Donald W. Douglas
1892 - 1981
Pioneer Aircraft Designer And Manufacturer
Inducted in 2000
Donald Willis Douglas, native of Brooklyn, New York, contributed to the nation’s aeronautical safety and progress as a designer and manufacturer of military and commercial aircraft. In 1936 he opened the era of mass airline travel with the introduction of the DC-3, the first passenger airliner that made flying comfortable and practical.
Douglas became interested in aviation when he witnessed Orville Wright’s flights in the Army’s bi-plane at Fort Myer, Virginia. He transferred from the United States Naval Academy to Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he graduated in 1914 with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering. He served as a civilian aeronautical engineer with the U.S. Army in 1915 and later became chief engineer of the Glen L. Martin Company.
In 1920, Douglas formed the Douglas Aircraft Company in Los Angeles, which manufactured private, commercial, and military aircraft. In 1924 the company established its reputation when the Douglas World Cruisers made the first flight around the world. In the 1930s, he developed the "DC" series of commercial aircraft transports, receiving the 1935 Collier Trophy for his DC-2 airliner. The famous Douglas DC-3 became the world's most widely used airliner, and by 1941, his aircraft flew 95 percent of the airliner passenger miles in the United States. Some 15,000 DC-3s were manufactured.