosity and your love for air shows. Thanks Perry!


Since emerging from storage,  29585 has undergone extensive maintenance to bring her back into an airworthy condition. That maintenance has included the following:

The striking original markings and insignia on 29585 were thoroughly documented before the aircraft was repainted. The entire airframe was stripped, etched, and Alodyned prior to re-painting with military specification polyurethane paint. All original markings and insignia were painstakingly re-applied as part of the re-painting process. All of the markings were restored to within a millimeter of their original location. 


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29585 in US Navy Service, September 1970 


  29585 as it appeared after two decades of storage in the Arizona Desert


29585 on display in May, 2001 


    The authentic and original instrument panel as it appears today

The large, round hole on the right side of the instrument panel is the A-19 viewfinder. This optical periscope was used to see what the camera was going to take a picture of. You could select either forward looking or straight down. A built in drift meter could be used to determine actual drift on the photo run to adjust the cameras. 

In addition to seats for the pilot and co-pilot, the passenger compartment contains seats for three additional passengers. Two of those seats are immediately aft of the camera windows in the fuselage floor, and were occupied by students when the aircraft served as a photo reconnaissance trainer. The third seat in the passenger compartment was occupied by an instructor.

The interior of the Beech is great for family and friends. She is an awesome air show aircraft that is completely authentic and still comfortable for the wife and kids. My kids love looking out of the "glass bottom" camera bays. This shot shows some people having a blast while I was giving them a ride at Columbia air show.

Carrying four passengers in addition to the pilot, 29585 has been a popular attraction at air shows. Hundreds of aviation enthusiasts have enjoyed memorable rides in this great Twin Beech.


   Original military avionics as seen through entry door


Toilet compartment   


The RC-45J is a unique aerial photography platform...

The specialized features of the RC-45J provide exceptional facilities for aerial photography. In addition to scenic and survey photography, the RC-45J's performance allows comfortable formation flying for dramatic air-to-air photography. 

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Insignia of the Navy Technical Training Unit Photo Schools as designed by Wayne Waterhouse 



Two windows in the fuselage floor provide view for cameras. This is a Fairchild F-56 Aerial camera with a 6 inch lens.


Left side camera window, aft of cockpit 


  Doors covering camera windows can be opened and closed in flight


 A port aft of each camera window allows direct passage for camera viewfinders

From one of our great veterans comes the following comments:

Hi...I enjoyed your wed site and it brought back a lot of memories. I graduated from the Naval School of Photography in April of 1947. There is one piece of information that is missing in your most detailed coverage of the plane. I will try to make this as brief as possible and hope I still make some sense.

You show a picture titled - "A port aft of each camera window allows direct passage for lenses." What you do not mention is that one of these ports was used for the "view finder" that was inserted to guide and keep the pilot on course and to give instructions to the two man camera crew so they could adjust the camera during overlapping, "mosaic mapping runs" to keep the image at perfect right angels to the flight of the plane. The four seats in the cabin faced each other. In my flights the camera was always mounted on the left side between the two seats and the viewfinder on the right between the other two seats. There was a long, complicated math procedure to determine the needed "overlap" of each picture...side-by-side and "interval" between top and bottom. (If you are interested I can forward that math-setup formula.) The student photographers were the ones that communicate to the pilot the direction of each run and viewed the ground below through the view finder. By keeping the view below in a perfect right angle to the forward flight the ones on the viewfinder were able to determine how many degrees the pilot was "crabbing" the plane to counter any cross winds and still move forward in a straight line. That information was used by the camera operators to turn the camera the correct amount of degrees to compensate for the plane's off-center position as it flew in a perfect, straight line down the mapping run. If that were not done correctly, the pictures would appear in a diamond format instead of the needed, right angle picture that was required to form the final, finished, mosaic map. When there was a number of such runs to cover a wide area, the cameramen operating the viewfinder were responsible to give the correct information to the pilot for his speed, altitude, and repeating runs.


Jerry Zimmerman

  Panel in entry door is hinged to accommodate photography


Photo shows entry door panel in open position 


Original military viewfinder in the nose provides a view of the ground beneath the aircraft through a large lens in front of the co-pilot on the right side of the instrument panel. Note the periscope's "eye" beneath the lip of the nose hatch. You can select either a forward or vertical image with the electronic controls on the co-pilots instrument panel.


Here are some of the e-mails that I have received from veterans who flew in 585 or in RC-45j's while they were in the service.


I have enclosed a couple of pictures that you may find interesting.  It may also explain why I have such an interest in 4P 9585, being that I was the last Navy Pilot to fly her. Check out the last entry in my log book.


Bill Granade

Bill Granade log book.jpg (390298 bytes)

Click on the picture for a larger image and check out the last two entries. Thanks Bill for finding us! I can't wait for you to come out and get re acquainted with your old Beech. On June 27th, 2003 it will be 31 years since Bill flew 29585.

Just click on an image for a larger picture

Here is a photo of Bill Granade and Al Shaw shortly after they landed in 585 at Davis Monthan Air Force Base on June 27, 1972. Bill and Al recently came up to visit their old bird and took her up for a flight. It was 31 years ago to the day that Al had last flown her in Florida. Bill and Al did a masterful job of flying and they didn't miss a beat. I was impressed and honored to be able to fly with these great Naval Aviators.

It turns out that Bill was flying in this shot of 585 flying when in the Navy in September of 1970.

