from the Aviation Answer-Man website
© 2000, 2011 by R.Harris
past & present, including:

major commercial & military

major general aviation

North American
GeneralMotors (for Republic)

Cessna, Learjet, Mooney,
Travel Air, Stearman, Luscombe,
Rearwin, Funk, Helio, Bede, RANS...
and dozens of others
(see more-complete list below):

The BIG list of Kansas aircraft manufacturers, past & present:
NOTE: Most links were set up before 2001. Some links are obsolete or inactive.
Alon  Aircoupe
American   Eagle
General Motors
Great Lakes
HGL Aero
North American
Seibel Helicopter
Travel Air
Other Aircraft Manufacturers with Kansas Ties:

American Aviation and its sucessors:
Gulfstream American,
American General
, and
Tiger Aircraft
(makers of the Yankee, Traveler, Cheetah, Tiger and Cougar light planes)
In the late 1960's / early-1970s, airplane designer Jim Bede, an aeronautical engineering graduate of Wichita State University, created the most influential, all-new, single-engine lightplane of the 1970s: the "BD-1", which became the American Aviation "AA-1 Yankee". The radically simple, light, sleek and speedy two-seater -- though devilishly risky to fly -- promised revolutionary performance in the cheapest all-metal airplane on the market (144 mph, and nearly acrobatic capabilites, in a $7,500 airplane). A horde of new enthusiasts entered general aviation, on the allure of Bede's popular "personal fighter plane."
    Bede manufactured his first design, the BD‑1, through Cleveland-based American Aviation in the early-1970s. When fledgling American fell on hard times, it was brought back from the brink of failure by a fighter-pilot-turned-lawyer, Russ Meyer. Meyer oversaw the refinement of the AA-1 line into a more marketable aircraft, and its growth into a superior four-seat design, the AA-5 (today, the final variant of that design, the AG-5B Tiger, is one of the most in-demand light planes). Meyer grew the company into the 4th-largest-volume U.S. maker of small light planes, then ushered the company into the hands of aerospace giant Grumman.
    Russ Meyer's outstanding airplane-manufacturing management skills caught the eye of Cessna Aircraft, who brought him aboard, quickly moving him to the leadership of the company, to replace retiring Dwane Wallace.   Meyer eventually became head of all the aviation enterprises of Cessna's parent company, Textron, a role he still performs intermittently to this day (see Bell Helicopter, below).
    Meanwhile, Jim Bede's fame from the American Yankee helped boost Bede's further adventures with other radical, cheap/speedy designs, including his BD-4 and BD-5 kitplanes. The latter design, the BD-5, was partially pre-assembled at the Bede Aircraft factory in Newton, Kansas, in kits for homebuilders -- including the world's smallest jet, the BD-5J. Bede's exciting, controversial designs infused new excitement into the field of "home-building" (amateur builders making their own planes) , and ignited an explosion in the tiny "kitplane" movement -- now the most common form of homebuilding. (To this day, Bede continues, elsewhere to develop stimulating new designs, including the BD-10 / Viper Jet.) (For a detailed history of the American Aviation Co. and its successors, click here .)

Bell Helicopter
Bell Helicopter -- one of the world's most important helicopter producers -- has benefitted extensively for decades from a variety of connections to Wichita. When Cessna decided to abandon its development of the Cessna/Seibel Skyhook helicopter, designer Charles Seibel joined Bell to become one of its leading design engineers -- involved in the development of Bell's signature designs -- the Model 47, JetRanger and Huey.
    During the 1960s and 1970s, when Bell was unable to meet soaring military and civilian demand for its JetRanger helicopter, the company outsourced manufacture of JetRanger fuselages (bodies) to Wichita's Beech Aircraft Co..
    During the late 1980s, Wichita's Cessna Aircraft Co. was acquired by Bell's parent company, Textron. Bell fumbled and faltered under the weight of its ill-fated efforts to create a vertical takeoff and landing airplane (the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor), but has been kept in business by feeding off of the profits from Textron's most profitable division -- Cessna Aircraft. When a scandal broke out over the Pentagon-Bell test program for the Osprey, and other troubles began torpedoing Textron's aviation enterprises (which also included major engine-maker Lycoming), Textron's board brought in former Cessna CEO Russ Meyer to clean up the mess, and oversee all of Textron's aviation enterprises -- Bell, Lycoming, AND Cessna.

