Wichita attained the status of aviation capital of the USA during the war and retained it in the subsequent decades, with Boeing choosing the Kansas city as one of its main manufacturing bases and the stalwarts of general aviation - Cessna, Learjet and Beech - all establishing factories there. Their presence spawned a large supplier structure of "mom and pop" build to print shops, as well as educational and research institutions.
In the past few years, however, things have been tougher for Wichita. Boeing is departing (though its former commercial arm, now Spirit AeroSystems is not); Airbus talked about but decided against establishing a plant in the city; and the downturn in business aviation, especially at the light-to-medium jet end, has been disastrous for Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft and Bombardier's Learjet, as well as their suppliers.
Stephen Trimble visited Wichita for the 30 October issue of Flight International and found a town determined to fight back. Booming demand for Boeing airliners, especially 737s, is keeping Spirit busy, and there are hints of a sustained recovery in business aviation, even as Cessna and Bombardier continue with new Wichita-based development programmes, including the Cessna Latitude and Longitude, and Learjet 85. Airbus has a busy engineering centre in Wichita and Hawker Beechcraft - though it will exit the business jet market with the closure of the Hawker line - at least is still in business and promising investment in its still-popular Beechcraft King Air brand and other small aircraft.
In our Comment piece, we sum up Wichita's prospects thus: "This medium-sized Kansas city has a depth of experience, skill and talent that cannot be transplanted to a lower-cost market, or replaced by new competitors with only a fraction of Wichita's lifespan. The winds in Wichita are changing - this time in the cluster's favour."