Just click on an image for a larger picture

Here is a photo taken by Rick Clausen of Bill and Al flying the same airplane 31 years later on June 23, 2003.

Bill and Al gave me several items of personal gear that they used while flying 585 in the service. Thank you for those great gifts!


I was stationed at NATTU Pensacola as an Aerial Photography Instructor from 1968 to 1970. I had over 1600 hours in the RC-45J's during that period and enjoyed every minute!! We had mostly enlisted pilots, AP's, back then, all had served in WWII. The one I have the fondest memories of was "Pappy" Laurence. Once we flew down to Keesler AFB in Biloxi/Gulfport to pick up the brother of one of our other instructors in the Aerial Phase. While waiting for the man to get his gear, etc, an Air Force SGT came over to fill out an aircraft movement report. We gave him all the info but when he asked for the aircraft commander's rank, we told he he was an ADRC(AP), a Chief Petty Officer Aircraft Mechanic, Aviation Pilot. He looked at us as if we were crazy and said, "what is his rank?, like a Major or Captain, or what?" He was told that he was an enlisted man, not an officer, he was an E-7. He really looked at us as if we were really stupid and said, "enlisted men don't fly airplanes!!" About that time Pappy stepped out of the rear hatch with his WWI helmet and goggles on and was wiping his glasses. The SSGT threw his clipboard up in the air and walked off muttering! The pics at the website are fantastic! I would sure love to see one of those Beech's again, with the NATTU paint scheme. I was at Oshkosh in '95 and there were several Super G-18's there, one guy was even rolling one which kinda made me uneasy. We had one pilot in Pensacola that liked to do "wingovers", but would never get inverted. We all felt sure the wings would come off!! You sure are one lucky guy to enjoy a little of that history!!!

Walt Hamler


I did my aerial training in this aircraft in the summer of 1960 before I headed overseas.  I took a picture on Saturday and I understand that someone forwarded it to you. In fact I took 4 pictures and did several flights at Mission Commander and we had to wake up the pilot so we could land.  We used to use the K-17 vertical camera out of the window ports and two different focal lengths at each station.  We had the door removed for all oblique work with the port engine throttled back and full right rudder to remain on heading.  We will be headed to San Antonio next fall (2003) for the National roundup and I am sure that there are many there that have flown in this old bird. The A-19 has two modes.  forward looking where the bottom of the viewfinder shows almost directly under the aircraft and Actual vertical.  We used to have to tell the camera stations how many degrees to move the cameras for crab correction. 
Will send more later or if you have specific questions maybe I can help or at least give you someplace to look.
Bill Irwin.


Just read your post on the Photo web page.  I Flew in the Beechcraft in 1956 while attending Photo "A" school. I was designated as an "aerial Photographer" upon graduation.  On one flight (Piloted by a Marine Gunny sergeant, who's name escaped me now). On the flight we were using the F56 aerial camera (7 X 7 negative size). The door had a hatch that hinged up from the inside to give us an opening to shoot the pictures through. I don't remember all the particulars, but we made a rather rough landing that day, and I noticed the student flying in the co-pilots seat franticly working a lever back and forth. Upon landing after traveling for a short way the engine quit. Later I found out that we had run out of fuel.

   Students were occasional dropping camera's from the plane so at some time a steel cable was attached to the cameras and the radio rack across from the door.  This was fine until one was dropped, and the slip stream banged it into the side of the plane doing severe damage to the planes side.

   As I remember we had one flight shooting "Oblique" photo's from the side, and one doing overlapping vertical negatives to make a strip map. This had a camera mount with rotation capabilities, an intervalometer to fire the camera at a pre determined interval, and a vertical viewfinder to see how much the plane needed to be "crabbed" to make the flight run straight.  The door with the photo hatch was quite scarce. There were probably only 6-8 in existence. NAS Norfolk had one, and I think Pensacola had two.  I ad van ced to 3rd class just after leaving school, and within 6 months all photographers were combined into the PH rating, dropping the Aerial and ground designations.

   I still have a copy of the photographer’s manual from the mid 50's which describes this (that is if I can fine it).  I had a picture of my class put on the photographers web page 56-13 (class started the 13th week of 1956).


                           PHC Don Van Horn USN Ret


The old saying went "You had better come back with the handles from the camera" and even that happened.  The handle came off the camera in the student’s hand, and away went the camera. The F56 camera has two handles, one on each side.  One rotated forward and back to cock the shutter, and advance the film while the one on the left was not movable.  Took a little practice juggling around a 30 LB camera to get it cocked.

    The mapping camera was a K-17 or CA--3 (CA was a later identification meaning Camera Aerial) (all K series camera's were made by Fairchild). It was electrically operated, with manual wind as backup. Came with 6"/ 12" or 36" lens cones (they were interchangeable). Used 9 1/2" by 200' rolls of film in an interchangeable film magazine. It used a IE-3 interferometer, the F1V-1 viewfinder, and the M1A-1 or NR-1 Camera Mount.   One man took care of the camera manually keeping it level, and rotating it as directed by the man on the viewfinder.  The man on the viewfinder gave instructions to the pilot for course corrections in no more than 3 deg. increments.  All turned were rudder turns (to keep the plane wings horizontal). Later the co-pilot's instrument panel had a viewfinder installed it was the A-19 Viewfinder which used the IE-5 interferometer and a frame counter. Film was processed in a DA-4 tank and hand cranked from one spool to another, and back again until the development time was through, then into the fixing bath and the same operation carried out.  Finally into a wash tank where an electrical motor was attached to do the winding.  Drying was done on an A-14 Aerial dryer.  Aerial maps were printed on a water proof paper so wash and drying time could be kept as short as possible.  We had resin based paper in the 50's which didn't catch on in the civilian marker until much later

    My last cruise was aboard the U.S.S. Midway CVA-11 off Vietnam where I did all the strike aerial recon photos for each day's strikes.

