Aerospace Legacy Foundation

Your portal to America's aerospace history

Aerospace Legacy Foundation (ALF) is a community based non-profit organization (501c3) including aerospace retirees and the public at large. Preserving Southern California's Aerospace and Aviation History including Downey's aerospace legacy.

North American Aviation

North American Rockwell        Rockwell International


North American Aviation logo

naa logo sandstone epsNewsFinal2_360x460.jpg

Rockwell International. Image- ALF Archive


The beginning of North American Aviation is tied to the hip of a man named James Howard “Dutch” Kindelberger

“He started working as a steel-mill laborer in Wheeling, West Virginia, where he was born in 1895, and where his parents still reside. His father was a molder. Dutch quit high school in his second year to earn five dollars for a, six-day week. He studied correspondence-school lessons at night, taught himself mechanical engineering, and became a civilian draftsman for the United States Army Corps of Engineers. By the age of twenty-one he had crammed enough homework to pass entrance examinations for the Carnegie Institute of Technology.

Dutch Kindelberger paid his own way, nursing $300 he had saved, and quieting appetite with buttermilk at five cents a glass; soda crackers were free. He left Carnegie after a year. His $300 was intact, and he had a buttermilk thirst which is not quenched yet.

During the first World War he rose from private to lieutenant, learned to fly in the Signal Corps, and became an instructor. He was not outstanding as an aviator. A month after Armistice Day, 1918, he landed a job as draftsman in Glenn L. Martin's aircraft plant in Cleveland. His boss there was the chief engineer, Donald W. Douglas.

Dutch eked out a $27.50 pay check by teaching night classes in aviation, processing photos in his bathroom, drafting freelance for inventors, and writing how-to-do-it pieces for a scientific magazine. By 1920 he had risen to assistant chief designer for Martin. Don Douglas resigned to found the Douglas Aircraft Company in Los Angeles. Dutch was invited to go along, but he postponed the move five years. "Had to save up the railroad fare," he says.

He helped Douglas pack up. Technical publications covering the entire science of aeronautics fitted into two small cartons. Nowadays two cartons wouldn't hold the bibliography; the Air Force is shrinking mountains of technical literature with micro printing and microfilm. Excerpt from The Saturday Evening Post- Merchant of Speed February 19, 1949.

Aviation Hall of Fame- Dutch Kindelberger


North American Aviation leadership: Ray Rice, Lee Atwood , Andy Lambeth, Stan Smithson and James Howard "Dutch" Kindelberger.

"Up to the year 1930, I could carry in my head practically all you had to know," Kindelberger says. "Now we have subdivided specialties. We have people who work on flutter - nothing but flutter. We have six kinds of aerodynamicists, including internal aerodynamicists, who study air's behavior in the ducts of jet engines. If an internal aerodynamicist bungles, your airplane is a cluck."

Kindelberger was newly settled in his job with Martin, after the Armistice, when an order for 1000 bombers was slashed to ten. He saw skilled mechanics playing volleyball on an empty assembly floor. While the industry languished, the armed forces designed and built planes themselves, which Dutch describes as "boiler-plate 
monstrosities." Foreign planes got so much better than ours that a law was passed to squelch Army-Navy whittling and encourage private bidding for contracts. Everybody got a little work. Aviation shares rode the stock-market boom of the late '20's.

"There were three hundred factories by 1929," Kindelberger recalls, "including those where you had to shove the cow aside to see the airplane."

Investors paid more than $300,000, - 000 for pieces of paper embellished with pictures of airplanes. A good half of the money was wasted, but the balance financed a revolution in design. Wood and fabric gave way to steel and aluminum. Exposed struts and wires vanished. Ships brought forth by Boeing, Northrop and Lockheed had the New Look. Donald Douglas unveiled the first of his great family of DC air liners. Engineering on the DC-1 and DC-2 was supervised by Dutch Kindelberger, who joined Douglas in 1925. He stayed there nine years before going to North American.

North American Aviation, Inc., was formed as a holding company in 1928, a year of easy money and grandiose ideas. Its rival combines were United Aircraft and Aviation Corporation. These three engorged most of the airlines and aviation industries in the country. General Motors soon controlled North American, which held in its turn a score of airline, airframe, engine and instrument corporations, some of which had devoured smaller firms.

In 1934 Congress told the boys to break it up, slightly. The name" North American" was salvaged and applied to a moribund grouping of airframe enterprises. Dutch Kindelberger signed up as president. He detached Lee Atwood from Douglas' engineering department to serve as vice-president. They left sunny California, went to humid Maryland and viewed the remains. North American was a gloomy building near Baltimore, enclosing the skeleton of an outmoded trimotor transport.

 Excerpt from The Saturday Evening Post- Merchant of Speed February 19, 1949

Lee Atwood, Dutch Kindelberger and Stan Smithson.

