Donald Willis Douglas


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US aircraft engineer, who founded the Douglas Aircraft Company.

The son of a bank cashier, Douglas was educated at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he graduated in 1914. He began his career in aviation working as chief engineer to the Glenn Martin Aircraft Company in Los Angeles. His career was interrupted in 1916 by World War I, when he was appointed chief civilian aero engineer to the US Signal Corps.

In 1920, Douglas set up his own company to build the Cloudster, a plane commissioned by a Los Angeles sportsman who planned a nonstop flight across the USA. Although it failed in this purpose, the Cloudster became the basis of the US navy's first torpedo bomber. The greatest success of the company came, however, with the DC-3, first flown in 1935 and widely known as the Dakota. Over 11 000 models were built, making it one of the most profitable planes of all time. Douglas continued building planes throughout World War II and into the jet age. In 1967 his company was taken over by the McDonnell Aircraft Company with Douglas serving as honorary chairman of the newly formed McDonnell Douglas Company until his death.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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