He grew up on a Kansas farm, with no schooling past the 5th grade. Instead, he developed a keen talent for fixing machinery. Later, the mechanic became a successful car dealer in Enid, Oklahoma. Cessna turned 25 a year after the Wrights flew, but wasn’t inspired by airplanes until reading about Blériot’s 1909 English Channel crossing. In 1911, Cessna attended his first flying exhibition, in Oklahoma City, and built his first airplane, the Silverwing. By 1917, he had moved his manufacturing operation to Wichita. In 1972, the company he started became the first airplane manufacturer in the world to build its 100,000th airplane, and today it is approaching its 200,000th.
Photos from: "What Were They Doing at 25?" »