Air Manufacturing Company
of planes popular with commuter airlines, bush
pilots, and air racers
was formed in Wichita, Kansas, by Walter Beech,
Lloyd Stearman and Clyde Cessna in January 1925.
Its manufacturing plant was located at 9500 East
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'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.
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