Just a note-

The Aerospace Legacy Foundation is not affiliated with North American Aviation or Rockwell International. Boeing purchased the assets of each company (read here). ALF has no company records related to employees of these companies previously mentioned.

North American Aviation Begins- Dundalk, Maryland

"The facilities in Dundalk would prove inadequate for the production of modern aircraft, and Kindelberger persuaded the board and a number of employees to move to Southern California, where they’d have year-round flying weather. A site near Inglewood at Los Angeles Municipal Airport (Mines Field) was selected, and on Jan. 1, 1936, a modern plant was opened". More here...

North American Aviation plant in Dundalk, Maryland.

The Early Days

"Incorporated on Dec. 6, 1928, North American Aviation’s formation followed the founding of the Boeing Company in 1916 and Douglas Aircraft in 1921. For its first few years, North American operated as a holding company, owning parts of many other aviation firms, including Douglas and General Aviation Manufacturing Corp. in Dundalk, Maryland.

In 1934, federal antitrust legislation required that the company give up its holdings in other aircraft companies. At that point, under engineer Dutch Kindelberger and designers Lee Atwater and J.S. Smithson, North American became an aviation manufacturer, moving into General Aviation’s plant at Dundalk.

Its stay there would be temporary. After the company won its first airplane contract for 42 NA-16 trainers in 1935, Kindelberger began moving North American’s manufacturing operations west. He built temporary quarters in El Segundo near the southeast corner of Los Angeles Municipal Airport, more than a decade before it became Los Angeles International Airport. The company rented 20 acres there for $600 a month. A permanent factory was finished on the site and occupied in January 1936, with 250 employees.

The NA-16 trainer, the first U.S. military plane to have an official model number, which would evolve into the BT-9 and then the AT-6 Texan, became an important aircraft in the training of American and British pilots. The company focused on such smaller planes at first, choosing not to compete with larger operations which could produce bigger, multi-engine planes.

These trainers became essential with the outbreak of World War II and the resultant need to train thousands of men quickly to become pilots. By the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, North American’s employment had risen to 23,000 people, and it was producing more than 300 aircraft per month." More here...

North American Aviation Board of Directors in 1938.

NA-25 airplanes over North American Aviation factory May 1939

Above- NAA Skyline back cover section, July 1940

Above- NAA Skyline back cover section, July 1940

World War II

The North American P-51D-5-NA Mustang

"The BC-1 of 1937 was North American's first combat aircraft; it was based on the GA-16. In 1940, like other manufacturers, North American started gearing up for war, opening factories in Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Texas, and Kansas City, Kansas. North American ranked eleventh among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts.

B-25 Mitchell bomber production line at the North American Aviation plant, Inglewood, California, October 1942. The plane's outer wings have yet to be added, which enables the two side-by-side assembly lines to be closer together. The outer wings will be attached outdoors, in the "sunshine" assembly line.

North American's follow-on to the BT-9 was the T-6 Texan trainer, of which 17,000 were built, making it the most widely used trainer ever. The twin-engine B-25 Mitchell bomber achieved fame in the Doolittle Raid and was used in all combat theaters of operation. The P-51 Mustang was initially produced for Britain as an alternative to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, which North American had declined to produce under license. The derivative A-36 Apache was developed as a ground attack aircraft and dive bomber. A suggestion by the RAF that North American switch the P-51's powerplant from its original Allison engine to the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine may have been one of the most significant events in WWII aviation, as it transformed the P-51 into what many consider to be the best American fighter of the war." Wiki


1942 Production Photos- North American Aviation

From The Library of Congress

Slideshow Above- The War years at North American Aviation


Post-war years

"Post-war, North American's employment dropped from a high of 91,000 to 5,000 in 1946. On V-J Day, North American had orders from the U.S. government for 8,000 aircraft. A few months later, that had dropped to 24.

Two years later in 1948, General Motors divested NAA as a public company. Nevertheless, NAA continued with new designs, including the T-28 Trojan trainer and attack aircraft, the odd-looking F-82 Twin Mustang, B-45 Tornado jet bomber, the FJ Furyfighter, AJ Savage, the revolutionary XB-70 Valkyrie Mach-3 strategic bomber, Shrike Commander, and T-39 Sabrelinerbusiness jet.

The Columbus, Ohio division of North American Aviation was instrumental in the exclusive development and production of the A-5 Vigilante, an advanced high speed bomber that would see significant use as a naval reconnaissance aircraft during the Vietnam War, the OV-10 Bronco, the first aircraft specifically designed for forward air control (FAC), and counter-insurgency (COIN) duties, and the T-2 Buckeye Naval trainer, which would serve from the late 1950's until 2008 and be flown in training by virtually every Naval Aviator and Naval Flight Officer in the US Navy and US Marine Corps for four decades. The Buckeye's name would be an acknowledgment to the state tree of Ohio, as well as the mascot of Ohio State University.

