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STEAM-Powered Parks

When you think about building tomorrow’s workforce, math skills probably come to mind. But art powers vibrant development, too. Wichita’s fortunate to have Arts Partners addressing the issue by connecting artists to schools for supplemental art instruction.

Designing a Future

The Generation STEAM initiative, aimed at increasing under-resourced students’ access to a quality education in science, technology, engineering, math and art, brought artists and engineering students from WSU to USD 259 schools in Wichita. They combined STEAM disciplines to design park equipment powered by solar and wind energy. One group wanted to turn a concrete box covering up controls into a “free graffiti zone.” Another wanted to develop solar-powered fountains by incorporating panels into sculpture.

Jardine students working on their Generation STEAM projects. Photo courtesy: Arts Partners.

When students talked about the projects, you could see them mentally connecting the dots inside their head. It wasn’t just about art, or science, or the parks – it was about visualizing a career path that involved creative problem solving using multiple tools. In short, using STEAM.

Generation STEAM logo animation

Engineering a Logo

The playful logo we created is almost like watching students’ eyes light up and their minds race with possibilities. Colorful circles represent each of the five STEAM disciplines. Line work literally connects the dots, reinforcing the role each plays. When combined, they create something powerful enough to fuel a generation.

It’s our hope that when someone asks you to support a STEAM initiative, especially for grades K-12, you will say yes. Our tomorrows depend on it.

We Wrote the Book On It

Kansas aviatrix Amelia Earhart once famously said, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” We recently took that advice.

We decided to publish a book about the Air Capital, Wichita: Where Aviation Took Wing. The creative assets already existed. We’d developed them over a 10-year period for a large-scale history display at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport’s new terminal. Its opening in 2015 drew raves. But four years later, lacking a benefactor to fund the book’s creation, we are taking it on ourselves.

Wichita: Where Aviation Took Wing is now available for preorder.

The Air Capital’s stories haunted us. After living with them for so long, we felt responsible. To live on, stories need to be shared. The display on the terminal’s mezzanine draws lots of attention. But busy travelers only have so much time. We want people to hold these stories in their hands. To curl up with them. To come back again and again.

Dreams of Flight

Today, when flying on a $60-million jet at 40,000 feet with fly-by-wire precision, it’s easy to forget the early birds. And the men and women who risked all to test their limits. More than a century ago, Kansas visionaries and likeminded innovators dreamt of flight. Amateur engineers across the state drew up daring plans. Some put hammer to nail and built their flying contraptions. Nothing stopped their pursuit. Here’s a small sampling of what our book offers.

Barnstormer Paul Duncan in Wichita Where Aviation Took Wing
Barnstormer Paul Duncan
of the Horchem Aerial Show hanging on by his teeth.

More Ideas Than Money

Before the Wright Brothers got off the ground in 1903, Carl Dryden Browne built a flying-machine factory in Freedom, Kansas. He earned the first U.S. rotary-wing aircraft patent. Lack of funds caused his factory to fold.

In 1909, William Purvis and Charles Wilson of Goodland drafted one of the earliest helicopter designs. It may have eventually flown. But again, their dreams were bigger than their resources.

The Goodland Flying Machine, patented by William Purvis and Charles Wilson of Goodland, Kan., was the forerunner to the helicopter built around 1910. Too bad it only looked like it could fly.

The Henry Ford of the Air

On Sept. 2, 1911, Albin Longren became the first person to build and fly an airplane in Kansas. His pusher-type biplane lifted off from a hayfield southeast of Topeka with a four-gallon gas tank, a pocket watch and barometer that served as his flight instruments. Despite the fact he had never flown, Longren made eight successful flights the first day. He went on to careers in barnstorming, aircraft design and manufacturing, earning the nickname “The Henry Ford of the Air.”

The first plane built in Wichita rolled out of production in 1917, when Clyde Cessna assembled his Comet. Wichita’s first commercial aircraft, the Swallow, came from the E.M. Laird Airplane Co. in 1920. By 1928, Wichita was general aviation’s manufacturing grand central, producing 120 airplanes a week – a quarter of all U.S. output. A Chamber of Commerce Air Capital logo contest celebrated the city’s 16 aircraft manufacturers, six aircraft engine factories, 11 airports and dozen flying schools.

