Borne On The South Wind, A Century Of Kansas Aviation

Chapter Summary

By Frank Joseph Rowe & Craig Miner
Copyright 1994, The Wichita Eagle & Beacon Publishing Company
Wichita, Kansas

Chapter 2, Warping The Gale

"Warping The Gale" (1910-1919) describes a time marked by the first real success at taming the ever present Kansas wind with workable aircraft designs. As suggested by the title, many of the new aircraft designs utilized the concept of "wing warping" (bending or "warping" the outermost ends of the wings) to effect controlled flight.

Aircraft and the public’s fancy with flight ("airmindedness") took shape in many forms. Aviation was close to evangelism and stirred the collective imagination. Airships of all types (powered and un-powered) were still more a curiosity than a viable business tool, and aviation was very much a dangerous and non-regulated field. Not only were there risks with the basic airframe designs, but occasionally the public would need to be reminded not to shoot at the aviators just because the aircraft were disturbing their cattle!

Aviation clubs were formed to promote civic support for the fledgling industry. Early "aerial exhibitions" and "air meets" featured balloon ascensions such as the 1915 National Balloon Race in Wichita, as well as the Knabenshue & Strobel powered airships that made their appearance at such venues as the Peerless Prophets Jubilee (1908).

Early exhibition flights by the "Curtiss contingent" and other high-profile aviation groups (Eugene Ely, Jimmy Ward, Cailbraith Perry Rogers and others) fueled local interest in flight, and helped generate the initial spark to develop the foundation for the Kansas aviation industry. Most noteworthy of the local efforts were Albin K. Longren of Topeka, and Clyde Cessna of Rago, Ks. Longren developed a company to evolve the Curtiss "Pusher" type aircraft, and Clyde focused upon evolving the "Bleriot XI" monoplane type aircraft. While Longren’s efforts would result in a respectable, yet relatively short-lived business, Clyde Cessna’s efforts would "plant the seeds" for what would eventually become the World Leader in General Aviation aircraft design and manufacturing (Cessna Aircraft Company).

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