The North American F-86 Sabre started out as a redesigned Fury and achieved fame shooting down MiGs in the Korean War. Over 9,000 F-86s were produced. Its successor, the North American F-100 Super Sabre, was also popular.

Some 6,656 F-86s were produced in the United States, the most postwar military aircraft in the West, as well as another 2,500 elsewhere. To accommodate its Sabre production, North American opened facilities in a former Curtiss-Wright plant in Columbus, Ohio. It also moved into a former Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft plant at Downey, California, and in 1948, built a new plant at Downey. By the end of 1952, North American sales topped $315 million. Employment at the Columbus plant grew from 1,600 in 1950 to 18,000 in 1952.

The cancellation of the F-107 and F-108 programs in the late 1950s, as well as the cancellation of the Navaho intercontinental cruise missile program, was a blow to North American from which it never fully recovered." Wiki

North American Aviation-

The Merchants of Speed (PDF)


North American Aviation Company building, ca.1960

Photograph of North American Aviation Company building, ca.1960. Image- California Historical Society/ USC.

Nuclear development

Atomics International was a division of North American Aviation which began as the Atomic Energy Research Department at the Downey plant in 1948. In 1955, the department was renamed Atomics International and engaged principally in the early development of nuclear technology and nuclear reactors for both commercial and government applications. Atomics International was responsible for a number of accomplishments relating to nuclear energy: design, construction and operation of the first nuclear reactor in California (a small aqueous homogeneous reactor located at the NAA Downey plant), the first nuclear reactor to produce power for a commercial power grid in the United States (the Sodium Reactor Experiment located at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory) and the first nuclear reactor launched into outer space by the United States (the SNAP-10A). As overall interest in nuclear power declined, Atomics International transitioned to non-nuclear energy-related projects such as coal gasification and gradually ceased designing and testing nuclear reactors. Atomics International was eventually merged with the Rocketdyne division in 1978.

Navigation and guidance, radar, and data systems

Autonetics began in 1945 at North American's Technical Research Laboratory, a small unit in the Los Angeles Division's engineering department based in Downey, California. The evolution of the Navaho missile program resulted in the establishment of Autonetics as a separate division of North American Aviation in 1955, first located in Downey, later moving to Anaheim, California in 1963. The division was involved in the development of guidance systems for the Minuteman ballistic missile system.

Space program

The North American Apollo spacecraft being prepared for the Apollo 7 mission

In 1955, the rocket engine operations were spun off into a separate division as Rocketdyne. This division furnished engines for the Redstone, Jupiter, Thor, Delta, and Atlas missiles, and for NASA's Saturn family of launch vehicles.

North American designed and built the airframe for the X-15, a rocket-powered aircraft that first flew in 1959.

In 1959, North American built the first of several Little Joe boosters used to test the launch escape system for the Project Mercury spacecraft. In 1960, the new CEO Lee Atwood decided to focus on the space program, and the company became the prime contractor for the Apollo Command/Service Module, a larger Little Joe II rocket to test Apollo's launch escape system, and the S-II second stage of the Saturn V.

Merger and acquisition

The fatal Apollo 1 fire in January 1967 was partly blamed on the company. In March, it merged with Rockwell-Standard, and the merged company became known as North American Rockwell. Within two years the new company was studying concepts for the Space Shuttle, and won the orbiter contract in 1972. In 1973, the company changed its name again to Rockwell International and named its aircraft division North American Aircraft Operations.

The North American Rockwell Space Shuttle orbiter Atlantis landing at Kennedy Space Center

Rockwell International's defense and space divisions (including the North American Aviation divisions Autonetics and Rocketdyne) were sold to Boeing in December 1996. Initially called Boeing North American, these groups were integrated with Boeing's Defense division. Rocketdyne was eventually sold by Boeing to UTC Pratt & Whitney in 2005. UTC later sold Rocketdyne to Aerojet (GenCorp) in 2013." Wiki

North American P-51 Mustang

"First designed for the British as a medium-altitude fighter, the Mustang excelled in hedge-hopping strafing runs and long-range escort duty. It made a name for itself by blasting trains, ships and enemy installations in Western Europe and by devastating Axis defenses before the Allied invasion of Italy. The Mustang was the first single-engine plane based in Britain to penetrate Germany, first to reach Berlin, first to go with the heavy bombers over the Ploiesti oil fields in Romania, and first to make a major-scale, all-fighter sweep specifically to hunt down the dwindling Luftwaffe.

One of the highest honors accorded to the Mustang was its rating in 1944 by the Truman Senate War Investigating Committee as “the most aerodynamically perfect pursuit plane in existence.” The North American prototype, NA-73X, was first flown on Oct. 25, 1940. At least eight versions of the Mustang were produced". More here from Boeing... P-51 Wallpaper here...

North American Aviation factory in Inglewood, CA.

