Phil Billard
Phil Billard, 1915
Collection of William Burke, Jr.


"Early Years
     The Kansas Air National Guard was born on Feb. 19, 1916, when Topeka native, Phillip Billard, namesake of Topeka's first airport, was commissioned a captain in the Kansas National Guard by Brig Gen Charles I. Martin, the adjutant general. Capt Billard was charged with forming the state's first aviation unit, designated Company B, Signal Aero Corps, Kansas National Guard. According to the Topeka Capital of Feb. 20, 1916, the unit was to be comprised of Billard as captain, "six first lieutenants, one master signal electrician, two first class sergeants, five sergeants, nine corporals, two cooks, fourteen first class privates, six privates, one motorcycle and four aeroplanes." At the time, 24 states were in the process of planning aviation detachments but Kansas was one of the first.
     The initial set up of the Kansas Guard's first "aero" unit was a bit unconventional. The arrangement dictated that Billard would have to personally shoulder the costs of the airplanes until time of war, at which time, the airplanes would be purchased by the federal government. To help defray the associated costs and help with recruiting for the unit, Billard proposed the idea of a Topeka-based flight school. He said, "They [other flight schools] charge a dollar a minute for instruction and offer to make a pilot in 400 minutes. I believe I can make a pilot in 300 minutes."
     Billard's aircraft, a Longren Model G biplane, the first airplane in the Kansas National Guard, became a frequent sight at county fairs, doing stunts and other assorted aerobatics. It cost $8,000 and was dubbed the "Military Tractor." He used the aircraft to embark on a series of promotional flights, from city to city in an effort to foster interest in his newly formed Guard unit. Billard's personal stationary of the time, headlined with, "L Phil Billard [-] The American Eagle His Only Rival" advertises that he was available for, "state fairs, carnivals... sensational air feats, spirals, loops, double loops, daylight fireworks, bomb dropping, illuminated night flights, aeroplane races, aeroplane battles, aerial advertising [and] passenger carrying." Passengers during that time included the Kansas Adjutant General, Brig Gen Martin, Col R. Neill Rahn (adjutant general after Martin), Col Perry M. Hoisington (Kansas National Guard Hall of Fame), his brother, Robert Billard, and a man named T.C. Powell who reportedly said, "Anyone that is not scared the first ride is a damn liar."
     The unit was eventually disbanded and Billard joined the U.S. Army, where he served as a test pilot for Headquarters Detachment of the Air Service Signal Corps, United States Reserve in France, during World War I. He died July 24, 1918, test flying a DeHaviland 4.
By 1st Lt Dave Young, PAO, HQ-KSANG"
Editor's Note: This article on Phil Billard was extracted in its entirety from the story of the History of the Kansas Air National Guard by 1st Lt Dave Young.

     Using the Google search engine on "Phil Billard", (4-27-05), you will find about 10 links. Several of them require "registration" before being viewed.

Albin K. Longren's Biplane
     "Visitors to the Kansas State Historical Society can view a biplane with ties to two early figures of the state's aviation history.
     This is the fifth plane built by Leonardville native Albin K. Longren, flown by him for one year and then sold to Phillip Billard, a Topeka native who was killed in France while testing planes for the Allies in World War I.
     Longren, with the assistance of his brother, E. J., and William Janicke, built an airplane in Topeka which was taken to a field southeast of the city for testing. On September 2, 1911, with Longren behind the wheel, it became the first Kansas-made plane to successfully take to the air. (Wilbur and Orville Wright's famous flight was on December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.)
     You may also wish to visit the homepage of the Society by clicking on:
Kansas State Historical Society

Phil Billard
3rd Aviation Instruction Center Monument
Courtesy of Gerald V. Arseneault, 10-1-07
Superintendent of Brittany American Cemetery

BILLARD, Philip Louis Lt. AAS b.27 Apr 1891, Topeka, KS Son of Mayor Julius B. and Hermance P. (LAURENT) BILLARD, Topeka, KS DIA 25 July 1918 in air accident at the Issoudun advanced flying school airfield in France. With the 3rd Aviation Inst Center. Remains cremated and scattered at Issoudun Flying School, France
For the complete story of the Monument, click on:
Phil Billard

Editor's Note:
If you have any information on this pioneer aviator
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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