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The Beechcraft Model 18, otherwise known as the Twin Beech, first flew in 1937 and was extensively used by the US military in a variety of roles during the Second World War ranging from transport to gunnery training. Over 9,000 examples were built and it is still used by small airlines and charter services the world over, with over 200 still in use in the US alone. Over its 32-year production run, multiple iterations of the Model 18 were produced including those fitted with tailwheels, nosewheels, skis, and floats.
The Italian Air Force operated a total of 124 Beech 18s, most notably the C-45F seven-seat variant. The C-45 in Italian service was used a utility transport but also as a multi-engine and navigational trainer. The final Italian example was retired in the 1970s. In Italian service, the C-45F was called the Il Bici - which translates as "the bike" as a nod to its extensive use to fly crews and equipment between Italian Air Bases. Due to the aircrafts long range, some saw joint service with ah Guardia di Finanza to patrol Italian waters for smugglers.
A single Beech 18S will be appearing on static display at this year's Air Tattoo as part of our celebration of the Italian Air Force centenary to represent those that flew "the bike".
Photo Credit: Paul Fiddian