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Kansas Manufacturing and the Space Race - June 14, 2019

Dymaxion House at its 1948-1991 site, near Andover, Kansas. (Photo from The Henry Ford Museum, where you can now tour the house.)

Q: Vending machines, pie plates, a corn harvester and the futuristic Dymaxion House, which looks like a flying saucer. All of these things were made by the same Kansas company that also supplied products for NASA's Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs. What's the name of this innovative Kansas company?

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A: Beech Aircraft Corporation / Beechcraft

Beechcraft Aircraft Corporation is best known for making airplanes, like the Beech Bonanza. But during its long history in Wichita, the company also made vending machines, pie plates, a corn harvester and the futuristic Dymaxion House, which looks like a flying saucer. Beech also developed cryogenic fuel storage systems and cabin pressurizing systems for NASA, which were used in the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. Beech Aircraft Corporation was started by Walter and Olive Ann (Mellor) Beech in 1932. After Walter's death, Olive Ann Beech led the company, becoming the nation's first female aviation executive. During her nearly 20 years at the helm, sales tripled. Raytheon purchased Beech in 1980. Today, Beechcraft is part of Textron Aviation, which also owns Cessna and Hawker aircraft companies.

Fun factoid: During World War II, nearly all bombardiers and navigators trained in an airplane made by Beech

Learn more about Kansas, the 34th and greatest state in the USA, by visiting KPR's online archive of Kansas Trivia!

 

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