Share This Episode
Our American Stories Lee Habeeb Logo

Wichita Wings: The Story of Learjet and Cessna

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
December 8, 2022 3:03 am

Wichita Wings: The Story of Learjet and Cessna

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 2072 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

December 8, 2022 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, when you think of cars, you think of Detroit. When you think of steel, you think of Pittsburgh. When you think of airplanes, you should think of Wichita. Here to tell the story of Cessna and Learjet, two companies that made a tremendous impact on the city, is Logan Daugherty and Ben Sauceda of the Kansas Aviation Museum

Support the show (

See for privacy information.

Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb
Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb
Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb
Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb

So you never became a soccer star, but you could still show out during the FIFA World Cup 2022 with cool soccer swag from Frito-Lay, the official USA snack of the FIFA World Cup 2022. Add your picture to the Golden World Soccer Ball, then pass the ball to fellow fans for a chance to score custom swag. Scan the QR code on specially marked bags of Leis, Cheetos or Doritos or visit to join the Pass the Ball Challenge. No purchase necessary. Open to legal residence at 50 USDC.

18-plus-C rules at Imagine air travel that's simple, hassle-free and fast. That's Surf Air. Save hours on every trip. Avoid busy, crowded terminals and fly from airports closer to your home.

No crowds, no long lines, no stress. With Surf Air's private flights, you're in control of your travel day, not the other way around., the most convenient way to fly. Get a free quote on your next flight at

There's a better way to fly private. What up, it's Dramos. You may know me from the recap on L.A. TV. Now I've got my own podcast, Life as a Gringo, coming to you every Tuesday and Thursday. We'll be talking real and unapologetic about all things life, Latin culture and everything in between from someone who's never quite fit in.

Listen to Life as a Gringo on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Brought to you by State Farm. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

And we return to our American stories. When you think of cars, you might think of Detroit, and when you think of steel, you might think of Pittsburgh. When you think of aviation, you should think of Wichita. With companies like Cessna, Beech, Stearman and Learjet, Wichita has played a vital role in giving Americans our wings. Here to tell the story of two companies that greatly impacted aviation from Wichita is Ben Sauceda, executive director of the Kansas Aviation Museum.

Take it away, Ben. So Wichita has a very storied history, starting as a cow town, moving into really an entrepreneur capital. Companies like Coleman, Pizza Hut, White Castle and aviation. The statistics are somewhere about 40 percent of all aircraft in the air now have some components that are manufactured here in Wichita. Then it really goes back to the early 19-teens with Clyde Cessna.

He lived in Ragu, Kansas. And in 1914, I believe, was the year the Wichita Rotary Club had hosted an event, an air show of sorts. And Clyde had come down and participated in that. And that kind of got the roots going or that piqued that interest. And he had the desire to really expound or build upon what the Wright brothers had accomplished.

My name is Logan Doherty. I'm the curator here at the Kansas Aviation Museum. I think early on, a lot of people thought by the end of the century, everyone will have an airplane. Now we see that as kind of impractical. But they thought that was where they were going, particularly Cessna. He had farming on the mind and airplanes do have farming applications. He saw planes as very similar to tractors, actually. A lot of the early planes had tractor engines. Learning to tinker with tractors is where he got his start. He was a farmer. Clyde Cessna worked for Travel Air with Walter Beach and Lloyd Stearman.

But he left because of creative differences. He was convinced that the future of aviation was monoplanes rather than biplanes. If you think about the old teens, 20s, and some 30s planes, they're biplanes. They have two sets of wings. A lot of people think that the bi-wing design is to give more lift.

And that is partially true, but a big part of it also is the strength. When you have two sets of wings, you can brace them against each other with wires to make sure they don't break. But Cessna thought he could make a strong enough mono wing. So he made a design that had large metal beam that made the mono wing on top of his plane stronger. And he even, to prove to everyone the strength, because people were skeptical, he got a bunch of his employees to stand along the top of the wing. So you can see there's like 20 men standing on top of this wing just to prove that it can handle the load and it won't break under severe conditions. Obviously Cessna was correct.

The monoplane design with only one set of wings is what you see in all airplanes made today. And there's a lot of tie-overs to automobiles. I mean, they started about the same time in terms of manufacturing and moving through this. And you look at that, you know, Henry Ford had the idea, you know what, you produce the everyday man car, right?

There's nothing special to it. It's this and this. And you keep that consistency. Cessna kept a lot of that same practice. That is the famous reading of what Cessna is like.

They famously use parts from their other models they already have, which is very practical and very friendly to repairs and all sorts of things like that. And the joke is that the Cessna planes look very similar, but that is very much more practical. Only shortly after starting the company, he did leave and give control over to his nephews, I believe, and other people in his family. Farming is where he went back to.

That's what I was going to say. The Wayne Wallace is the name that people most remember other than Clyde with the company Cessna because he ran that company until the, I believe into the seventies is when he ran Cessna and helped build and expand that with the Citation jet that has become so synonymous with aviation now. There were upwards of 30 aircraft companies in Wichita, but as far as the air capital title goes, that is a designation they came up with based on the number of planes built in Wichita was greater than any other city in the world at the time.

