The surname Isham has its origin in 11th century England. “Is” is for the River Ise in Northamptonshire Central England and “Ham” means a small village. The name “Isham” means “from a small village on the River Ise.”
Keith Isham (1924-1999) learned to fly in 1940 in a J-3 Cub. As a Cadet in 1942 he left Wichita University for the 8th Army Air Force. As a navigator on the B-17 Keith flew many missions based in England. In the early 1950’s Keith owned an Ercoupe and continued to fly other civilian aircraft at every opportunity. After the war Keith continued in service in the Kansas Army National Guard until retiring as a Warrant Office in the mid-1990’s. He was Vice President of 4th National Bank (now Bank of America) in Wichita, Kansas. During his post war military aviation career Keith flew the Cessna L19 Birddog, DeHavilland Beaver, Sikorsky Sky Crane, Hiller helicopter, UH-1 Huey, OH-58 Bell Jet Ranger, Beech U-8 Queen Air (link photo is of the actual Queen Air delivered to the Kansas Aviation Museum in 1992 by CWO Keith Isham) and the U-21 King Air. After retiring from the KANG and Bank IV Keith continued flying for LifeWatch in Wichita, KS. He flew the LifeWatch Bell Jet Ranger and Super King Air until the mid-1990’s. As of mid 1998 Keith was no longer active in the company.
Keith's son started riding in airplanes with his dad as an infant. Growing up around aviation set his destiny. In his early career he worked as an aircraft mechanic in Topeka, KS and Wichita, KS. While in Topeka he helped a friend rebuild an Emigh Trojan. He flew many hours building time in the Emigh. In 1972 he married Glenna, his life-long aviation companion. Glenna worked for EdoAire building aircraft instruments in the early to mid-1970’s.
In the mid-1970’s Keith and the family decided to purchase a Piper Cherokee 180. The airplane sat neglected for several years. They spent all of their spare time bringing the Cherokee up to date, including the addition of wing extensions, wingtips, stabilator extension and a new dorsal fin. Working through the FAA they received STC approval, then PMA (parts manufacturing approval) and began selling the update modifications to other Piper Cherokee owners. The business grew, adding new STC’s for the Piper Arrow, Lance and an engine conversion for the Cessna R172K. With their background in manufacturing processes and tools they decided it was a natural fit to add aircraft tools to the product lines.
Glenna managed the day to day operation of the business from the mid-1970’s until 2005 when she became President of the corporation. All of their children worked in the business and developed a love for aviation. As adults the boys worked as sheet metal assembly mechanics for Boeing where they became experts at new state-of-the art aircraft manufacturing processes. Their daughter, a Six Sigma Green Belt, worked in manufacturing inventory for Boeing Commercial for several years, then at Cessna as a tool and parts buyer. Isham's have eight grandchildren that already are showing enthusiasm for aviation from flying remote control models to spending time at the “shop”.
The Isham family has accomplished many aviation projects including installation of many of their STC modifications on Piper and Cessna airplanes and enjoy working on an RV-8A, N220LS “In to Tools” and a new RV-12 project. The Isham’s have owned eight airplanes since the mid-1970’s.
The strong aviation connections and skills of the Isham’s have made Isham Inc. a significant supplier in the aviation industry.