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A view of Wichita on the river at dusk.

In south-central Kansas, the city of Wichita is where Benchmark Mortgage calls home. Founded in the year 1865, this city claims the title of “Air Capital of the World”, and it was a long road in getting here.

wichita indian sculpture

Before Air-planes however, Wichita was a Cow capital named after the Wichita Tribe, and around 1880 the Chisolm trail which established Wichita as a Cow Town was blocked by barbed wire fences as farmers began to grow wheat and the cattle drivers moved west and established themselves in Dodge City.

Wheat brought schools and churches to Wichita and soon the discovery of oil nearby doubled the city’s population. With this began the growth of the aviation industry. In 1910 Clyde Cessna, built his first plane and after successful flight moved his manufacturing business from Kingman County, to North Wichita in 1916.

In 1935, the construction of Wichita Municipal Airport was completed after a staggering 5 years of construction as a result of the Great Depression. After 17 years of serving the city of Wichita, the Air force built a base and began using the airport for its own operations.
World War II played a crucial role in putting Wichita on the map in the aircraft industry. In the 1940’s a big boom in aviation ramped up production to keep up with war efforts. The state of Kansas employs several thousand aircraft workers, most of which are in the city of Wichita. The city of Aircraft workers produced through different manufacturers creating B-29 bombers, and various military aircraft models. Companies even came together at this time to produce gliders.

B-47 Bomber in camouflage paint in flight

After World War II 16,000 employees of these manufacturers were laid off from their jobs as the need for production decreased. This did not however mean the end for the Air craft industry of Wichita. In 1951, Boeing began production of the B-47, the United States’ first swept wing Bomber. This is also the year that the U.S. Air Force announced plans to build a large base at the Wichita Municipal Airport. This base was used to train crew on the flight of B-47’s. All-in-all, the 1950’s were a big time for Wichita and the aeronautical industry. The city stopped all non-military traffic out of the Municipal airport and built the Mid Continent airport. This is also when Boeing began producing the B-52 Bomber which are still used in active missions today. The Model 172 was first flown in 1956 and went on to be the most produced airplane in history, and in the year 1954 Autopilot was invented by David D. Blanton of Wichita.

In later years business jets were produced and acquisitions were rolled out between several major manufacturers still known today such as Textron, Bombardier, and Beechcraft. Also military operations ceased at Wichita Municipal airport in 1984 and later went on to become the Kansas Aviation Museum.

In the early 2000’s McConnell Air Force Base consolidated its fleet and moved B-1B Lancers out to other bases. At this point the 184th Bomb Wing was designated for two things; flying KC-135s, and being a refueling wing. McConnell Air Force Base is the world’s largest Air Refueling Wing and has a primary mission of global reach in each of these aspects.

Whichita Kansas "Air Capital Of The World" stamp graphic

In 2006 Boing produced the 5000th Boeing 737 in Seattle, which Wichita’s Spirit Aerosystems played an integral part in as they are the sole producers of the fuselages for these widely used jets. Wichita has now shut down the Mid Continent Airport replacing it with the Dwight D Eisenhower National Airport which in its terminals represents us as “The Air Capital of the World.” There are presently over 30 airfields in Sedgwick County, and over 20,000 individuals employed in aviation roles. From all of these jobs 54.3% of general aviation aircraft produced in the U.S. is manufactured in Kansas

The success and economic growth of this great city are largely tied to our country’s military efforts and continued support. It goes without saying that we at Benchmark Mortgage as residents of this city, are very grateful to not only the U.S. Airforce, but all branches of the U.S. military and its members who call this this city home.

Today, nearly 400,000 people reside in Wichita and are able to enjoy its many amenities such as the Sedgwick County zoo which is the 7th largest zoo in the United States, The Old Cowtown Museum, Tanganyika Wildlife Park, the Kansas Aviation Museum, our minor league baseball team the “Wingnuts”, River-fest featuring 162 performances, and many other exciting events and activities each year.

Not only does Wichita act as the home to such great achievements in Aerosystems, but is also the headquarters to Coleman Co. and Koch Industries Inc. today. With many jobs and opportunities for growth, including 3 Universities, beautiful neighborhoods, more than 100 miles of bicycle paths, and 8 shopping districts this is great place to come home to.

Clark, I. (2016, November) Wichita’s Aviation History. Retrieved Tuesday January 30, 2018 from: https://www.360wichita.com/blog/Local/Aviation-History-in-Wichita.html