Bill Piper Puts Pilots on Top
While Clyde Cessna and the Kansas company he created were becoming synonymous, Bill Piper was keeping pace. Piper, a former oil man from Pennsylvania, unwittingly backed a tiny local airplane company when his business partner pledged a few hundred dollars on his behalf. When the company collapsed as the Great Depression deepened, Piper bought the company for $761 in the bankruptcy auction and found himself in the airplane business. And he didn’t even know how to fly!
Piper, who was scarcely ever called anything but “Mr. Piper,” knew how to get all 100 pennies worth out of a dollar, which goes a long way toward explaining his success in a business that bankrupted dozens of others. He never owned more than one car at a time, and if his family took it on a long trip, he preferred to walk to town and back to his home near the Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, airport rather than pay for another vehicle.
He was also unflappable. When a spark ignited some rags in 1937, Piper’s entire factory burned to the ground. Bill shrugged it off, saying, “At least we’ll get some publicity out of it.”