As he built a biplane from scratch in 1911 in Topeka, Albin K. Longren kept the project secret in case it failed.
Longren, his brother, E.J. Longren, and their mechanic, William Janicke, waited until nearly dark on Sept. 2, 1911, before revving up the engine of that plane, which Alvin Longren then piloted as it stayed airborne — 2 feet above the ground — for about 200 feet in southeast Shawnee County.
This week's History Guy video at CJOnline tells of how Longren accomplished a milestone in Kansas aviation history that day by making the first successful flight of a plane built in this state. Clyde Cessna in May 1911 had become the first Kansan to build and fly a plane, but he did that in Oklahoma.
Alvin Longren had been born in 1882, near Leonardville in Riley County. He sold cars and worked as a mechanic before moving about 1910 to Topeka, where he teamed up with his brother and Janicke to build a biplane, christened the "Topeka I."
Longren then successfully piloted that plane on its maiden flight in southeast Shawnee County near Berryton Road. In the days that followed, his flights became progressively longer. On Sept. 5, 1911, he stayed in the air for 6 miles, flying two complete circles over a field at a height of 200 feet.
Longren subsequently built more planes here. To finance his operation, he took up barnstorming, becoming known by the nickname "Birdman." Longren made 1,372 exhibition flights between 1911 and 1914, according to the website of the Kansas Museum of History.
Longren was seriously hurt in a plane crash in 1915 at the Dickinson County Fairgrounds in Abilene, that website says.
Meanwhile, Longren in 1914 had married Dolly Trent, whom he had met while making exhibition flights at a fair in Minneapolis. She also became an accomplished airplane mechanic.
After serving as an airplane inspector during World War I, Albin Longren opened an airplane manufacturing plant in northeast Topeka's Oakland community. By May 1923, his factory had produced 21 planes.
But that factory failed in 1926. Longren subsequently worked as a consultant for other aviation companies before dying at age 68 in 1950 in California. Dolly Longren died at age 77 in 1971 in Texas.
A plane built by Longren and sold to Philip Billard — the namesake of Topeka's Philip Billard Municipal Airport, who was killed in 1918 in France while testing planes for the Allies in World War I — remains on display at the Kansas Museum of History, 6425 S.W. 6th Ave. in Topeka, according to that museum's website.