There will always remain some argument about the birthplace of aviation. It seems to be either North Carolina, where the Wrights finally flew, or Ohio, where all the hard work was done before history was made at Kill Devil Hill, N.C. Wichita, Kan., is like Dayton, Ohio. It’s the unsung birthplace of general aviation in the United States. Back in the good old days, almost all the airplane manufacturers had plants there; this was where the work was done for the rest of us to fly. Lloyd Stearman started there—he built airplanes with folks like Walter Beech, Al Mooney and Clyde Cessna. Huge numbers of airplanes flew out of Wichita during World War II. Today, Beechcraft/Raytheon, Boeing and Cessna (www.cessna.com) still make airplanes in Wichita, ranging from piston-engine singles to multi-engine jets. It’s also the town where Rod Lowe grew up.
Lowe’s father, a World War II B-17 and B-29 radio operator, worked for Cessna. Cessna and flying were in his blood. “My dad joined the Cessna Flying Club and learned to fly. It was an incredible deal—you could fly for virtually the cost of fuel,” says Rod.