    Hope this helps,  Don


Is the radio rack still in the plane? (across from the door). F56 was to set just in front of it and was held in place with Bun gee cord.  There was also a "D" ring there to attach a gunners belt to, so we wouldn't fall out the door.

    The picture I believe is of the F56 with 12" lens. What a brute, weighed over 50 LB. We were limited to 5000 ft in altitude (navy rules about oxygen) so most of the photo's were taken with the 6" model of the camera. My last flight was in Virginia Beach Va.   They were going to have a golf tournament there, and the CO wanted pictures of each hole. We borrowed the door from Norfolk , and I was assigned to shoot the pictures. They wanted near verticals, so the pilot had to rock the plane on its side when we came to the appropriate spot so I could shoot.  This wasn't too bad, but after we finished and I went to take my seat the pilot decided to do a barrel roll with the plane. I didn't have time to fasten my seat belt before he started this so I just had to hang on.  Luckily he kept positive g's on the plane through the maneuver so I didn't leave my seat, but all I could thing about was Me and the Camera bouncing around the inside of that plane.  That was my last flight.  I turned in my wings that day and never flew in a Beechcraft again. 


I flew aerial missions out of Cubi Point Naval Air Station in 1970 & '71 while assigned to the Fleet Air Photo Lab.  Unfortunately, I don't know what the aircraft number was, but I do know it was manufactured in August, 1945, which made the aircraft 8 months younger than me.  We flew some mapping missions, but mostly went out and flew around ships, taking their p[ictures for publicity use.  The most memorable mission was one where I took photos of two A-4D's flying in formation with us.  Our pilot had to put us in a shallow dive to go fast enough to keep the forward slats on the A-4's from extending.  Also had another mission where the pilot (later killed while trying to fly an S-2 back to Cubi with no instruments in overcast weather!) got so low on a ship-picture mission that I was later told we were below the weather decks of the destroyer I was taking pictures of.  This in 8'-10' seas.  Hmmmmmmmm! 
Anyway, thank you for restoring your plane.  Ours was a good bird, and I would like to know what became of it.
Brian L. Chandler
1967 - 1971

Sir - I just stumbled across your web-site. I read the email you received from Brian Chandler, former PH-2 who had been stationed at FAPL at Cubi Point. I was a PH-3 stationed there at that time 70-72 and I also flew in the twin-engine RC-45j's. When Brian left I got his aircrew slot. When I first arrived VRC-50 had 2 RC45J's. I can remember flying over a hundred miles out to sea to do ship ID's etc. They lost one of the planes when it clipped a mountain top, flipped, crashed and burned. I went with a search party looking for the crash site in the mountains in an S-2. When it was located we hooked up with an air force crew in a large helicopter at a little air strip somewhere up in the mountains. The air force guys flew me in as close as they could go in their big chopper to the crash site. I shot photos of the crash site from about 200 feet up, leaning out the door with a gunner's belt on. From that altitude the only thing that could be recognized as part of an aircraft was the distinctive tail section of the airplane. All three crew who were in it walked out! The only injury was a slight burn one crew member had on the back of his hand because he wasn't wearing flight gloves. Shortly after that, they decided to retire the remaining RC45J. It was a popular aircraft with everyone, but the word was it was getting too difficult to get parts for. I recall hearing that a former aircrewman wrote trying to buy it. Anyway, one day Chief Wilkins at the photo lab told me that they were having a retirement ceremony for that airplane and I was assigned to photograph the event. He told me to wear dress whites, it was a real formal affair. Now this caused a problem. I was not a real spit-shine sailor. I don't think I owned a set of dress whites. A couple of days before the ceremony Chief Wilkins told me "Alford, wear your flight suit to that retirement party for the airplane. They're going to take it for one last flight and since you've crewed in it so much they want you to go along." He had no idea what a relief that was! On the big day I got suited up and went down to VRC-50's hanger. They had the reviewing stand set up, a band, dignitaries, the whole nine yards. With great pomp and ceremony they wheeled the aircraft out and the pilots and I marched across to the airplane and got in and fired her up. We took of and did a brief flight around and came back over Subic Bay. Over my headphones I heard the pilot to the tower, something like "Checkertail two nine, the last RC45J in the Navy, going into the break over Cubi for the last time." At that he rolled her about 90 degrees (it seemed) and we landed and taxied back to the hanger. I would really appreciate it if you could share my email address with Brian Chandler, I'd like to hear from him or anyone else from those days. Looking at the pictures on your web site gives me chills. We were young once ...  -Chuck Alford

Naval Aerial Photography in the 1940's

Prepared by Jerry Zimmerman - 1997

From personal class notes taken at the Naval School of Photography, Pensacola, Fl.  1947

 Printing Paper types:

Azo - contact - single weight glossy, mat, double weight: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Kodabromide - projection - single weight, glossy, mat, double weight : 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Air Map Special - contact or projection: A, B, C, D, E

                Double weight comes with a water proof wax base and can not be run through a dryer.

