Cessna celebrating the centenary of Clyde V Cessna learning to fly


Company is celebrating founder’s achievement

Clyde V CessnaCessna Aircraft
Company is commemorating the 100th anniversary of its company
founder learning to fly and building his first airplane.

“It’s a source
of pride for all Cessnans to know we are carrying the torch for a company
started by a man with such a pioneering and tenacious spirit. One hundred years
ago, Clyde Cessna taught himself to fly just eight years after the Wright
brothers flew. That’s historically significant, and that ‘can do’ spirit
defines this company and is something all of us at Cessna intend to carry
on,” said Dave Brant, senior vice president, Product Engineering.

According to archives,
31-year-old Clyde Vernon Cessna spent much of 1911 teaching himself to fly
while attempting to get his first plane in the air. Born in Iowa
in 1879, the family moved in 1881 to Rago, Kansas, about 30 miles west of Wichita. Headlines highlighting the Wright
brothers’ accomplishment with powered flight and Louis Blériot successfully
flying his monoplane across the English Channel got Clyde Cessna’s attention,
but his passion for aviation ignited when he witnessed flight for the first
time in January 1911 at a traveling air demonstration in Oklahoma City. By then Clyde Cessna and his
wife had relocated to Enid,
Oklahoma, to run an Overland Farm
car dealership.

Just weeks after
watching the demonstrations, the farmer turned auto salesman with a mechanical
mind used his life’s savings to purchase a copy of the Blériot XI fuselage from
the Queen Aeroplane Company of New
York City. Clyde Cessna and his brother Roy Cessna
added an engine and propeller, and they came to understand every detail of the
airplane during numerous rebuilds after technical failures and accidents on the
Salt Plains in northern Oklahoma.

Archives show that
Clyde Cessna’s first attempt to fly Silver Wings was 11 May and his first
flight without a crash landing occurred in June. He endured 12 crashes at an
average of $100 per fix and considerable time spent in repairing the aircraft
to try again.

In fall 1911 the
family moved back to Kansas and in 1916 Clyde
Cessna became the first to manufacture powered aircraft in Wichita. He collaborated with Walter Beech
(Beechcraft) and Lloyd Stearman (Boeing), among others, before setting out to
form the Cessna Roos Aircraft Company in September 1927, which by 22 December
1927, became known as the Cessna Aircraft Company.

Clyde Cessna
retired from the company, turning leadership over to his nephew Dwane Wallace,
on 28 October 1936. He then returned to farming in Rago, where he died on 20
November 1954. He has received many honors and awards through the years for his
contributions to aviation, including induction into the National Aviation Hall
of Fame in 1978.