From the Kansas Aviation Museum:
Wichita: Deserving of the Moniker “Air Capital of the World”
In the 1920’s, Wichita became a hotbed for aviation enthusiasts, bound to build planes for an emerging new industry. Many of these individuals came to Wichita to seek venture capital in the form of oil money much the same way computer luminaries migrated to Silicon Valley during the tech boom. Others were residents of Wichita or surrounding areas and got caught up in the excitement of the aviation craze. But looking back, it is easy for one to make the statement that Wichita was on its way to becoming the Air Capital of the World with over eighty companies building planes and parts for planes.
Some of the early pioneers such as Clyde Cessna, Lloyd Stearman, Walter Beech and the like are very familiar to us. Others like Matty Laird, designer of the first production aircraft in Wichita, are not so familiar. The Laird Company built 43 of the iconic planes over three years, setting the stage for development of the aviation business in Wichita.
From that first flight of the Liard Swallow in the spring of 1920 through the wartime years and the cold war and with the emergence of the business jet in the 1960’s with Learjet, Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft, Wichita has become a powerhouse in the field of aviation. As a matter of fact, from the moment of the Wright brother’s first flight at Kitty Hawk until today, some 75% of all general aviation aircraft have been built in Wichita. Even today, the city boasts some 40 to 45% of the market share with regard to general aviation. It would be very difficult indeed to identify any one city of similar size around the planet that can boast that proportion of the market share in any other industry. For this reason, Wichita truly deserves the unique moniker Air Capital of the World.
For more information on Kansas and Wichita aviation heritage, visit the Kansas Aviation Museum website at: www.kansasaviationmuseum.org