Curtiss-Wright Corp.
Derived from the late-1920s/early-1930s merger of Glenn Curtiss' Curtiss Aeroplane Co. and the Wright Brothers Wright Aeronautical Corp., Curtiss-Wright then began to acquire as many airplane companies as it could, capitalizing on fire-sale prices as the stock market began unraveling towards the collapse of the Great Depression.
  Wichita's Travel Air Mfg. Co. was one of Curtiss-Wright's main acquistions, whereupon the new parent moved Travel Air to St. Louis, Missouri.
  Travel Air president Walter Beech was made Curtiss-Wright's V.P. of Marketing, but Beech chafed at the New York desk job. He quit, and managed to wrangle the old Travel Air factory in Wichita out of Curtiss-Wright's hands -- to reopen it under his own name, starting Beech Aircraft Corp. in 1932.

General Dynamics
(now a division of Lockheed-Martin)
Derived from Vultee Aircraft and its acquisition, Consolidated Aircraft, which became Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft, later shortened to Convair, then renamed General Dynamics -- one of America's 5 biggest defense contractors, building everything from the F-16 Falcon fighter to submarines -- before being absorbed in the 1990s by Lockheed-Martin.
  Ironically, Vultee Aircraft was founded by former Lockheed engineeer Gerard F. ("Jerry") Vultee, who helped develop the pioneering Lockheed Vega around 1925-1930, and later designed the Lockheed Sirius and Orion. Before working at Lockheed, Vultee had been a craftsman at Wichita's E.M. Laird Mfg. Co., helping craft America's first 'commercial' airplane, the Laird Swallow.
  During the 1980s, Wichita's Cessna Aircraft Co. was acquired by General Dynamics, and held for a several years as a major subsidiary, before being sold to Textron.

Laird Aircraft Manufacturing Co. , Chicago
In 1923, after Matty Laird was driven off from his Swallow factory in Wichita (by co-owner Jake Moellendick), young Laird took his company name (E.M. Laird Mfg. Co.) back to his hometown (Chicago), and began a successful enterprise specializing in sleek, fast cargo and airmail biplanes, known as the "Laird Commercial" and "Speedwing" -- the speed-leaders in the industry.
  After Laird's former Wichita employee, Walter Beech, produced the revolutionary Travel Air 'Mystery Ship' monoplane -- and it famously won at the 1929 National Air Races -- Laird countered by winning the following year with his sleek "Laird Solution" biplane (his 'Solution' to the Travel Air 'Mystery') and again the next year with his "Laird Super Solution" biplane, flown by Jimmy Doolittle.

derived from two companies started (or re-started) by Kansas aviators:
  Lloyd Stearman (first president of Lockheed, when revived from bankruptcy around 1931; helped develop its first financially successful airplanes -- the Orion and Electra; later worked on the Constellation airliner), and
  Glenn Martin (youngest of the early aircraft manufacturers, founded Glenn L. Martin Aircraft -- one of America's first major aircraft manufacturing companies; Martin bombers and giant Martin seaplanes were world-famous from World War I through the Golden Age and World War II. Martin's flying school trained William E. Boeing -- whose first airplane was a Martin seaplane. Also, Martin employed a promising young designer: Donald Douglas, who would found Douglas Aircraft, and develop the most important airplane of all time, the Douglas DC-3. Martin's company later became one of the key leaders in U.S. missiles and spacecraft.)
  Gerard F. "Jerry" Vultee, was also a key colleague of Lloyd Stearman during the revival of Lockheed, before starting his own company (which evolved into General Dynamics, as noted previously). Vultee, an alumnus of Wichita's Laird/Swallow enterprise, first became famous as a co-designer (with John Northrop and Tony Stadlman) of the revolutionary pace-setting, globe-circling Lockheed Vega, and then chief designer in the development of the speedy, far-ranging Lockheed Sirius (which Lindbergh used to scout routes for airlines).
  When Lockheed changed hands, and Stearman became president, Vultee took the lead in designing the industry-shaping single-engine Orion airliner -- the first plane developed in the revival of Lockheed under Stearman's presidency. Vultee left to form his own company, and that company (Vultee Aircraft) eventually evolved into major aircraft-and-submarine manufacturer General Dynamics. Ironically -- in recent times -- that company has become a division of Lockheed-Martin, completing the circle.

derived from Northrop Aircraft and Grumman Aircraft.
Briefly around 1929-1931, Northrop was acquired by the giant United Aircraft conglomerate, and merged with Wichita-based Stearman Aircraft, to become Stearman-Northrop, headquarted in Wichita. Much of the work on Northrop's pioneering all-metal, hollow-shell airliners -- the Alpha and Beta -- was done in Wichita. These set the standard for modern aircraft construction.
    After a government anti-monopoly lawsuit separated Northrop from Stearman and the United Aircraft conglomerate, Northrop returned to being an independent company until the 1990s merger with Grumman (known today as Northrop-Grumman). Northrop was a pioneer in advanced military aircraft -- including the Flying Wing, T-38 trainer, F-5 Freedom Fighter, F-20 Tigershark, and today's leading Naval and Marine fighter/bomber, the F/A-18 Hornet.

Ryan Aircraft
T. Claude Ryan, born and raised in Parsons, Kansas, became an important aircraft design-and-manufacturing leader, from his base in California. His "Ryan NYP" (for "NewYork-to-Paris") "Spirit of St. Louis" monoplane -- famously flown by Charles Lindbergh in the first trans-Atlantic solo -- triggered one of the most decisive revolutions in American airplane design: the switch to monoplanes (in place of biplanes).
    Ryan Aircraft was also one of America's key pioneers of "modern" airplanes -- sleek aluminum-shell aircraft with unbraced ("cantilever") wings.
    During World War II, their flight-school affiliate -- the Ryan School of Aeronautics Company -- trained 14,000 Army Air Corps pilots. Thousands more learned in Ryan PT-22 military trainer planes.
    Though rarely successful, Ryan Aircraft remained a famously unusual and daring innovator in aviation well into the jet age -- with aircraft like the Navy's first jet fighter, jet/propeller hybrid planes, and vertical-takeoff jets.

Rutan Aircraft and Scaled Composites, Inc.
Burt Rutan, famed designer of the first private spacecraft to successfully reach outer space and win the "X Prize", has pivotal career ties to Kansas. Rutan's pioneering role in aerospace innovation began with his work with Jim Beded on the Bede BD-5 (and its worlds-smallest-jet variant, the BD-5J) at Bede Aircraft, in Newton, a few miles north of Wichita (see American Aviation, previously in this section).
    Rutan's experience with the radical homebuilt BD-5 kits helped prepare him for his radical pioneering ventures into "composite" (carbon-fiber shell) construction, and modern "canard" and "tandem-wing" designs. Rutan's popular, speedy composite/canard homebuilt designs rapidly made him the world's leading expert on this cutting-edge technology, and made Rutan Aircraft the most-admired, most-watched innovator in modern aeronautics.
    When Wichita's Beech Aircraft wanted to infuse new life into its aging line, it hired Rutan to serve as Director of Engineering, and Rutan guided the initial development of the Beech Starship -- America's first certificated (mass-manufactured) composite airplane, and one of the world's first certificated canard aircraft (the horizontal tail is moved to the nose, for greater efficiency).
    Rutan then returned to his Scaled Composites, Inc. company in the California desert, where he continued to develop design ideas for other companies and NASA. When the "X-Prize" was announced -- offering $10 million for the first successful, reusable, manned, private spacecraft to fly to space twice (with people) -- Rutan applied his expertise to create a radical composite aerospace craft system (involving two craft), which accomplished the mission, winning the prize.

Piper Aircraft
Though firmly rooted in Pennsylvania at the time, Piper was swamped during the mid-1950s with soaring demand for its Piper Tri-Pacer. Taking advantage of the abundant supply of trained aviation workers in the Wichita area, Piper opened a 'branch' factory in nearby Ponca City, Oklahoma, for a short time, until the Cessna 172/Skyhawk began to eclipse the Tri-Pacer as America's most popular airplane.
    In the 1970s, when a hositile corporate takeover drove the Piper family out of their company, one of old Bill Piper's sons, Howard 'Pug' Piper (who had directed Piper's new aircraft developments), defected to Wichita's Beech Aircraft Co. -- where he briefly became Director of Engineering, developing near-clones of his T-tailed Pipers: the Tomahawk trainer (imitated by the Beech Model 77 Skipper) and the Piper Seminole light twin (imitated by the Beech Model 76 Duchess). (For a detailed history of Piper Aircraft, click here .)

WACO (Weaver Aircraft Co.) , Alliance, Ohio & other Ohio Cities (alias Advance Aircraft Co.)
This legendary leading 1920s-1940s biplane-maker was co-founded by Buck Weaver -- a friend of Wichita's first successful airplane manufacturer,Matty Laird. Weaver worked briefly with Laird at Wichita's E.M.Laird Mfg. Co., building the industry-pioneering Swallow, then returned to Ohio to build its first significant competitor, the WACO 4.   WACO became the chief American rival to Wichita's Swallow and Travel Air for dominance in 1920's civilian aircraft manufacturing. For a couple of years, WACO was the largest-volume producer of aircraft in America, until surpassed in 1929 by Wichita's Travel Air.




