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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.

“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 […]

Wichita’s War Over Wings

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

For eighty years “hearsay history” has claimed that Walter H. Beech and Clyde V. Cessna vehemently disagreed about how many wings an airplane should have. In fact, they never disagreed. Beginning in 1911, Clyde Cessna believed in monoplanes as the “only sensible design for an airplane.” Throughout his distinguished career in aeronautics, he never violated […]

Who Designed The Cessna C-34?

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Wichita’s rich aviation history has its share of myths and controversies that have been perpetuated for decades by so-called “hearsay historians.” Among these is the question of who designed the Cessna Model C-34. In the author’s opinion, there is no doubt that the concept originated with Dwane Wallace, Clyde Cessna’s nephew, but Clyde’s son, Eldon […]

Taking a Spin the Wadlow Way

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Way back in 1925, a young man named Truman Wadlow was working part-time for the Travel Air Manufacturing Company. He wanted desperately to become an aviator like his idol and mentor, Walter H. Beech, the company’s ace salesman. As Truman recalled to the author in 1981, Mr. Beech agreed to trade Truman’s work at the […]

Air Notes from the Air Capital

Submitted by Dave Franson

In Wichita, Kansas, we tend to take exception to being called “Fly Over Country.” Unfortunately, the entire middle of the country is often considered just the space between destinations. Contrails crisscross the skies above the Great Plains every day. It has even been said that “Wichita” is an Indian word that means “hard to get […]

A Global Leader, but A Local Company

Submitted by Deanna Harms

One of the best things about history is its ongoing nature. It’s always being written. One of my fondest Air Capital memories is helping Airbus Americas celebrate its 10-year anniversary in the Air Capital. In 2012, state and local dignitaries joined 350 Airbus employees on the plaza in front of its historic Old Town headquarters. […]

An Engineer’s Perspective

Submitted by Jim Hollingsworth

  It was a great day for aviation, when Cessna Management made the decision to build the Cessna Citation. One of the main design decisions was to attempt to certify the airplane with single pilot capabilities to reduce operational cost. This had never been done for Business Jets before. It was my privilege to have […]

Working With Bill Lear Was Never Boring

Submitted by Al Higdon

Bill Lear was always in a hurry. In late 1964 he jumped into the left seat of one of the first Learjet 23s, fired it up and began taxiing, unfortunately with a still-plugged-in external power unit being yanked behind the airplane, as line crews raced after.. Needless to say, the EPU connection was soon redesigned […]