North American Aviation headquarters in Inglewood/ El Segundo c1960. Automobiles can be seen in a crowded parking lot int he foreground at left, and another parking lot is visible across the street in the background. In the background at right, Douglas Skyray fighter planes can be seen lined up at an airport. Photo from North American Aviation Inc. public relations library. Image- USC Digital.

The North American F-86 Sabre was one of the greatest fighter aircraft of all time. More here...

F-86 Sabre

"The third production F-86A-1 ("P" for "Pursuit" had been superseded by "F" for "Fighter" in 1947) equipped with a new J47-GE-13 engine of 5,200 pounds thrust (23.12 kN), set a world’s speed record of 671 mph (1,080 km/h) on September 1, 1948. The Sabre was armed with six .50-caliber M-3 machine guns in the nose, just aft of the jet intake. Target acquisition was aided by a new radar assisted gunsight. It required the pilot hold the cross hairs on his target for just one second. From then till the target was obliterated, the pilot was free of the complicated problem of adjusting for the target's range during the heat of combat". U.S. production of the Sabre Jet ended in December 1956. Aviation History


"North American Aviation (NAA) was a major American aerospace manufacturer, responsible for a number of historic aircraft, including the T-6 Texan trainer, the P-51 Mustang fighter, the B-25 Mitchell bomber, the F-86 Sabre jet fighter, the X-15 rocket plane, and the XB-70, as well as Apollo Command and Service Module, the second stage of the Saturn V rocket, the Space Shuttle orbiter and the B-1 Lancer. Through a series of mergers and sales, North American Aviation became part of North American Rockwell, which later became Rockwell International and is now part of Boeing." Wikipedia

North American Aviation Test Pilots with F-86 Sabre jets.

North American Aviation Downey Plant

Photograph of female workers leaving the North American Aviation plant in Downey. North American Aviation's Downey Plant is supplied by (left to right) Marion Burgman, Wilma McDonnell and Chari Sewell, company employees. Image- USC Digital Archive

Starting in 1951, North American’s Downey plant also began developing and producing rocket engines for Atlas, Thor and Jupiter missiles during the 1950s, as well as the early Redstone boosters that would later be used for the first Mercury space flights. It formed a separate company, Rocketdyne, in Canoga Park, to produce rocket engines. North American’s Rocketdyne unit later would produce rocket engines that would power the Gemini and Apollo space programs, including the second stage rocket of the massive Saturn V that launched the Apollo 11 moon landing.

In September 1967, North American merged with the Rockwell Standard Corp. to become North American Rockwell Corp. In July 1972, it won the $2.6 billion contract to develop the space shuttle at the Downey plant. In February 1973, the company officially was renamed Rockwell International Corporation." More here...

North American Aviation Space Division in Downey

April 27th 1961 aerial view of North American Aviation in Downey.

North American Aviation Stationary- ALF Archive

North American's Downey plant became known as the "Space Division", or "SI&D"

The Hound Dog, originally designated B-77, was re-designated GAM-77 and then became the AGM-28. Lined up on runway at North American Aviation in Downey. Before Apollo, North American in Downey was churning out missiles, forerunners to modern day cruise missiles.

Above- Article from the Long Beach Independent Wed Sep 251957.

This is a photograph of Dr. Wernher von Braun, taken in 1961, visiting North American Aviation's Space and Information Systems Division in Downey, California.

This is a photograph of Dr. von Braun, taken in 1961, visiting North American Aviation's Space and Information Systems Division in Downey, California. Dr. Harrison Storms to Wernher von Braun's left was President of NAA Space Division in Downey.

Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom and other members of the first Apollo crew inspect spacecraft equipment during a visit to North American Aviation. NORTH AMERICAN AVIATION, INC., DOWNEY, CA (June 24, 1966).

Dr. Harrison Storms and Dr. Wernher von Braun discuss the space program at North American Aviation in Downey, CA.

Above- Los Angeles Times Fri Feb 6 1953 .

North American Aviation Space Division Downey Plant

Astronaut David Scott in thermal meteoroid garment with Portable Life Support Systems PLSS during docking review. North American Aviation Inc. Downey plant, 1967. Image- NASA/Boeing

Command Module is shown at Downey during construction in April, 1966. North American technicians discuss their work. Image- Boeing.

Above- Daily Press Sun Apr 8 1962 .

Courtesy- Rolling Hills Herald

"Harrison A. Storms, Jr., (1915-1992) helped design Apollo spacecraft and many other aerospace vehicles. A former executive of Rockwell International and its predecessor company, North American Aviation, Storms made contributions to over 40 aircraft and space vehicles. "              Air & Space

Queen Elizabeth II looks inside the Apollo 14 command module that visited the Moon in February 1971, during her tour of Rockwell International plant on Monday, Feb. 28, 1983 in Downey, Calif. Image- LA Times

Queen Elizabeth greets onlookers at Rockwell International in Downey guided by George Jeffs, her security detail and other Rockwell executives in 1983.

