The History of Kansas Aircraft Manufacturing — 1899-1993

August 10, 2008 by Carl Chance

air capital

Kansas has played an historic and domineering role in general aviation since the earliest beginnings of flight by fearless pioneer aviators. Even then, the entrepreneurial and experimental spirits soared high as daring barnstormers sought their fortunes in the wide-open skies of the Kansas prairies. Soon, pilots and business merged to develop the commercial potential of this new and fantastic mode of transportation. From mail delivery, freight hauling, and passenger carriage to military purposes, the airplane was the “new frontier” and the skies were wide open. In all, approximately 266,500 aircraft, including kits, have been manufactured by Kansas aircraft companies, or their licensed affiliates up through this historical listing to the year 1993.

Ace Aircraft Manufacturing. Established 1929, first at 800 E. Lincoln, then at 1026 S. Santa Fe. Built Baby Ace, Super Ace models. Otto G. “Ace” Corben, president/engineer; Governor Clyde Reed and Senator Henry J. Allen, directors.

Aerial Navigation Company of America, Inc. Operated from 1908 through 1911 in Girard, Kansas. Produced 14 aircraft.

Air Capital Manufacturing Company. Aircraft produced, unknown. Operated in Wichita, Kansas during 1929.

Allied Aircraft Company. Produced 1 aircraft in Wichita, Kansas from 1946 through 1948.

Allison Aircraft Company. Four aircraft were built from 1920 through 1931 in Lawrence, Kansas.

Alon Aircraft Company. Located in McPherson, Kansas from 1963 – 1967. A total of 245 aircraft were manufactured.

American EagleAmerican Eagle A/C Company. From 1928 to 1931, produced 500/700 aircraft in Kansas City, Kansas.

American Eagle-Lincoln. Production began in 1932 continuing through 1935 with 13 aircraft manufactured at this Kansas City, Kansas plant.

Ariel Aircraft Company. Three aircraft manufactured at this Coffeyville, Kansas company during 1941 and 1942.

Associated Aircraft Company. Established 1929.

Beach Aviation Company. From 1927 through 1928 this Wichita plant built one aircraft.

Bede Aircraft Company. This Newton, Kansas company developed 15 aircraft with 5,055 total kits sold.

Beech Aircraft Company. Located at 5800 E. Franklin Road. Successor to Travel Air. From 1932 through 1993, selling 50,650 aircraft. In October 1979, Beech Aircraft merged with the Raytheon Co., a manufacturer of missiles, electronics and consumer appliances.

Boeing Wichita began as the Stearman Company. Established in Wichita 1927, first at 610 E. 35th North, later at 3601 S. Oliver. In all, Stearman/Boeing produced some 29 models of planes. Lloyd C. Stearman, Walter Innes, J. Earl Schaefer, Mac Short, Harold Zipp and Jack Clark were principals in the company.

Bowlby Airplane Company. Established 1929 at 413 S. Market. Built the Sunbeam aircraft. Dick Bowlby, president/designer; John Busch, director.

Braley Aircraft Company. Located at 6400 E. Franklin Road. Built B-1 and B-2 Beezle Bug. Thomas E. Braley, president; Ward Braley, designer; Ted Braley, production and testing.

C. D. Browne Company. Located in Freedom, Kansas from 1900 through 1902. Aircraft produced is unknown.

BuckleyBuckley Aircraft Company. Established 1929 at 6628 E. Central. Built the F-1 and LC-4 Wichcraft. Roy B. Buckley, owner/director; William B. Stout, president/engineer; Frank Smith, general manager.

Cessna-Roos Aircraft Company. Established 1927 at 1520 W. Douglas. Produced 2 aircraft in 1927. Reincorporated as Cessna Aircraft Company after Victor Roos left the company.

Cessna Aircraft Company. Following re-incorporated, the company produced 178,007 aircraft through 1993. At the helm have been Clyde Cessna, Dwane Wallace and Russ Meyer.

Collier Aircraft Company. Established 1941.

Commonwealth Aircraft Company. The company located in Kansas City, Kansas, produced 1,620 aircraft from 1942 through 1945.

Continental Aircraft Company. At 704 E. Douglas. Active in 1929. Number of aircraft produced unknown.

