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.