Douglas, Donald Wills
IndustrialistEnshrined 1969 1892-1981
Donald Douglas took pride as designer of the Martin bomber and decided to demonstrate it to the Air Service. He and his partners, Eric Springer and Glenn Martin, flew the aircraft to McCook Field in Dayton, but no one remembered to call the Air Service and tell them they were coming. It was World War I and the giant bomber of unknown origin and nationality met an unfriendly reception. With weapons drawn, Douglas protested in unmistakable American profanity that a foreign invasion was not under way.
- Built the Douglas World Cruisers that made the first flight around the world in 1924.
- Received the Collier Trophy in 1935 for his DC-2 airliner.
- Introduced the immortal DC-3 in 1935. C.R. Smith, president of American Airlines initially ordered 20 of these planes assuring the success of the Douglas Company.
- Praised by Theodore von Kármán as the “dour Scot who will go down in history as having made aviation great without a government subsidy.”
Graduated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1914, Douglas, became Chief Engineer of the Glenn L. Martin Company in 1915. He was appointed Chief Civilian Aeronautical Engineer of the Aviation section in 1916. Then he rejoined Martin in 1917 and designed the famous Martin Bomber during World War I.
Forming his own company in 1920, Douglas embarked upon a career of manufacturing private, commercial and military aircraft. His Cloudster was the first airplane to lift a payload equal to its own weight. In 1924 he built the Douglas World Cruisers that made the first flight around the world, and brought him fame as an aircraft designer. In the mid-1920s he produced a remarkable series of observation, cargo, transport, mail, and amphibian airplanes. In 1932 he began the development of the important “DC” series of commercial transports. His DC-2 airliner was an immediate success, for which he received the 1935 Collier trophy. The DC-3 became the world’s most widely used airliner and helped make commercial aviation practical. With the approach of World War II, his company produced large numbers of troop and cargo transports, as well as bombers, dive bombers, and attack planes for the allied forces. After the war, his company developed new types of military aircraft and missiles, as well as important new multi-engine commercial transports that helped make possible the expansion of domestic and international passenger and cargo air service.
Donald Douglas died on February 1st, 1981.
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