Cook Glider/Soarplane Company. In 1929, produced 1 aircraft in Kansas City, Kansas.

culverCulver
Aircraft Company.
Established 1940 at 300 E. 35th North.
Built Model L Cadet, Models PQ & TD drone targets, Model V. K.K. Culver,
president/sales manager; Walter Beech, president; Charles Yankey, vice
president; Al W. Mooney, vice president/engineering; T.B. Woodbury, general
manager; Art Mooney, production supervisor.

Fairchild
Personal Airplanes Division.
The main plant site was in Winfield,
Kansas operating from 1946 through 1947, producing only 1 aircraft.

Funk Aircraft
Company.
Operating out of Coffeyville, Kansas, the company first existed
from 1941 through 1942. There was a break in operations, not starting
up again until 1945 and lasting through 1947, producing a total of 232
aircraft.

D. D.
Funk Company.
From their Salina, Kansas plant, produced 12 aircraft
between 1962 and 1967.

Gabbey
Airship Company.
Aircraft produced unknown. In operation from 1899
through 1901 in Rossville, Kansas.

Geselle
Aircraft Company.
This Wichita, Kansas manufacturer produced 1 aircraft
in 1927.

Goodland
Aviation Company.
Located in Goodland, Kansas, this aviation entrepreneur
produced 1 aircraft from 1909 through 1910.

Great
Lakes Aircraft Company.
Produced 145 aircraft in Wichita, Kansas from
1971 through 1978.

Helio
Aircraft Company.
Located in Pittsburg, Kansas from 1956 through 1984,
producing a total of 517 aircraft.

Hilton
Aircraft Company.
Established 1929 at 621 W. Douglas, later at Webb
Road and Kellogg. Built 1000 Series Super Midwing. Ralph Hilton, designer;
Harvey Brown, associate.

Inland
Aircraft Company.
Kansas City, Kansas from 1930 through 1932 with
35/46 aircraft.

Javelin
Aircraft Company.
Located in Wichita, Kansas from 1953 through 1993
producing 18 aircraft and 300 kits.

Jayhawk
Aircraft Company.
Established 1929 (Wichita’s 17th aircraft
company at that time) located at 915 E. Lincoln. Built Mars 11 Jayhawk.
W.D. Egolf, president; Thos. M. Finnie, designer.

Kansas
City Aircraft Company.
Built 1 aircraft in 1929 from their Kansas
City, Kansas workshop.

knollKnoll
Aircraft Corporation.
Established 1928 at 471 West First, later at
Webb Road and Kellogg. Built KN-1, KN-2 and KN-3. W.A. “Felix” Knoll,
president/engineer; T.M. “Tommy” Thomas, director; George Bruce, secretary;
Harold Zipp, engineer.

E. M.
Laird Company.
Factory at 27th and North Hillside. Built
“Laird Limousine,” the Swallow.

Laird
Aircraft Corporation.
Established 1927 at 471 West First. Built Model
10 Whippoorwill. H.B. Cottman, president; Charles L. Laird, director/engineer;
George Gardiner, secretary; A.E. Hurford, vice president; A.H. Hill &
Co. Hess, directors.

Lark Airplane
Company.
Established 1927 at 217 E. Lincoln. Built the Lark aircraft.
Romer G. Weyant, president; Fred R. McConiga, engineer.

Lear Aircraft
Corporation.
Established 1929 at 263 N. Broadway. Built 1-place and
2-place lowwings, 2-place biplane. Arch Lear, president; Claude Lear,
designer.

Learjet.
Established 1963 by William P. Lear. Created the original design and
built the Learjet 23 (originally called the SAAC 23) was based in part
on the Swiss P-16 Ground Attack Fighter.

Liberty
Aircraft Company.
From their small aviation manufacturing operation
in Kansas City, Kansas, produced 2 aircraft in 1931.

A. K.
Longren Aircraft Company.
Manufactured 6 aircraft from their Topeka,
Kansas location from 1919 through 1926.

Mercury
Aircraft Company.
In 1930 the company produced 1 aircraft from their
Kansas City, Kansas location.

Merkel
Aircraft Corporation.
The Merkel aircraft was in production during
the time period of 1963 through 1973.

Metal
Aircraft Company.
Established 1929. Aircraft produced unknown.

Miller
Aircraft Company.
Manufactured 1 aircraft in 1927 from Wichita, Kansas.

Mooney
Aircraft Company.
Established 1929 at 600 E. 35th North.

