Douglas, Donald Wills

Douglas, Donald Wills, 1892–1981, aviation pioneer and aerospace executive, b. Brooklyn, N.Y., B.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1914. He helped design the first wind tunnel (1914–15) and the first U.S. Navy dirigible (1915) before joining the Glenn L. Martin Co. where, as chief engineer, he was in charge of building the MB-1 twin engine bomber for the U.S. Army. With David R. Davis, he formed (1920) the Davis-Douglas Co. which became (1921) the Douglas Co. after Davis left, and built torpedo bombers and the World Cruiser biplane, which completed the first round-the-world flight in 1924. The development of the DC-1 (1933) and then the DC-2 and DC-3 made the company a successful builder of civilian and military transport planes, and with the coming of World War II, production increased. After the war the company also built jet fighters, missiles, and rockets. He was company president until 1957, then chairman of the board until 1967, when he merged the company with the McDonnell Aircraft Corp. and retired. His son Donald Wills Douglas, Jr., 1917–2004, b. Washington, D.C., B.S. Stanford, 1938, became vice president of the company in 1951, succeeding his father as president in 1957. Advocate of jet propulsion for commercial uses, he shepherded the development of the DC-8 and DC-9 passenger jets, but the latter's costs forced a merger with McDonnell. He then served as vice president of McDonnell Douglas (1967–1974) and was involved in real estate development, banking, and energy.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Aviation: Biographies