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airplane builder and pilot
Albin Kasper Longren was born on a farm near Leonardville, Kansas, on January 18, 1882.In the early 1900's he ran a hardware store and made his own car and motorcycle. In 1910, as a member of the Kansas National Guard, he assisted with an airplane demonstration in Clay Center; the pilot crashed his plane, but Longren was still inspired to build his own plane.
Using what little knowledge of mechanics he had gained building his car and motorcycle, and the assistance of his brother Ereanius J. Longren and friend William Janicke, Longren built an airplane from scratch, with no blueprints, instruction manual, or even a picture to go by. On September 1, 1911, his Topeka I became the first Kansas-made plane to successfully take to the air when it flew a short distance over a field outside of Topeka. Over the next few years he built additional planes and barnstormed throughout the Midwest. By 1914 the "Birdman," as he had come to be known, had made 1,372 exhibition flights without a single major mishap. His streak came to an end on September 24, 1915, when a gust of wind caused him to crash shortly after taking off during an air show in Abilene, Kansas; Longren was seriously injured in the crash. After his crash Longren began spending more time designing and building airplanes and less time flying them. In 1921 he introduced the Model AK, which had foldable wings that allowed it to be towed behind a car and stored in a standard garage.
Although his planes were often innovative, Longren was never able to secure enough financing to produce more than a few planes at a time and his Topeka factory had only produced 21 planes by May 1923. Longren closed his factory in 1926 and spent the rest of his career working as a consultant for other airplane manufacturers. He died in California on November 19, 1950, and was buried in Leonardville. He was inducted into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 1997. The only Longren-built plane known to still exist is the one he crashed in Abilene; after repairing it, Longren sold the plane to Philip Billard, who used it for flights in the Topeka area until World War I. Billard was killed in France while testing planes for the Allies and his family later donated the Longren plane to the Kansas State Historical Museum, where it is on display today.
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This page was last updated on 09/23/2017.