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Reader Stories

After publishing our book, many people came forward with stories of their own. This platform serves to preserve them. Note, that while we meticulously researched our book, we do not fact-check or validate this content. Please accept these personal remembrances in the generous spirit in which they are given.

WALTER’S “WONDER WOMAN”

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Louise Thaden’s dream of flying became a reality in 1927 when Walter H. Beech set her on a path to earning her wings and a reputation as one of America’s foremost female flyers.   “I want you to meet Warren, our new Pacific Coast distributor. Warren has agreed to take you out to San Francisco. […]

Anchors Aweigh!

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1934 the U.S. Navy’s order for NS-1 biplanes established the Stearman Aircraft Company as an important supplier of military training aircraft. In 1934 Wichita’s aviation industry was beginning to recover from the economic devastation wreaked upon it by the onset of the “Great Depression.” Only the Stearman Aircraft Company had managed to survive the […]

“The Air Capital of the World” Part One

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

A year after the end of World War I, a talented aircraft designer from Chicago and a roustabout from the oil fields of Kansas transformed a sleepy city on the Plains into the epicenter of America’s general aviation aircraft industry. The question has often been asked, “Why Wichita?” What has made that city, long hailed […]

Beechcraft Goes to War!

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In the wake of America’s sudden entry into World War II, the Beech Aircraft Corporation produced more than 7,000 single- and multi-engine airplanes specifically to train aircrews in the deadly art of air combat against Germany and Japan. The shock and horror of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s ruthless surprise attack on the U.S. Navy’s fleet […]

Flying the Ford Tour

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1925 famed automaker Henry Ford created a national air tour to increase public awareness and fuel interest in aviation. Wichita’s Travel Air Manufacturing Company was among 17 companies nationwide that signed up to participate. As enthusiasts and preservationists of Travel Air airplanes, the company that built them and the men who guided it to […]

Teacher’s Pet – Beechcraft’s Model 45

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1948 senior management at Beech Aircraft Corporation saw the need for a new military trainer to equip postwar air forces. Their solution was the “Mentor” that would become one of the most popular Beechcraft’s built. When World War II ended with the unconditional surrender of Japan in September 1945, the United States Army Air […]

The Air Capital of the World

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Part One A year after the end of World War I, a talented aircraft designer from Chicago and a roustabout from the oil fields of Kansas transformed a sleepy city on the Plains into the epicenter of America’s general aviation aircraft industry The question has often been asked, “Why Wichita?” What has made that city, […]

Lloyd Stearman Returns

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In the summer of 1927 the Stearman Aircraft Company, located in Venice, California, had more orders for new biplanes than it could handle but was unable to meet demand because of a severe lack of manufacturing space. Lloyd Carlton Stearman had relocated to California in October 1926 after resigning from the Travel Air Manufacturing Company […]

Meet Marvel Crosson

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Marvel Wynant Crosson was favored to win the 1929 National Women’s Air Derby in August 1929, but died when her Travel Air mysteriously crashed in Arizona. In August 1929 women were included for the first time in competitive events held as part of the annual National Air Races (NAR). At that time there were many […]

“Jimmy” Comes To Town

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1930 James H. Doolittle arrived at the Travel Air factory to take delivery of a new Type “R” monoplane that had been custom-built to his specifications for the Shell Oil Company. “Jimmy,” as he was known by his friends and aviation associates (including Walter H. Beech), was already a legend. During the previous 20 […]

Wichita’s Brick and Mortar

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1930 the United Aircraft & Transport Corporation ignored the Great Depression and erected a new factory to build the biplanes of Lloyd C. Stearman. In 1930 the “Air Capital of the World” was beginning to feel the deadly effects of the 1929 stock market debacle on Wall Street. By 1932 the stock market had […]

A Race Too Far

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

On May 22, 1934, Louis McPhetridge von Thaden found herself surrounded by newspaper reporters at an impromptu news conference in Kansas City, Missouri. Louise, at age 28 and recognized as one of America’s famous female aviators, revealed that she planned to enter the MacRobertson International Trophy race to be flown from London, England, to Melbourne, […]

Resurrecting Cessna

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1934 America’s economy remained mired in the Great Depression. The unemployment rate was stuck at 21.7% and more than 11 million people were out of a job. A loaf of bread cost eight cents, a box of Kellogg’s Bran Flakes would set you back 10 pennies, and a gallon of gasoline was a whopping […]

War Comes To Wichita

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

After the United States entered World War I in April 1917, fundraising events were held nationwide in an effort to support America’s “Doughboys” and finance the war effort. In July of that year Wichita’s aviator, Clyde Vernon Cessna, was ready to do his part by flying his new monoplane dubbed “The Comet” at the at […]

Miss Von Mach Comes To Town

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

The name Mary Elizabeth von Mach is unlikely to stir the memory of a majority of Wichitans, but the wealthy and sophisticated aviatrix from Detroit, Michigan, came to the prairie city in August 1929 to take delivery of her Travel Air Type B4000 biplane. She was to fly that ship in the inaugural All American […]

Beechcraft King Air – The Legend Begins

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

The late 1950s and early 1960s witnessed a major change of power plant technology for the expanding and lucrative business aviation market in the United States. During the years following the end of World War II, the static-air-cooled radial engine ruled the skies, powering four-engine airliners built by Boeing, Douglas, Martin as well as small […]

They Fought the Good Fight

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Within days of the Japanese surprise attack on the United State’s naval base at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, two Beechcrafts based in the Philippines were impressed into the Far East Air Force (FEAF) that was given the impossible task of defending the island of Luzon and the city of Manila. […]

Wichita’s Fighting Beechcrafts

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Within days of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, the American Far East Air Force (FEAF) in the Philippines began a six-month long battle against vastly superior military forces of Japan. The Philippines, along with the Netherlands East Indies farther to the south, were primary targets of the […]

Cessna’s Factory Fever

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1929 the Cessna Aircraft Company was riding a wave of prosperity that far exceeded Clyde V. Cessna’s wildest imagination. The American economy was going gangbusters, fed in large part by an unregulated, out-of-control stock market and a never-ending stream of reckless, get-rich-quick investors. Customer orders for the new Cessna Model AA, Model AW and […]

The Man Who Saved Cessna

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Amidst the ever-fascinating history of Wichita as the undisputed “Air Capital of the World,” occasionally a person emerges who never lived in the city, never flew an airplane, never made the headlines and whose name never became famous, but without whose expertise one famous manufacturer in town may have never got off the ground. That […]