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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.

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 […]

“A Tough Day’s Barnstorming”

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Robert S. Fogg was a well known and highly successful businessman in New Hampshire during the 1920s and 1930s. He operated a flying service in Concord, N.H., that included seaplane operations on the many lakes and rivers that dotted New Hampshire’s landscape. One of his workhorse airplanes was a Travel Air S6000B (serial number 999 […]

A Moment in History

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Central Air Lines was a small regional airline that operated for only a few years across the runway from the Travel Air factory on East Central Avenue. The fleet of airplanes included a Type A6000 that is shown parked in front of the main hangar as passengers prepare to board the monoplane. A large sedan, […]

Meet Mr. Clark

Submitted by Edward H. Phillips

Clarence E. Clark was born and raised in Garnett, Kansas, a quiet, rural town not far from the bustling city of Wichita. He learned to fly in 1923 under the capable tutelage of Harry Kruetzer – a former pilot and flight instructor in the United States Army Air Service during World War I. Clark earned […]

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. […]