Rockwell International- A new name for North American Aviation

"In order to meet President Kennedy's challenge to land a man on the moon before 1970, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) contracted North American to build the three-passenger Apollo space capsule. On January 27, 1967, a flash fire swept through a manned Apollo capsule during a ground test. Killed in the accident were Virgil Grissom, Edward White II, and Roger Chaffee. The astronauts' widows each received $350,000 in a legal settlement, but North American was still harshly criticized. Despite the fact that most of its business involved government contracts, the company suffered severe financial reverses which threatened it with bankruptcy. Within two months of the accident, North American Aviation was a prime candidate for a takeover.

Rockwell-Standard made a $922 million bid for North American Aviation in March of 1967. Rockwell was established in Wisconsin in 1919 as a manufacturer of truck axles. At the time of the bid, Rockwell was primarily a manufacturer of industrial machinery and light and heavy vehicle parts.

Under the terms of the merger, J.L. Atwood, president and chief executive officer of North American, would assume the same duties at the new company, while Colonel Willard Rockwell, of Rockwell-Standard, would serve as chairperson. The merger was delayed for a few months by the Justice Department, which argued that the merger would be anti-competitive. The problems were finally resolved and the smaller Rockwell, with sales of $636 million, took over North American, with sales of $2.37 billion.

Atwood said the merger was "in furtherance of North American's previously announced objective to diversify its activities into the commercial and industrial sector." What the company management really wanted was to improve its public image. Its association with the Apollo space capsule tragedy was never forgotten. The merger with the Rockwell company would recover the reputation of integrity that management thought North American deserved. It was clear that Colonel Rockwell would be firmly in charge of the new company, which was called North American Rockwell.

Rockwell's role in the U.S. space program continued, but the company maintained a low profile. It spent much of its first years after the merger manufacturing car and truck parts, printing presses, tools, industrial sewing machines, and electronic instruments for flight and navigation. The company devoted much of its resources to the development of space systems, including the enormous Saturn V rocket engines, which launched later Apollo missions to the moon. Later, the company was chosen as the primary contractor for NASA's space shuttles. During this time, it also became NASA's largest contractor, a position it continued to hold into the 1990s. In 1973, the company changed its name to Rockwell International when it was merged with another separate company created by Willard Rockwell Jr., the Rockwell Manufacturing Company." Source- Reference for Business

North American Rockwell Space Division in Downey.

North American Rockwell Space Division in Downey.

North American Rockwell Space Division in Downey.

North American Rockwell (Rockwell International) in the 1970's, Downey, California. Lakewood Blvd. upper left, Imperial Hwy. in the middle.

More here about the Downey plant, home of Apollo , the Space Shuttle and much more- Read Cradle of the Cosmic Age





North American Aviation - a man named "Dutch"

Leadership- Loyalty -Innovation

Image- North American Aviation Bald Eagles/ James K. Graham

"James Howard “Dutch” Kindelberger started out at the Glen L. Martin Company in Cleveland before moving to Douglas Aircraft in California, as vice president and chief engineer. In 1934, while immersed on the DC-1 and DC-2 airliner programs, an opportunity arose to head up North American Aviation (NAA), which was then part of General Aviation Corp. in Dundalk, Maryland. Dutch accepted the off er to become president of the Dundalk-based subsidiary, and wisely took along a few top engineers including Lee Atwood and Stan Smithson. However, aviation sales moved slowly in the east, and Dutch decided to move NAA to Southern California to pursue new business and benefi t from year-round good fl ying weather. It was 1935, and an automobile caravan moved the small NAA group cross-country to Inglewood, California, near Mines Field (now LAX). Th ey were the hearts and brains of a new era of aviation. Today, the “Bald Eagles” organization represents the spirit and memory of this original group. By January 1936, there were 159,000 square feet of fl oor space occupied by 150 employees at the new Inglewood plant. Soon, hundreds of BT-9 trainers and O-47 observation planes would be rolling out the door. In addition, the venerable NAA T-6 Texan for the Army Air Corps, and the Naval variant SNJ, went on to train more U.S. and Allied pilots than any other aircraft produced during WWII". Courtesy- Jim Albaugh, Winter 2006, NAA Bald Eagles Newsletter.

Kindelberger together with General James Doolittle at the Inglewood plant in 1942.

Remembering The Acorn Days


"James Howard “Dutch” Kindelberger, chief engineer of the DC-1 program at Douglas Aircraft, was named to head the new company (North American). He brought along two fellow Douglas designers, J.S. “Stan” Smithson and John Leland “Lee” Atwood, who 30 years later would succeed Kindelberger as leader of North American Aviation".

North American Aviation Columbus, Ohio facility. Image- Paul McCormick/ Bald Eagles. More here-

Aerojet / Rocketdyne

North American Aviation/ Rockwell Rocketdyne facility in Canoga Park, CA. Image- Vince Wheelock/ Bald Eagles

"Rocketdyne was an American rocket engine design and production company headquartered in Canoga Park, located in the western San Fernando Valley of suburban Los Angeles, in southern California.

