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, Wichita businessman and Travel Air President J.H. “Jack” Turner, who owned and operated the J.H. Turner Coal and Building Materials Company, managed to orchestrate a five-year contract that allowed Travel Air to move into buildings located at 535 West Douglas Avenue – just across the Arkansas River from the planing mill. The main structure’s 50 x 120-foot interior provided more than adequate room for expansion and included offices for secretary Olive Ann Mellor, company president Clyde Cessna; chief pilot Walter H. Beech and engineer Lloyd C. Stearman.
In addition, there was a small tract of ground adjacent to the building that measured 800 x 1,000 feet that could be used as a flying field, but the decision was made to continue testing at the much larger field five miles east on Central Avenue. Early in December equipment and materials were moved as quickly as possible to the new site. Woodworking machinery was installed near the front of the building with welding jigs and fixtures farther toward the rear wall. Adjacent to that space there was room for assembly of instrument boards, engine controls, landing gears and fuselages. Another section of the factory was dedicated to painting aircraft using spray booths and racks. Early in 1926 the workforce had doubled to 30 employees from 15 a year earlier, and a young aviator named Clarence E. Clark was hired as test pilot.
During the past 12 months the company’s employees had built 19 airplanes and plans called for building at least twice that number in 1926. In 1925 sales of the Model “A” totaled $54,936, yielding a net income of $11,056 after taxes. In 1926 those numbers would increase to 46 ships sold for $185,169 that yielded a profit of $25,000.
As of 2020, the West Douglas site was occupied by “Salon 5 Thirty 5 – The Perfect Touch.” Travel Air’s second factory is worthy of future preservation as an important part of Wichita’s legacy as the “Air Capital of the World.”