Film types and index speed

Panchromatic: Aero Pan            32

                            Super XX        100

                            Tri-X -             200

                                Tripple S Pan    (?)

Note: Panchromatic film was preferred because it was a little more sensitive to red which helped penetrate haze. 

Eastman Aero Color (Pos. Trans.) 40

Kodak Color (Positive Trans.)       40

G.E. Color (Positive Trans.)          32

 Infra Red -  Used for camouflage detection.  This film has no index speed rating.  Basic exposure: f 6.3 @ 1/500 with a 89A filter.

Note: When using infra red film the focal length of the camera must be extended 2%.  Develop film in D-19 for 9 minutes.  Additional filters: 70, 87, 89.

 Film used for Night Aerial Flash Photography

Triple S Pan

Tri-X Pan                            200 

Filters used in aerial photography with Pan film

Light yellow (Aero 1) 0 to 2,500 feet.

Medium yellow (Aero 2) from 2,500 feet to 5,000 feet.

Orange yellow filter (minus blue) 5,000 to 10,000 feet.

Red (A-25) 10,000 feet and over.

US NAVY Aerial Cameras (1946):

Five main parts of an aerial camera:  Magazine, Vacuum back, case drive, cone and lens. 

K-20.  Most comfortable and maneuverable aerial camera, used for low spotting oblique.  Focal length 6 3/8, plate size 4"x5".  Max. exposures per roll, 50.  Shutter speeds: 1/25 to 1/500.

 K-17.  An all purpose reconnaissance camera designed for vertical and oblique work.

Two types: K-17-A,  12 volts and K-17-B,  24 volts.  Focal lengths: 6", 12", 24".

Magazines:  A-5 roll film detachable and A-5A, electrically heated for high altitude flying.

Capacity: 175 feet or 250 exposures.  Also a B-1 cut film adapter for 8" x 10" film.

Shutter speeds:  1/50 to 1/300. 

F-56 Fairchild.  An all purpose camera featuring a quick-wind handle and oblique shutter release. Focal lengths: 5 1/2, 8 1/4, 20, 40.  Plate size 7" X 7".  Max. exposures, 200.  Shutter speeds: 1/75 to 1/225.  This camera has a film marking device which photographs a stop watch and records the time on the film.  There is also a 5"X7" cut film, 12 exposure adapter. 

K-18.  Primarily for vertical mapping.  Focal length 24 inches.  Max. exposures, 48.  Shutter speeds: 1/50, 1/100, 1/150. 

K-25.  For low altitude spotting.  It is used only as a fixed camera and is operated remotely and controlled electrically.  Focal length 6 3/8", plate size 4"X5", max. exposures, 60.  Camera must be set manually before take off.  Speeds: 1/125, 1/200, 1/500.  Detachable magazine operates on 12 or 24 volts, seven exposures every 5 seconds. 

K-19.  Used for night flash photography.  13.5" focal length with a fixed f 3.5 aperture lens and a 12" with a f 2.5 fixed aperture lens.  Shutter speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100.  Film plate size, 9"X9".  Uses A-5 or A-5A magazine, max. exposures, 250.  Also uses a cut film back and, because of a magnetic shutter, can only be operated electrically.  The camera cannot be operated below 5,000 feet, weighs 64 pounds and is mounted vertically.  Best altitude to fly is 10,000 feet and the magnesium photo flash bomb must explode at 3000 feet.  The exposure is made with a wide open lens at the slowest shutter speed.  The exposure takes place when a photo electric cell of light sensitive selenium generates a small amount of electricity to set off the shutter release. 


The magnesium bomb is a fire hazard while attaching it to the plane and detailed safety procedures must be followed.  The bomb weighs about 50 pounds and the fuse must be set before it is dropped.  It is one of the most easily exploded bombs the US has. 

The bomb has an air brake to slow it down to hold it out of camera range.  The 25 exposure, Tri-X film, the fastest index speed in the 1940's, was made special for the K-19 camera. 

F-8.  Used for oblique and limited verticals.  Focal length: old model 10", new model 15".  Manually operated, focal plane shutter, speeds: 1/25 to 1/500.  Plate size 5" X 7".  Max. exposures, 40.  Lenses:  10", f  4.5, and a 12", f 5.6.  Non-detachable magazine.

Aerial Stereo Photography 

Sonne Strip Camera.  Used for flying and photographing a continuous strip of stereo reconnaissance pictures.  The camera has no shutter, it has a slit like those in a focal plane shutter.  Instead of the slit moving (like the focal plane shutter) it is in a fixed position.  The film moves across the slit allowing the film to be exposed.  The exposure is controlled by synchronizing the plane's speed with the movement of the film. 

NoteThe camera had two lenses that photographed and produced a side by side continuous strip of stereo pictures.  Specialists, by using stereo viewing instruments, were able to determine the rise and fall of the land and height of buildings.  All they needed was conformation of the height of a recognizable object, such as a telephone pole, the time of the day the strip had been photographed and, hopefully, a shadow from the sun.  By measuring the length of the shadow created by the telephone pole, calculations of all other heights could be made.  Then, an accurate, three dimensional relief map of the area could be prepared.  It was a valuable tool for mapping an unknown beach to help prepare for an invasion. 

Equipment needed for vertical mapping:

B-3B Intervalometer.

This unit fires the camera's shutter and advances the film to preset information from the cameraman.  The cycle is determined by plane speed and the desired overlap of each picture.  The cycle can be adjusted from 2 to 120 seconds.  The unit has an inside heating element for high altitude flying that operates on 24 volts.

 N-R-I View Finder.

The view finder was mounted in and through the plane's floor, across and beside the camera mounted for vertical mapping.  It was used with cameras:  K-17, K-18, K19, F-56.


Required: A map of an area 19 miles North and South by 15 miles East and West.  Scale is to be 1/11,400.  Camera is to be a K-18.  Plane speed is 180 knots and we have a wind of 16 knots from the North.  Chart Scale is 1" equals 2500 yards.


Altitude ________________________________  Formula:    A:S: : F:l 

Ground gained forward ____________________       "              Scale X usable image (Usable image is 40% of negative size forward).

 Exposure per run _________________________       "              Length of area in feet divided by  G.G.F (plus 4) 

Ground gained sideways: __________________        "              Scale X usable image (usable image is 60% of negative size sideways). 

Number of runs __________________________       "              Width of area in feet divided by G.G.S. (plus 1). 

Total exposures: _________________________       "              Number of runs X exposures per run 

Number of rolls of film (or number of magazines): __________________       "              Capacity of magazine divided by exposure per run.  Product divided into number of runs. 

Amount of paper: ________________________        "              2 sheets per exposure plus 10% for waste.

 Interval going South: ______________________      "              Plane speed minus wind X 1.7.Product divided into G.G.F.

 Interval going North: ______________________      "              Plane speed plus wind X 1.7. Product divided into G.G.F.

 Size of finished map: ______________________       "              D  "D" is length and width of area in feet. S  "S" is map scale. (1":1100')

 Distance between flight lines: _______________        "              D  "D" is G.G.S.S   "S" is chart scale (1":6300')


My lasting curiosity in the Beech 18 occurred for a number of reasons, including the chain of events that led me to write these notes: 

In 1995 I located a pilot that I had trained with in Pensacola back in the spring of 1947.  I came upon retired Commander Don Breedlove's name and address in a reunion group's roster for my Port Lyautey, Morocco Naval Air Station.  We had not seen or talked to one another since we graduated from the Naval School of Photography.  It was an exciting telephone reunion.  He was assigned to NAS Port Lyautey in 1951, three years after I left Morocco for my discharge.  Commander Breedlove, just as many other pilots that attended the photography school, were veteran fighter pilots fresh from World War II in the Pacific.  To pilot a plane correctly for aerial photography it took skillful, patient understanding of what an aerial photographer had to go through.  To make it easier for a cameraman, the pilot's ego had to be set aside.  For some that was difficult because it was a “kid” sailor directing them and it was a rare pilot that could completely permit HIS plane to be somewhat out of his control.  In that regard, Commander Breedlove was one of the best 

During our telephone visit I asked Commander Breedlove where he was stationed after our graduation.  He said he and four of my classmates were sent to Alaska where they flew a Beechcraft F-2 for two years as they produced an updated aerial map of Alaska.  When that was completed, Commander Breedlove was assigned to the Naval Air Station in Port Lyautey.  I remarked that two years of mapping was a LONG, LONG time in a Beechcraft!  He agreed and told me of the saddest part of that experience and what caused the demise of aerial mapping photography as we knew it and the F-2 itself…  “Today a satellite can do the same job and with better detail in less than 2 seconds!”

In 1985 my son, Tom Zimmerman, moved from Wisconsin to Cincinnati, Ohio.  It was his desire and promise to skydive at the age of 40 and that led me back to the Beechcraft in Boston, Indiana in the spring of 1997.  I joined him for his first sky diving class at Aerodrome Sky Sports Ltd.’s Sky Diving School.  On a class break, I spotted a silver Beechcraft in the back of the hangar but I was not aware that it was a special and perhaps rare model of the Beechcraft series.  During the 50 years since I left the navy I never imagined having an opportunity to fly inside, one again. 

The Beechcraft was having an engine rebuilt; as I walked under the plane I was pleasantly surprised to see the metal-covered portholes needed for an aerial camera and viewfinder!  I returned to the operations desk where I visited with a young lady.  ( Later, I discovered that she was the daughter of the owner of Aerodrome Sky Sports).  When I explained that I had flown in such a plane in 1946-47 she gasped in disbelief and said the plane could NOT BE THAT OLD!  I asked if one of the pilots was around and she introduced me to a young pilot who agreed with my description of the plane's vintage.  The young lady was shocked to learn her father's large plane was, in deed, "THAT OLD!"  After I shared my photographic experiences in the Beechcraft the pilot exclaimed, “We all wondered what those openings in the bottom of the plane's fuselage were for!” 

Rain prevented my son from jumping that day so we had to drive back home and wait for another time.

Tom finally jumped in the fall when my wife and I returned from Wisconsin for another visit.  It was a beautiful, clear day with a slight breeze, just perfect for skydiving.  I guided my 13-year-old granddaughter back in the hangar to show her the type of plane her grandfather had flown in as a young sailor but the plane was nowhere in sight.  I spotted the young pilot I had visited with in the spring and asked him where the plane was.  He led us outside and pointed into the sky where the Beechcraft was spilling out skydivers to begin their free-fall.  I expressed that I was pleased to see the Beechcraft flying again and the pilot suggested that, if I wished and if the copilot’s seat were open on the next flight, I was welcome to fly along.  Without hesitation I accepted the offer.  Even though I was concerned I might miss my son’s first jump, I knew I could not pass up a return to the past in the old Beechcraft.

