A small single-seat aircraft of all-metal, stressed-skinned construction. It is a high-wing cantilever monoplane with enclosed accommodation for the pilot below the wing and is fitted with a V-tail and tricycle landing gear.
Bee Aviation Associates, Inc. (Beecraft) built three prototype aircraft, designed by William F. “Bill” Chana, at Montgomery Field in San Diego, California. The first aircraft built was the “Wee Bee” in 1949. The “Wee Bee” was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s lightest aircraft at the time. It had a two-cylinder engine and tricycle landing gear. The pilot flew in a prone position lying atop the fuselage. The “Honey Bee” was the second plane, completed in 1952. It had a single seat in an enclosed cabin. The “Queen Bee” was the last and the largest of the three. It was completed in 1960 and seated four. (Bee Aviation ceased operations shortly after introducing the Queen Bee.)
None of Bee Aviation’s aircraft went into production; however, plans for the Honey Bee were sold to individuals to build at home. Approximately 200 sets of drawings were purchased for $50 each during the 1950s. Unlike a homebuilt aircraft kit, the Honey Bee plans required that each part of the plane be fabricated from scratch by the builder. As a result, very few Honey Bees were ever completed.
The “Queen Bee” and the “Wee Bee” prototypes were destroyed in a fire that also destroyed the San Diego Aerospace Museum in 1978. The “Honey Bee” escaped the fire as it was still operating out of Montgomery Field at the time, owned by Walt Mooney. In 2004 the Experimental Aircraft Association donated the “Honey Bee” to the San Diego Air & Space Museum. Because of its historical significance, a second “Wee Bee” was built and is now on display at the new San Diego Air & Space Museum.
The Honey Bee displayed here was built by Truman L. Smith of Timonium, Maryland between 1956 and 1958 after he purchased plans from Bee Aviation Association, Inc. in 1955. The aircraft passed FAA Airworthy Certification in 1967. It was donated to Lone Star Flight Museum by the 20th Century Technology Museum (Wharton, Texas) in 2022.
The Honey Bee features tricycle-type landing gear. This configuration offers several advantages including allowing more forceful application of the brakes without nosing over when braking; providing better visibility from the flight deck, especially during landing and ground maneuvering; and preventing ground-looping of the aircraft since the aircraft center of gravity is forward of the main gear.
- Manufacturer: Bee Aviation
- Country: United States
- Type: Civil Utility
- Engine: Continental A-65-B rated at 65 hp
- Maximum speed: 120 mph
- Crew: 1
- Length: 16 feet 10 inches
- Wingspan: 28 feet
- Number built: 1 (prototype)