One of the pioneers in the aircraft industry was born on January 8, 1881 in New York, United States . His name was William Thomas Piper Sr., the founder of Piper Aircraft Inc.
William was the son of a dairy farmer who also engaged in the business of repairing oil pumps. He attended Harvard University where he graduated in 1903 with a degree in mechanical engineering. After graduation, he worked in a construction company until 1914. During the First World War, he served as a captain in the army’s corps of engineers. Upon his discharge, he entered the oil industry and with a partner, formed the Dallas Oil Company.
In late 1920s, a certain Gilbert Taylor from the town of Bradford, Pennsylvania (the same town where William grew up) offered the community members a chance to become investors in his newly established aircraft company. William was one of those who answered the call and invested $400. When this company was in financial difficulties at the onset of the Great Depression of the 1930s, William acquired it but offered the presidency to its founder Gilbert.
William renamed the company after himself and dedicated the rest of his life to make it a successful endeavor. He believed that all people, rich and poor, should have a chance to own an airplane. To fulfill this dream of an aircraft-owning population, he vowed to produce small light plane that are affordable. Thus, the company designed the Piper Cub, a two-seater light plane which was sold at price of $1,325. He went around the country looking for dealers. He also established a flying school to provide training for would-be pilots at a very low cost. By 1935, the company earned a small profit.
During World War II, the company was contracted by the US government to produce reconnaissance and ambulance planes as well as hundreds of “Grasshoppers”, small planes used to direct armored columns and artillery fire from the air. After the war, thousands of small airplanes were produced not only for military but also for civilian use.
William Piper died in 1970 at the age of 89. In 2017, Piper Aircraft Inc. celebrated its 80th anniversary of aviation leadership.