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 and bred here, and aircraft 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,
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 every major American aircraft manufacturer.
KANSAS AVIATION TODAY
Kansas is home to
Cessna Aircraft Co.,
popular ultralight and kitplane makers
Belite, and major facilities of the worlds' 3 leading airliner manufacturers:
Military Conversion Center, & Airliner subassembly factory operated by Spirit Aerosystems,
Flight Test Center and Learjet Division,
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 second-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. As one airline pilot once noted, "you can't go to an airport anywhere, without seeing a Kansas airplane." Kansas-bred and Kansas-trained aviators and technicians are there, too.
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.