Let’s go out for lunch. There are lots of options. Some are sit-down restaurants. Some have drive-up windows. How about a fly-in restaurant? Today we’ll learn about a remarkable fly-in restaurant in rural Kansas where customers can literally fly or drive in for a meal.
In recent weeks we have learned about aviation pioneers such as Clyde Cessna, Walter and Olive Ann Beech, and Lloyd Stearman. Today we’ll visit a modern-day restaurant which bears Stearman’s name. Yvette Ysidro and her husband Monte are the owners of the Stearman Bar and Grill at Stearman Field, a private airport near Benton northeast of Wichita.
The original owners of this airport were private pilots Dwayne and Julie Clemens. They built a hangar here, including a place where people could drink coffee and get a sandwich out of the fridge. As it became more popular, it evolved into a café called Stearman Bar and Grill.
What aircraft was the most widely used model for training airplane pilots during World War II? Would you believe, an airplane named for one of the early pioneers of the aviation industry who came from rural Kansas?
In recent weeks we’ve learned about Clyde Cessna and Walter Beech, two of the three men who founded an airplane business in Wichita in 1924. Today we’ll learn about the third of those three: Lloyd Stearman, whose plane, the Stearman Kaydet, was the primary trainer for World War II pilots.
Lloyd Stearman was born in the rural Kiowa County town of Wellsford, Kansas in 1898. Wellsford had been a thriving community but faded away through the decades until it legally disincorporated. Other than the southeast Kansas town of Treece, which disbanded itself due to pollution problems in 2012, Wellsford was the last Kansas town to eliminate its legally incorporated status which it did in 1975. As of the town’s last official census in 1970, Wellsford had an official population of 9 people. Now, that’s rural.
Lloyd Stearman was born at Wellsford and went to school in Harper. While in grade school, he saw his first airplane, piloted by Clyde Cessna.
The world’s most popular airplanes. That’s one description of the planes built by the Cessna Aircraft Company, maker of more light aircraft than any company in the world. It was all started by a rural Kansas farm boy. And he’s the subject of today’s Kansas Profile.
Clyde Cessna was born in Iowa. When he was one year old, his family moved to Kansas and lived on a farm near the rural community of Rago in Kingman County. Rago is unincorporated. It’s located east of the town of Spivey, population 79 people. Now, that’s rural.
As a farmboy, Clyde learned to be a good mechanic and handyman. He helped area farmers with their equipment and then branched out into working on automobiles. He became an auto mechanic and then a car salesman in Enid, Oklahoma.
One day in 1910, he went to Oklahoma City and saw what was called an “air circus”: An exhibition by a group of touring stunt pilots. He was so intrigued by the airplanes that he quit his job and moved to New York to take a job in aircraft construction.
He learned the craft of airplane manufacturing and then moved back to Oklahoma to build his own planes. Cessna crashed on his first flight attempt but made his first successful flight in 1911, eight years after the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk. With that flight, he became the first person to build and fly a powered aircraft in the heartland of America, between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains.
Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University writes Kansas Profile. The weekly posts highlight individuals or companies in rural Kansas who are making a difference to their community and state.
The Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is a public / private partnership between Kansas State University and the Huck Boyd Foundation. The mission of the institute is to help rural people help themselves. Learn more at www.huckboydinstitute.org.