The Demanding Father of Wichita Aviation

One of the most influential of these early birds was neither an aircraft designer nor a pilot; he was a wealthy oilman by the name of Jacob “Jake” Moellendick. As one of general aviation’s earliest venture capitalists, he was adamant about the influential role flight would play. In the 1910s and ’20s, he sunk every penny of his vast wealth into the advancement of Wichita aviation. He died in 1940 without enough cash to pay for his funeral. But he left a rich legacy. Bringing together E.M. “Matty” Laird, Lloyd Stearman and Walter Beech then bankrolling their ideas – gave birth to the E.M. Laird Airplane Co. – and Wichita aviation.

Laird Swallow in Wichita Where Aviation Took Wing
The Laird Swallow was the first made-for-production civilian aircraft built in the United States.

Barnstormers Shut Down Towns

With aircraft came the death-defying daredevils who flew them. Performing gasp-inducing spins and dives. Flying upside down. Wingwalking. Changing planes in midair. Swinging from trapezes mounted to the landing gear. There seemed to be nothing they wouldn’t try. As early as 1910, crowds gathered across Kansas to marvel at these new machines. And to thrill at the ever-present possibility of a crash. By the 1920s, barnstorming was a major source of entertainment – part technological wonder, part Roman Coliseum.

Clyde Cessna and his monoplane in Wichita Where Aviation Took Wing
Clyde Cessna became the first pilot to fly over Wichita in 1913.

Birdie and the Flying Squirrel

Many barnstormers worked as teams in flying circuses, complete with booking agents. The much beloved husband-wife duo Cyle “The Flying Squirrel” and Bertha “Birdie” Horchem used the tagline, “If done in the air, we do it.” And they did.

Cyle, a WWI Army pilot, became a world champion upside-down flyer. Birdie held the women’s altitude record (16,300 feet). She could do 15-25 consecutive loops as well as a 2,000-foot tailspin. They did loop-the-loops with trails of fire. Shot fireworks from their Wichita-built, fabric-and-wood Laird Swallow. From their home in Ransom, Kansas, their air circus traveled the country, amazing crowds nationwide.

Birdie died in a plane crash at age 24. The brokenhearted Cyle became increasingly fearless. Eight months later, at age 26, he slipped and fell to his death as he climbed onto the plane’s wing.

Left, the fearless Birdie Horchem. Right, the daring Cyle Horchem.

Why Wichita as Air Capital?

Flat prairies resembled one enormous landing field. Southwesterly winds added thrust to get and stay aloft. Farming and small manufacturing provided a legion of imaginative, industrious problem-solvers. Local boosters latched onto and promoted anything that flew. The city’s central location provided an ideal refueling stop for coast-to-coast airmail routes. And oil generated a class of savvy, starry-eyed entrepreneurs who both used aircraft and had money to invest. Wichita brought it all together. The people. The promise. The planes.

A Story Worth Telling

Wichita: Where Aviation Took Wing takes readers from the early birds to the pioneers who established dozens of aircraft and associated factories in the 1920s. The story continues with the founding of Cessna, Beechcraft, Stearman (which became Boeing Wichita, then Spirit AeroSystems), and Mooney. The massive build-up during World War II transformed our city – and aviation. Robust post-war growth got another boost when Bill Lear came to town and launched the business jet revolution with his Learjet.

Lear holds up seven fingers announcing the completion of seven Learjet 23s, 1965.

Wichita produces more airplanes – almost 300,000 to date – and offers more skilled aviation workers than any other city. It has delivered more than half of all the general aviation airplanes ever built. Today Wichita remains at the center of global aviation design and manufacturing with Spirit AeroSystems, Textron Aviation, Bombardier Learjet, Airbus and many dozens of aviation manufacturers, suppliers and support organizations. Aviation forms Wichita’s heritage and future. We worked with these manufactures to source stories, double-check facts and align nuances in interpretations, memories and records.