  • Aviation Museums in Kansas
    Aero Enthusiasts' Corner, City University of New York
    Aviation Museums throughout U.S. & Canada:
    visitor info, collections, ratings, visitor comments.
    Kansas Aviation Museum (Wichita),
               KAM special information
  • Wichita -- The "Air Capital of the World" -- Its Aviation History
    The city which has built far more aircraft than any other city on Earth (over 250,000).

    "What the National Archives is to American history, Wichita is to aviation. Powered flight may have been born on those sand dunes in Kitty Hawk but it grew up here in Wichita" ~ Nicholas A. Sabatini, FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety, in the Opening Speech at the annual AIAA Technology Conference (the aerospace industry's leading technical conference), Wichita, Sept. 27, 2006
    Wings Over Kansas
    Wichita State University (WSU) Libraries, Special Collections
    Kansas Business Hall of Fame, Emporia State University
    National Aviation Hall of Fame (includes several past Wichitans,
       such as Beech [Mr. & Mrs.], Cessna, Stearman,
                      Lear, Rutan, and other Kansans)
    Back to the Future (brief history of Wichita)


    Major Aviation Facilities in Wichita area:




    Swallow   (started as E. M. Laird Aviation Co., Inc.)
      First successful commercial airplane-manufacturing company in the U.S.A.
      and the Air Capital's first airplane manufacturer;
      included Mr. Beech (later head of Travel Air & Beech Aircraft)
      and Mr. Stearman (later head of Stearman-Northrop and Lockheed)
      and George "Buck" Weaver (co-founder of WACO)
    Emil Matthew "Matty" Laird (Early Birds)
    (or CLICK HERE)
    Laird / E.M. Laird Airplane Company (
    Swallow / New Swallow Airplane Company (
    Brief Swallow Company History (and E.M. Laird company history)
        EAA AirVenture Museum, Oshkosh, WI.

    Travel Air   (see also Beech / Hawker & Raytheon Aircraft )
        the largest civilian-plane maker in the USA in the late 1920's
       started by Mr. Beech, Mr. Cessna and Mr. Stearman
    The Travel Air Company history, Arkansas Air Museum
    History of the Travel Air Airplane Manufacturing Co., Inc. (with PICTURES!) ,

    by Dr. Jay M. Price, Professor of History, Wichita State University;
    Member, National Council of Public Historians
    Original Travel Air factory designated historic site
    General Aviation News, 10/6/2006
    The Travel Air Airplane Manufacturing Company in Wichita Designated Historic Aerospace Site
    American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics, Sept.20,2006 statement.
    The Travel Air 2000, 3000 and 4000 , Holcomb's Aerodrome
    Barnstorming Adventures Ltd. (company providing barnstorming rides in Travel Airs;
    Click on "Biplane Rides" for details of their Travel Air 4000 biplane rides,
    with a detailed Travel Air history at the bottom of the page.
    Click on their "Gallery" button for current/historical pix of Travel Airs.)
    Travel Air D4D 'Pepsi Skywriter' at National Air & Space Museum
    and history of Travel Air company and aircraft,
    by National Air & Space Museum (Smithsonian Institute)
    Travel Air 'Mystery S' race plane -- the record-breaking civilian plane
    which fundamentally changed American military aircraft design
    (The Aviation History Online Museum)
    Peter Bowers' articles on Travel Air, in General Aviation News:
    Travel Air: A classic that keeps on flying , (10/24/2003)
    One airplane, many engines - Travel Airs... variety of powerplants in the '20 and '30s (7/10/1998)
    More Travel Airs 4000 and A-4000 series... variety of model designations , (7/24/1998)

    Boeing-Wichita / BMAC (Boeing Military Airplane Co.)
        (for most of Boeing's history, its vast Wichita plant -- one of America's largest --
         has been the largest Boeing complex outside of Washington state;
         Boeing-Wichita produced the Stearman trainer biplanes, most B-29, B-47, & B-52 bombers,
           -- including the entire currently-flying B-52 fleet -- and Air Force One 747 conversions,
            plus major sections of all Boeing airliners, including fuselages of the 727, 737 & 757)
    The Boeing Company main website
    Boeing-Wichita Division, overview & history
    Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Wichita Division, overview & history
    Boeing Military Airplanes, Wichita Division, overview & partial history (private airliner-enthusiasts' website)
    Pictures of Boeing airliners (foreign private website)
    Bombers section, (private website about U.S. Air Force S.A.C.)
    Bombers and Bomber Weapons, (private website, military analysts)
    The Boeing Company