Mooney
Aircraft Company
(2nd). Established 1946 at Municipal
Airport. Built M-18 Mite, M-19 “Cub Killer.” Charles Yankey, president;
Al. W. Mooney, v.p. engineering; Art Mooney, production supervisor.

Morris
(Roy) Aircraft Corporation.
Located in Topeka, Kansas from 1929 through
1930. Number of aircraft produced unknown.

Multiplane
Limited.
Produced 1 aircraft in Atchison, Kansas from 1910 through
1912.

Murray-Yanton
Aircraft Company.
An Iola, Kansas based operation during 1929 producing
3 aircraft.

North
American Aviation.
From 1941 through 1945, produced 6,608 aircraft
in Kansas City, Kansas.

Northrop.
Aircraft produced unknown. Company existed in 1931 at Wichita, Kansas.

Piaggio
Aviation, Inc.
Wichita, Kansas from 1987 through 1993. Produced 40
airframes.

Prescott
Aeronautical Corporation.
Wichita, Kansas plant operations. In existed
from 1983 through 1989. First flight: 1985. Manufactured 68 kits/3 aircraft.

Rans Company.
Produced 1,725 kits/aircraft from 1983 through 1993 in Hays, Kansas.

Rawdon
Brothers and Rawdon-Burnham Company.
At Copeland Field. Herb Rawdon,
designer; Dutch Rawdon, pilot; Gene Rawdon, business manager.

Rearwin
Airplanes, Inc.
Manufacturing operation located in Kansas City, Kansas
from 1929 through 1942. Produced 515 airplanes.

Red Bird
Aircraft Company.
Produced 2 aircraft from 1929 through 1930 in Bern,
Kansas.

Republic
Aviation (General Motors).
A total of 599 aircraft manufactured from
this Kansas City, Kansas aviation division from 1953 through 1957.

Rock Island
Aviation Division.
Hutchinson, Kansas based company division. Produced
4-6 aircraft from 1958 through 1963.

Roydon
Aircraft Company.
Established 1931 at 33rd and N. Lawrence.
Built primary glider, trainer glider.

Seibel
Helicopter Company.
Located in Wichita, Kansas from 1948 through 1952.
This company manufactured 5 aircraft.

Self Aircraft
Corporation.
Located at 225 W. Lewis. Aircraft unknown.

Skyhawk
Helicopter Corporation.
Produced 1 aircraft/2 kits from the company’s
Liberal, Kansas location from 1985 through 1988.

Smith
Aircraft Company.
Located in Johnson City, Kansas. Manufactured 2
aircraft from 1978 through 1986.

Star Kraft.
Produced 1 prototype aircraft in 1993 from their plant in Olathe, Kansas.

Stone
Propeller Company.
Established in the 1940s at 1203 E. Douglas.

Stearman
Aircraft.
( See Boeing/Stearman.) Straughn Aircraft Corporation.
Established 1932 at Cessna Factory, later at Webb Road and Kellogg.
Built Model A, Model B. Frank Straughn, president; Glenn Stearman, engineer;
E.B. Hiatt, director; R.C. Holmes, engineer.

SullivanSullivan
Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation.
Established 1929 at 630 E. Gilbert.
Built Model K-3 Crested Harpy, Sullivan Primary Glider. William P. Sullivan,
president/engineer.

Sunflower
Aircraft Corporation.
Aircraft produced, unknown. Located in Pratt,
Kansas during 1930.

Swallow
Airplane Manufacturing Company.
Established 1919 at Wichita and English
Streets. Later at 27th and Hillside. Built Laird Swallow, New
Swallow, Swallow TP, F-28, G-29, T-29, C-165, Swallow C Coupe. Jacob M.
Moellendick, E.M. “Matty” Laird, William “Billy” Burke, Walter Beech,
Lloyd Stearman, Charles L. Laird, Waverly Stearman, Sam Bloomfield.

Swift
Aircraft Corporation.
Established 1928 at 33rd & N.
Lawrence, moved to 3301 S. Oliver in 1928. Built Sport, Model 18, Model
19, Model 4000. W.R. Ritchey, president; Walt Anderson, v.p./general manager;
R.H. Richards, secretary; W.D. Bowling, treasurer; C.B. Bennett and Thos. M. Finnie, engineers.

Travel Air/Curtiss-Wright. In Wichita, Kansas from 1930 through 1932, produced 133 aircraft.