The Rocketdyne Division was founded by North American Aviation (NAA) in 1955, and was later part of Rockwell International (1967-1996) and Boeing (1996-2005). In 2005, the Rocketdyne Division was sold to United Technologies Corporation, becoming Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne as part of Pratt & Whitney. In 2013, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne was sold to GenCorp, which merged it with Aerojet to form Aerojet Rocketdyne." Wikiprdia


A Century of Growth Through Innovation


J-2 engines for the Saturn IB Saturn V launch vehicles are lined up in the assembly area at Rocketdyne's manufacturing plant in Canoga Park, California.

This is the new headquarters building of Rocketdyne, located in Canoga Park, which won the annual Community Award of Los Angeles Beautiful yesterday. Image- LAPL

Rocket fuel tank being welded for Rocketdyne in Canoga Park, April 3, 1958


"Autonetics originated in North American Aviation's Technical Research Laboratory, a small unit in the Los Angeles Division's engineering department in 1945. In 1946, the laboratory won an Army Air Force contract to develop a 175- to-500-mile-range glide missile. The work and the lab expanded, so that by June 1948, all of the Aerophysics Laboratory was consolidated at Downey, Calif. The evolution of the Navaho missile program then resulted in the establishment of Autonetics as a separate division of North American Aviation in 1955, first located in Anaheim, Calif.

Autonetics included the Navigation Systems division, designing and producing inertial and stellar-inertial navigation systems for ships, submarines, missiles, aircraft and space vehicles. Other products included alignment devices and attitude reference systems for missile launchers, artillery, orientation, land survey, aircraft and missile-range ships.

The Autonetics Data Systems division developed data-processing systems, general-purpose digital computers, ground support equipment, control systems and telemetry systems. The Electro Sensor Systems division built multi-function radar systems, armament control computers, data and information display systems for high performance aircraft, and sensor equipment.

Autonetics built a portable office computer and ranging radar for trainers and fighters and was responsible for the guidance and control system for the Boeing-built Minuteman missiles. The division ultimately produced the Monica family of microcomputers and the D37B Minuteman II computer, in which microminiaturization reduced weight by two-thirds.

Milestones also included the first airplane flight of an inertial autonavigator (XN-1) in 1950 and the first flight of an all-solid-state computer (for the Navaho guidance system) in 1955." More here...

Photograph of an exterior view of the headquarters of Autonetics, a division of North American Aviation, Incorporated, ca.1955. Downey, CA.

The Los Angeles Times, January 15, 1956. Downey Autonetics building in Downey.

Aerial view of Autonetics Division of North American Aviation Inc., (later Rockwell International and then Boeing North American), located at 3370 Miraloma Avenue, Anaheim, was established in 1957; image shows Autonetics buildings and parking lots on Miraloma Avenue (horizontal, center); Carbon Canyon Diversion Channel runs diagonally down to left foreground; snow-covered Sierra Madre Mountains visible in background.

Autonetics in Anaheim, CA


The North American Way

Lee Atwood and James Kindelberger ("Dutch"), leader of North American Aviation

North American Aviation Board of Directors in 1954

Above- "The O-47 observation monoplane began as Model GA-15 because it was on drawing board in 1934 when General Aviation Manufacturing Corp. evolved into North American Aviation. The single-engine, mid-wing observation monoplane was developed to meet U.S. Army Air Corps requirements and made its first flight designated XO-47. It was of all-metal construction and had retractable landing gear.

The subsequent production model O-47s were built with the North American Aviation designation of NA-25 at the Inglewood, Calif., plant. The O-47As were powered by a 975-horsepower engine, while the subsequent O-47Bs carried more fuel and were powered by a 1,060-horsepower engine. In the O-47, the observer was stationed in a special compartment in the lower fuselage, giving the airplane a swollen appearance." Boeing


NA-98X Super Strafer

North American Aviation NA-98X Super Strafer

North American Aviation NA-98X Super Strafer

Above- In 1943, North American Aviation (NAA) created an internal design for an improved attack bomber that would provide the firepower of the B-25H but with substantially improved performance. This evolution of the B-25 line was intended as an alternative to the heavily-armed and delayed Douglas A-26B Invader. Power was to be provided by a pair of Pratt & Whitney R-2800 air-cooled radial engines housed inside low-drag cowlings and driving a pair of cuffed, four-blade propellers with spinners. The empennage was changed to a conventional single-tail, altering one of the B-25’s most notable characteristics. The wing tips were square-cut like a P-51’s, rather than rounded, permitting the ailerons to be extended farther outboard to provide better roll control. Armament improvements were to include a computing gun sight and a new low-drag canopy designed by North American for the top turret. A compensating sight was to be used in the tail turret and illuminated reflector optical sights for the waist guns. Otherwise, the aircraft had the same armament as the B-25H, including the 75mm cannon. By William Pearce

Kindelberger together with General James Doolittle at the Inglewood plant in 1942. Image- Life Magazine

"After the successful raid on Tokyo and other cities in Japan, Brig. Gen. Doolittle returned to the United States. On June 1, 1942, he visited the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, California. This was the plant that had manufactured the aircraft that he and 79 other brave individuals flew during the raid. By now, most people were aware that 80 brave men flying 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers attacked various targets in Japan. Doolittle was seen as a hero, and this visit would be no different". Read more here...

