Share Your Story

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.

Mr. Dalrymple’s Racer

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1936 veteran Stearman engineer Wayne Dalrymple designed and built a diminutive racing monoplane in his spare time. The airplane’s empty weight was only 260 pounds with a maximum weight of 450 pounds. The tiny ship had a wingspan of 20 feet four inches and a length of 14 feet. Total wing area was a […]

Travel Air Expands

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

As the end of 1925 approached, the Travel Air Manufacturing Company’s order book was fat but its factory space in the Kansas Planing Mill had become so skinny that a frantic search was underway to secure larger quarters. More floor space was desperately needed to meet growing demand for the company’s Model “A” biplanes. Fortunately, […]

Dawn of the Travel Air

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

As the year 1924 faded into history, the city of Wichita, Kansas, could boast of only one business producing aircraft – the Swallow Airplane Manufacturing Company. That changed in December when Walter H. Beech and Lloyd C. Stearman quit working at Swallow and joined forces with Clyde V. Cessna and local businessmen Walter P. Innes, […]

The “New Swallow” And Friends

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In October 1923 after the sudden departure of E.M. “Matty” Laird from the Wichita Laird Airplane Corporation, his business associate Jacob M. Moelledick took the reins of quickly transformed the organization in to the Swallow Airplane Manufacturing Company. Sales of Laird’s original “Swallow” biplane were suffering amid the rising tide of competition from other airframe […]

Hawks Comes To Town

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1930 aviator Frank Monroe Hawks was ranked as one of America’s most prestigious airmen. He was hired by The Texas Company in 1928 to fly the oil company’s aging but reliable Ford Trimotor passenger airliner, but Frank got his “big break” when he flew a Lockheed “Air Express” from Los Angeles to New York […]

Jake’s Last Stand

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In the wake of E.M. Laird’s sudden departure from Wichita in October 1923, Jacob M. Moellendick swiftly took the reins of the Wichita Laird Airplane Corporation and renamed it the Swallow Airplane Manufacturing Company. Next, he promoted Lloyd C. Stearman to chief engineer and elevated Walter H. Beech to chief pilot and general manager of […]

The General Gets His Bomber

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

On January 11, 1944, General of the Army Air Corps, Henry H. Arnold, visited the massive Plant II manufacturing complex in Wichita, Kansas, to check on production of the new Boeing B-29A “Superfortress” heavy bomber. He told Julius E. Schaefer, general manager of the Boeing-Wichita facilities, that he specifically wanted to see one particular airplane […]

Jake’s Brick and Mortar

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1921, Wichita, Kansas, was still coming to grips with an economic recession that had swept across the nation following the end of World War I. Although not severe, the downturn did affect many of America’s mainstream industries but had relatively little impact on the fledgling aviation business. There was essentially no interest in new […]

Wichita’s Second Aeroplane Factory

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In December 1919, aviator E.M. “Matty” Laird was ready to start building airplanes in downtown Wichita, Kansas. He left his hometown of Chicago, Illinois, to join forces with Jacob Melvin Moellendick in the E.M. Laird Company Partnership. His latest design, known as the “Laird Wichita Tractor,” was a three-place, open-cockpit biplane powered by a Curtiss […]

The First “Factory”

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In August 1916, George Sherwood, production manager for the J.J. Jones Motor Company in Wichita, Kansas, paid a visit to Clyde V. Cessna at his home near Belmont, Kansas. He proposed that Cessna relocate to Wichita for the express purpose of building, flying and selling airplanes and training pilots. Sherwood was accompanied by members of […]

The other Mr. Beach

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

During the halcyon days of the 1920s, Wichita, Kansas, was fortunate to have a bevy of local aviators whose skills at the stick were put to good use by the city’s airplane manufacturers. These included Francis “Chief” Bowhan, Ira McConaughey, “Cactus” Brierly, Earl Rowland, Monte Barnes, and identical twins Newman and Truman Wadlow, to name […]

“Rabbit” Hops to Victory

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

On September 5, 1928, 47 pilots and their flying machines anxiously awaited start of the New York to Los Angeles Air Derby. In the pre-dawn hours Clyde V. Cessna called his pilots together at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, for a final briefing. Among those aviators was Earl Rowland, who would be flying a new Cessna […]

Mr. Cessna’s “Air Academy”

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Clyde Vernon Cessna was a patriot, and when the United States entered World War I in April 1917 the pioneer aviator offered to train potential military pilots at his new flight school in Wichita, Kansas. Unfortunately, the Federal government turned him down, but Clyde renewed his efforts by training civilian airmen. In June of that […]

Ted’s “Speed Wing” Speedster

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1929, Omaha, Nebraska, native Theodore Arthur Wells graduated from Princeton University in New Jersey with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. From an early age, Ted – as he was known by his friends – was so inspired by the airplanes of famed engineer Guiseppe Bellanca that in 1924 he designed and constructed […]

Stearman’s White Elephant

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1928, the fledgling commercial aviation industry in the United States was flying high, thanks in large part to Charles A. Lindbergh’s epic solo flight from New York to Paris in 1927. The prairie city of Wichita, Kansas, benefitted greatly from “Lucky Lindy’s” flight. The city was home to three major airframe manufacturers – the […]

Clyde Cessna’s Double-Cross

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Clyde Vernon Cessna was a true aviation pioneer. He began building and flying monoplanes in 1911 and by 1916 became the first person in Wichita, Kansas, to construct aircraft for commercial sale. He also operated one of the first flight schools west of the Mississippi River. Late in 1924 Cessna joined forces with Walter H. […]

Walter’s “Hangar Queen”

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In the wake of Louise Thaden’s forced withdrawal from the 1934 McRobertson International Trophy Race, Walter Beech parked Thaden’s airplane, the bullish Beechcraft A17FS, in a dark corner of the factory on Wichita’s East Central Avenue. Beech was actively seeking a buyer for the cabin biplane, and he engaged pilot Robert S. Fogg to command […]

A Fresh Look At Mr. Snook’s Book

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Of all the employees who worked at the Travel Air Manufacturing Company during 1925-1931, none were as deeply involved in the day-to-day management of production line activities as was factory manager William “Bill” Snook. A long-time resident of Wichita, Snook had worked at E.M. Laird’s infant airplane company after World War I, and following his […]

Solo Flight K31 Copeland Airport

Submitted by David Copeland

It was 4 a.m. when the alarm went off July 2, 2020. Mac Copeland grabbed his first cup of Pilot Fuel (a.k.a. coffee) and pulled up the ASOS Weather briefing on his phone. He hopes the low level clouds and rain to the northeast of the Wichita Metro area would continue to move in a […]

Beauty and the Beast: Louise Thaden and the Beechcraft A17FS

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

In 1934 at the young age of 28, Louise McPhetridge von Thaden was respected nationwide as one of America’s best female flyers. In the midst of the Great Depression she had set her sights on winning the MacRobertson International Trophy Race to be flown from London, England, to Melbourne, Australia. First prize was a whopping […]