By Frank Joseph Rowe & Craig Miner
Copyright 1994, The Wichita Eagle & Beacon Publishing Company
Chapter 6, The World Calls
Chapter 6, "The World Calls", covers an era (1945 – 1963) which examines the dramatically increasing worldwide role and market for Kansas-built aircraft (General, Commercial as well as Military). Following World War II, there were many adjustments to be made to a peacetime economy. There was a post war mini-boom in aircraft sales (approximately 35,000 aircraft sold nationwide in 1946) followed by a drop (approximately 15,500 aircraft sold in 1947) with a full-scale industry-wide depression by 1948. Eventual flooding of the market with cheap war surplus aircraft (some for $100) brought an end to the "G.I. Sales Boom". Originally, aircraft companies like Beech with the legendary Model 35 V-tail Bonanza, Culver with the Model "V" (V for Victory)and Mooney with the Model 18 "Mite" designed aircraft to attract the interests of ex-military pilots. When sales of these types of aircraft fell off, the aircraft companies resorted to diversifying their production lines to include non-aircraft products. Vending Machines, Washing Machines, Desks/Chairs, Bicycles, Refrigerator Parts, Corn Pickers and a host of other products were manufactured (although for a relatively short time) to maintain the core aviation business. Beech Aircraft even built prototypes of the Buckminster Fuller designed "Dymaxion Dwelling Machine" ( a prefabricated house) as well as laying plans to build the 4WD "Plainsman" automobile (Boeing also looked at building a car).
Gradually, the aviation industry evolved a series of enticing features that began to lure back customers. Well run Service Centers increasing located throughout the land offered much needed spares and servicing. Factory backed Flight Training programs created an appealing system to further create pilots for factory aircraft. A full range of aircraft models (singles, twins, agricultural aircraft, etc..) were offered to meet every customers need. Savvy marketing campaigns promoted flying as a safe and sensible means to conduct business as well as for recreation. And most notably, the aircraft designs themselves were becoming very attractive to the customer from a performance, utility, styling and comfort standpoint. Cessna Aircraft Company was a case in point with it’s full line of General Aviation aircraft. Cessna evolved from the post-war radial engined Models 190/195 through the Model 120/140, Model 170, Model 172/182 (mid-1950’s) on through to the Model 310 Twin in 1954 (star of the TV show: "Sky King").
Tensions brought on by the "Cold War" meant that an ever-increasing portion of aviation manufacturing capacity was devoted to military aircraft production. The Boeing Airplane Company of Wichita built the L-15 "Scout", The B-47 "Stratojet" as well as the venerable (and still flying after production ended over 4 decades ago) the incredible B-52 "Stratofortress". Wichita companies such as Beech Aircraft Company built the T-34 trainer , L-23 and Target Drones. Cessna constructed the 0-1, 337, T-37 , as well as the A-37B Attack Jet. In Kansas City, Kansas, Republic Aviation built the F-84F "Thunderjet". And a little known company in Pittsburg Kansas built the astounding Helio Courier "C/STOL" aircraft for use by the military,as well as the CIA.