Emil Matthew Laird

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Emil Matthew Laird
Born(1896-11-29)November 29, 1896
DiedDecember 18, 1982(1982-12-18) (aged 86)
Other namesMatty Laird
Known forAir racing
Spouse(s)Elsie Laird
Parent(s)Clara, Charles Laird, Sr.
RelativesCharles Laird, Jr. (brother)

Emil Matthew Laird (November 29, 1896 – December 18, 1982) was an American aircraft builder and pilot. He put the first commercial aircraft into production at his E. M. Laird Aviation Company.[1]


He was born on November 29, 1896.

Laird's first experience with aviation was watching a chance flight up the shoreline of a Wright Model A flown by Walter Brookins while working as an office boy at the First National Bank of Chicago.[2] Laird's first contraption was a bicycle with glider wings attached that he built at the age of 15. He built an airplane of his own design in his mother's attic[3][4] and flew it on September 15, 1913, getting 10 feet (3.0 m) off the ground.[5] Four months later, he managed to get twice as high.[5] His second creation was the 1912 Laird Baby Biplane. The 1915 biplane of his design, once flown by Katherine Stinson, is on display at the Henry Ford Museum.[6]

By the age of 20, Laird was recruited by promoter Bill Pickens to demonstrate aircraft. He was paid $350 just to take off and circle a field in the early days of skeptical onlookers.[7] Laird crashed a biplane with a tail modification he had just constructed in Texas, leaving him in the hospital for nine months, and out of World War I.

In 1920, Laird co-founded the E. M. Laird Aviation Company with his brother Charles Laird and investors William A. Burke and Jacob Mollendick to build an aircraft called the Swallow in Wichita.[8] Over the next four years, about 43 Swallows were built before Laird left the company in 1923 and founded the E. M. Laird Airplane Company to build commercial aircraft such as the Laird Commercial and custom designs.[9][10] Laird's racing aircraft won the Thompson Trophy race in 1930, the first Bendix Trophy race in 1931 and the 1938 and 1939 Thompson Trophy races.[9]

Laird died in Palm Beach, Florida at the age of 87.[1]


He was inducted into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 1999.[9]


  1. ^ a b "Friends Mourn Aviation Pioneer Emil Laird". The Palm Beach Post. December 22, 1982. Laird founded the company which built and sold the first commercial airplane. The airplane, called the Swallow ...
  2. ^ Ted West (September 1977). Flying Magazine. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Edward H. Phillips. Stearman Aircraft: A Detailed History.
  4. ^ Post, Joan; Paul H. Poberezny (2000). Shoestrings to the Stars: The Life Story of E.M. "Matty" Laird. AuthorHouse. p. 111. ISBN 1587216582. The Honore Street Bungalow. ... The old wooden sidewalk is seen as well as the two attic windows where the first Laird plane emerged.
  5. ^ a b Jean Hays (November 5, 1984). "Laird's paper models financed real planes". The Wichita Eagle.
  6. ^ Ford Richardson Bryan, Sarah Evans. Henry's attic: some fascinating gifts to Henry Ford and his museum.
  7. ^ Joe Christy and LeRoy Cook. American Aviation. p. 13.
  8. ^ Wichita Beacon. January 31, 1920. p. 1. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ a b c "Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame: Emil Matthew Matty Laird". November 12, 1999. Retrieved November 15, 2011.
  10. ^ Wichita Eagle. December 26, 1920. p. C8. Missing or empty |title= (help)

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