Fortunately, the copilot’s seat was open and I was called to the plane as the next group of skydivers hurried aboard with their gear.  I sat beside a pleasant, friendly pilot and, after the excited jumpers filled the belly of the plane, we headed into the sky.  As we gained altitude and continued our tight circling climb to the jump altitude, I shared my past experiences in the Beechcraft with the pilot.  As we leveled off and prepared to let the divers leave the plane, the pilot asked if I could handle a quick descent back to the airfield.  Because I had been aboard dive bombers I said yes, I could handle ANY quick descent.

The chatter of the divers intensified and could be heard above the roar of the twin engines as jumper after jumper left the plane.  After the last skydiver disappeared through the open door the pilot shouted, “Hold on, we’re GOING DOWN!”  MY GOODNESS!!  This 70-year-old flying veteran was in for a new and unexpected experience!  Whereas a dive bomber heads STRAIGHT for the ground like a rock, the Beechcraft made very tight, steep-banked turns.  The ground was spinning in the windshield without a horizon and the g-force made me wonder if the old faithful F-2 was going to keep her wings!  I tried to “gut” it out but, because I did not see any handy “puke bag” like there was when I was a student aerial photographer, I prayerfully closed my eyes.  That worked and I only opened them after I felt the plane level off to make its final circle as the pilot prepared to land.

I immediately scanned the area to see if I could spot my son floating down and I did!  As we came into the landing strip and, just before our wheels touched down, I saw Tom glide to a perfect landing on my side of the plane.  We taxied to a stop on the hangar apron and I exited the plane just in time to join him as he walked in with his rolled-up chute in his arms, a smile a mile wide on his face and his daughter excitedly grabbing a free elbow.  It will never get any better than that! 

Then, through another rare and unexpected circumstance, my youngest daughter and family moved to Dayton, Ohio.  During a visit with them in 1998 I explored the Army Air Force Museum and found myself standing in front of a Beechcraft C-45 Expeditor.  As I read the posted information sheet I was surprised to learn that not ALL Beechcrafts had holes in the floor for an aerial camera and viewfinder, only the F-2 series!  I thought, "Wouldn’t it be interesting to learn where that Boston, Indiana Beechcraft had its beginning?  Could it have been Pensacola, Florida?  Could I have flown in it back in 1946-47 as a young, Aerial Photographer?"  Do you know what?  I discovered I didn't want to quench my curiosity because this old man prefers to imagine it is possible that it WAS the same plane. 

PS:  A sad note.  The Beechcraft that flew to Gibraltar in 1947 to carry me back to NAS Port Lyautey was flown by the executive officer of the air base.  Months after I arrived home in the spring of 1948, I read in the newspaper that the officer was flying the Beechcraft to Gibraltar with his wife and four children aboard on his way to meet the plane that was to fly them back to the United States and his new assignment.  The Beechcraft crashed for unknown reasons in the Atlas mountains and there were no survivors.

 (INCIDENTAL HISTORY; MOROCCO:  During France's colonization and while acting as "protectorate" of Morocco (beginning in 1912) they renamed the country French Morocco.  Over the following years the seaport city of Kenitra had its name changed to honor Marshal Lyautey who served as the Resident General from 1912 through 1925.  In November of 1942 and to the end of World War II, the United States took over France's Port Lyautey, French Morocco Naval Air Station.  The three day battle called "Operation Torch," was the first United States European war theater invasion.  This was the beginning of the end for Hitler's armies.  After the war and on January 1, 1948, the US returned the base to French Navy rule and, in 1956, the French returned the base to native Moroccan possession and rule.  Shortly after, Port Lyautey was renamed Kenitra, Morocco.)

Jerry Zimmerman

    Here are two photos from Jerry Zimmerman

Here is another great e-mail from Jerry:

Dear Taigh...

This evening was the first time I returned to your great web page on the SN Baker. I was so very pleased to find you chose to reprint the pages of notes that I prepared and forwarded to the US Army Air Force Museum in Dayton Ohio. I am more pleased that those notes are now connected with what seems to be a homecoming memory book for a number of us old USN sailors/salts! (;-) As soon as I finish this email of thanks and praise for a wonderful project of history of a GREAT plane I will forward the web page to all my children, grandchildren and some of my fellow, 1947 classmates and buddies I still keep in touch.

FYI: While reading the other stories and for the record I would like to add one more piece of information to the great history you are assembling. The entry I refer to reads:
Aerial maps were printed on a water proof paper so wash and drying time could be kept as short as possible. We had resin based paper in the 50's which didn't catch on in the civilian marker until much later My last cruise was aboard the U.S.S. Midway CVA-11 off Vietnam where I did all the strike aerial recon photos for each day's strikes. Hope this helps, Don
Although the make-up of the mapping photo paper did reduce its wash and dry time, its development was brought about because the "normal", everyday photo papers were very fragile when wet and also unstable and unpredictable because of irregular shrinking and stretching. To assemble the many pictures (which could be anywhere from a half-dozen to hundreds) it was necessary to make irregular cuts on the sides that were to overlap another image. Just imagine putting together a picture puzzle if, although you had the correct piece, it had changed its size and shape even a would not fit!  For that reason, and to assemble a mosaic map as perfect as possible, it was necessary to develop the extremely stable, durable mapping photo paper. The photo paper's development WAS ahead of its time and its ability to shorten the wash and dry cycle as well as its strength worked right into its use in commercial printing.