To Advance, We Remember

This book reminds us where we’ve been. And inspires us to push on. Our agency is donating creative services and underwriting production fees. Donlevy Lithograph is printing at cost – all to make this book happen. We hope you’ll preorder your copy now at Books publish in early September. Consider it our gift to a beloved industry and community.

This column originally appeared in the July 25, 2019, issue of BlueSky News.

Plains Indians’ Story Told in Steel and Stone

The Keeper of the Plains sculpture proudly stands at the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas rivers, hands raised high in supplication. Since its installation in 1974, it has become a symbol for the city of Wichita and a tribute to the Native American tribes who continue to gather at this sacred headland. The Keeper also served as the focal point of an eight-year, $20 million restoration and river beautification project completed in May 2007. Our challenge: to accurately and visually communicate the rich legacy and daily lives of the nomadic Plains Indians and to do it in an authentic manner.

A Confluence of Cultures

The exhibit sits on sacred ground and immerses visitors in the lives, beliefs and practices of the nomadic Plains Indians. Follow wayfinding along serpentine paths or cross graceful bow-and-arrow-inspired, cable-stay walking bridges over the rivers to the Keeper of the Plains Plaza. The sounds of Native American drumming, flute and chants echo in the large flagstone plaza ringed by hand-chipped limestone walls and boulders. Upon entering the plaza, between sacred prayer poles, you are greeted with a 70-foot-long curved limestone wall.

plains indians story plaza

Elevating a Sculpture and Our Spirits

The Blackbear Bosin 44-foot Cor-Ten steel sculpture now stands elevated on a 30-foot rock promontory surrounded by quadrants representing the four elements: fire, air, water and earth. Gas-powered boulder firepots sit at the foot of the Keeper dramatically lighting the night. Native plantings of sage, bottlebrush, medicinal herbs, and prairie grasses spring up from the earth. The entire peninsula is surrounded by water, completing the circle of life.

Environmental Design Pays Homage

Meticulously designed environmental graphics attached to the massive limestone walls tell the story of the Indians’ lives, beliefs and practices. Details include a carved bison, a teepee with traditional Plains icons, and an animal-incrusted dream shield – all important to the culture. Photographs laser-etched into granite personalize the exhibit with the noble visages of the men and women who made history here. Metalwork and limestone sculptures crafted by Todd Whipple, Tom Schrauth and Chris Brunner showcase everything from workday tools and weapons to lodging and ornamentation. Eagles, horses and turtles – all significant to the culture – figure prominently. A map shows the migrations of the almost 30 tribes from the Dakotas down to Texas who were drawn to the rivers’ confluence for powwows and trading.

Wichita’s Must-Visit Tourist Site

The Keeper has long been the most visible and beloved of Wichita’s icons. Now it is also the most visited. This dynamic space has re-energized a previously neglected area, drawing thousands to one of the city’s most scenic spots, inviting visitors to contemplate and appreciate the rich heritage of the land and its people. Seeing the landscape, the families interacting with the installation and the grandeur of the finished project, we believe the Keeper’s creator, Blackbear Bosin, would have sent a prayer to Father Sky thanking him for the beauty of Mother Earth.

Women in Business Hall of Fame Inducts Sonia Greteman

WICHITA, Kan. – Sonia Greteman has been named to the 2019 Women in Business Hall of Fame. She and two other area entrepreneurs will be inducted at an event at the Hyatt Regency Wichita on August 13. Fellow inductees include Sheree Utash, president, WSU Tech; and Ronnie Leonard, president, Balco.

IAWA panelists Jullie Alston, Aero & Marine Tax Professionals; Joanne Barbera, Barbera & Watkins, LLC; Megan Wolf, Flexjet; Sonia Greteman, Greteman Group; and Emily Weber, Embraer Executive Jets.

