Wichita’s Legacy of Flight

Wichita's Legacy of Flight

As part of the nation’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of powered flight, a team of students from Wichita State University has put together a book about Wichita’s role in aviation history. This book, entitled Wichita’s Legacy of Flight, came out in late 2003. The publisher is Arcadia, one of the nation’s leading presses that specialize in local history photos. The Wichita Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) sponsored the project.

The students are all part of the Public History Program at Wichita State University and members of the Society of Public Historians, an organization connected with the program. The students involved are John D. Hays, Benjamin Hruska, Chad Kannady, Charles Lawrence, Benjamin Matthaei, Sandra Reddish, and Theresa St. Romain. In addition, Aaron Morris and Margaret Kline provide liaisons with AIAA. The students come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some are current employees in the aircraft industry. Others specialize in community history. Some are interested in the technology. Others find the social history of aviation fascinating. All are getting first hand experience of locating photographs, researching local history, and writing captions. Most of the photos have come from the Kansas Aviation Museum; Wichita State University Libraries, Department of Special Collections; the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum; and the Wichita Public Library, Local History Section. The project team has been very appreciative of the support from these repositories.

While there are many books that cover Wichita’s impact on aviation, this book turns the question around. It looks at how aviation impacted Wichita, transforming a regional agricultural and manufacturing center into “The Air Capital.” The narrative includes the air shows of the 1910s, the rise of the major companies in the 1920s, the impact of World War II and the Cold War, and the complexities of a global aviation industry in recent years. The book talks about the history of the companies and the colorful figures who founded them. It will also cover the lives of the workers, from those on the assembly line to the engineers who designed the newest aircraft. Sometimes the aircraft themselves, from the B-29 to the Beech Bonanza to the “Learjet,” become characters in the story as well.

For more information contact Jay Price at 978-7792. The book can be purchased through the Kansas Aviation Museum located at 3350 S. George Washington Boulevard, Wichita, Kansas.