Jerry Zimmerman


Thanks for the kind words Jerry. It is the comments like yours that makes this worth while!

Here is a good story from Donald Langworthy about his experiences with the Navy SNB Twin Beech:

It was my last scheduled training flight at Pensacola in June, 1944, a three leg, navigation flight. The three cadets arrived at the flight line to pre-light the airplane. During the preflight, I noticed that the right Oleo shock absorber seemed higher than the left one.

When Lt. Peck, the instructor, arrived a few minutes later, I brought to his attention the right Oleo. He said it was alright. Inside, I didn't agree as I could picture what might happen on take-off.
So, we all piled into the SNB. I took my place in the left cockpit seat. Lt. Peck sat in the right seat. The engines started and taxi clearance obtained, we got to the take-off position. Tower okayed our take off. Rolling down the runway at full throttle, the plane kept edging to the left and even applying right rudder it didn't respond properly. Ultimately, we hit the edge of the runway where there was a sort of berm, we had not reached flying speed --- but nearly. As we hit the berm, the SNB went airborne, stalled and came down on the right wingtip, we bounced and came down again on the left wing tip. We came to a halt off of the runway. Both wingtips were damaged.
All four of us were taken to the sick bay to be checked over for injuries (none found). We had to make out incident reports as to what happened. We were back for another flight later that day. We all three cadets passed our final training flight. One more flight followed. It was a final flight without an instructor, another three legged navigational flight - had a great time!!!
As I had been assigned 'Pilot' duties on the early morning flight, I was brought up on charges (Navy called it a
Board of Inquiry). It was three days before the Board met and for me to appear. My scheduled Board meeting was for 7 AM. I entered the Board meeting to face four officers of mid-rankings. I was asked many questions about flight problems. They asked (ordered) me to wait outside in the Hall for a few minutes.
I had been out in the Hall for a few minutes when I started to cry like a small child. I could see my flight training days could be over just short of Commissioning day. A Navy Commander came along and put his arm around my shoulders and said that everything would be okay. I didn't have that confidence. Soon, I was asked to return to the 'Board' room. I was asked one more question. "Cadet Langworthy, is it your contention that Lt Peck was at fault, that he should have vetoed the flight because of the Oleo shock absorber condition?" I answered that I didn't blame any one for it. "I think it could have happened to anyone else under the same conditions". That seemed to satisfy the members of the Board. I didn't get washed out of flight school.
The Board of Inquiry caused me to be one week late in my planned graduation and Commissioning as a 2nd Lt. in the Marine Corps Reserves. Those Wings of Gold have been precious to me ever since --- 62 years.
The SNB was a fun airplane to fly. Altogether, including subsequent flight hours as an officer, I had a total of nearly 100 hours in that type aircraft. I always made sure the Oleos were in proper condition.

Thanks Donald!

I just received this e-mail from Bob Knotts:

Hi. I think I talked to you some time back. But I just read some of your letters, and thought I'd add a couple of things. I went to photo "A" school in 1956; class 5605. We had two enlisted Marine pilots-M/SGT Truex, and M/SGT ROSS (I believe). They had both been Corsair pilots during the Korean war, as Temporary Majors. They reverted to keep their wings as I understand it. They were avid fishermen, and would often skim over the waves, looking for fish . Not really that low, but we would be over the ocean, and be able to see the tree tops on the beach ABOVE us.!  When I went back to "B" school in 1963, only one of them was still on active duty. Someone mentioned that on oblique flights the flaps had to be lowered, and the port engine cut back. This was so as not to have the engine exhaust blur the image of the oblique photography. During a bail out drill on the deck, one of our class accidentally picked up our QAC (quick attachable chest) parachute by the wrong handle, and had nylon ALL over. He went on to make LDO LCDR. I went thru most of the A3D crewman school, but dropped out because of poor eyesight. My last duty station was as a maintenance officer in a RA5-C squadron as a temporary CHPHOT(W-2). Interesting. BIG change from the SNB Bob KNOTTS, PHCM

Thanks for the interesting story Bob.



 My first duty station after completing ADR A school was NATTU Pensacola.  The week I arrived the Air Station had an air show open to the public.  One of my first task was to truck over to Saufley Field and fly right seat in one of the six RC45Js assigned to NATTU.  I didn’t even know how to buckle the seat belt.  Later I was one of the mechs who flew test flights.  I also flew many cross country round robin flights and after a period of time, I was designated Naval Air Crewman – Special Duty Lookout – RC45J.  I think I am was the only one ever designated.  One of the e-mails on the web sight talked about the two enlisted pilots.  ADRC Pappy Lawrence and AVCM Argus Byrd were their.  I think both are deceased now.  Master Chief Byrd was the one who liked to do wing overs.  The first time I experienced it was on a test flight.  Needless to say it certainly tested my “pucker power.”  The only times he would do it was when he had a student who was already scared. There were other pilots assigned, but these two were the standouts.  The last time I saw either was when they came to Millington for a Change of Command for NATRAGRU.  I was an AZC on the staff and Captain William Purcell was our CO.  He had been attached to NATTU as a LDO LT Maintenance Officer.

 There is another of NATTU’s RC45Js in the Naval Aviation Museum.

 Charlie Tullos



Hi, brings back memories, I flew all of the Pensacola RC-45J's both as an "A" school (1953) student and "B" school student (1957) and instructor (1962-3). In a rather notable flight while in B school we were flying photo strip maps over Alabama and I was manning the viewfinder in the right seat. They were short on chest pack parachutes at the time and I was wearing a backpack type. There had been an incident earlier of one popping in the cabin, and when it came time for me to switch positions I asked the pilot if I should trade chutes with the man replacing me. "No" was his reply so I slid the side window forward so it was only about an inch open (Summer flight and

hot) and got up to go back into the cabin. as I bent over to go through the hatch, BANG! I was jerked back, the plane swerved and all #*^^ broke loose. The parachute had popped when I bent over and it went out the side window. Luckily the shrouds or D ring broke the window and the glass cut the shrouds and let me loose. It bulged the side of the plane about 2 inches and they had to send it to O&R. That was quite a memorable day. I later got an LDO commission and was Photo Officer on the Midway CVA 41 (not 11) during the start of hostilities in Vietnam later made LCDR and was CO of the Atlantic Fleet Audio Visual Command in Norfolk when I retired in 1980.  I will be looking forward to seeing old 29585 in Las Vegas. I hear you will be bringing it to the National Association of Naval Photography Convention there in May of this year. Thanks for the Memories.

LCDR Ralph Lewis, USN(Ret)


Just found this picture of the SNB I flew in to do mapping runs while attending the Pensacola Naval School of Photography in early 1947.  Not the best shot...BUT it is the only shot I have of the plane. Use as you wish. I continue to enjoy going back to your great web pages on this plane!

Jerry Zimmerman

I just read your articles & E mail on the "PhotoBeech" used at Pensacola in the Naval photoschool.  I was a reservist and went to school at Glenview Naval Air Station, in Glenview Ill.  It was a 85 day accelerated school, and when we completed it we made 3rd class (E 4 rank). I was at Glenview from June to Sept 1957, and then went on active duty.
I can't remember the plane real well, (I'm not sure if it had twin engines or only one), but it was called a photobeech, and had a hole in the door which we hung out of when taking photos around the city of Chicago.  We were tightly strapped in, but we had to hold the camera.  It was an F-56, had a 8" by 8" negative.  I still have the pictures I took back then. We only got one chance to fly, we also learned how to make a strip map, but the pilot took the photo's automatically.
I got my orders at the Philladelphia Naval Receiving station the end of Nov. I went to Norfolk and then  boarded a MSTS for Cuba. I was to join the  Fleet Camera Party at GITMO. I never got in another airplane during my 2 yr commitment.  However we did use the F-56 cameras, we used on that had about a 36" long barrel that we carried aboard different firing ships and took pictures of their shooting at a target on a sled. Gitmo was a tough assignment even back then.

JT Smith 



A few comments with regards to the two gentlemen that commented on the RC-45J based at Cubi Point in the late 60s and very early 70s. The squadron that had the RC-45Js was VC-5, not VRC-50. VRC-50 was a COD squadron who had C1As and eventually C2As. I have many hours in the RC-45J as a right seater. We did photo shoots, parachute drops, practice torpedo recovery; (we found them and then dropped smoke flares on them so the retrieval boats could hoist them on board), and passenger hops.


Same drill when I was stationed at Barber’s Point (VC-1) in the mid 60s.

We may have even had two of them then. Composite squadrons had a little bit of everything. We had A4Bs, DF-8As, a DP2E, US-2Cs, RC-45Js, and a couple UH-34Js!


I remember very well the A4 pictures at Cubi. Trying to go fast enough so the A4s would still fly . . .!


I also remember the US-2C that crashed into Grande Island that Mr.

Chandler spoke of. We were just coming up on Grande Island on our way back from Naha. Guard was full of chatter about a plane just having gone down. We went to the squadron OPS frequency and learned it was the Old Man and three young pilots that had been out on the Connie for CARQUALS.

This particular Stoof was a BAD airplane. It was basically restricted to day VFR only. Something got screwed up at overhaul in Atsugi.


Anyhow…they required a deck edge start because the batteries were dead!

The Old Man thinks he's losing an engine, and he feathers the wrong one...and he can't un-feather it. Upside down they go, hitting Grande Island at whatever speed the plane can muster up from about 1500' AGL.

Nothing left but pieces.


Great web site. I've attached a photo (I think taken in 1968) which includes our trusty old RC-45J!


Dr. R.L. (Mick) Collins

Thank you Mick for your contribution to this web page and for your service as well. We appreciate it!

Please keep the information coming. If you or someone you know has anything to share that pertains to this or other subjects on this web site please send them to me electronically and I will be happy to post it.

On  behalf of the employees of Vintage Aircraft, my family and myself,  I would  like to thank all of our countries veterans for your dedicated service. Thank you for what you have done for our country!

Taigh Ramey

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An Award Winning Aircraft

29585 as it appeared at the EAA's AirVenture Oshkosh '99, where it was awarded the title "Most Authentic Warbird."



This wonderful, historic old Beech has been returned to the air just as she was when she flew for the US Navy. She is in great shape, and has been and will be a great flying, reliable, attention-getting warbird. There are many ex-military Twin Beeches flying today, but none of them can compare to 29585 when it comes to authenticity and originality. When you climb into this historic old Beech you feel as though you are stepping back in time. As you fly in her and tune in distant broadcasts on her WWII radios, you feel as though you are truly flying back in time. 









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