Looking back at the Travel Air Manufacturing Company of the late 1920s from this end of history’s telescope, it looks like an aviation dream team. Of course, at the time, there was no way to know that each of the company’s founders, Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna and Lloyd Stearman would go on to become aviation icons.
The time they formed the company, 1925, was a heady period to be in aviation. Advancements were made almost daily, the most important being a whole new series of more reliable, more powerful engines: radials from Wright and Pratt & Whitney helped fuel the new designs.
Travel Air initially produced a series of big, three-place open biplanes but quickly started on a new concept: a high-wing, fully enclosed monoplane capable of carrying four passengers. The initial Model 5000 morphed in to the A-6000A, powered by the 420-horsepower, R-1340 P & W (direct drive), that was introduced in 1929. The airplane bordered on being luxurious (relatively speaking), fast (very relatively speaking) and powerful for the times, and offered spacious accommodations for five passengers. It quickly became the airborne darling of executives and fledgling airlines alike. Among the many airlines using them was Scenic Airways.
Scenic’s entire business was carrying tourists over the arduous terrain of 1920/1930s Arizona to the unmatched beauty of the Grand Canyon. Starting with an early single-engine Stinson, they then went into a fleet of Trimotor Fords, adding a Travel Air A-6000A to the stable in 1933. They worked the airplane for nearly a decade.
Now flash ahead 70 years, and John Siebold is running Grand Canyon Airlines, the last incarnation of Scenic Airways. Being very conscious of the extraordinarily long aviation tradition of his company, he decided to establish a flying museum that featured one of every airplane Scenic/Grand Canyon had operated and base them at the Valle, Arizona, airport just south of The Canyon. That included a Travel Air A-6000A.
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