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Wichita Orphans (Part Two)

Wichita Orphans (Part Two)

Cessna Aircraft Company’s experimental C-106, P-7 and P-10 were designed and developed amidst the fury of World War II but failed to progress beyond the prototype stage. During the winter of 1940, western Europe was quiet. Poland had fallen to the Nazis, part of Finland was under Soviet control and a brief but tranquil three-month…

Wichita Orphans (Part One)

Wichita Orphans (Part One)

Boeing Aircraft Company’s Wichita division created the X-100, X-120 and X-90 monoplanes that were state-of-the-art in their day, but whose wings were clipped by the frenetic pace of wartime combat aircraft design. The invasion of Poland by Germany in September 1939 gave the world its first glimpse of the bludgeoning power of the Nazi Blitzkreig…

The Scarlet Marvel  (Part Two)

The Scarlet Marvel (Part Two)

At the National Air Races in September 1929, the Travel Air Type “R” monoplane turned the world of air racing upside down by conquering its military opponents, much to the delight of Walter H. Beech. Douglas Davis climbed aboard the Type “R” racer and squeezed into the small cockpit. Time was of the essence as…

The Scarlet Marvel  (Part One)

The Scarlet Marvel (Part One)

At the 1929 National Air Races in September, Walter H. Beech unleashed the Travel Air Type “R” monoplane that crushed the competition and ended dominance of the military biplane. The relentless heat of a Kansas summer was in full force during August 1929 in Wichita – the self-proclaimed “Air Capital of the World.” The city’s…

Stearman’s Last Stand – The “Cloudboy”

Stearman’s Last Stand – The “Cloudboy”

In 1930 America’s economy was in a tailspin when the Stearman Aircraft Company introduced the Model 6 biplane – a rugged design but one that found few commercial buyers and was rejected by the military as a primary trainer.  The “Roarin’ Twenties” had been good to Wichita’s airframe manufacturers. In 1928, for example, the city’s…

Cessna’s First Twin

Cessna’s First Twin

Cessna Aircraft Company’s commercial Model T-50 was designed for airlines and air taxi service but evolved into one of the best twin-engine military trainers of World War II. In June 1939, officials of the Cessna Aircraft Company announced a major expansion of facilities that would allow for increased production of the single-engine Airmaster and the…

A Rare Travel Air:  The Type BH/3000

A Rare Travel Air: The Type BH/3000

In 1926 the Travel Air Manufacturing Company offered pilots the “Type BH” biplane powered by the superb Hispano-Suiza V-8 engine. In an effort to expand the Travel Air Manufacturing Company’s product line, Walter Beech and the engineering department mated the proven Type “B” airframe with the war-surplus Hispano-Suiza engine rated at 180 horsepower. Following the…

Beechcraft –  Diversify or Die

Beechcraft – Diversify or Die

During the late 1940s and into the 1950s the cyclical nature of the commercial and military aviation business forced the Beech Aircraft Corporation to seek new sources of revenue to survive. “It is said – not by us at Beechcraft but by those whose profession it is to know such things, that the history of…

Cessna: The Postwar Years – Part Two

Cessna: The Postwar Years – Part Two

The two-place Model 120/140 were modern, all-metal designs that established Wichita’s Cessna Aircraft Company as a leader in the highly competitive personal, training and business aviation markets. After five years of massive bloodshed, incalculable destruction and indescribable human suffering, World War II had ended in victory for the allied nations. During that terrible time the…

Year of the Swallow

Year of the Swallow

A century ago, the Laird Swallow launched Wichita, Kansas, on its way to becoming the “Air Capital of the World.” In 1920 a number of significant events occurred: the Treaty of Versailles took effect, officially ending World War I; the 19th Amendment became law, giving women the right to vote and Adolf Hitler organized the…