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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.

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 […]

Meet Mac Short

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

During the hot, Kansas summer of 1925, Lloyd C. Stearman needed another engineer to assist with design work at the infant Travel Air Manufacturing Company in the prairie city of Wichita. He contacted his old friend from college who hailed from Salina, Kansas, and asked him to accept the position. His name was Mac Van […]

Ah, So!

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

During my eight years working for the Beech Aircraft Corporation in Wichita, Kansas, a majority of that time was spent teaching pilots and mechanics the airframe and engine systems of the Beechcraft Super King Air 200 turboprop business aircraft. The classes typically included people from many different countries and nationalities, and language barriers occasionally caused […]

Travel Air Expands Again

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

The wild and reckless stock market boom of the “Roarin’ Twenties,” coupled with the solo transatlantic flight of Charles A. Lindbergh in 1927, gave rise to an explosion of public interest and corporate investment in commercial aviation. By 1929, under the leadership of financier Clement Keys, the Curtiss-Wright Corporation had become one of America’s largest […]

And the winner is…

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

…Louise McPhetridge von Thaden! She was photographed in the cockpit of her Travel Air Type D4000 after placing first in the 1929 Women’s Air Derby. What makes this photograph even more interesting, however, is the presence of Walter Beech, president of the Travel Air Company, standing next to the airplane preparing to congratulate Louise on […]

Out For Lunch

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In the summer of 1927 four ladies posed for the camera on the running board and rear bumper of a gentleman’s roadster. The candid photograph was taken behind the south corner of the new Building “A” that housed company offices on the first floor and engineering on the second floor, with the majority of the […]

Travel Air City

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

The accompanying photograph, taken late in 1929, shows the manufacturing campus of the Travel Air Company as it appeared at that time. The four additional buildings had been completed and the latest in woodworking and welding equipment had been installed. A water tower had been added and across East Central Avenue a small hotel for […]

Glamour Gals

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

The time: August 1929. The place: Travel Air factory in Wichita, Kansas. The occasion: Women’s Air Derby. The photographer posed three ladies with a Type B4000 Travel Air biplane shortly before the race. The competition between female aviators covered 2,800 miles from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. It would be a grueling test of […]

Room to Grow

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Walter H. Beech loved a good fight, and he was a frequent visitor to the boxing matches held in downtown Wichita, Kansas. On September 23, 1926, Beech was listening to radio station KFH as it broadcasted the heavyweight bout between Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey. Tunney whipped Dempsey in the early rounds, but Walter knew […]