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beech RU-8D Twin Bonanza
Beech RU-8D Twin Bonanza
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“If you could see the pilot smile, and he waved out of the window, then it had to be those crazy ‘spooks’ from the 138th.” – Tom Berger, Vietnam Veteran

The first pre-production aircraft were started in 1949. The Model 50's type certificate was awarded in 1952, entering production as a utility transport for the U.S. Army. It was also the first twin-engine aircraft in its class to be offered to the business market.

The Army adopted the Twin Bonanza as the L-23. During an initial demonstration flight for the Army, a Twin Bonanza crashed while trying to take off over a 50 foot tree line while full of soldiers and sandbags. Everyone involved walked away from the crash. The Army was impressed with the structural strength of the Twin Bonanza, later purchasing approximately 500 of the 729 airframes produced.

This aircraft flew electronic intelligence (ELINT) gathering missions in the skies over South Vietnam and Laos with the US Army 138th Aviation Company/224th Aviation Battalion from the summer of 1966 until 1972. This plane was one of eight RU-8Ds flown by the 138th out of Da Nang, South Vietnam. The mission of the 138th was to provide support to the US Marine Corps in the form of ELINT gathering, intercepting enemy radio transmissions to locate their troop concentrations and movements and locating enemy transmitters. That is why the aircraft is covered with antennas. The planes and pilots were called “spooks,” Vietnam slang for intelligence types.

Mr. Bruce Clapham donated USAF 58-1358 to the Combat Air Museum in May 1985. He found the aircraft in a salvage yard in Tucson, Arizona in 1983 and restored the remains back to its Vietnam configuration. Mr. Clapham flew USAF 58-1358 as a Warrant Officer with the US Army 138th Aviation Company/224th Aviation Battalion in Vietnam, 1966-1967.

The callsign "Lonely Ringer" was assigned to the 224th Aviation Battallion (RR) which included the 1st RR, the 138th, 144th, 146th and 156th Avn. Companies (RR). The RU-8Ds had no armament and no armor protection. The brass plate on the right fuselage on this model is dedicated to four members of the 138th Aviation Company killed in action in Vietnam. The brass plate on the left side of the nose is dedicated in the memory of Bruce Clapham, who passed away in 1989.

USAF 58-1358 was delivered to the US Army 16 February 1959 as an L-23D and modified to an RL-23D. It was re-designated RU-8D in 1962.

Year removed from service -- 1980

Manufacturer: Beech Aircraft Company, Wichita, Kansas
Basic Role: Twin-engine electronic intelligence (ELINT) platform
Crew: Pilot, co-pilot, intercept operator
Engines: Two 340 HP (254kW) Lycoming O-480-1 Piston Engines
Maximum speed: 233 mph (376km/hr)
Cruising Speed: 180 mph (290km/hr)
Max. Range: 1,350-1,470 miles
Service Ceiling: 27,000 ft (8,229 m)
Range: 1350 – 1470 miles (2,177 – 2,371km)
Wingspan: 45 ft. 3 in (13.79m)
Length: 31 ft 6 in (9.6m)
Height: 11 ft 6 in (3.51m)
Weight (empty): 4,970 lb. (2,254kg)
Weight (gross); 7,300 lb. (3,311kg)
Armament: None
Serial number: USAF 58-1358
Beech RU-8D Lonely Ringer
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