Greteman has always balanced her full-throttle creative drive with an equally impassioned entrepreneurial one. As a young girl she accompanied her entrepreneurial father, who led Boeing Wichita’s photography department, to weekend car races. They printed photos in the family’s basement darkroom, then sold them at their 81 Speedway photobooth. She learned she liked both sides of the business – creation and commerce. She founded Greteman Group in 1989, and 30 years later still serves as its president and creative director.

“Being both left and right brain has advantages,” says Greteman. “Creative doesn’t work without a results-focused, metrics-driven strategy behind it. I started thinking about the bottom line early in my career.”

Sonia joined fellow Hall of Fame honoree WSU Tech President Sheree Utash and Executive Director, Marketing and Community Outreach Andy McFayden earlier this year for Greteman Group’s Air Flair award presentation.

Sonia’s long list of personal achievements include a special governor’s appointment, American Advertising Federation lifetime-achievement award, American Marketing Association marketer of the year, Broadcast and Media Professionals hall of fame, Junior Achievement of Kansas Hall of Fame Laureate, Donna Sweet Humanitarian of the Year, Wichita Aero Club founding board member and more. She gives back by serving on multiple industry and community boards. She’s also an in-demand speaker, presenting at conferences such as the International Aviation Women’s Association (IAWA) General Aviation Women’s Leadership Forum in Boca Raton, Florida early last year. She’s a woman to watch. And not just to see what she’s wearing.

ignite ict women's conference entrepreneurship panel
Pictured (l-r) Michelle Becker, Profit Builders; Mary Billings, Love of Character; Jennifer McDonald, Jenny Dawn Cellars; Sonia Greteman, Greteman Group; and Regina Miller, R Miller Consulting participating in the Wichita Business Journal’s Ignite ICT Conference.

The Wichita Business Journal’s Women in Business Awards recognize outstanding women for their career accomplishments and contributions to the success of other women. Honorees are narrowed down from a large list of submitted names each year. The full list of 2019 honorees includes:

Maryann Balbo – Cox Media
Jennifer Blundon – Koch Companies Services
Anne Ciemny – Johnson Controls
Candye Daughhetee – ARSI
Sherii Farmer – Westar Energy
Brenda Flax – High Touch Technologies
Ann Fox – Wichita Habitat for Humanity
Nikki Freeman – Envision
Julia Johnston – 3P Processing
Nicole Kennedy – Metro Real Estate Group
Susan Koslowsky – Emprise Bank
Jan Luth – Exploration Place
Erin Manning – Riordan Clinic
Gaylyn McGregor – Equity Bank
Cindy Miles – Nonprofit Chamber of Service
Cathy Mitchell – AGH
Christy Powell – IMA
Rita Rowlen – Ultra Modern Pool & Patio
Alicia Sanchez – WSU Office of Diversity & Inclusion
Sonja Seidl – J.P. Weigand & Sons, Inc.
Teresa Shulda – Foulston Siefkin
Marvell Sosa – HealthCore Clinic
Deb Stockman – Friends University
Christy Streeter – Butler Community College
Lindsay West – Keller Williams Hometown Partners
Larissa Wray Tolbert – T-Mobile
Angela Wright – Answer Advantage

Greteman Group has developed an international reputation as an aviation-specialty marketing agency based in Wichita, Kan. – the Air Capital. Leading aircraft manufacturers, flight support, aftermarket services, fractional ownership, insurance, in-flight Wi-Fi, regional airlines and airport analytics have entrusted their brands to Greteman Group. Clients include FlightSafety International, SmartSky Networks, Wichita Eisenhower National Airport, USAIG, King Aerospace, Piedmont Airlines, Aviation Partners and APiJET. It also supports causes and clients such as Saint Francis Ministries, Mark Arts, the City of Wichita, Hutton, GLMV Architecture, MKEC Engineering, AGC of Kansas and Celebrity Cruises. Greteman Group has won Telly, Internet Advertising Competition, Metro and Business Marketing Association Pro-Comm awards. It has been recognized in such publications as Adweek, Advertising Age, Aldus, Communication Arts, Designing Identity, Identity, Graphic Design USA, Graphis, Hotels, HOW, Novum, Print, Step-By-Step, and by such organizations as the Mead Top 60, Kansas City Art Directors, Strathmore, International Festivals, Graphex Art Directors, and The National Library Council, American Advertising Federation, American Institute of Graphic Artists, Public Relations Society of America, and American Marketing Association. The firm is a founding member of the Wichita Aero Club. Greteman Group is a longstanding member of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and is a certified women-owned business enterprise (WBE). The agency celebrated its 30th anniversary April 1, 2019.