    Stearman (also see: Boeing )
    Stearman was aviation legend in his own time, by Paul Soutar, Wichita Eagle, (12/13/2003)
    Home page, Airshow website
    Stearman Restorers Association
    National Stearman Fly-In
      annually, beginning on Labor Day,
      at Galesburg (IL) Municipal Airport
    Stearman Airplanes & Adventures: 

        • The Flight of the "Flying Carpet", 1930
      (Halliburton & Stephens around the world in Stearman C3B)
        • The Stearman C3R, by Peter Bowers, General Aviation News (9/17/1999)
      the most important, successful civilian "Stearman"
        • "Stearman C3R: Impressions of a Different Age"
    (expert pilot review of the Stearman C3R with Stearman history)
    by Budd Davisson, Flight Journal, Oct., 1997
        • "Stearman YPT-9 Cloudboy: A Different Kind of Stearman"
    (expert pilot review of a prewar Stearman trainer, with Stearman history)
    by Budd Davisson, Air Progress, Feb., 1974
        • Boeing Kaydet ('Stearman') military trainer biplane
      (alias   Model 75,   PT-13,   PT-17,   PT-27,   N2S,   etc.)
    In WWII, the most important U.S. military primary trainer,
    (over 10,000 built in Wichita for the Army and Navy),
    which became the most important pioneer cropduster,
    and now today's most popular airshow biplane.   • Stearman Kaydet Trainer
    (Boeing official company history)
      • Stearman - The Legend Lives On!
    (expert pilot review of the Stearman trainer, with Stearman history)
    by Budd Davisson, Air Progress Vintage Guide, 1989

    Cessna Aircraft Company, div. of Textron Corp.
    Cessna Owners' Organization
    Cessna Pilots Association
    Cessna 172-182 Club
    The Twin Cessna Flyer organization
    Bamboo Bomber Club
    'Cessna Declares Independence...';
      Plant Sites & Parks magazine, Jan.1997

    Beech / Hawker & Raytheon Aircraft
    Raytheon Aircraft Co., div. of Raytheon Corp.
    Raytheon Corp., Beechcraft product list
    Raytheon Corp., Hawker product list
    Raytheon Corp., Airliner product list
    American Bonanza (& Baron) Society
    Twin Bonanza Association
    Staggerwing Club, history pages

    Learjet Div. of Bombardier, Ltd.
    Bombardier Aerospace
    Learjet Div. history
    Learjets, Goodweather Flyer (UK)
    "Learjet 24D: Blowtorch for Six -- Daydream Believer"
        pilot report by Budd Davisson, Air Progress(?) October, 1970

  • William P. Lear, Sr., founder, Learjet, Inc.; biographies:
    Lemelson-MIT Awards Program
    National Inventors Hall of Fame
    Horatio Alger Assn.
  • Mooney / Superior
    (Al Mooney's Mooney Aircraft Co. started in Wichita in 1929 and quickly collapsed; but after quitting Culver , he revived it in Wichita in 1947, and moved to Kerrville, Texas in 1953. It is one of the world's leading suppliers of high-performance single-engine light aircraft. The Mooney M-18 Mite was the company's main Wichita product, and its first success.)
    Mooney Aircraft Company
    Mooney Owners Of America
    Mooney Aircraft Pilots Association
    Mooney Aircraft Web Ring (coalition of websites)
    Culver & Mooney Mite history
    • Book review & summary:
    "The Al Mooney Story: They All Fly Through the Same Air,"
    Mooney Mite website
    "Mitey Might," Mooney Mite pilot report
        by Budd Davisson, Air Progress, April, 1985

      (Airbus Industrie -- a French-based consortium of European aerospace companies organized to produce large jetliners -- opened its North American operations (engineering) office in Wichita, to take advantage of the city's vast population of experienced aviation engineers. Today, these Kansas engineers help develop the world's largest airliner -- the Airbus A380 -- and other Airbus planes.
    Airbus Industrie official main corporate website
    "Airbus A380 vs. Boeing Dreamliner" article
    (from recent issue of InFlightUSA)
    "Airbus superjumbo ready to fly; Wichita office lands new projects" article
    (Wichita Business JournalJan.28,2005)

    Information and Internet Links to...

    Wichita & Southern/Western Kansas: