Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Wichita's future is part of my past

Sept. 25, 2009, 12:37 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation announced a grant of $2.1 million in Wichita to take aviation composite technology, which we're very good at, and transfer it to a new industry, the manufacture of medical devices.

I actually learned about composites when I was a kid, but didn't know what I was learning. My dad built a sailplane in our garage while I was growing up. He bought plans and over a number of years, with help from his flying buddies, many of whom were engineers at Cessna and Beech, built the fuselage and wings.

He used fiberglass and epoxy glue to create part of the wings so they'd be lightweight. When the epoxy dried, the fiberglass was much more durable with the hardened resin on it. That's composites.

Dad is 75 now and building another plane. This time it's a Tailwind in their basement. And yes, he's still making stuff out of composites. I wasn't aware of it until I started telling my parents about the grant I'd been working on while having Sunday dinner with them. That's when Dad went down to his basement and brought up a little part he'd made from carbon fiber and resin.

He couldn't believe I was taking a class on composites. I couldn't believe he was making them himself.

So we had no choice but to open a great bottle of wine and toast all that is well with the world.