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Travel Air Manufacturing Company

makers of planes popular with commuter airlines, bush pilots, and air racers

Model R (Mystery S), 1929Travel Air was formed in Wichita, Kansas, by Walter Beech, Lloyd Stearman and Clyde Cessna in January 1925. Its manufacturing plant was located at 9500 East Central.

Like most other planes of the day, Travel Airs had a welded steel tube fuselage and tail assembly with wood spars and ribs, were fabric-covered, and had two open cockpits, one for the pilot and the other for two passengers. What set Travel Air apart from many of its competitors was that it offered its customers a choice of almost twenty different engines and a variety of wing designs that could be combined to produce a plane specific to the customer's needs. When customers began wanting airplanes capable of carrying more than two passengers, plus cargo, Travel Air expanded its line to include planes with enclosed cabins and more powerful engines.

Travel Airs quickly gained a reputation for reliability and ruggedness. A Travel Air 5000 was the first commercial aircraft to cross the Pacific Ocean (July 1927), and many commuter airlines used Travel Air aircraft exclusively. Travel Airs were even trusted by bush pilots in Canada and Alaska, and by pilots on the air racing circuit. By August of 1928 Travel Air accounted for just over 50% of Department of Commerce license applications.Travel Air 6000

Travel Air's top-of-the line model was the 6000, which first took to the air on April 15, 1928. Designed for "executive flying," the 6000 included a toilet/washroom, luxurious interior, wide windows, and updated instrumentation among its amenities, all for a cost of $13,000-13,500.

Travel Air reached its peak in 1929, just before the Great Depression wiped out much of its potential customer base. Unable to pay its bills, the company was absorbed by the Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical Corporation in August 1929. As for the company founders, all three continued in the aircraft business; each one subsequently founded his own company, and all three enjoyed great success with the company he founded. An exact number of planes built by Travel Air has never been determined, but most sources say it was between 1,200 and 1,500.


Walter Beech

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This page was last updated on February 09, 2016.

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