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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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Pilots Welcome
A Warm Welome Awaits Aviators in Clyde Cessna's Hometown - Kingman, Kansas

Story by Jay Wischkaemper

Kingman, Kansas, is in many ways typical of small-town America. It’s doubtful you’ll find it mentioned in a travel magazine’s list of top 10 vacation spots. However, for those of us who love airplanes, Kingman’s association with aviation history gives it a unique claim to fame that makes it well worth a visit, as does the refreshing attitude the townsfolk have about their welcoming local airport.

A few miles south of Kingman, near the town of Rago, Kansas, is the former home of a farmer named Clyde Cessna. While Cessna’s first attempts at building airplanes, teaching himself to fly them, and then crashing them, occurred near Enid, Oklahoma, it was the farm near Kingman where much of the early work that actually spawned the Cessna aircraft company was done. It is on this farm that he spent the last 20 years of his life, and it is where he died.

The Cessna history is not lost on the people of Kingman. The aviation heritage that Clyde left has been translated into a group of people who appreciate and cater to pilots and who understand the importance of an airport to a community. Translate that to “these folks would love to have you stop in, and they’ll treat you right when you do.” In an era of airport closures, it’s a refreshing attitude for a community to have.

Kingman (9K8) is located 35 miles west of Wichita. Several years ago, their airport, appropriately named Clyde Cessna field, had deteriorated to the point where major improvements were needed. City leaders decided to do it right, and under the leadership of an active Airport Board and City Manager Cheryl Beatty, and with financial help from the FAA as well as significant local money, they have created one of the finest airport facilities you will find anywhere.

They started by completely rebuilding the 4,300/75-foot concrete runway and the 3400-foot concrete crosswind runway. There was a house at one end of the old runway, and the FAA told them it would have to be demolished. The City had a better idea. The house was moved about half mile to the airport proper, and refurbished into a pleasant terminal building. Much of the work was done by the airport board themselves in their spare time. An apartment in the terminal houses the Airport Manager, so while the pumps are self serve (and at $2.30 a gallon gas is a bargain), there is usually someone around to help with servicing. The terminal boasts a shower if you need one, high speed Internet facilities, cable TV, and a comfortable lounge. In case you don’t want to stay at the airport, and there are good reasons to go into town, a courtesy car is available. There is also a taxi service available from 8-5, which will cost you $1.00 for a ride anywhere in town. No, you didn’t read that wrong. The fare is $1.00. Try finding a cab for that anywhere else. In most small towns, try finding a cab, period. Should it be after 5 and the courtesy car isn’t available and no one is at the FBO, City Manager Beatty says to call the Police Department, and they will either take you where you need to be, or find someone who can. It is truly refreshing to find service like that!

But where would you need to go in Kingman? Well, the folks at the Airport Board invited us to visit their facility and their town, and we learned there are some things, especially for pilots, that are definitely of interest.

If possible, plan your visit to overlap a Friday. The reason is that Kingman has a museum that boasts some very early and rare photographs of Clyde Cessna and his work, as well as some aviation artifacts found on his farm, but the museum is only open on Friday. On the north wall of the museum is a mural depicting Clyde’s early flights. In case you care about anything other than airplanes, the museum has a number of other fascinating exhibits regarding the history of Kingman as well.

After the museum, we’d suggest a drive in the country to see the original Cessna homestead. City Hall, just down from the museum, can give you directions. The farm was recently sold and is no longer owned by the Cessna family, so it isn’t technically a tourist attraction, and should be treated with the respect due any private property. The small white house on a dirt road with the hangar in which Clyde built those early designs still stands. It is impressive as you look at the simple farm house, barns, and hangar to think that the beginning of the Cessna Aircraft Company – whose aircraft now span the globe and whose product line has gone from simple trainers to complex jets – had its beginning in this place. Paul Handkins, who grew up just down the road from Clyde and who knew him well, took us by the old place. If you ask around, you can find people, like Paul, who actually knew Clyde and who can give you a unique perspective on this aviation pioneer. We then went to the Greenwood Cemetery, where Clyde, his wife Europa, their children and spouses are buried. The simple, peaceful nature of the place defies the importance of the role the Cessna name has had in shaping aviation history.

If you’ve taken the time to see the Cessna sights, you might as well stay a while, and there is a great place in Kingman for a relaxing night. In fact, if you went to Kingman for nothing else, your visit would be worthwhile. The Savannah House bed and breakfast, (, is an old railroad hotel that has been renovated into a first-class B&B that is second to none. Rooms are tastefully decorated, and each is unique. The room I was in contained a whirlpool tub. For an extended getaway, one room even has a full kitchen. In the lobby, you’ll find a plate of candy for your munching, but don’t eat any. Better goodies, in the form of fresh baked homemade cookies, await you in your room. There are no televisions or phones in the rooms, but if you want to watch a movie, a giant screen projection TV is available in the entertainment room on the ground floor. Room rates range from $65 to $85, which is a bargain. Hosts Rick and Carol Francis are more than gracious and accommodating, and Rick serves a terrific breakfast as well. He’ll even don a chef’s coat when he serves you, but draws the line at wearing a hat. I’ve spent a lot of nights on the road, but none were more enjoyable or relaxing than the Savannah House. Here, you won’t feel like you’re home – because you never get pampered like this at home!

You won’t go hungry at lunch or dinner either if you stay in Kingman. There are several fast food chains available in town, as well as many family-owned restaurants. For the gourmet touch, the locals go to the town of Zenda, an easy 15-mile drive away. There, you will find the Lumber Yard Restaurant, offering excellent food, great service, and good prices. Kingman will have it’s own fine restaurant soon. The town’s old Missouri Pacific Railroad depot has been turned over to the local Historical Society, and they are renovating it with plans to open a high-end restaurant. For more information on everything that Kingman has to offer, call the Kingman Chamber of Commerce at (620) 532-1853 or visit

If your schedule does not allow you to relax and see the sights of Kingman, this is an excellent choice for an overnight stop on a cross-country flight. Hangars are available for $10 per night, and a GPS/NDB approach is available. The location is ideal, Kingman is close enough to Wichita to be convenient, but it’s far enough out to not be bothered by Wichita traffic. Call 620-532-1279 or visit for more information.

With a rich aviation history, comfortable lodging, easy transportation, good fuel prices, a terrific airport facility, and people who appreciate and cater to your business, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better place for your next stop than Kingman, Kansas. 

Photos, from Top:

The Cessna homestead, where Clyde Cessna originally designed and built many of his airplanes, is a short drive from town.

New runways and facilities at Clyde Cessna Field make flying in a welcome experience.

Elegantly decorated rooms enhance the stay at The Savannah House bed and breakfast.

Red brick paving is a simple statement of the pride that residents of Kingman take in their community.
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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
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