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Key Takeaways

  • Cessna is located in Wichita, Kansas
  • This is because of its geographical advantage which places it in the center of the country, near great schools producing the future of the company and great weather for flight testing all year round
  • Plus, Cessna’s founder grew up not too far from there!

Where is Cessna located? Many know it’s somewhere in the United States but usually think it’s located somewhere on the east coast.

So, where is Cessna located? It is located amidst the amber waves of grain in southwest Wichita, Kansas. Set amidst a sprawling campus of three million square feet, it remains in the same location its founder, Clyde Cessna, first incorporated it.

My first visit to the Cessna campus was to experience the Citation VII which first flew in 1997.  But I’ve also been a Cessna enthusiast ever since I first took to the skies in a Cessna 150 to obtain my Private Pilot’s license.

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Wichita, Kansas

Where is Cessna located? Well, its location couldn’t get any more central than Wichita. Being of almost equal distance from either coast and both borders, it is slap-bang in the middle of the country.

This central location ensures smooth inventory management. Inbound and outbound cargo can get to and from Wichita reducing logistical friction and increasing efficiency. Cessna sources parts from across the country and being equidistant from either coast allows it to be done in a single flight.

But Cessna could’ve been located anywhere in Kansas; it’s not the only major city in the state which could’ve been used. But yet again, geography has the answer.

Excluding Wichita, the main choice for a city in Kansas would be Kansas City, or Topeka, the capital of the state.

What’s more, if you superimpose a topographical map over a weather map of Wichita there is one thing that becomes very clear. The terrain and the weather it is responsible for are unique.

Flat land for as far as the eyes can see gives aircraft manufacturers like Cessna the perfect environment to test their products year-round, not to mention the ability to expand their runways, test facilities, and factories without much difficulty if the need ever arose.

The arid climate, far from the sea air coming from either coast also makes Wichita an ideal location to store aircraft both during and after production before they’re flown to their customers.

As a corporate citizen of Wichita, Cessna has involved itself in numerous social programs and contributions to the city and its people. From schools and stadiums to buildings and infrastructure, Cessna’s history is interwoven with the city’s to form a fabric that is as prosperous as it is harmonious.

Air Capital of The World

Wichita has been the Air Capital of the World for almost a century. Dating back to the 1920s, the little mid-western town began to see an influx of aircraft manufacturers looking to take advantage of the latest invention – the airplane.

By the 1940s, numerous manufacturers had set themselves up in Wichita, stirring up an aviation economy and earning the title “Air Capital of the World.”

With climate and geography on their side, Wichita became the natural host to the aviation industry, which boomed for the next six decades.

In the 1940s, the combined output of all the manufacturers located in Wichita totaled 120 aircraft each week. This was considered a major accomplishment and the bedrock of American dominance in the world of aviation. Of the many locations in the United States that manufactured aircraft, Wichita alone was responsible for one out of four planes the country produced.

With that kind of output capacity, the demand for parts made it economically viable for original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to set up operations in Wichita.   It was the genesis of a vibrant supplier ecosystem.

While Cessna was largely responsible for this volume of upstream activity, it was not the end of the story. With their output volume, they also sparked the success of the downstream activity.

Fast forward to today, and although there aren’t as many aircraft manufacturers located in the city, those suppliers Cessna has counted on for decades remain, as do numerous other big names in aviation such as Boeing, Airbus, and Spirit AeroSystems to name but a few.

Cessna's early decision to set up in Wichita has been considered the single most crucial decision behind Wichita's success in innovative advantage. In a study conducted by Harvard Business School, they rank Wichita as being in the top twenty of innovative clusters in the country.

Research and Development

Aside from the climate and geography mentioned earlier, and the access to skilled labor, there is another key factor that drives the aviation industry in Wichita, where Cessna is located.

There is a strong research and development community that supports the aviation industry as a whole. Aside from the Wichita State University’s academic resources, they are also home to the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR).

The NIAR, which is part of the Wichita State University's campus, provides a highly-skilled design and testing facility. With one of the few supersonic wind tunnels in the country, NIAR and WSU provide Cessna with advanced research capabilities for further development of its jet fleet.

Together with other smaller research centers that share the vast resources of the University, the bedrock of research and development gives Wichita-based aircraft manufacturers a solid advantage.

So the answer to the question, where is Cessna located? comes with a necessary explanation of the reasons for it being located in Wichita.

Cessna is not just widely-known for its corporate jets and training aircraft. While that is its claim to fame, Cessna is also known in aviation circles as one of the most trustworthy and advanced manufacturers of aircraft.

Manufacturing an aircraft is not just about designing its wings and knowing what engine to use. There is significant expertise that goes into designing the rivets that are used to affix sheet metal to the structure, a design process that reduces the amount of time on the assembly line, and even increases the thrust of the blades while reducing their weight.

Expertise beyond aeronautical engineering is required to develop successful models of aircraft.

It is no coincidence that Cessna aircraft are some of the most fuel-efficient. This comes from the simple fact that they have research and development facilities in their midst and spend considerable time fine-tuning and improving the design of each part of the aircraft they produce.

Flight Testing

The third reason Wichita is Cessna’s favored location to be set up is the flight testing opportunities it gives researchers and customers alike.

There are three kinds of testing that Cessna takes very seriously. The first is the kind that test pilots do to test new designs. But it’s not just every new design that gets tested. Flight testing also happens on an ongoing basis to further improve existing models.

The founder’s ethos of product improvement remains today as part of the company’s DNA. Even models that are already successful are not exempted from possible improvements. This is the second kind of flight test that finds a suitable home in Wichita.

Every new addition, whether it is structural or mechanical, is tested. Every new process change or new design that helps improve the manufacturing process is flight tested. And because Cessna believes in constant improvements, flight testing becomes a major part of every operation.

With that comes the suitability of the environment. There is no place better than the central plains to have year-round flight testing. Test pilots have calm and clear days in the Sunflower state more so than almost anywhere else in the United States.

The third kind of flight test that goes on here is the one the marketing department conducts for potential customers. While not every Cessna customer makes the journey to Wichita to tour the plant, many come for the experience.

However, test pilots for private jet fleets and buyers of larger aircraft test the aircraft in Wichita before finalizing a sale.

From a marketing perspective, having great weather to fly for more days in the year than other locations makes a difference, and often translates to higher sales and lead conversions.

Founder’s Prerogative

The simplest answer of all is because Clyde Cessna, the venerable founder of the ubiquitous aircraft company, grew up in Kingman county, just west of Wichita. His family had a farm there and he grew up tinkering with farm equipment that broke down or just didn’t work as well as he wanted it to.

So when Clyde eventually started building and selling his aircraft on a mass scale years later, he still wanted to be near his family. So Wichita’s position as a huge aviation center and the closest major city to his childhood home, made it the perfect place.

Although Clyde probably didn’t know it then, his factory being close to home would eventually save his company from ruin. You see, the Great Depression was a bad time to be in any business, and the priced aviation business did worse than most.

Having spent huge sums of money developing aircraft nobody wanted to buy, Clyde had already thrown in the towel before his two nephews, Dwane and Dwight Wallace (the sons of Clyde’s sister, Grace), bought the company in 1934.

This helped keep the Cessna company within the family, and the brothers similarly wanted to stay near their family; especially their uncle Clyde who had by now returned to the family farm to spend the rest of his life as a farmer (and occasional consultant to the company that bears his name).