North American Aviation F-86 Sabre, General Doolittle and Dutch Kindelberger

Colonel Jimmy Doolittle and Dutch Kindelberger, pioneers in aviation 1942. Image- Winship

Above- "General James Harold “Jimmy” Doolittle (1896-1993) was a pioneering pilot, aeronautical engineer, combat leader and military strategist whose career stretched from World War I to the height of the Cold War. He is most famous for leading a daring bombing raid over Tokyo in 1942, the first American attack on the Japanese mainland. Doolittle’s 16 planes dropped their bombs and then, lacking fuel to return to their carrier, flew on to crash-land in China and the Soviet Union." History .com

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Remembering a remarkable man- James Howard "Dutch" Kindelberger

A most influential man with friends in high places...

Kindelberger shows General Whitehead - Airplanes and Rockets

Photograph of General Eaker, Clark Clifford, and Dutch Kindelberger, attending a banquet, circa 1940s-1950s. Image- UNLV

Above- Clark McAdams Clifford was an American lawyer who served as an important political adviser to Democratic Presidents Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter. Wiki

Above- View of President Dwight D. Eisenhower (third from left) at the presentation of the 1953 Collier (Robert J.) Trophy. Recipient James H. "Dutch" Kindelberger can be seen to Eisenhower's left, holding a model of the North American F-100 Super Sabre (Sabre 45) and recipient Edward H. Heinemann can be seen at far right holding a model of the Douglas F4D (F-6) Skyray. Image- Smithsonian

Shown above are Secretary of Army Wilbur M. Brucker and members of his party as they arrived at North American's Propulsion Field Laboratory in Chatsworth to watch engine test stand firing. From left are, Courtney Johnson, deputy assistant secretary for logistics; Dr. William Martin, director research and development; Secretary Brucker; Don Belding, president of Airport Commissioners; J. H. Kindelberger, chairman of board for North American aviation; Lt. Col. T. R. Cook, secretary's aide, and A. T. Burton, a North American vice president." August, 1957. Image- LAPL

Above- June 5, 1959 reads, Dr. Chauncey Starr, second from right, vice president of North American Aviation and general manager of Atomics International accepts safety award. Lee Atwood, second from left.

Above- Mr. and Mrs. "Dutch" Kindelberger with Vice President Nixon and his wife and Lee Atwood. 1958

Above- General Twining, 16 December 1952. General Nathan F. Twining; Dutch Kindelberger (President, North American Aviation) Woodruff de Silva (Airport Manager); Robert Grover; Robert A. Crigler. Image- USC Digital



P-51 Mustang

North American Aviation originally designed the Mustang in response to a British specification (440 mpg, six 50-caliber machine guns).  They agreed to produce the first prototype only 4 months after signing the contract in April 1940. By the end of 1941 North American had delivered the first Mustang to England for test flights. These first Mustangs were powered by the Allison V-1710 engine, a good engine, but one which didn’t operate well at high altitudes.

In April, 1942, a British test pilot, Ronald Harker, flew the Mustang and was very impressed by it. He suggested that the new plane would be a natural fit with the Rolls Royce Merlin 60-series engine, well-suited to high altitudes. At the prodding of Major Thomas Hitchcock, the Americans began working along the same lines (using the Packard license-built version of the Merlin), and the first Merlin-equipped Mustang, the P-51B, flew in November, 1942. The results were impressive, to say the least. At 30,000 feet, the improved Mustang reached 440 MPH, almost 100 MPH faster than the Allison-equipped Mustang at that altitude. Source- Ace Pilots

Jim Raeder /

"The Mustang was the first single-engine plane based in Britain to penetrate Germany, first to reach Berlin, and first to make a major-scale, all-fighter sweep specifically to hunt down the dwindling Luftwaffe. The P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 60 series two-stage two-speed supercharged engine, and armed with six .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns. The most obvious change was a new "bubble-top" canopy that greatly improved the pilot's vision." Source- Swayne Martin

The P-51D with the Rolls Royce 1650-7-1221 specs :

·         500 -1000 mile range with drop tanks

·         1490 horsepower at takeoff

·         438 mph – maximum speed at level flight

·         10,800 pounds gross weight

·         90 gallons of fuel in each wing

·         60 gallons per hour fuel burn (per hour average)

·         16,776 P-51 Mustangs produced in a variety of models.