It was a way to promote the city and it worked. If you talk about Bill Lear, he came here in the sixties because of the aviation reputation. He even said, if you wanted to make a car company, he would go to Detroit.

But since he wanted to make an airplane company, he came to Wichita. He was just a really interesting guy. I think he was just a natural inventor. He invented the eight track player, you know, to go in the airplanes and it doesn't skip.

It still skips less on bumps than cassettes and even CDs, especially early CDs. I think he invented some sort of calculator as well. And he decided to come to Wichita to build a private jet in one year with the Lear jet 23, which he did. And he was a very eccentric individual, you know, only having an eighth grade education. He wasn't this Harvard graduate. He was just a simple guy from Missouri and he understood the value of the hard work.

Now that didn't always come across the same way to individuals. It was one of those things where you either loved him or you did not. And there's some really interesting stories about him. It was told that one day he had had an argument with one of his engineers. So he fired him on the spot. No questions asked, fired him. Well, he didn't tell anybody else that he had fired him. So the next day they were scheduled to go on a flight to California. Next morning, they're calling up looking for him and say, where are you at?

Why aren't you here? And someone goes, well, Bill fired me yesterday. So they said, hold on, hung up the phone.

And a little bit later, Bill calls. You're not fired. Get over here. You know, you're going with us. I don't have any. I mean, I'm not ready to go. Don't worry.

I'll take care of it. So they went and bought him all clothes for his trip and everything, since he had to leave without having any time to pack or anything. He would work on his drafters drawings while they were at lunch and they couldn't stand it. But that was the type of person Bill was. He was often very impulsive, but he would also understand, OK, now that I've made this impulsive decision, I have to figure out how to compensate. So, you know, buying the wardrobe for him.

He was known to stop over in Las Vegas sometimes or in Nevada. You know, hey, let's go gambling or whatever. Well, you know, people weren't ready for that.

Oh, here you go. And it would give him money to go gambling with while he was there. But in one year, he was able to do what no one said he could do. And so the Learjet 23 came off and that revolutionized the way that the public saw airplanes and aircraft for travel.

In general aviation, there was farmers and there was still that mechanism to private ownership, but it was still one of those things that was still specialized. The idea of leisure planes really wasn't a thing until Bill Lear. Now, Bill Lear just went straight for the top. And he convinced celebrities that you need this.

People like Johnny Carson, like Elvis Presley, like Johnny Cash. Celebrity after celebrity were coming here wide to purchase their Learjet. And the red carpet was always ruled out for him. It was always a big to do when he did that. But Bill Lear was also a selfless promoter. He had to sell people on the fact that it's worth it, especially when you do something on short time.

Right? I mean, it was uncommon to produce and manufacture a plane in one year period. And so he would fly his Learjet 23s and do cross country promotional stops to help promote his aircraft. He also enlisted the help of many others as well. And probably one of the most well-known Lear individuals is a man by the name of Clay Lacy. He has more recorded flight hours than any person.

Over 60,000. And he stopped counting at some point. He is known as Mr. Learjet. And interestingly enough, Clay Lacy was also somewhat of an inventor of sorts. And he had actually, with using Learjet, had developed a camera system that we know now that goes on the bottom of the plane to help in flight cinematography.

And so the original Top Gun, during filming, was actually the camera system created by Clay Lacy, who was Mr. Learjet at that time there. And so just a lot of neat stories there behind that. And a terrific job on the production and the editing by Monty Montgomery. A special thanks to Katrina Hein. And a special thanks to Ben Sauceda and Logan Dougherty for sharing the story of Wichita with us. And we learned that, well, Wichita was a cow town. But then, of course, it became this aviation town. 40% of all aircraft parts and components come from Wichita. That's a remarkable number. We learned about Clyde Cessna. And we also learned about Bill Lear. And these are names you know but didn't know that there were real life human beings behind them.

The story of Wichita here on Our American Stories. Hey guys, want to know how to be the best gift giver this holiday season? Spring for something unexpected like beauty from Estee Lauder. Surprise her with a fresh floral fragrance like Estee Lauder's best selling Beautiful Magnolia or give the gift of glowing skin. Estee Lauder's advanced night repair offers seven skincare benefits in just one bottle.

You'll find something for every beauty lover on your list at Estee Lauder, plus free gift wrapping and free shipping. Shop the holiday collection today. Imagine air travel that's simple, hassle-free and fast. That's Surf Air. Save hours on every trip. Avoid busy, crowded terminals and fly from airports closer to your home.

No crowds, no long lines, no stress. With Surf Air's private flights, you're in control of your travel day, not the other way around., the most convenient way to fly. Get a free quote on your next flight at There's a better way to fly private.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-08 04:36:54 / 2022-12-08 04:42:12 / 5

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime