Beech conceived the Skipper in 1973, and the first model flew in 1975. The earlier production models had conventional tails with a stabilator and flaperons (a combination of flaps and ailerons all in one piece). In 1978, the Skipper changed to a T-tail with an elevator and discarded the flaperons in favor of conventional flap and aileron systems. This later version was in production for three years (from 1979-1981). Only 312 Skippers were built. The Skipper was planned as Beech’s entry model for student training at the various Beech Aero Clubs and is comparable to the Cessna 152 and Piper Tomahawk in performance, system simplicity, and price.
The Beech Skipper is a low-wing, T-tail, fixed-gear, two-seat training aircraft. The wings use a tubular spar, NASA airfoil with two modifications: a strake on the leading edge of the wing near the fuselage to prevent airflow separation at the wing root and reduce the camber in the walkway of the wing. The flaps are electric and extend to 30 degrees. Entrance to the cabin is from two doors on either side of the fuselage. Pilot reports describe the cabin as "roomy" and the seats "comfortable and plush," though noting that armrests were left out. Pilots called the forward and side visibility "outstanding" for training operations because of large windows, a sloping nose, and seats that slide upward when moved forward. The sloped nose aids visibility during climb but makes teaching pitch attitudes more difficult. Rear visibility is reported restricted by headrests and lack of a rear window. Pilots also report ventilation is poor and big windows add to the greenhouse effect in the summertime. Noise inside the cabin was judged average, but an intercom system should be installed if the aircraft is used for training. Instrumentation in the cockpit is standard, with a carb heat lever between the throttle and mixture on the throttle quadrant, a setup some instructors say could cause problems for students progressing to more complex aircraft. The fuel system is either on or off and incorporates a light that illuminates when the fuel level is 2.5 gallons in either tank. The Skipper has the Lycoming O-235-L2C, 115-hp engine with an electric primer activated by the ignition switch. Cold starts in the winter may be difficult. The Skipper’s gear is fixed, with an oleo strut nose gear and a tubular spring attached to the fuselage for main gear. Pilots report prominent wheel vibration on takeoff and landings. Maintenance for the Skipper is normal; however, finding a mechanic or a maintenance manual might be difficult. Only 312 were built, so parts might be hard to find except through the Beech factory.
Skipper performance is comparable to other two-seat trainers, except for climb rate. The book calls for 720 fpm, but test flights show much less, especially on warm summer days; one pilot report said to expect 500 fpm on a 50Â° F day. Takeoff acceleration is noted as "leisurely" but steady. Cruise speed is a little slower than other two-seaters, but the Beech makes up for that in comfort. Flight controls are quick and responsive, and rudder trim makes long climbs to altitude and control of the excessive adverse yaw a little easier on the right leg. Ailerons have ground adjustable tabs, and the elevator is also equipped with a trim tab. When the proper trim is set, the Skipper tends to hold airspeed regardless of power or flap changes. The elevator is very responsive, even at slower speeds in the T-tail construction. Ailerons are effective but rapidly lose their effectiveness as the stall is approached. Lateral stability should be monitored, as bumps to the control yoke will start a slow roll. Ground and runway handling is good, other than the occasional wheel vibrations. The Skipper has reasonable useful load, but weight-and-balance limits can easily be exceeded by any combination of fuel, passengers, or cargo.
Beechcraft Skipper 77 Trainer
Brooks Whitney, AOPA’s Aircraft Reviews, December 1996