History mystery.

Author:Dorr, Robert F.


A few readers looked askance at our Summer 2008 mystery photo. The picture was composed so that a twin-engined airplane, when viewed from the side and behind, appeared to be a single-engined craft. Our follow up photo, from Beech Aircraft Co., resolves this ambiguity. The plane is a Beech L-23 Twin Bonanza.

The L-23 series began as an Army version of the general aviation world's Twin Bonanza built by Beech in Wichita, Kansas. The Twin Bonanza, which was also the plane's official military name for several years, was deemed ideal for transporting high-ranking officers in field conditions like those found during the Korean War.

Beech produced L-23A, L-23B, L-23D and L-23E versions of the Twin Bonanza, all identical except for minor differences in flight instruments. Typical power for these aircraft consisted of two 340-horsepower Lycoming 0-480 engines.

In May and June 1957, Britton was one of four Army captains who flew two L-23Ds from the Wichita factory to a base in Germany, with stops on the east coast and in Canada, Greenland, and Scotland. This long-distance marathon made them the first Army aviators to cross the Atlantic Ocean since the Air Force became an independent service in September 1947. The other pilots were John Goodrich, Daniel O'Hara, and Hubert Reed.

In 1958, when the Army initiated its practice of naming aircraft for Indian tribes, the Twin Bonanza name was dropped and the L-23 became the Seminole. By then, it was serving worldwide as a liaison aircraft and staff transport.

The Army continued the series with the L-23F, an entirely different aircraft type derived from the Beech Queen Air. When the Pentagon's system for naming aircraft was revamped in 1962, all planes in the L-23 series became U-8s.

Our follow-up photo shows the very first military Twin Bonanza, a YL-23 (52-1801) with the "Y" prefix signifying a...

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