Donald Wills Douglas Sr.

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Donald Wills Douglas Sr.
Donald Wills Douglas.jpg
Born (1892-04-06)April 6, 1892[1]
Brooklyn, New York
Died February 1, 1981(1981-02-01) (aged 88)
Palm Springs, California
Nationality American
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology (B.S., Aeronautical Engineering, 1914)
Known for Douglas Aircraft Company

Donald Wills Douglas Sr. (6 April 1892 – 1 February 1981) was an American aircraft industrialist and engineer.

An aviation pioneer, he designed and built the Douglas Cloudster. Though it failed in its intended purpose—being the first to fly non-stop across the United States—it became the first airplane with a payload greater than its own weight.[2][3][4][5]

He founded the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1921 (the company later merged with McDonnell Aircraft to form McDonnell Douglas Corporation). Under his leadership, the company became one of the leaders of the commercial aircraft industry, engaging in a decades-long struggle for supremacy with arch-rival William Boeing and the company he founded, Boeing. Douglas gained the upper hand, particularly with his revolutionary and highly successful Douglas DC-3 airliner and its equally popular World War II military transport version, the C-47; at the start of the war, his airplanes made up 80% of all commercial aircraft in service.[6] However, he lagged behind in the jet age and was overtaken and surpassed by Boeing. He retired in 1957.[7]

Early life

Douglas was born in Brooklyn, New York, the second son of an assistant cashier at the National Park Bank. He attended Trinity Chapel School.

After graduation in 1909, he enrolled in the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He had been an early aviation enthusiast; at the age of 16 in the fall of 1908, he convinced his mother that he needed to witness the Fort Myer trials of the Wright Flyer. He later built model airplanes, some with rubber-bands and other motors, in his dormitory room at Annapolis and tested them on the grounds and in the academy's armory.[8] In 1912 he resigned from the academy in order to pursue a career in aeronautical engineering.

After being turned down for jobs by Grover Loening and Glenn Curtiss, Douglas enrolled in MIT. He received his Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering—the first person to receive such a degree from MIT—in 1914, completing the four-year course in half the time; he remained there another year as an assistant to Professor Jerome Hunsaker.[1][9]

Early engineering career

In 1915 Douglas joined the Connecticut Aircraft Company, participating in the designing of the Navy's first dirigible, the DN-1. In August 1915, Douglas left for the Glenn Martin Company where he was, at the age of 23, chief engineer, where he designed the Martin S seaplane. Shortly after Glenn Martin merged with Wright Company to form Wright-Martin, Douglas resigned to become, in November 1916, the chief civilian aeronautical engineer of the Aviation Section of the US Army Signal Corps. Soon thereafter he returned to the newly reformed Glenn L. Martin Company, in Cleveland, Ohio, again becoming their chief engineer. Douglas would design the Martin MB-1 bomber.[10][11]

In March 1920, Douglas resigned from his $10,000 a year job to return to California, where he had met and, in 1916, married Charlotte Marguerite Ogg (1892–1976). He soon started his first aircraft company, Davis-Douglas Company[11] with $40,000 financing from partner David Davis. They worked together to attempt to build an aircraft that could fly coast to coast nonstop, the Douglas Cloudster. Following an unsuccessful attempt, Davis left the partnership, and Douglas founded the Douglas Aircraft Company.[12]

World War II

Donald Douglas was not only a very highly regarded engineer and bold entrepreneur, but as World War II approached, he proved to be remarkably prescient. A year and a half before Pearl Harbor, he was already writing that this was the "hour of destiny for American aviation." He expressed confidence that the industry could meet the need, and laid out the methods by which it would transform from small companies producing aircraft in small batches to making them on a production-line basis. The aircraft industry grew from a distant 41st place among American industries to first place in less than five years. Douglas Aircraft grew from being a small company with 68 employees in 1922 to being the fourth largest business in the United States.[13]

The United States out-produced its enemies in totalitarian societies. As William S. Knudsen of the National Defense Advisory Commission observed, "We won because we smothered the enemy in an avalanche of production, the like of which he had never seen, nor dreamed possible." Donald Douglas summed it up similarly, "Here's proof that free men can out-produce slaves."[14]

Awards and honors

Source:[15]

A statue of Douglas, a recreation of his office and the Douglas Aircraft Company boardroom is at the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica, CA. Douglas is ranked seventh on the aviation magazine Flying's list of its 51 heroes of aviation.[17]

References

  1. ^ a b Francillon, 1988. p. 2.
  2. ^ "Donald Douglas". PBS. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 202–3, Random House, New York, NY, 2012.
  4. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 7–14, Cypress, CA, 2013.
  5. ^ Borth, Christy. Masters of Mass Production, pp. 244, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, IN, 1945.
  6. ^ Ralph Vartabedian (25 October 1999). "A 40-Year-Long Dogfight for Aircraft Supremacy". Los Angeles Times. 
  7. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 13–48, Cypress, CA, 2013.
  8. ^ "PIONEERS IN AVIATION: THE RACE TO THE MOON, Episode I". 
  9. ^ Starr, Kevin (2003). Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940–1950. Oxford University Press. p. 136. ISBN 0-19-516897-6. 
  10. ^ Yenne. The Pictorial History of American Aircraft. 
  11. ^ a b Francillon, 1988. p. 3.
  12. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 13–16, Cypress, CA, 2013.
  13. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, pp. 7–8, 13, 16, Cypress, CA, 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. 5, 7–8, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  15. ^ Francillon, 1988. pp. 3–4.
  16. ^ "J. C. Hunsaker Award in Aeronautical Engineering". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  17. ^ 51 Heroes of Aviation: #7 Donald Douglas from Flying Magazine

Bibliography

  • Francillon, Rene J (1988). McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. Vol 1. UK: Putnam Aeronautical Books. ISBN 0-87021-428-4. 
  • Sobel, Robert The Entrepreneurs: Explorations Within the American Business Tradition (Weybright & Talley 1974), chapter 8, Donald Douglas: The Fortunes of War ISBN 0-679-40064-8.

External links

  • "Bio: Donald Douglas", Centennial of Flight, US government (archived 2012)
  • "Bio: Donald Wills Douglas", Boeing history website.
  • Popular Science, October 1940, Here's My Story – Donald Wills Douglas
Business positions
Preceded by
(none)
President of Douglas Aircraft Company
1921–1957
Succeeded by
Donald Wills Douglas Jr.
Preceded by
(none)
Chairman of Douglas Aircraft Company
1957–1967
Succeeded by
(none)
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