KANSAS AVIATION CENTENNIAL
TOPEKA, Sept, 21-
Responding to historic analysis and findings from the Kansas Aviation Centennial Committee, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback today signed a
declaring September, 2011 as the start of the Kansas Aviation Centennial.
Acknowledging September 2, 1911 as the date that Albin K. Longren became the first Kansan to fly a Kansas-built aircraft in Kansas, the Governor declared September 2011 as the Centennial of Kansas Aviation.
Saturday, Sept. 24th, at Topekaís Phillip Billard Airport (TOP), Kansas Department of Transportation official Jesse Romo will
the proclamation to the
Aviation Explorerís Post 8 Squadron
at approximately 9:45 AM. With the help of volunteers, the Post has been training young aviators since 1952.
[UPDATE: At the event, a duplicate copy of the proclamation was presented to Richard Harris, Acting Chaiman of the Kansas Aviation
Centennial Committee (KACC).
Following criteria established by the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission for their determination of the date of the U.S. Centennial of Flight, the KACC's Panel of Historians provided the initial research, review and analysis -- and the initial recommendation (to Kansas Department of Transportation officlal Jesse Romo) -- for the Governor to declare September of 2011 as the starting date of the Kansas Aviation Centennial.]
Saturday morning's event is free and open to the public.
A representative of the Kansas Aviation Centennial Committee will be there, with a Kansas aviation historian, to accept a copy of the Governor's proclamation. The Committee is organizing a year-long commemoration of the Centennial.
The Topeka Airport location was chosen, in part, because of its proximity to the location of Longren's first flight, 100 years ago this month.
Albin Longren was a self-educated engineer and aviator. With help from a brother and a friend, he constructed the first Kansas-built airplane to fly from Kansas soil. It first flew in September of 1911, several times, over Topeka. Over the next few years, Longren performed as an aerial showman throughout the state.
Following his brief service as Chief Inspector for the U.S. military's main aviation research center in Dayton, Ohio, at the end of World War I, Albin Longren returned to Topeka and built some of the most advanced American biplanes of his time.
Though Longren's own business failed,
it was the spark that ignited the aviation industry of
Northeast Kansas, resulting in several aircraft factories throughout
the Kansas City area -- on both the Kansas and Missouri sides of the river -- some of which turned to him for his talents.
With his exceptional expertise and many patents in aircaft manufacturing technology, Longren later became a key figure in other pioneering aviation companies around the U.S. -- including Wichita's Cessna Aircraft Co.
Underscoring the importance of his ideas, Cessna traded Longren a post as Vice President in exchange for the use of his patents and technology. Starting with their aluminum-shell Cessna 120/140 (photo, top left) -- similar to the Luscombe line that Longren had helped design in Kansas City -- Cessna swiftly overtook all lightplane competitors, and became the world's most prolific maker of airplanes.
Just before World War II, Longren moved to Southern California, where his company manufactured key sections of famous aircraft produced by some of the nation's largest aircraft manufacturers.
Longren died in Torrance, California in 1950, and is buried near Topeka. At the urging of biographer Rev. Richard Taylor, Longren was inducted into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame, in 2007.
One of Longren's earliest aircraft rests in Kansas Historical Museum, Topeka, and his original aircraft factory building has been restored, bearing his name in huge letters, just north of the state capitol building.
KANSAS AVIATION SINCE LONGREN
In the years that followed Longren's first flights, Kansas exploded with aviation innovation. Pioneer planemakers Matty Laird, Buck Weaver and Jake Mollendick teamed to give birth to America's first successful "commercial" aircraft, the Laird Swallow.
They, along with
other Kansas planemakers,
Jim Bede and
would become world famous for their flying creations.
Stearman headed west to become President of Lockheed, while Kansans Glenn Martin (of Liberal and Salina) and T. Claude Ryan (of Parsons) became two of the most influential, trend-setting California-based aircraft manufacturing legends in their own right.
In Kansas, some of the greatest of all aerial adventurers took root, or spread their wings. The most famed pilot of all time, daring adventurer Charles Lindbergh, began his legendary aviation career here (at Bird City) -- in the state where his only peer, Amelia Earhart, grew up (in Atchison).
Here, globe-trotting documentary movie pioneers Martin & Osa Johnson (of Chanute) became famous as pioneers of exploration -- by airplane -- of the most remote places on earth.
WAR & GROWTH
World War II revolutionized American aviation, and
Kansas aircraft factories exploded in size -- soon turning out one out of every 9 U.S. planes for the war -- over 20,000 in all.
All across the state, military training air bases sprang up,
training hundreds (probably thousands) of the fighter and bomber crews for the war, largely in Kansas-built planes.
A Kansan, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower -- who had learned
to fly in a Wichita-built Stearman biplane -- would command the Allies in Europe, including the mightiest air forces the world had ever known. A few years after the war,
Eisenhower would become president -- the first pilot-president -- and make flying a characteristic of presidential life. He would preside over the Korean War, in which another Kansan, Air Force pilot James Jabara, became America's "First Jet Ace."
As the Cold War progressed, under Eisenhower, Boeing-Wichita produced America's largest, fastest bombers, and pioneered the "flying boom" method of aerial refueling, giving American jets truly global reach.
Kansas City's famed Trans-World Airlines (TWA) became the world's largest airline, for decades -- setting trends and triggering the development of airplanes ranging from the legnedary DC-3 to the Boeing 747.
Air Midwest became the nation's first certificated commuter airline -- starting in Wichita, growing throughout Kansas, then other states -- growing into the nation's 8th-largest regional airline.
Kansas pioneered aircraft have ranged from the first patented helicopter (Purvis-Wilson, Goodland, 1909), to the first popular powered parachute (Powrachute, Coffeyville, 1980s) -- from the world's tinest jet (Bede BD-5J, in Newton, 1975) to the world's fastest civilian jet flying today (Cessna Citation Ten, Wichita, 2011, shown above).
KANSAS AVIATION TODAY
Today, Kansas is home to major facilities of the world's three leading airliner manufacturers (Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier), the world's leading business jet makers (Cessna, Learjet and Hawker-Beechcraft),
plus other small planemakers (RANS in Hays, HGL/Eagle in Augusta, Belite near Wichita), an international airport (Wichita), multiple military air bases (McConnell/Wichita, Forbes/Topeka, Smoky Hill/Salina, Ft. Riley/Manhattan),
over a hundred local airports.
The world's foremost general aviation electronics manufacturers (King and Garmin) are based in Olathe.
Kansas is a national leader in aviation research and education, with the National Instutute for Aviation Research (NIAR) and the National Center for Aviation
Training (NCAT) in Wichita, three universities with major degree programs in aviation or aerospace engineering, and major facilities of the world's leading jet-pilot training organization (FlightSafety International, Wichita), plus several national aviation organizations and aerospace museums.
Today, aviation is second only to agriculture as Kansas's leading industry, and employs up to 100,000 people at a time -- turning out one in five U.S. civilian aircraft, and major sections of others, while training thousands of the world's pilots, aircraft mechanics and aerospace engineers.
What began with one Kansan's initiative, courage and ingenuity, a century ago, has grown into a state-wide, world-leading aerospace industry -- famed throughout the globe -- shaping the future of flight.
FOR A COPY of the
GOVERNOR'S PROCLAMATION and
ADDITIONAL INFO on LONGREN,
GOVERNOR'S PRESS RELEASE
FOR MORE INFORMATION
, contact the:
Kansas Aviation Centennial Committee
Richard Harris, Chariman,