- Texas Takes Wing: A Century of Flight in the Lone Star State by Barbara Ganson
Beginning with the first airplane flight in Texas, that of French aviator Louis Paulhan on February 18, 1910, author Barbara Ganson carries the story forward to 2010. She worked on a special aviation collection for the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin for the 2010 centennial of flight in Texas. The first military airplane flight in Texas arrived less than two weeks after Paulhan’s [End Page 337] four separate flights that totaled less than an hour in the sky. Lt. Benjamin D. Foulois flew a Wright Flyer at Fort Sam Houston on March 2, 1910, a nice commemoration of Texas’ Independence Day in San Antonio that may or may not have been on purpose.
With good flying weather and plenty of wide open spaces, Texas by 1922 possessed more landing fields for aircraft (162) than any other state. During World War II Texans constructed approximately 70 military airfields across the state, and Texas became one of the major training centers for pilots, including those of our allies. Even the headquarters for all pilot training in the nation during the war was in Fort Worth.
The book’s nine chapters are arranged loosely in chronological order from the early days to World War I, barnstormers, record setters, and flying services between the wars, and then Texas activity during World War II. Later chapters discuss aircraft designers, manufacturers, the Cold War, and the space age.
Within each chapter the author takes a topical, encyclopedic approach with each entry set off by italics. Some topics seem to receive more coverage than necessary, while often important persons or events receive only brief attention. Even so, the author has assembled a tremendous amount of information, some of it new or little known. Hopefully, this will encourage other researchers to engage in future study.
Emphasis is on people, and the author was fortunate to interview in person many of those active in Texas’s aviation history. Some are native Texans, while others engaged in aviation careers in the state. To tell these stories she made use of numerous manuscript collections from museums and libraries not only in Texas, but throughout the nation. From these sources she gleaned a large number of photographs that appear throughout the book.
Ganson asserts that Texas “has been at the forefront of aircraft manufacturing in the United States” (168), and in an extensive epilogue she sums up the contributions of Texas and Texans in the fields of general, industrial, and commercial aviation. Of Texas’s 387 airports, Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport is the third busiest in the United States, and Alliance Airport, also in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex, “serves as an inland port for international trade” (185). Texas is the home of more major U.S. airlines than any other state. Among four appendices in the book, the first one cites a timeline of important aviation events in Texas from 1910 to 2010.
While a few events and persons were omitted, the author reached her goal of making available a great deal of information on the aviation role that Texas has played during the last century as “Texas Takes Wing.” [End Page 338]