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1911-1912  to  2011-2012

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AMERICAN COMPOSITE PLANES STARTED in TOPEKA

The Rutan brothers are justifiably famous for thier pioneering work in the development of composite-shell aircraft, an increasingly popular alternative to the traditional aluminum-shell construction used in most airplanes over the last half-century.

When and where, did "composite-shell" aircraft manufacturing begin in the United States? In TOPEKA, in 1919, where Albin K. Longren, the "first Kansas aviator," began producing his most successful design:  the Longren A.K Fibre Sport.


Albin K. Longren's 1919 'A.K. Fibre Sport' - CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Longren's A.K. Fibre Sport biplane, with tail hoisted on large wheels for towing. CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE.
Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society;
For journalistic & educational use only

The A.K. Fibre Sport -- a molded-plywood / vulcanized-fiber composite-construction aircraft -- combined this technology (for the first time in America) with the extremely advanced "monocoque" ("hollow-shell") / semi-monocoque construction technique, now used in nearly all the world's aircraft today. The result was a plane that was extremely light and sleek for its time.

Squeezing 85 miles per hour out of just a 65 horsepower engine, about 10 of these remarkablly sleek, 2-seat, open-cockpit biplanes were sold before Longren's financial troubles closed the Topeka company's doors.


Albin Longren - CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Longren's factory building, just north of the Capitol Building, in downtown Topeka, still stands.
For journalistic & educational use only
(One of Longren's old factories is near Aviation Explorer Post 8's hangar; another can be seen north of the Capitol building.)
Albin Longren - CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Albin K. Longren closeup
For journalistic & educational use only

Longren spent the rest of his career spreading monocoque-manufacturing technology (aluminum-shell, mostly) to the rest of the nation, as Chief Engineer or Vice President at the cutting-edge light-aircraft companies of his time: Luscombe, Spartan, and Cessna.

During, or shortly after, his service at each of these companies, Longren's technology began appearing in their cutting-edge aluminum-shell designs, which were major leaps ahead of the competition.


Longren patent drawings - CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE

One of Longren's several patents
(this one in the mid-1930s) on his process for building hollow-shell aluminum aircraft -- using a "stretch press" for aluminum forming -- drawing on work he'd begun in 1916.
Longren's technology would be sought by many manufacturers, and his concept of planemakeing would become the standard way that most aircraft would be built for the rest of the 20th Century.

For journalistic & educational use only


Longren then moved to the southern-California aviation factory town of Torrance, where he became a leading consultant and subassembly builder for all the major West-Coast aircraft manufacturers, though World War II, and after.

Ironically, it would take another California-based entrepreneur-engineer, generations later, to popularize the composite-shell construction concept that had first intrigued and profited Albin Longren just after World War I. That other entrepreneur-engineer would be Burt Rutan -- using somewhat different materials, but in largely the same basic technological concept as Longren's Fibre Sport design of 1919.

-RH


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Kansas Aircraft Factories, past & present - CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE
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COMING EVENT:
HISTORIC AVIATOR
DICK RUTAN
to SPEAK AT
TOPEKA BANQUET

EVENT: Sat., Oct.15, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Record-breaking test pilot Dick Rutan was keynote speaker at the 12th Annual Youth Leadership Banquet of Aviaton Explorer Post 8, Saturday, Oct.15th, in Topeka.

With Jeana Yeager, in 1986, flying the exotic long-winged "Voyager" airplane, Dick Rutan commanded the first successful non-stop, un-refueled round-the-world flight.

In the years since, Dick has been involved in a wide range of the cutting-edge developments of his brother, Burt Rutan, and Rutan's legendary aircraft-inventing shop -- including work supporting the first private manned spacecraft: SpaceShip One.

Dick's career also includes several years as one of the most highly decorated combat fighter pilots in Vietnam -- at one point, the U.S. fighter pilot with the most hours aloft over North Vietnam.

Saturday, Rutan shared thoughts and stories about "Decision Making," as guest of the 2011 Youth Leadership Awards Banquet of Topeka's Aviation Explorer Post 8. The public was invited to this $50-a-plate fundraising banquet. Over 250 showed up to support the Post's efforts to provide aviation training for youth.

Post 8 is the oldest continuously-operating Aviation Explorer Post in the nation, providing low-cost aviation training to dozens of aspiring young aviators -- hoping to become pilots, aircraft mechanics and aviation industry workers and leaders of the future. The banquet raises money to help Explorers earn their pilots license, and receive other aviation training. Some of today's instructors and other volunteers at the Post got their start in aviation here a generation ago.

