In honour of what would have been her 118th birthday, Textron Aviation is celebrating the legacy of Olive Ann Beech, former CEO and president of Beech Aircraft Company.
Married to Walter Beech, an iconic aviation dreamer and inventor, Olive Ann managed Beech Aircraft’s financials from the ground up and took lead of the entire company when her husband fell ill. Textron Aviation noted that even through countless doubts from her male partners that a woman couldn’t hold such a leadership position, she proved them wrong. Olive Ann influenced many other women through her determination, and she advocated for women often.
Her financial decisions proved valuable, as she successfully led Beech Aircraft – now known as Beechcraft – through WWII, the Korean War and the Depression. She pushed for investing in turboprops instead of jets, because she knew what her company did best. This decision in 1965 generated US$164.5m in revenue and US$8.7m in profit, growing the company to almost 10,000 dedicated employees. Olive Ann didn’t slow down for anyone, and eventually sold the company for US$800m.
Olive Ann’s successes did not go unaccounted for as she was named the ‘First Lady of Aviation’. She received numerous recognitions and awards. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara appointed her to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. President Lyndon B. Johnson named her to serve on the President’s Commission on White House Fellows. Fortune listed her as one of the 10 highest-ranking women in business in the 1970s. She received Wright brothers’ trophy in 1980 and joined the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1981.
Textron Aviation commented that Olive Ann’s legacy continues to be reflected in the company’s culture and heritage. A special-edition 75th-anniversary Beechcraft Bonanza design has been created in her honour, blending modern technology with her signature retro blue styling.