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Douglas Aircraft Company

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Title: Douglas Aircraft Company  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: List of aircraft operated by Scandinavian Airlines, List of military aircraft of the United States (naval), Douglas T2D, Douglas XT3D, Douglas BTD Destroyer
Collection: 1921 Establishments in California, Aerospace Companies of the United States, Companies Based in Long Beach, California, Companies Disestablished in 1967, Companies Established in 1921, Defense Companies of the United States, Defunct Aircraft Manufacturers of the United States, Defunct Companies Based in California, Douglas Aircraft Company, History of Long Beach, California, History of Santa Monica, California, Manufacturing Companies Based in California, McDonnell Douglas Mergers and Acquisitions
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Douglas Aircraft Company

Douglas Aircraft Company
Industry aerospace
Fate Merged with McDonnell Aircraft Corporation
Successors McDonnell Douglas
Founded 1921
Defunct 1967
Headquarters Santa Monica, California, Long Beach, California
Products Aircraft

The Douglas Aircraft Company was an American aerospace manufacturer based in Southern California. It was founded in 1921 by Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. and later merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967 to form McDonnell Douglas. Douglas Aircraft Company largely operated as a division of McDonnell Douglas (MD) after the merger. MD later merged with Boeing in 1997.


  • History 1
    • 1920s 1.1
    • Pre-war 1.2
    • World War II 1.3
    • Post-war 1.4
    • Mergers 1.5
  • Aircraft 2
    • Other aircraft 2.1
    • Missiles and spacecraft 2.2
  • References 3
    • Bibliography 3.1
    • Further reading 3.2
  • External links 4



The Douglas Aircraft Company was founded by Donald Wills Douglas, Sr. on July 22, 1921 in Santa Monica, California, following dissolution of the Davis-Douglas Company.[1] An early claim to fame was the first circumnavigation of the world by air in Douglas airplanes in 1924. In 1923, the U.S. Army Air Service was interested in carrying out a mission to circumnavigate the Earth for the first time by aircraft, a program called "World Flight".[2] Donald Douglas proposed a modified Douglas DT to meet the Army's needs. The two-place, open cockpit DT biplane torpedo bomber had previously been produced for the U.S. Navy.[3] The DTs were taken from the assembly lines at the company's manufacturing plants in Rock Island, Illinois and Dayton, Ohio to be modified.[4]

The modified aircraft known as the Douglas World Cruiser (DWC), also was the first major project for Jack Northrop who designed the fuel system for the series.[5] After the prototype was delivered in November 1923, upon the successful completion of tests on 19 November, the Army commissioned Douglas to build four production series aircraft.[6] Due to the demanding expedition ahead, spare parts, including 15 extra Liberty L-12 engines, 14 extra sets of pontoons, and enough replacement airframe parts for two more aircraft were chosen. These were sent to airports along the route. The last of these aircraft was delivered to the U.S. Army on 11 March 1924.[3]

After the success of the World Cruiser, the Army Air Service ordered six similar aircraft as observation aircraft.[7][7][8] The success of the DWC established the Douglas Aircraft Company among the major aircraft companies of the world and led it to adopt the motto "First Around the World - First the World Around".[9]

Douglas adopted a logo that showed airplanes circling a globe, replacing the original winged heart logo. The logo evolved into an aircraft, a rocket, and a globe. It was later adopted by the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, and then became the basis of the current logo of the Boeing Company after their 1997 merger.[10]


The company is most famous for the "DC" ("Douglas Commercial") series of commercial aircraft, including what is often regarded as the most significant transport aircraft ever made: the Douglas DC-3, which was also produced as a military transport known as the C-47 Skytrain or "Dakota" in British service. Many Douglas aircraft had long service lives.

Douglas Aircraft designed and built a wide variety of aircraft for the U.S. military, including the Navy, Army Air Forces, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The company initially built torpedo bombers for the U.S. Navy, but it developed a number of different versions of these aircraft, including reconnaissance planes and airmail planes. Within five years, the company was building about 100 aircraft annually. Among the early employees at Douglas were Ed Heinemann, "Dutch" Kindelberger, and Jack Northrop, who later founded the Northrop Corporation.[11]

The company retained its military market and expanded into amphibian airplanes in the late 1920s, also moving its facilities to Clover Field at Santa Monica, California. The Santa Monica complex was so large, the mail girls used roller skates to deliver the intracompany mail. By the end of World War II, Douglas had facilities at Santa Monica, El Segundo, Long Beach, and Torrance, California, Tulsa and Midwest City, Oklahoma, and Chicago, Illinois.[12]

Machine tool operator at the Douglas Aircraft plant, Long Beach, California in World War II. After losing thousands of workers to military service, American manufacturers hired women for production positions, to the point where the typical aircraft plant's workforce was 40% female.[13]

In 1934, Douglas produced a commercial twin-engined transport plane, the Douglas DC-2, followed by the famous DC-3 in 1936. The wide range of aircraft produced by Douglas included airliners, light and medium bombers, fighter aircraft, transports, reconnaissance aircraft, and experimental aircraft.

World War II

Women at work on bomber, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California in October 1942


  • Douglas Aircraft history 1939-45
  • Douglas Aircraft history 1946-56
  • Douglas Aircraft history 1957-67
  • Complete production list starting with the Cloudster
  • Douglas Aircraft Company Photographs at Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School

External links

  • Sobel, Robert. "Donald Douglas: The Fortunes of War". The Entrepreneurs: Explorations Within the American Business Tradition. Weybright & Talley, 1974. ISBN 0-679-40064-8.

Further reading

  • Boyne, Walter J. The Aircraft Treasures Of Silver Hill: The Behind-The-Scenes Workshop Of The National Air And Space Museum. New York: Rawson Associates, 1982. ISBN 0-89256-216-1.
  • Cunningham, Frank. Sky master; the story of Donald Douglas and the Douglas Aircraft Company. Dorrance and Company, 1943. OCLC 14152627
  • Donald, David, ed. Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Etobicoke, Ontario: Prospero Books, 1997. ISBN 1-85605-375-X.
  • Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920: Volume I. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-87021-428-4.
  • Haber, Barbara Angle. The National Air and Space Museum. London: Bison Group, 1995. ISBN 1-85841-088-6.
  • Swanborough, F. Gordon. and Peter M. Bowers. United States Military Aircraft since 1909. London: Putnam, 1963. OCLC 722531
  • Wendell, David V. "Getting Its Wings: Chicago as the Cradle of Aviation in America." Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Volume 92, No. 4, Winter 1999/2000, pp. 339–372.


  1. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 5, 7-10, 13-14, Cypress, CA, 2013.
  2. ^ Haber 1995, p. 73.
  3. ^ a b Rumerman, Judy. "The Douglas World Cruiser - Around the World in 175 Days."U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, 2003. Retrieved: 7 July 2012.
  4. ^ Wendell 1999/2000, p. 356.
  5. ^ Boyne 1982, p. 80.
  6. ^ "Douglas World Cruiser Transport." Boeing. Retrieved: 7 July 2012.
  7. ^ a b Francillon 1979, p. 75.
  8. ^ Swanborough and Bowers 1963, p. 548.
  9. ^ Haber 1995, pp. 72–73.
  10. ^ "Trademarks and Copyrights: Boeing logo." Boeing Trademark Management Group, Boeing. Retrieved: 5 July 2012.
  11. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 13-48, 77, 93, 107, Cypress, CA, 2013.
  12. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 13, 25, 35, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  13. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 2, 8, Cypress, California, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  14. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 13, 25, 35, Cypress, CA, 2013.
  15. ^ Peck, Merton J. & Scherer, Frederic M. The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis (1962) Harvard Business School p.619
  16. ^ Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 3-13, 335-337, Random House, New York, NY, 2012.
  17. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 7-8, 13, 25, 35, Cypress, CA, 2013.
  18. ^ Borth, Christy. Masters of Mass Production, pp. 13-33, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, IN, 1945.
  19. ^ RAND History and Mission. Accessed 13 April 2009.
  20. ^ a b Johnson, Stephen B. (2002). The United States Air Force and the culture of innovation 1945-1965. Diane Publishing Co. p. 32. 
  21. ^ Boeing Chronology, 1997–2001, Boeing


Missiles and spacecraft

Other aircraft

Passengers disembarking from a SAS DC-6


McDonnell Douglas later merged with its rival Boeing in 1997.[21] Boeing combined the Douglas Aircraft Company with the Boeing Commercial Airplanes division, ending more than 75 years of Douglas Aircraft Company history. The last Long Beach-built commercial aircraft, the Boeing 717 (a third generation version of the Douglas DC-9), ceased production in May 2006. As of 2011, the C-17 Globemaster III is the last aircraft being assembled at the Long Beach facility.

In 1967, the company was struggling to expand production to meet demand for DC-8 and DC-9 airliners and the A-4 Skyhawk military attack aircraft. Quality and cash flow problems, DC-10 development costs, combined with shortages due to the Vietnam War, led Douglas to agree to a merger with McDonnell Aircraft Corporation to form McDonnell Douglas. Douglas Aircraft Company continued as a wholly owned subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas, but its space and missiles division became part of a new subsidiary called McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company.


The company was ready to enter the new missile business during the 1950s. Douglas moved from producing air-to-air rockets and missiles to entire missile systems under the 1956 Nike missile program and became the main contractor for the Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile program and the Thor ballistic missile program. Douglas also earned contracts from NASA, notably for designing the S-IVB stage of the Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets.

Douglas was a pioneer in related fields, such as ejection seats, air-to-air missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and air-to-surface missiles, launch rockets, bombs, and bomb racks.

Douglas continued to develop new aircraft, including the successful four-engined Douglas DC-6 (1946) and its last propeller-driven commercial aircraft, the Douglas DC-7 (1953). The company had moved into jet propulsion, producing its first for the U.S. Navy — the straight-winged F3D Skyknight in 1948 and then the more "jet age" style F4D Skyray in 1951. Douglas also made commercial jets, producing the Douglas DC-8 in 1958 to compete with the new Boeing 707.

The United States Army Air Forces established 'Project RAND' (Research ANd Development)[19] with the objective of looking into long-range planning of future weapons.[20] In March 1946, Douglas Aircraft Company was granted the contract to research on intercontinental warfare.[20] Project RAND later become the RAND Corporation.

Douglas Aircraft suffered cutbacks at the end of the war, with an end to government aircraft orders and a surplus of aircraft. It was necessary to cut heavily into its workforce, letting go nearly 100,000 workers.

An ex-USAF C-47A Skytrain, the military version of the DC-3, on display in England in 2010. This aircraft flew from a base in Devon, England, during the Invasion of Normandy.


World War II was a major boost for Douglas. Douglas ranked fifth among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts.[15] The company produced almost 30,000 aircraft from 1942 to 1945, and its workforce swelled to 160,000. The company produced a number of aircraft including the C-47 Skytrain, the DB-7 (known as the A-20, Havoc or Boston), the SBD Dauntless dive bomber, and the A-26 Invader.[16][17][18]


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