THE KANSAS
 AVIATION
CENTENNIAL

100 Years of Aviation Progress
1911-1912  to  2011-2012

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Kansas Aircraft Factories, past & present - CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE
Kansas Aircraft Factories,
past & present
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Albin Longren - CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Albin K. Longren closeup
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Albin Longren - CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Albin K. Longren in his first plane: "Topeka I"
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Albin Longren - CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Longren Flyer #1 - "Topeka I," derived from the design of the Curtiss Golden Pusher. First flight, Sept.2, 1911, near Topeka.

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Albin Longren - CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Longren's factory building, just north of the Capitol Building, in downtown Topeka, still stands.
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Albin Longren - CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE
Inside Longren airplane factory, where almost everything was done by hand. This is where Longren began developing advanced airplane-manufacturing machines, which would become valuable to aviation of the future.
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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.

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Cessna planes - CLICK TO ENLARGE

CESSNA PLANES - From top left, clockwise, Cessna 120, 310, 421 Golden Eagle, 337 Skymaster, and together: Cessna 150 & 172/Skyhawk.

As Cessna Vice-President before World War II, Longren shared his planemaking technology. By the end of the war Cessna was using his ideas, leaping ahead of competitors, who were still building planes the 'old-fashioned' way.

Today, Cessna is the world's leader in aircraft-production volume.
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The STORY:
 OVERVIEW


With more airplanes produced here than anywhere else in the world, Kansas Aviation History is very much at the heart of U.S. Aviation History -- and World Aviation History. The innovations born here in Kansas -- and many of the aviators born, bred and built here -- have shaped aviation EVERYWHERE.

Sept. 2, 2011 -- is the 100th Anniversary of Kansas Aviation.

On this date in 1911, the first generally recognized Kansas-built airplane flew, in Topeka, Kansas -- piloted by Albin Kasper Longren, a self-educated Topeka machinist, who -- with his brother and a buddy -- had built the plane from scratch, imitating the popular Curtiss Pusher design. Unlike most self-taught early aviators, flying their own contraptions, Longren flew perfectly, without an accident.

Longren repeated his flights several times over the next few days, soundly outperforming most of the first-time flyers of the early 1900s. He promptly began exhibition flying throughout Kansas and the region, becoming, for many, the first aviator they had ever seen.

In the following years, Longren produced a number of aircraft, becoming one of the nation's first aircraft manufacturers, and pioneering today's techniques of aircraft construction -- eventually becoming a consultant to aircraft manufacturers throughout Kansas, the region, and the nation.

Longren's former workers launched several early manufacturers in and around Kansas City, Kansas, which led to that city's major role in aircraft manufacturing during World War II, and its role as home of TWA -- TransWorld Airlines -- for decades the world's largest airline.

NOT JUST LONGREN

Longren was not alone. In the following year, Clyde Cessna (who had flown that May, 1911 in Oklahoma) would return to his family homestead in Kansas, and begin a legendary career and company, eventually the world's leader in quantities of aircraft produced. (Longren would later contribute his talents to Cessna Aircraft, as Vice President and engineer).

Over the next ten decades, farmers and barnstormers, oil wildcatters and merchants, would all take a turn at giving birth to new and important aviation enterprises throughout the state. Some of their names became legends -- like Cessna, Beech, Stearman, Lear, Bede, and Rutan.

Others would take Kansas upbringing, education, work experience and initiative to other places, creating legendary achievements, from Glenn L. Martin, America's 3rd (and longest surviving) major aircraft manufacturer, to T.Claude Ryan, who developed the Spirit of St. Louis (left) for Charles Lindbergh's legendary trans-Atlantic solo.

Kansas' first aviator, Albin Longren, fundamentally changed the way airplanes were built in America, with the radical innovation of hollow-shell airplanes and the special techniques for manufacturing them, setting the stage for this nation's leap ahead of the world in aircraft peformance and manufacturing production (see "Longren patent drawings" at far left).

Kansas aviation history has produced global icons like Amelia Earhart, daring pioneers, pivotal inventors and technical geniuses, military heroes and legendary test pilots.

Kansas-bred, Kansas-trained or Kansas-experienced aviation industrialists have
become key designers or leaders at almost ever major American aircraft manufacturer.

KANSAS AVIATION TODAY

Kansas is home to Cessna Aircraft Co., Hawker-Beechcraft, the Learjet Division of Bombardier Aerospace, popular ultralight and kitplane makers RANS and Belite, and major facilities of the worlds' 3 leading airliner manufacturers:

  • BOEING
    Military Conversion Center, & Airliner subassembly factory operated by Spirit Aerosystems,
      ...AND...
  • BOMBARDIER
    Flight Test Center and Learjet Division,
      ...AND...
  • AIRBUS
    North American Engineering Center.

And it has spawned an entire workforce of tens of thousands of skilled and enduring craftsmen and laborers, committed to building the aircraft that the world relys upon - making aviation the 2nd largest industry in Kansas, after agriculture.

Over 50 companies have manufactured aircraft in Kansas -- and countless enterprising individuals have built their own. In all, over a quarter-million aircraft have been built and flown in Kansas since Longren's first, 100 years ago.

Here, the cutting edge of aviation is crafted. From efficiency-boosting winglets, to space-age "glass cockpit" instrument panels, to trend-setting light, stout composite-shell aircraft, the trends are tried and proven here, first -- emerging on Kansas aircraft that set the pace.

Every minute, of every day, Kansas-connected aircraft are at work on every continent around the world. Kansas-bred and Kansas-trained aviators and technicians are there, too. As one airline pilot once noted, "you can't go to an airport anywhere, without seeing a Kansas airplane."

The world flys in more aircraft, in more places, because of Kansas, than because of any other state in the nation.

 

From pioneering engineers, to savvy industry leaders, to pathfinding aviators, to astronauts in space, Kansas has produced and shaped the people
who shape the future of flight.


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