Lloyd Stearman, Walter Beech, and Clyde Cessna established the Travel Air Manufacturing Company in Wichita in January 26, 1925. Considered the big three aviation pioneers, they established the "air capital" and set the goal to manufacture "a plane for every purpose." Travel Air became the leader in light commercial aircraft.
Stearman left the company and the state in 1926 but returned the following year. He founded the Stearman Aircraft Corporation, which was acquired by a holding company for Boeing in 1929.
The Stearman C-3B was the first Stearman airplane produced in Wichita after he moved back to Kansas. The C-3B was designed for both mail and passenger service. In addition, it was the type of plane Charles Lindbergh to survey air routes for Transcontinental and Western Airways.
The Stearman company signed its first major military contract in 1934. It built 61 Navy Model 73 biplanes trainers. In 1938 Stearman became a division of the Boeing company. In 1941 the company became the Wichita Division of The Boeing Airplane Company and soon began to build the B-29 Superfortress, one of the largest aircraft in use during World War II. Boeing 's Wichita Division delivered all of the 1,644 bombers. Following World War II, the division built B-47s, B-50s, and B-52s, and later the KC-135 refueling tankers. The Wichita Division has become one of the prime aircraft engineering, fabrication, and assembly centers.
Entry: Stearman Aircraft
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: March 2011
Date Modified: April 2013
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.