Aviation pioneer Joe Funk dies at 94

In a simpler time, when a young man could bring dreams to life with imagination, drive and a little cash, twin brothers Joe and Howard Funk dreamed of flying. They realized those dreams in a succession of gliders and powered aircraft that many now consider classics.

Joseph B. Funk died peacefully early in the morning of Dec. 2. He was 94. His brother died in 1995. They may well have been the last of aviation’s pioneers; those who designed, built and flew airplanes, all with their own hands.

It began as a hobby, fixing up Model Ts in the back of an Akron, Ohio, grocery store. Ultimately, it became a business that turned out some 337 airplanes, about 200 of which are believed to survive.

The business began as the Akron Aircraft Co. During a shutdown in 1941 to correct an engine problem, a creditor forced the company into bankruptcy. Rescue came from two oil-field suppliers, Bill and Raymond Jensen of Coffeyville, Kansas. As a condition of their bailout, the Jensens insisted the Funks relocate to Coffeyville. The revived firm was named the Funk Aircraft Co., resuming production in November 1941.

During World War II the company built subassemblies for major contractors. After the war, it built 178 planes, but ceased production when the post-war bubble burst in 1948. The Funks then manufactured power takeoffs and other devices for the Ford Industrial Engine Division. The Funk Manufacturing Co. carries on today as the largest employer in Coffeyville.

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