Raising Our Voice

Aviation’s value to our cities and communities is obvious – at least to those of us in the know. We already understand the jobs, the business connections and the flow of products and commodities our industry delivers. The challenge now, National Air Transportation Association (NATA) President Gary Dempsey told the Wichita Aero Club in June, is to spread the word and get involved in making sure the public knows, too.

“The products you make in this room, in Wichita, Kansas, go worldwide, and we need infrastructure, so we need to be engaged,” Dempsey said. “That’s what I’ve learned throughout my career.”

That means talking to members of Congress and coming together to solve some of the issues facing aviation.

“We have 100 new congressmen who haven’t voted on aviation yet,” Dempsey told the audience. “And we need to educate them. Your help is critical. They’re interested in jobs in your community.”

An earlier engagement by business leaders might have prevented the closing of Santa Monica’s airport, he said. We in the industry know how vital small airports bring critical business aviation traffic and investment to their communities.

nata president gary dempsy speaks with greteman group vp ashley bowen cook
Greteman Group Vice President Ashley Bowen Cook chats with Dempsey, who formerly worked in Wichita for Cessna. Photo credit Visual Media Group.

Fueling the Future

Another big topic for the new NATA president is sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and the upcoming focus needed on these low-carbon alternatives.

Even though the fuels have been used commercially for more than a decade now, the challenge is ramping up the demand throughout FBO networks to create a market which produces a better supply infrastructure.

Business and commercial aircraft operators are already feeling pressure in Europe to cut carbon dioxide emissions. The public is ramping up against corporate aircraft seen as extravagant or harmful. That sentiment is starting to shift here in the United States as well. Especially in California.

Customers have asked NATA’s help in combatting the perception that aviation is polluting the skies.

“It’s become a big deal in California. Every owner was calling me that’s based in California,” Dempsey relayed. “’What are we doing? We just operate the aircraft; we can’t create fuel overnight.’ So we started asking questions.”

There are three distributors of SAF outside the U.S., but only one – in Southern California – in this country.

We have to get involved to increase the demand, he said, to increase the utilization. We’re trying to get SAF to be 30% of all aviation fuel by 2050. But that huge scale-up won’t happen without an increased commitment by users today. Gulfstream and Wichita-based Textron Aviation have been leaders on this front, flying thousands of hours with SAF.

textron aviation ceo textron aviation
Wichita Areo Club brings together leaders of the Air Capital’s aviation community, including Ron Draper, CEO of Textron Aviation. Photo credit Visual Media Group.

Cleaner emissions won’t just have a positive effect on the environment, he said, they’re going to sell more airplanes.

Watching the Workforce

The shortage of qualified aviation workers and pilots isn’t news to most of the Aero Club membership. But what’s happening behind the scenes to fix it may be.

“Today, we actually are 40% lacking in line-tech jobs. I’ve never seen it so lean before,” Dempsey said. “We need people. We need pilots.

“The workforce needs your help in extending the word out that this is a great career. I see the future of aircraft that we’re building today with new technology that’s coming out. It’s going to be exciting. NBAA, NATA, GAMA, AOPA – all the alphabet organizations in Washington – are working on this.”

The recent FAA reauthorization act contains programs and funding to address the shortage. Dempsey said his organizations are working with universities and companies. He asked Aero Club members to be the mentors throughout the industry and proactive in workforce development.

“We need 100 more like you to work in aviation.”

NATA is making sure aviation’s leaders have the right tools to make that happen.

This column originally appeared in the July 4, 2019, issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.