Following a painful business experience in Wichita, Matty Laird resolved never again to rely on outside investors to produce his designs. Over the next few months, Laird built up some capital by participating in exhibitions and ferrying news reporters to various events such as the Kentucky Derby and Indy 500.
In 1924, Laird started the E.M. Laird Airplane Co. in some rented storefronts at 23rd St. and Archer Ave. He began building his new line of planes, the Laird Commercial (LC-). Without outside financing, planes had to be custom built to order rather than being produced in quantity.
Laird Commercial planes were some of the first with metal tubular frame construction. They were intended for long-distance flying of mail and/or passengers. But they also offered the superior performance and handling that made them ideal for air racing. At the Dayton Air Races, Perry Hutton flew the LC and handily beat the New Swallow and other competitors.
By 1925, Laird had left the storefronts for factory space at Ashburn Field. His LC planes were a hot commodity, spurred by the Kelly Act that established the Contract Air Mail (CAM) system which encouraged use of newer, higher performance airplanes. The LCs were powerful, making them popular despite their $4500 price tag. Costs of competitor’s planes at the time were: Travel Air 2000-$3500, Super Swallow-$2750, and the WACO 9-$2200.
Lindbergh’s transatlantic crossing fanned the flames of public interest in aviation. Flyers were as famous as sports heroes. A whole variety of races and competitions were held across the country into the mid-1930s, when the Depression became too deep and the public became sated with aviation news..
Laird was at the center of this flurry. Pilots who sought out Laird for a plane included Speed Holman, Ervin Ballough, Jimmy Doolittle, and Roscoe Turner. Laird race planes like the Whirlwind, Speedwing, and Super Solution consistently finished at or near the top of the races.
Chicago Aviation: An Illustrated History; by David M. Young; DeKalb IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003, p 113,128-131.
Chicago: City of Flight (Images of America); by Jim and Wynette Edwards; Charleston SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2003, p 74.
Shoestring to the Stars: The Life Story of E.M. “Matty” Laird; by Joan Laird Post; Bloomington IN: 1st Books Library, 2000, p 90, 125-137,139-147, 163-166.
Wikipedia [Online]; “E.M. Laird Airplane Company”; accessed 6/22/17; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._M._Laird_Airplane_Company