By Jeff Knight, President, The Beech Aero Club
2022 is certainly a very storied, important, and special year in the history of the Beech Aero Center Musketeer aircraft and in particular N2303Z, the Beech Aero Club’s very own “3Z.”
Since Beech Party 2021 in Tullahoma, Tennessee, the Beech Aero Club has been acknowledging and celebrating the 60th anniversary of a number of significant events in the evolution of the Musketeer aircraft.
It was 60 years ago on October 23, 1961, that the first prototype Musketeer flew with pilot Steve Tuttle at the controls.
February 20, 2022, was the 60th anniversary of the A1CE Type Certification being issued by the FAA for our Beech Aircraft Corporation Musketeer in 1962.
June 22, 2022, was the 60th anniversary of the inaugural flight of the first production aircraft, Musketeer, serial number M1.
July 20, 2022, was the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the first Leg of the “Fabulous Flight of the Three Musketeers.” Interestingly, the seventh and last leg of this trip finished on the same week that corresponds with this year’s Beech Party 2022 in October.
The Beech Aero Club Musketeer N2303Z, Serial No. M6, has the distinction of having been one of the three aircraft that was designated to participate in those auspicious introductory demonstration flights of the brand new “Baby Beech” production line during the summer and fall of 1962.
On July 20, 1962, the first leg of the 90-day marketing tour, covering some 40,000 miles across the lower 48 contiguous states, began. Flying in formation and introducing the new Musketeer airplane to Beechcraft dealers and prospective buyers across America were its three pilots, Mike Gordon “1Z,” Joyce Case “2Z,” and Gene Nora Strumbough “3Z;” “The Three Musketeers.”
The personal account of this amazing adventure is skilfully, frankly, and humorously detailed in the book by the same name, written by Gene Nora Jessen (nee Stumbough) who was the actual pilot of “3Z”!
Her book is available from the Beechcraft Heritage Museum online store and through your purchase you could help to preserve the history and support the continued development of the “3Z” display.
When you visit the museum, be sure to head to the Bost Hangar and check out “3Z” for yourself. She has been restored to her original livery colours and is a true piece of Beechcraft history.
Let’s all celebrate these milestones and take the time to appreciate our Baby Beeches and the legacy that preceded them.