NC-51 over Tehachapi Mountains photo by Chad Slattery

NC-51 over Tehachapi Mountains photo by Chad Slattery

I have started a new quest: fly on a Beechcraft Starship. It won’t be easy and I might not be able to, but I am at least going to try. There are five that are currently flying and my goal is try to get a seat on one of them.

I think like most aviation enthusiasts, I have always had a big fascination with the Starship. Seeing one hanging up at the Future of Flight (which I am at often) has fed my motivation to learn more about this amazing aircraft.

Development for the Beechcraft Starship was started in 1979. In the early 1980’s Beechcraft contracted with Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites company to help build proof-of-concept models for the new aircraft. The first full scale test was flown on February 15, 1980 and the first production Starship flew on April 25, 1989.

The aircraft was unique at the time for using carbon fiber, having a canard design, lack of central vertical tail and pusher engine configuration. At the time carbon fiber had not be used on many aircraft and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had a hard time certifying the plane. Playing it safe,  the FAA required the Starship to increase its structural supports , which added overall weight to the airframe. The Starship was supposed to have a max cruise speed of 352 knots and fly for over 2,500 nm, but after the modification, the speed was reduced to 338 knots and a range of only 1,575 nm.

The added weight, economic slowdown and high tax on luxury items at the time meant that Beechcraft was only able to sell seven Starships in its first three years in production. The last Starship was produced in 1995 and then in 2003 Beechcraft determined it was not cost effective to support a small number of planes and started destroying the ones left.

Starships waiting to be destroyed. How sad. Photo by: Derek Hellmann

Starships waiting to be destroyed. How sad. Photo by: Derek Hellmann

Different sources state different numbers of how many are actually flying. I have found anywhere from three to nine. However with more research it looks like there might be six still flying, one of which is in Mexico somewhere. That leaves me with five StarShips I can hopefully hitch a ride on:

* N8244L NC-29 Owner: Radio Flyer, LLC
* N8074S NC-33 Owner: Allen Investments Aviation & marine
* N45FL NC-45 Owner: Tulsa Renaissance Energy, LLC
* N8285Q NC-50 Owner: Starship Holdings, LLC
* N514RS NC-51 Owner: Scherer, R – chase plane for SpaceShipOne

Stage one was to track down which planes are still around. Stage two will be to try to contact the owners of these planes and talk them into giving me a ride in their plane, which I can blog about. Will it happen? Maybe, but even if it doesn’t, I will enjoy learning more about the plane. Either way, I will be sure to blog about this experience.

Of course if anyone has any connections to the owners of one of the planes, I would love to touch base with you (

Website: Great page on the Beechcraft Starships + Thanks to Ed at Future of Flight for all his knowledge!

My Quest to Ride on a Beechcraft Starship:

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
Sleeping Passenger Left on Plane, Wakes Up in Hangar

Good luck! I bet someone on the web can help get you in touch with one of these owners.

Dear David, tenacity will get you everywhere!


The destruction of these marvelous birds shakes me! ouch! aerospace is the most incredibly crazy business. I hope you track one down and document the heck out of the experence (you better wear out your camera’s shutter!)

be sure to keep us posted on the quest!

do you know when the photo of the planes was taken in AZ “waiting for destruction”? It is really sad. They are extremely beautiful airplanes.

Wayne Roorda

On this past Friday afternoon walking between buildings in North East Philadelphia I spotted a Starship on final approach to the NE Airport.

Would anyone have details as to which one of the five aircraft this was?

So have you finished you challenge? What are the details?


Not yet. I could be a matter of hours before I have confirmed dates :)


Trevor Chambers

If you go to RL Jones Jr airport (KRVS) one of these beautiful aircraft is in a hanger near Roadhouse Aviation. I’m not sure if it’s their hangar or not but I do know they have a financial interest in the plane itself. You might try contacting them. If you do happen to have good luck, try securing an extra seat for me!

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