The banquet was held Saturday evening, Oct.15, 2011, at the Holiday Inn West Holidome, 605 Fairlawn Road, Topeka, Kansas.
For more information from Aviation Explorer Post 8, go to www.post8.org.


Dick Rutan & colleagues -
Kansas Aviation connections:

On research, we turned up these noteworthy items of Kansas aviation industry connections to Dick Rutan and his colleagues, and their most-famous projects ("Beech Starship," "Voyager," "Virgin Atlantic Global Voyager," "SpaceShip One") . They are listed here by topic.


DICK RUTAN, aviator:

Learned to fly in a Cessna 140 (his father's; Wichita-built) (His father later acquired a Wichita-built Beech Bonanza).
(sources: "Voyager: A Crazy Dream?," by DiFreeze, Airport Journals, Dec.2006, online at: www.airportjournals.com
/Display.cfm?varID=0612035
)

Was primary test pilot on the Beech Starship. (sources: "Voyager: A Crazy Dream?," by DiFreeze, "Airport Journals," Dec.2006, online at: www.airportjournals.com
/Display.cfm?varID=0612035
)

Currently owns a Kansas-built Cessna 150 (source: FAA Aircraft Registry, as listed Oct.2011)


JEANA YEAGER, aviator:

Trained partly for Voyager flight, for several weeks, in Wichita.
(instrument & multi-engine training) (sources: "Voyager: A Crazy Dream?," by DiFreeze, Airport Journals, Dec.2006, online at: www.airportjournals.com
/Display.cfm?varID=0612035
)


BURT RUTAN, designer:

1972-1974: Director of Development at the Bede Test Center for Bede Aircraft in Newton, Ks., -- on BD-5 Micro kitplane, the spark that ignited the "kitplane" movement. and produced the "world's smallest jet aircraft," the BD-5 Microjet. (source: "Elbert 'Burt' Rutan: Inventor," National Aviation Hall of Fame, Dayton, Ohio, 1995, online at: http://www.nationalaviation.org/rutan-elbert/)

1980s: Advanced designs guru for Beech Aircraft Corp. -- in Wichita, Ks. -- developing the nation's first government-certified, all-composite / carbon-fiber production airplane, the Beech Starship (also 1st glass cockpit in a production aircraft).
(source: Interview with Burt Rutan, Sept.2003)


BURT RUTAN'S AIRCRAFT:


Voyager:

(Rutan plane, twin-prop/tandem-engine; pilots: Dick Rutan & Jeana Yeager; first global, non-stop, unrefueled airplane flight.)

Voyager's avionics -- all communications, navigation & guidance electronics -- were from King Radio (later Bendix/King), of Olathe, Ks, thanks to sponsorship by King Radio founder Ed King, a 1943 Kansas State Univ. graduate in electronic engineering. (sources:
"Rutan Appeals for Money," Flight International, Feb.2, 1985, p.16;
"Ed King Story," by Roger McGuinn, "Techie Report," Jan.14, 2006, online at: http://mcguinn1342.blogspot.com
/2006/01/ed-king-story.html

"Voyager: A Crazy Dream?," by DiFreeze, Airport Journals, Dec.2006, online at:
www.airportjournals.com
/Display.cfm?varID=0612035
)

Voyager's "centerline-thrust" tandem-engine concept was most conspicuously and successfully pioneered in civilian planes by the Wichita-built Cessna 336/337 Skymaster, for which the FAA created the "center-line thrust" (CLT) multi-engine pilot rating normally required for pilots of such aircraft.

Landed at Salina in the only stop on Voyager's first long, cross-country flight (Mojave to Oshkosh) (source: "Voyager: A Crazy Dream?," by DiFreeze, Airport Journals, Dec.2006, online at: www.airportjournals.com
/Display.cfm?varID=0612035
)

Primary chase plane for the global flight was a Kansas-built Beech Duchess light twin. (source: "Voyager: A Crazy Dream?, Part II," by DiFreeze, Airport Journals, Jan.2007, online at: http://www.airportjournals.com
/Display.cfm?varID=0701014
)

On Jan. 6, 1987, Voyager made one last flight, its 69th, Yeager and Rutan flew it home to Mojave, spending a couple of hours in the air while famed aviator and aerial cinematographer, Clay Lacy -- a Wichita, Kansas native -- shot some footage. (source: "Voyager: A Crazy Dream?, Part II," by DiFreeze, Airport Journals, Jan.2007, online at: http://www.airportjournals.com
/Display.cfm?varID=0701014
)


Global Voyager:

(Rutan plane also, similar to Voyager, but jet-powered; Steve Fossett pilot; first global, non-stop, unrefueled SOLO airplane flight, 2005. AND closed-course distance record, 2006.)

