McDonnell Aircraft Corporation
was an American aerospace
manufacturer based in St. Louis,
Missouri. The company was founded on
July 16, 1939 by James Smith
McDonnell, and was best known for
its military fighters, including the
F-4 Phantom II, and manned
spacecraft including the Mercury
capsule and Gemini capsule.
McDonnell Aircraft later merged with
the Douglas Aircraft Company to form
McDonnell Douglas in 1967.
McDonnell founded J.S. McDonnell &
Associates in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
in 1928 to produce a personal
aircraft for family use The
economic depression from 1929 ruined
his plans and the company collapsed.
He went to work for Glenn L. Martin.
He left in 1938 to try again with
his own firm, McDonnell Aircraft
Corporation, based near St. Louis,
Missouri, in 1939.
War II was a major boost to the new
company. It grew from 15 employees
in 1939 to 5,000 at the end the war
and became a significant aircraft
parts producer, and developed the
XP-67 Bat fighter prototype.
McDonnell also developed the LBD-1
McDonnell Aircraft suffered after
the war with an end of government
orders and a surplus of aircraft,
and heavily cut its workforce. The
advent of the Korean War helped push
McDonnell into a major military
fighter supply role.
McDonnell began developing jets when
they were invited to bid on a US
Navy contest and eventually building
the successful FH-1 Phantom in the
post-war era. The Phantom introduced
McDonnell's telltale design with
engines placed forward under the
fuselage and exiting just behind the
wing, a layout that would be used
successfully on the F2H Banshee, F3H
Demon, and the F-101 Voodoo. Dave
Lewis joined the company as Chief of
Aerodynamics in 1946. He led the
development of the legendary F-4
Phantom II in 1954, which was
introduced into service in 1960.
Executive Vice President in 1958,
and finally became President and
Chief Operating Officer in 1962.
Lewis went on the manage Douglas
Aircraft Division in 1967 after the
McDonnell Douglas merger. In 1969,
he returned to St. Louis as
President of McDonnell Douglas.
made a number of missiles, including
the pioneering Gargoyle and unusual
ADM-20 Quail, as well as
experimenting with hypersonic
flight, research that enabled them
to gain a substantial share of the
NASA projects Mercury and Gemini.
The company was now a major
employer, but was having problems.
With no civilian side of the
company, every peacetime downturn in
procurement led to lean times at
Aircraft and Douglas Aircraft began
to sound each other out about a
merger. Inquiries began in 1963;
Douglas offered bid invitations from
December 1966 and accepted that of
McDonnell. The two firms were
officially merged on April 28, 1967
as the McDonnell Douglas Corporation
(MDC). In 1967, with the merger of
McDonnell and Douglas Aircraft, Dave
Lewis, then president of McDonnell,
was named chairman of what was
called the Long Beach, Douglas
Aircraft Division. Lewis managed the
turnaround of the division.
Douglas would later merge with
Boeing in August 1997.
Boeing's defense and space division
is based in St. Louis, Missouri,
USA, and is responsible for defense
and space products and services.
McDonnell Douglas's legacy product
programs include the F-15 Eagle,
AV-8B Harrier II, F/A-18 Hornet and
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.