Officials with Bede Corp. report that Jim Bede died July 9 as a result of an unrecoverable aneurysm suffered at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.
“Jim, a devoted husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, friend, and a beloved member of the aviation community, was surrounded by his wife, children and his grandchildren,” officials said in a prepared statement.
In Jim’s honor, on Aug. 1, 2015, the Lorain County Regional Airport (KLPR) will host a Jim Bede Memorial Fly-In. More details will be posted on the company website.
The company has also created a website page for condolences.
Once called “the best damned airplane designer in the world” by Bill Lear, Bede designed and built more planes, received more awards, holds more patents and has garnered more attention than nearly anyone else in the aviation industry.
His list of 18 aircraft includes the piston-engined BD-5 pusher and BD-5J mini-jet; the twin-finned fighter-like BD10; and the extreme long range BD-2 ( in which Jim broke three distance records and took a shot at a solo globe-circling record in 1969).
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, he graduated at the top of his class from Wichita State University with a degree in aeronautical engineering. He joined North American Aviation as a performance engineer. He left there in 1961 to start Bede Aircraft Corporation.
A year later, he unveiled the BD-1, which evolved to become the Grumman Yankee, a single-engine, two-place low-wing design.
Perhaps his most well-known design is the BD-4, a high-wing two- or four-place homebuilt aircraft. As many as 3,000 sets of plans have gone out the door as men and women discovered they could bolt together their own airplane in the garage with no previous construction experience and go flying.
Today, BedeCorp is operated by son Jim Jr., who also runs an environmental restoration company. Son Jeff, an aircraft fabrication expert, also assists in many of the prototype design work for the planes.