new book celebrates wichita as the air capital
September 4, 2019
Kansas aviatrix Amelia Earhart once famously said, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” Greteman Group, a Kansas-based agency specializing in aviation marketing, recently took that advice to heart.
“We’re publishing the history of the Air Capital – a daunting but delightful project,” says Sonia Greteman, agency president and creative director. “Telling these stories has made us fall in love with our city and industry all over again.”
Wichita: Where Aviation Took Wing is based on creative the agency developed for a large-scale history display at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport. The new aviation-themed terminal opened in 2015 and drew raves. Greteman Group worked with area manufacturers and suppliers to update the content for the book. Content was also given more breathing room. Photos that may have only run in a cropped version might now occupy a full spread. Anecdotes formerly grouped in a collage could have a dedicated page.
“When you’re flying through the airport, you only have so much time to interact with the display,” says Greteman. “The book lets you hold these stories in your hand – and be struck all over again by the sheer audaciousness of our becoming Air Capital of the World.”
Multiple Purchase Opportunities
The book is available online at WichitaAviationHistory.com. It can also be found at a number of Wichita retailers and gift shops including B-29 Doc Hangar & Education Center, Exploration Place, FlightSafety Textron Aviation Training, Kansas Aviation Museum, Sedgwick County Historical Museum, The Workroom, Watermark Books, and Yingling Aviation Aviator’s Attic. More retailers will be added soon. Sonia Greteman is scheduled to speak about the book at several aviation and community events this fall.
The Air Capital’s Birth and Growth
The book takes readers from the early birds and barnstormers to the pioneers and entrepreneurs who established dozens of aircraft and associated factories in the 1920s. The story continues with the founding of Cessna, Beechcraft and Stearman (which became Boeing Wichita, then Spirit AeroSystems) and the massive build-up during World War II. Robust post-war growth got another boost when Bill Lear came to town and launched the business jet revolution with his Learjet. Today Wichita remains at the center of global aviation design and manufacturing with Textron Aviation, Spirit AeroSystems, Bombardier Learjet, Airbus and many dozens of smaller aviation manufacturers, suppliers and support organizations.
What made Wichita the Air Capital? Flat prairies resembled one enormous landing field. Southwesterly winds added extra thrust to get and stay aloft. Farming and small manufacturing provided a legion of imaginative, industrious problem-solvers. Local boosters latched onto and promoted anything that flew. The city’s central location provided an ideal refueling stop for coast-to-coast airmail routes. And oil generated a class of savvy, starry-eyed entrepreneurs who both used aircraft and had money to invest. Wichita brought it all together. The people. The promise. The planes.
Audacious Visionaries Risked Their Lives – and Changed Ours
On Sept. 2, 1911, Albin Longren became the first person to build and fly an airplane in Kansas. His pusher-type biplane lifted off from a hayfield with a four-gallon gas tank and “flight instruments” that consisted of a pocket watch and barometer. The first plane built in Wichita rolled out of production in 1917, when Clyde Cessna assembled his Comet.
Wichita’s first commercial aircraft, the Swallow, came from the E.M. Laird Airplane Co. in 1920. By 1928, Wichita was general aviation’s manufacturing grand central, producing 120 airplanes a week – a quarter of all U.S. output. A Chamber of Commerce Air Capital logo contest celebrated the city’s 16 aircraft manufacturers, six aircraft engine factories, 11 airports and dozen flying schools.
Wichita produces more airplanes – almost 300,000 to date – and offers more skilled aviation workers than any other city. Aviation forms Wichita’s heritage and future.
Book Jacket Testimonials
“We’ve lost a number of contributors to the development of this magnificent history display who shared their accounts of Wichita’s rise to the Air Capital. They deserve our grateful remembrance.” –Victor White, Director of Airports, Wichita Airport Authority
“You want this book on your desk, on your bookshelf, on your coffee table. Most of all, in your hands.” –Dave Franson, President, Wichita Aero Club
“This isn’t just a book of facts. It’s a living account of a dynamic time that shaped a community, an industry and the way we travel. I’m proud of the role my parents played in making these things happen.” –Mary Lynn Oliver, daughter of Walter and Olive Ann Beech and publisher of The Barnstormer and the Lady
“I applaud Greteman Group’s decision to commemorate the Air Capital’s history in this one-of-a-kind book. You will fall in love with the people who gave Wichita wings.” –Teresa Day, Former Executive Director, Kansas Aviation Museum