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Cessna Aircraft Company

Cessna Aircraft Company assembly line, 1944Clyde Cessna's partnership with Lloyd Stearman and Walter Beech at Travel Air ended after years.  Cessna was determined to build a high-performance, single-wing plane, without struts. He was confidant that his design could outperform any biplane.

The Cessna model “AW” was completed in late 1927. It could reach speeds of 145 miles per hour and remain in the air for more than seven hours. The AW was innovative and successful, but this success led to financial difficulties. Cessna borrowed money to expand his operation and increase production, but his principal customer, the Curtiss Flying Service, went bankrupt at the beginning of the Great Depression. Unable to recover what was owed them, Cessna’s board of directors closed the plant in 1931. Three years later, Cessna re-opened his Wichita plant. When he sold the business to his nephews to return to farming in 1936, Cessna's company was on firm footing."

Cessna rejoined the company as president in 1934. The company produced passenger planes, gliders, seaplanes, and racers. In 1940 Cessna began building its first twin engine aircraft, the AT-17 Bobcat, for military use.  Later during World War II the company suspended commercial production and focused on components for the Boeing B-29 and Douglas A-26. Cessna returned to commercial production after the war. Its line of small business planes included the Cessna 172, the most popular airplane in history. Its first business jet, the FanJet 500, was produced in 1969. Cessna continues to be a leader in business aircraft, and it still headquartered in Wichita. It has sold more aircraft than any other company in history.

Entry: Cessna Aircraft Company

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: June 2017

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