2005: Round-the-world record flight
started and ended in Salina, Kansas. (source: "USAToday articles: "Pilot takes off to attempt solo, non-stop flight around world," March 1, 2005, AND "Fossett finishes solo global flight: Jet lands in Kansas after 23,000 miles," March 4, 2005, online at: http://www.usatoday.com/educate
/afa/2008materials/high/hics1.pdf

2006: Closed-course distance record flight
started and ended in Salina, Kansas. (sources: "Records Claimed: February 2006-March 2006" in Aero, the magazine of the National Aeronautic Association (NAA)" online at: http://www.aviationweek.com/media
/pdf/spotlight_NewAeroFinal.pdf

Mission control & support
for BOTH record flights
provided by
Kansas State University aviation faculty & students.

Steve Fossett's website , 2006, re:
Closed-Course Distance Record flight:

    "As on Steve's first non-stop, un-refueled rtw ['round-the-world] flight from Salina just over a year ago, Kansas State University at Salina students once again worked closely with Fossett and Scaled Composites to support the attempt.
    "Mission Control was housed at K-State at Salina, and in addition to aircraft maintenance and flight operations, students also were responsible for all the Web updates and flight tracking resources available to the general public.
    "Following the flight, Steve remarked how grateful he was for the support of the students, faculty and staff of the school. Upon landing, he also was named honorary captain of the K-State Flight Team."

(source: Steve Fossett's website, 2006, still online at: http://www.stevefossett.com/html
/global_flyer/index.html


SpaceShip One:
(first private manned spacecraft)

SpaceShip One's primary navigational instrument was a panel-mounted Garmin GPSMAP 296 handheld aviation GPS navigator, made by Garmin, Olathe, Ks. (source: photo of Space Ship One cockpit, in the Smithsonian Nat'l Air & Space Museum book "In the Cockpit," p.196.)

Chase plane was a Wichita-built Beech Starship -- the last flying one, owned by Bob Scherer. (sources: phone interviews with Scherer; general publicity at time of event; "Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites," Air-and-Space website, Goleta Air and Space Museum, online at: http://www.air-and-space.com/Rutan.htm )


SCALED COMPOSITES, Inc.:

(Partnering with Rutan Aircraft Factory, Scaled Composites, Inc. (SCI) is Burt Rutan's aerospace research-and-development enterprise).

1980s: SCI is acquired, temporarily, by Beech Aircraft Corp. (Wichita), while the Rutans develop and test the initial prototype of the Beech Starship.

Doug Shane is Vice President/Business Development, Director of Flight Operations since 1989, and Test Pilot for Scaled Composites.; directly responsible for the safe performance of 25-plus research flight test programs. Aerospace Engineering degree from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 1982. (source: Scaled Composites, Inc. company website)

Matt Stinemetze, project engineer and flight tester for Scaled Composites -- as part of the SpaceShip One team, working on the launch aircraft "White Knight," and other projects -- is a Hutchinson-raised, McPherson, Ks. native and Aerospace Engineering graduate of Wichita State University, 1998, whose career began in the composites lab of WSU's National Institute for Aviation Research.
(sources:
"WSU alumnus part of historic privately financed space flight," by Melissa Lacey, "Inside WSU," June 18, 2004, Wichita State Univ., online at: http://webs.wichita.edu/dt
/insidewsu/show/article.asp?381

"X Flight," in "The Shocker" WSU alumni magazine, online at: http://webs.wichita.edu/dt
/shockermag/show/features.asp?_s=137

"Students shine at Science Olympiad," Gulf Breeze News, Pensacola, FL, May.31, 2007 online at: http://www.gulfbreezenews.com
/news/2007-05-31/school/051.html
)


FOR MORE INFORMATION , contact the:
Kansas Aviation Centennial Committee
Richard Harris, Chariman,
(316) 371-9079
office@ks100aviation.org

 


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