NORTH AMERICAN

North American Aviation Inc. formed 6 December 1928 by Clement M. Keys, former Editor Wall St Journal, as 'paper' holding company to manage proliferating empire of aviation acquisitions (at that time Curtiss, Wright, Curtiss-Caproni, Curtiss-Robertson, Travel Air, Keystone and Moth). In 1929 Ford Instrument, Sperry, Berliner-Joyce and Pitcairn were added, plus airlines Faucett, Cubana, Eastern, NY Airways and half TWA. NAA even bought into Douglas. After Crash, empire collapsed, and in 1933 29% of NAA was sold to General Motors, which itself had been building General Aviation around a rearranged Fokker Aircraft (Atlantic Aircraft plus Dayton-Wright). NAA disposed of most holdings, General Aviation took over Berliner-Joyce becoming General Aviation Manufacturing Corp. and began designing and making aircraft in former Curtiss-Caproni plant at Dundalk, MD: see General Aviation. General Motors sent Ernest R. Breech to run Dundalk as President of NAA. He imported numerous proven engineers including James H. 'Dutch' Kindelberger and John Leland Atwood. In 1934 Air Mail Act prohibited aircraft manufacturer from running airline and vice versa, so NAA decided to build aircraft only. Breech appointed Kindelberger President and Atwood VP and chief engineer. Continued GA-43 transport and 43J seaplane, developed GA-15 observation aircraft into Army O-47 and quickly produced prototype GA-16 (NA-16) monoplane basic trainer (8 April 1935). Army pilots thought it best of several contenders, and after changing from Whirlwind to Wasp and fitting enclosed canopy Army ordered 42 as BT-9. On strength of this single order NAA moved to California, building new plant at Mines Field, Inglewood (today LA International Airport). Original 148 employees grew over next 10 years to over 91,000, building numerous BT-9 derivatives (notably AT-6/SNJ, Texan, Harvard and Yale) for 87 customers, plus 9,817 B-25 Mitchell bombers, 15,586 Mustang/P-51 fighters, P-82 Twin Mustangs and even B-24s, at Inglewood, Dallas and Kansas City. Post-war recession made General Motors pull out, Kindelberger becoming Chairman and being replaced by Atwood. Move into light aircraft with Navion lost money (though aircraft itself was good, made by Ryan and others). FJ Fury, AJ Savage, B-45 Tornado and T-28 Trojan were all major programmes, but dwarfed by XP-86 (1 October 1947) which led to 6,933 F-86 Sabres plus 2,458 by licensees. Many Sabres were made at Government plant at Columbus, Ohio, which had been last home of Curtiss. New Columbus team produced Navy FJ-2/3/4 (AF-1) Furies, AJ-2 series and rebuilt T-6, while Inglewood produced F-100 Super Sabre (24 April 1953). Columbus built 359 of 2,294 F-100s, whilst developing XA3J Vigilante, packed with new technology (31 August 1958), leading to A-5A/B and RA-5C production versions. Columbus continued with T-2 Buckeye and OV-10 Bronco, but F-107, F-108 and XB-70 remained prototypes. NAA became leader in giant missiles and rockets, Rocketdyne division (1955) still having monopoly in biggest liquid-propellant engines. Inglewood produced X-15 aerospace-craft, and manager Harrison Storms went on to manage Apollo lunar programme. Kindelberger died in harness 1967 and on 22 September 1967 NAA merged with Rockwell-Standard of Pittsburgh (which among other things had taken over Aero Commander) to form North American Rockwell. In turn this was merged 16 February 1973 with Rockwell Manufacturing to form Rockwell International Corp.: see North American Aircraft (division of Rockwell International Corp.).

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