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Dwane L. Wallace

Born: November 29, 1911, Belmont, Kansas. Died: December 21, 1989, Wichita, Kansas.

Dwane Leon Wallace was born November 29, 1911, in Belmont, Kansas, to Eugene and Grace Opal Cessna Wallace. Wallace developed a fascination with flying at an early age after riding with his uncle Clyde Cessna in his OX-5 Swallow. Spurred by this interest, Wallace entered Wichita State University’s new aeronautical engineering program. Wallace flew gliders his college classmates had constructed and made his first solo flight in a power craft after only 1 hour and 45 minutes of training.

In 1933 Wallace graduated with an aeronautical engineering degree. He went to work for Beech Aircraft Company to stress test the B-17 series and the A-17F crafts. Wallace worked in the facility that once housed his uncle Cessna’s aircraft company, which had closed in 1932. Determined to reopen his uncle’s company, Wallace began designing an aircraft that would meet consumer demands—an inexpensive craft with power enough for experienced pilots. His C-34 was an updated concept of Cessna's AW cabin monoplane. With the involvement of Cessna and Wallace's brother Dwight,  Cessna Aircraft Company reopened in January 1934. Dwane Wallace assumed the position of general manager and set out to reinvent the company.

In August 1934 the first prototype of the C-34 was tested; it was approved by the Civil Aeronautics Authority in June 1935. Wallace’s C-34 spawned the C-37, C-38, and the C-145/C-165. During the first seven years of production only sold 186 planes were sold. Wallace entered air races to demonstrate the capabilities of the craft, and win funds to help meet the payroll. The C-34 eventually proved to be the world’s most efficient aircraft.

In 1936 Cessna retired leaving the company to Wallace. With his business sense and innovative designs, Wallace expanded the company to meet the needs of consumers including the military. The U. S. Air Corps and the Canadian Airforce contracted with Cessna to build training crafts during World War II. Wallace expanded the facility to accommodate the manufacturing of the American twin engine AT-17, UC-78, JRC-1, and the Canadian Cranes I and II. These military contracts furthered the company's reputation for tough and reliable aircraft.

Throughout much of the 1940s and 1950s, Wallace continued to design new aircraft to meet the needs of business travelers as well as hobbyist flyers. Cessna gained the title of the world’s largest producer of small aircraft. Wallace created the FanJet 500 to compete with the business jet market in 1968. Utilizing the JT15 turbo fan engine, Wallace was able to combine performance and efficiency into a small compact size at an affordable price. These Citation and Citation X Jets began to dominate the world market.

He was named the Native Sons and Daughters' Kansan of the Year in 1970. Two years later he founded the General Aviation Manufacturers Association where he served as the first chairperson. In 1975 he earned the prestigious Daniel Guggenheim Medal for his achievements in the advancement of flight. Later that year, Wallace retired from Cessna and appointed Russ Meyer as his successor. He created an endowment at Wichita State in 1965 to enrich the university that he loved. He and his wife also donated $2 million to to sponsor scholarships in engineering. Wallace Hall at Wichita State was named in his honor in 1979.

Wallace died December 21, 1989, in Wichita. He was later inducted into the Aviation Pioneers Hall of Fame.

Entry: Wallace, Dwane L.

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: June 2013

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.