Within five years of the Wright Brothers 1903 flight at Kitty Hawk, Kansas sought to enter the air age with craft of their own design.
Entrepreneurial and experimental spirits rode high as daring pioneers sought their fortunes in the wide-open prairie skies.
The first successful Kansas plane, the 1910 Longren Flyer, was built in Topeka. It was quickly followed by a wide variety of craft developed by over 60 manufacturers throughout the state.
The nation’s first commercial airplane, the Laird Swallow, was created in 1920 by the Wichita team of Laird, Mollendeck and Burke.
They were joined by such pioneers as Stearman, Rawdon, Knoll, Prescott, Mooney, Beech, Cessna, Lear and many others. Whether they built one plane or thousands, they all added their genius to a vital new industry burgeoning in the center of this vast nation. Even with that early start, practical and widespread aviation was a relatively recent phenomenon. Many of aviation’s artifacts are scarcely a half-century old, yet they are irreplaceable monuments to the industry’s pioneering days.
The former Wichita Air terminal building, now the home of the Kansas Aviation Museum, is one such monument. It was the focus of Wichita’s commitment to a fledgling industry that would completely change our society’s perception of distance and travel.
That commitment enabled Wichita’s aviation companies to produce most of the free world’s single-engine aircraft, thus earning the city the title “Air Capital of the World.”
Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building was begun in 1929 and dedicated in 1935.
Hailed at the time as one of the outstanding buildings in the U. S., the Art Deco structure with its abundance of aviation-related motifs garnered praise from around the world.
Throughout its rich and varied history, it hosted scores of celebrated guests and witnessed the growth of aviation into a dominant force in the world. Thus the use of this fine old building to house an aviation museum is a fitting tribute to the pioneers of yesteryear, the doers of today and the dreamers of tomorrow.
The Kansas Aviation Museum, in recognition of Kansas’ place in aviation history, will be one of the few museums in the country to focus on general aviation. Opened in 1991, it is collecting, restoring and displaying aircraft and artifacts from the earliest days to the present and houses an extensive research library and is becoming a center for aviation education.
You can become a part of this historic and ambitious project by becoming a member of the Kansas Aviation Museum. And you can do as many others have, in donating your time and expertise, your Kansas-related aviation artifacts, your cash and in-kind gifts. All donations to KAM are tax-deductible, thus benefiting both you and the museum.
Your membership will help KAM preserve the rich aviation heritage of Wichita, the Air Capital, the state of Kansas, thus the world. Collectively we all can work toward the realization of our dream: a completely restored building housing a world-class treasury of Kansas’ aviation history. The Kansas Aviation Museum’s dedication to the past is exceeded only by its faith in the future.
The Kansas Aviation Museum conducts a number of activities throughout the year, all geared to bringing people to the museum, honoring aviation greats and promoting the appreciation and love of all things aeronautical.
These activities include the annual vintage on-sight “Aerodrome Days” activities, along with River Festival Flyovers and static displays, the annual Wright Brothers’ Celebration, member events and many others.
The museum is the official site of the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame and the Governor’s Aviation Honors Awards, along with recognition of the Kansas Aviation Educator of the Year. KAM’s research library is founded on the Robert Pickett and Edward Tihen collections, vast accumulations of photographs, publications and other aviation materials.
These, other collections and numerous acquisitions support the museum’s stated mission of becoming the foremost repository of information and artifacts depicting Kansas’ preeminent role in general aviation.
The Kansas Aviation Museum is located at 3350 So. George Washington Boulevard. For further information, call KAM at (316) 683-9242.