Travel Air Manufacturing Corporation. Established 1927 at 535 W. Douglas, then at 471 W. First. Built Model 2000. Produced 1,316 aircraft. Principals later formed Beech Aircraft.

United Aircraft Corporation. (Formerly Lark Airplane Co.). Established 1928 at 471 West First. Curtis C. Baldwin, owner/president.

Wallace Aircraft Corporation. Manufactured 14 aircraft from their Kansas City, Kansas site from 1928 through 1931.

WatkinsWatkins Aircraft Company. Established 1929 at 2300 E. Douglas. Built Model SL Skylark. Everett A. Watkins, president; Chester Cummings, designer/engineer.

Weaver Aircraft Company. Organized by George (Buck) Weaver, Matty Laird, Everett Watkins. The company was located behind the old Forum Building, where Century II is now in downtown Wichita South of Douglas on East bank of the Arkansas River.

Wichita Aeroplane Manufacturing Company. Established 1919 by A.A. Stafford. Aircraft unknown.

Wichita Airplane Company. Established 1919 by Clyde Cessna.

Wichita Airplane Manufacturing Company. Established 1929 at 716 West First. Built C-1 Cadet. Anson O. Rorabaugh, 1st president; C.A. Noll, 2nd president; Floyd Copeland, designer/general manager.

Wichita Blue Streak Motors. Located at 529 W. Douglas. Aircraft unknown.

Wichita Imblum Aero Corporation. Located at 225 W. Lewis. Aircraft unknown.

Wiley Post Aircraft Company. Established in 1934. Formerly Straugh Aircraft Corporation.

Winstead Brothers Airplane Company. Established 1926 at East Central Airport. Built Winstead Special. Carl Winstead and Guy Winstead, associates.

Yellow Air Cab Company. During 1929 and 1930, produced 1 aircraft in this Wichita, Kansas location.

Yunker Aircraft Corporation. Established 1929 at 115 Osage in Wichita. Built Model Y-1-165, Model Y-2-165. George Yunker, president; Felix Knoll, designer.

  • The preceding list includes manufacturing companies involved in the production of aircraft, major subassemblies and kits. Compilation of this list has been limited by the existing availability of comprehensive records and may not be all-inclusive.
  • Company lifespans reflect years of actual, ongoing business activity. Production totals have, when records were not available, been approximated.
  • Sources: Company files, FAA registration files, state and local newspaper accounts and interviews, by the authors.
  • American Eagle Aircraft Company and Inland Aviation Company were originally located in Kansas City, Mo. before relocating to Kansas City, Kans. Aircraft Production numbers for these companies are listed with Kansas City totals listed first, followed by overall production totals that reflect production in both locations. Eg: (100/600 aircraft) American Eagle formed in Kansas City, Mo. in 1925; Inland Aviation Company, formed in Kansas City, Mo. in 1928.
  • The following Kansas companies operated as aircraft engine manufacturers: Blue Streak Motors, C.M. Mulkins Company, Poyer Motor Company, Self Aircraft Corporation, Quick Air Motors and Vanos Aircraft Corporation (All located in Wichita).
  • Okay Aircraft Company and Brantly Helicopter Company were headquartered for a short time in Kansas; however, their manufacturing facilities were in Oklahoma.
  • Chartered timespans and production totals do not reflect periods that a founder spent experimenting/developing aircraft before the actual formation of a company (eg: timespans for Cessna would not include years prior to 1927.)
  • Funk Aircraft Company of Coffeyville and the D.D. Funk Aviation Company of Salina were separate companies. Funk Aviation of Salina built the F-23A/B Crop Spraying aircraft based on the Fairchild M-62(T-23) aircraft, while Funk Aircraft of Coffeyville produced the familiar Funk model F2B-85C Transport.
  • Overall production totals for Beech Aircraft Corporation and Cessna Aircraft Company include a very limited number of aircraft assembled, or constructed under licensed agreement in foreign countries.

The above information furnished courtesy of A Century of Kansas Aviation: Borne on the South Wind by Frank Joseph Rowe and Craig Miner, and the Kansas Aviation Museum, Wichita, Kansas. This listing is in the process of being updated and expanded with additional aviation manufactures and sub-contract aviation suppliers to bring the history up to date. Historical photographs will be added as are available. We invite those who have further knowledge of Kansas aircraft companies to contact us at chancecom1@aol.com. The Wings Over Kansas History page is working to become a valued source of information about this important facet of our aviation historical legacy.

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