Winfield Bertrum "Bert" Kinner (December 16, 1882 – July 4, 1957) was an American aircraft engine designer and constructor. Kinner founded Kinner Airplane and Motor Corporation in Glendale, California which produced radial engines and aircraft.
Bert Kinner was born on December 16, 1882 in Iowa. His father was from New York. His mother was born in England and her maiden name was Lee. Kinner married Cora M. (1887–1982) and they had two children named Winfield Bertrum Kinner II (1911–1993) and Donald W. Kinner (1914–?). His wife Cora, and both of his children, were born in Minnesota.
On May 25, 1915, pioneer pilot and aviation designer, Otto Timm crashed in a field in Magnolia, Minnesota owned by Kinner. His aircraft engine was repaired by Kinner, who was fascinated by the aircraft.
In 1920, Kinner was working as an aircraft engineer in Los Angeles, but had an aspiration to design and build aircraft. He was the manager of Kinner Field, the first municipally owned airport in Los Angeles, located on the west side of Long Beach Boulevard and Tweedy Road, in what is now South Gate, California. His airfield included a small hangar, 1,200 ft (366 m), roughed out runway and one employee, Anita "Neta" Snook, who had recently arrived from Iowa after a season of barnstorming with her Curtiss JN-4 Canuck in tow.
L–R: Neta Snook and Amelia Earhart in front of Earhart's Kinner Airster, c. 1921
"Snooky" turned out to be a good hire as she not only chatted up customers, and ran the air operation, but also served as a mechanic. Kinner hired Snook to test fly his aircraft and to provide flight instruction for a prospective training school. At the "Kinner Airplane and Motor Corporation," he began to design his first small, light aircraft called the Kinner Airster. The tiny biplane was powered by a three-cylinder Lawrence L2 engine that put out 60 hp.
In December 1920, Kinner Field's most famous student, Amelia Earhart, arrived. After taking her first flying lesson with Neta, Earhart bought the prototype Kinner Airster for $2,000 to continue her training.
The bright yellow biplane, that she immediately christened "The Canary," was underpowered but provided Earhart with valuable flight time. When she wasn't able to raise more than the deposit, Kinner made a deal with her so that the Airster could be on hand as a demonstration aircraft in exchange for upkeep and hangar fees.
Amelia Earhart soloed in the Airster, and after Neta left Kinner field to get married, Earhart stayed on, and continued flying. In October 1922, the Kinner Airster was used to set a world high altitude record of 14,000 ft (4,267 m) for women pilots, the first of the many records set by Earhart. Due to a change in the family fortunes, Earhart was forced to sell "The Canary," but later put together enough money to purchase a second Airster.
Kinner continued to design and build a limited series of light aircraft; the Kinner series of engines powered aircraft from the late 1920s to the early 1930s. The earliest Kinner engines had three cylinders, and were modeled after the French Anzani engines. Later Kinner developed a range of five cylinder engines. The airplane business ended in the mid-1930s, but the engines were produced through World War II. Kinner became the West Coast's largest producer of aircraft engines in 1941. The last series of Kinner engines powered PT-22 trainers.
Later years and death
In the 1930s, Kinner was the owner of Security National Aircraft Corporation at Downey Field, now Downey Studios.
Kinner died on July 4, 1957 in California, the Washington Post noted, "Winfield Bertrum Kinner, 74, pioneer aircraft manufacturer and designer, died late Thursday in a Long Beach hospital." He was buried in the Portal of Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation with other aviation pioneers in Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery.
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2. "W. B. Kinner, Pioneer Plane Designer, Dies." Washington Post, July 4, 1957.
3. Hudson, Lew. "Bert Kinner: Another famous Magnolia man." Worthington Daily Globe, October 28, 1966.
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Long, Elgen M. and Marie K. Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999. ISBN 0-684-86005-8.
Lovell, Mary S. The Sound of Wings. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989. ISBN 0-312-03431-8.
Marshall, Patti. "Neta Snook." Aviation History Vol. 17, No. 3. January 2007, p. 21-22.