This is the 9th in a series of aircraft designed, built and flown by more than 25 aircraft companies that called Wichita, the Air Capital of the World, “home.” Some of these early aircraft companies are world famous today, while most are nearly all but forgotten. However, their history should be recorded and aviation aficionados will find great pleasure in seeing these aircraft. Thanks to the photographic artistry of pioneer aviation photographer, Edgar B. Smith (1896-1966) and other pioneer aviation photographers, excellent photographs exist today of most of these early day aircraft.
The photos in this series were printed from Edgar B. Smith’s original 8X10-inch negatives. Additional photographs are from the Silent Wings Museum, Terrell, Texas, Kansas State Historical Society, the Peter M. Bowers Collection, Howard Funk Collection, Beech Aircraft Corp., the William A. Reagan Collection, Robert J. Pickett Collection, Glen Stearman Collection, Stearman/Boeing files and the Walter D. House Collection. All photographs are furnished by and are at the courtesy of the Kansas Aviation Museum.
Of the nearly 14,000 Waco CG-4A Troop/Cargo gliders produced by various companies during World War II, 750 were built in Wichita under a contract to Cessna. Approximately 350 of the Cessna gliders were produced by Boeing on a subcontract. Shown here is one of the CG-4A’s departing Wichita by a towline connected to a C-47.
The first successful airplane built in Kansas was the one shown here constructed by A. K. Longren of Topeka. It was first flown on September 2, 1911.
Winning air races sold airplanes. The E. M. Laird Company produced this clipped-wing Swallow Special in June 1923. Powered with a Wright-Hispano 150 horsepower engine, the little racer won several races in 1923-1924 with Walter Beech at the controls.
The Funk Aircraft Company of Coffeyville, Kansas developed this F2B-85C from the company’s prewar model. The one shown here was manufactured in 1947. Joe and Howard Funk started building the Funk B in Akron, Ohio under the name of the Akron Aircraft Company before moving back to Coffeyville in 1941.
The Travel Air Company, sold to the giant Curtiss Wright Corporation in August 1929, continued to flourish as a leader until the great depression set in. This Model 12 Q, powered with a Wright Gypsy engine, was built in 1930.
After building three airplanes in Venice, California, Lloyd Stearman returned to Wichita in 1927. With the help of Walter Innes, the Stearman Aircraft Company was reorganized and production resumed on the Model C-2. This model was produced as the C3B into 1929. The one shown here was owned by the Wichita Air Service Provision Company.
Ariel Aircraft, Inc. of Coffeyville produced this Ariel Light Cabin Monoplane in 1941. The company, led by Glen and Gail Stearman, never placed the little low wing into production due to the demands of World War II.
The Swallow, like the ones shown here at 2500 North Hillside, were manufactured by the E. M. Laird Company from 1920 to 1923. A total of 43 were built of which none are believed to exist. One of the projects of the Kansas Aviation Museum was to build a replica of the Laird Swallow. Much needed are construction details and parts to be used for patterns such as wing ribs and metal fittings for the wood fuselage.
The Swift “Sport” was manufactured by the Swift Corporation of Wichita in 1928. The airplane shown here was powered by a 125 horsepower LeRhone rotary engine converted to a stationary radial by Quick Air Motors of Wichita. Swift was located at 33rd and N. Lawrence in 1927 and at 3301 S. Oliver 1928-29.
The Model C-1 “Cadet” was built in 1929 by the Wichita Airplane Manufacturing Company located at 716 W. 1st<. The company had plans to build two larger models called the "Captain" and the "Major" before going out of business in early 1930.
The Model C “Coupe” produced by the Swallow Airplane Company in 1937 looked like the product that would bring the manufacturer back into prominence. However, the marketing resulted in only three of the sharp looking Menasco powered coupes being built.
The Knoll Aircraft Corporation, formed around the skills of the German designer W. A. “Felix” Knoll, manufactured this model KN-1 in late 1928. Located first at 471 W. 1st, Knoll erected the large factory building at Webb Road and Kellogg. Before going out of business in late 1929, two other models, the KN-2 and KN-3 were built by Knoll.
Edgar B. Smith, to whom the Air Capital owes so much for recording its history on film, used this standard J-1 for transport and aerial photography. The airplane and hanger were destroyed by the big windstorm on the evening of June 2, 1929 at the East Central Airport.
With the completion of this new building in 1929, the Supreme Propeller Company boasted the largest factory for wood propellers in the world. This facility at 915 E. Lincoln replaced the cramped quarters at 1016 S. Santa Fe where the company started in 1928.