NationalGeographic.com [an error occurred while processing this directive]


 
Feature
More to Explore

Did You Know?
Related Links
Bibliography
NGS Resources

ZipUSA: 67210 On Assignment

ZipUSA: 67210 On Assignment

ZipUSA: 67210
Step into the world of writers and photographers as they tell you about the best, worst, and quirkiest places and adventures they encountered in the field.

ZipUSA: 67210 Zoom In

Get the facts behind the frame in this online-only gallery. Pick an image and see the photographer's technical notes.

ZipUSA: 67210 Zoom In Thumbnail 1
Click to ZOOM IN >>

ZipUSA: 67210 Zoom In Thumbnail 2
Click to ZOOM IN >>

ZipUSA: 67210 Zoom In Thumbnail 3
Click to ZOOM IN >>

ZipUSA: 67210 Zoom In Thumbnail 4
Click to ZOOM IN >>


ZipUSA: 67210 Map

ZipUSA: 67210

Map Thumbnail





   
By Cliff TarpyPhotographs by Ira Block



A modern-day version of Rosie the Riveter is still hard at work in Wichita, Kansas, where aviation has long been the biggest business in town.



Read or print the full article.

At 5 a.m. Beulah Barnes clocks in at a huge, brightly lit aircraft plant. She adjusts the earphones of a portable radio she carries inside her white coveralls, a shield against the deafening chatter of rivet guns fired by workers assembling fuselages of Boeing 737s that sit side by side like colossal metallic sausages.

Most of the workers, including those atop "rainbow tools"—mini-escalators that arc over the five plane bodies—wear earplugs against the din. Beulah's defense is country music. "When they start shooting," she says, "I just turn up the volume."

The music plays all day, and then some: Recent layoffs at the plant mean that survivors like Beulah typically work a ten-hour day or longer. To remind her of home, Beulah tapes snapshots of relatives and her Yorkshire terrier to her toolbox.

A 29-year Boeing veteran, Beulah is part of an honored tradition that began in World War II with squadrons of female factory workers, celebrated in the popular song "Rosie the Riveter," a mythical figure on posters selling war bonds and boosting morale. Peering through goggles below her platinum hair, Beulah holds a gun different from those used by her riveting colleagues as she runs a bead of black sealant around a windshield. With that, another 737—Boeing's best-selling plane—moves closer to flight.

Aviation dominates zip code 67210, where Boeing's 238 buildings sprawl over 1,200 acres (500 hectares), and it propels Wichita's economy. Boeing-Wichita is part of the world's largest aerospace firm, which produces about half of all commercial airliners worldwide. Workers at Wichita's three other major aircraft manufacturing companies produce more than 60 percent of the world's general aviation aircraft.

* * * * * *

Boeing-Wichita's aviation employment exploded from fewer than 800 in mid-1940 to a wartime peak of 30,000. With so many men in uniform, women took up the slack on the assembly line. The song "Rosie the Riveter" hailed the woman who "keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage, sitting up there on the fuselage."

Rosie the Riveters helped Boeing-Wichita produce a stalwart of World War II, the B-29 bomber, known as the Superfortress. (Two of the craft made elsewhere, Enola Gay and Bockscar, dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forcing Japan to surrender.) Only one B-29 still flies. Named Fifi, it follows the air-show circuit from its home base in Midland, Texas. Another, nicknamed Doc after the Snow White character painted on its nose, may soon join it. Doc, one of 1,644 B-29s turned out by Wichita, was lucky, surviving a lowly postwar career as a target for bombing practice. An airline executive found Doc mothballed in the California desert and trucked it to Wichita, where restoration is underway. He may make it a flying exhibit with Wichita as its home base—the ardent hope of locals working to restore the plane.

"We wore overalls, and bandannas to keep our hair from getting tangled up in the tools," says Connie Palacioz, who originally worked on Doc in the '40s. "I was 18 when I began here, and I put most of the rivets in Doc's cab section." Now a ginger-haired woman of 78 and a volunteer in the restoration effort, Palacioz stands at a table energetically stripping the grime off small metal parts with steel wool.

Subscribe to National Geographic magazine.


E-mail this page to a friend

Subscribe


Forum
Nominate your own wonderful, weird, or wacky choices for this magazine series.



More to Explore

In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.

Did You Know?
The Kansas Aviation Museum, formerly the Wichita Municipal Airport, is one of a handful of surviving examples of art deco architecture in airport buildings. A cast stone bas-relief mural of Charles Lindbergh's transcontinental flight hangs over the building entrance. The panel is 37 feet long, 5 inches (11.3 meters) thick, and weighs 11,500 pounds (5,200 kilograms). The rich colors on the panel are natural-colored aggregate from all parts of the world.  The dark cobalt blue of the ocean was the only color the artists were unable to find in stone. Instead, they used crushed Mentholatum jars.

During World War II the U.S. Army took over the airport. The Army doubled the size of the building and added the control tower, replacing a portable tower that was rolled from end to end of the field as the wind changed. By the end of the war in 1945, the Wichita Municipal Airport was one of the most active airports in the country, with a landing or takeoff nearly every minute of the day.

The museum is already on the National Register of Historic Places, and volunteers are working toward getting the building designated a national landmark.
Did You Know?

Related Links
Ira Block Photography
www.irablock.com
Learn more about National Geographic photographer Ira Block and browse through his online photo library.

B-29 Restoration
b-29.boeing.com/
By the end of World War II, the Boeing Wichita plant had built 1,644 B-29s, nearly 65 percent of the total produced during the war. Now the plant is restoring Doc, one of its old B-29s.
 
Boeing-Wichita Overview
www.boeing.com/commercial/wichita/
Check out Boeing-Wichita, Kansas' largest manufacturing business and a major contributor to worldwide aviation.
 
Kansas Aviation Museum
www.kansasaviationmuseum.org/
The history of Kansas' long affiliation with aviation is kept at this museum.

Rosie the Riveter
www.rosietheriveter.org/
During World War II, over six million women from all over the country and all backgrounds worked at industrial jobs that challenged traditional ideas of women's role in society.  Their work ensured American productivity that helped to win the war. These women were represented by Rosie the Riveter, an American  icon. This site honors all the Rosies of America.

Wings Over Kansas
www.wingsoverkansas.com
Explore this site that celebrates the past, present, and future of flight and Kansas' role in aviation.

Top


Bibliography
Miner, Craig. Kansas: The History of the Sunflower State, 1854-2000. The University Press of Kansas, 2002.

Miner, Craig. Wichita: The Magic City. Wichita Sedgwick County,1988.

Rowe, Frank, and Bruce Janssen, editors. Borne on the South Wind: A Century of Kansas Aviation. Wichita Eagle and Beacon Publishing, 1996

Top


NGS Resources
O'Gara, Geoffrey. "Amelia Earhart's Hometown," National Geographic Traveler (September/October 1997).

O'Gara, Geoffrey. "Barbed Wire Capital of the World," National Geographic Traveler (Autumn 1987), 10.

Top


© 2003 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe