CLYDE VERNON CESSNA

January 5, 2002 by Carl Chance

Clyde Vernon Cessna, whose 250-year American lineage stemmed from French and German ancestry, was born in Hawthorne, Iowa, December 5, 1879. At the age of two, he traveled the long overland journey with his parents to Kingman County, Kansas, where they settled on a homestead along the Chicaska River.

In early boyhood his aptitudes revealed visionary creativity and mechanical talents that found instant outlets in the dire necessities and rugged demands of pioneer life. In this environment he became a self taught expert in developing and improving farm machinery and farming methods for producing food and for services that were non-existent. As the family increased to nine, the challenges and opportunities presented themselves in an extended world of the early automobile.

Becoming the owner of a first horseless carriage, he followed avidly the trends in improvement and in this way became a mechanic salesman and in time operated an automobile sales agency in Enid, Oklahoma.

It would be the Wright Brothers and early airplanes that really caught his imagination. By now, having business experience, he was impressed by the lucrative prospects for Exhibition Flying. In 1911, he had built his own monoplane and through a series of attempts by trial and error, taught himself to fly.

In 1913, he moved his family to an acreage near his childhood home in Kingman County, Kansas, and built a metal shop for his operations. During the cold Kansas winters he built a new, improved airplane each year in preparation for another season of contracted Exhibition Flying at county and state fairs and public celebrations throughout the mid-West and south into Florida. Over miles of country roads he often pulled his trusty monoplane on a trailer between exhibitions.

In 1917, he built four monoplanes at the Jones Six Plant in Wichita, Kansas, using the planes for pilot training. In 1925 he became the initial president and first major financier for the Travel Air Manufacturing Company for production of aircraft. Two models, the “City of Oakland” and the “WOOLAROC,” set Trans-Pacific records in 1927.

Leaving Travel Air Company in 1927 he developed his favored cantilever wing monoplane on his own later forming the Cessna Aircraft Company and becoming its president and chief engineer in 1927.

Production of his Model “A” series monoplane began in 1927 and was followed by a series of improved models, as well as a variety of racing planes and primary gliders designed with the help of engineer son, Eldon. After the plant was closed by the depression he and his son, Eldon, formed the Cessna Aeroplane Company, a 50-50 partnership. Thereafter they built the CR-1 Racer which placed in three events of the 1932 National Air Races. Their CR-3 Racer set an international speed record in 1933.

After he was re-elected president of Cessna Aircraft Company in 1934, the Model C-34 was designed. It won the second and third year title of “The World’s Most Efficient Airplane” for permanent possession of the trophy. Previously, in 1931, Eldon Cessna had won this trophy at the first competition in a Model AW Cessna. These three consecutive wins gave the Cessna Aircraft Company the permanent possession of the trophy offered for this event at the National Air Races in 1936.

In his later years Clyde and his wife, Europa Dotzour Cessna, resided at the country place near Rago, Kansas, where they lived after their marriage June 6, 1905. This became a center throughout his life for his farm-related businesses, which underwrote much of his aviation enterprises and retirement needs.

For his insight and outstanding contributions to AVIATION, Clyde Vernon Cessna has achieved the honor and respect of his fellow countrymen and others throughout the world where today half of general aviation aircraft carry the name CESSNA.

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