It cost $50,000 to produce a P-51 in 1944. That equals about $673,000 in today’s dollars.

Source- WarHistoryOnline


NAA P-51A at Inglewood plant

P-51 Mustang during wind tunnel testing at North American Aviation, ca., 1939.

Lt Felix Kozaczka 363rd Fighter Group on P-51B Mustang

Robert Goebel flew Mustangs with the 31st Fighter Group, based at San Severo, Italy, in the MTO (Mediterranean Theater of Operations). Like Bud Anderson, he had flown P-39s earlier on. At San Severo in Spring 1944, he got his first crack at the P-51:

"We soon found out that the P-51 Mustang was indeed a different breed of airplane. It was fast, for one thing. ... The P-51 was red-lined at 505 and, though it was no Spitfire, its turning ability wasn't bad at all - especially if you sneaked down 10 degrees of flaps. It was pretty good in the climbing department too, and accelerated very fast in a dive. But the thing that really set the Mustang apart from any other fighter, friend or foe, was its range. With a 75-gallon tank slung under each wing, it could perform the unheard-of: It could fly six-hour missions."

The last United States military use of the P-51 was in 1968, when the U.S. Army employed a vintage P-51D as a chase aircraft for the Lockheed YAH-56 Cheyenne armed helicopter project. More here-

"Physically, it was pleasing to the eye and looked fast, even sitting on the ground. Power was provided by a V-1650 Rolls-Royce Merlin engine built under license in the States by Packard, the luxury automobile company. The V-1650 was a fine engine and could be taken up to 61 inches of manifold pressure at 3,000 RPM for take-off or, if needed in combat, 67 inches for up to five minutes in Emergency Power. Normally aspirated engines tended to run out of power as altitude increased, usually between 15,000 and 20,000 feet."

Pilot Robert Goebel

Dutch and P-51 Mustang, $51,000 each. Image- "Warbird Factory" by John Fredrickson

St. Louis Post Dispatch Sunday July 12, 1942.

" Mr. North American Dies." Arizona Republic, Sat., July 28, 1962.


North American Aviation Missile and Rocket Power Development

The North American X-15 was a hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of the X-plane series of experimental aircraft.  Wiki

North American Aviation X-15 delta wing concept.

"The North American X-15 rocket-powered research aircraft bridged the gap between manned flight within the atmosphere and manned flight beyond the atmosphere into space. After completing its initial test flights in 1959, the X-15 became the first winged aircraft to attain velocities of Mach 4, 5, and 6 (four, five, and six times the speed of sound). Because of its high-speed capability, the X-15 had to be designed to withstand aerodynamic temperatures on the order of 1,200 degrees F.; as a result, the aircraft was fabricated using a special high-strength nickel alloy named Inconel X. "  Smithsonian Air & Space

X-15 No. 1 is surrounded by admiring guests at the rollout ceremony

X-15 Poster- PDF


X-10 Navaho

North American Aviation X-10 on runway. "The North American X-10 was an unmanned technology demonstrator, developed by North American Aviation. It was a subscale reusable design that included many of the design features of the SM-64 Navaho missile". Wiki.

"In 1946, North American began the development of a long-range supersonic surface-to-surface cruise missile. This development effort eventually led to the SM-64 Navaho (q.v. for further details) design, and included a test vehicle to verify the basic aerodynamic and systems design of the Navaho. The test vehicle was ordered as RTV-A-5 in 1950, but was re-designated as X-10 in 1951. The first flight of an X-10 occurred in October 1953. The X-10 was powered by two Westinghouse XJ40 (later J40) turbojet engines, and took off and landed on a conventional runway. Its all-moving canard and delta-wing configuration was that of the planned SM-64 Navaho cruise stage.

The X-10 was equipped with an autopilot for automatic stable flight, and controlled by a radio-command guidance system with an AN/ARW-56 on-board receiver and an AN/ARW-55 transmitter in the ground control station. An AN/APW-11 radar transponder was carried for tracking of the vehicle by the ground control radar. Later X-10 vehicles were also equipped with an N-6 inertial navigation system, which was planned for use by the forthcoming SM-64. The X-10 was a very high performance aircraft, and was for a short time actually the fastest turbojet-powered aircraft flown, reaching Mach 2.05". More here...


Hound Dog

Hound Dog Missiles 10-3-63. More here by Mike Pickett

AGM-28A Hound Dog

"The Hound Dog [the Air Force lifted the name from the title of an Elvis Presley hit song  ] was designed as a long range, stand-off air-to-ground strategic missile. It was carried in pairs beneath the wings of B-52 aircraft. The overall mission of the Hound Dog was to aid B-52s in successfully carrying out the strategic bombing offensive. This would be accomplished by providing a means of attacking and destroying heavily defended enemy targets without subjecting the B-52 fleet to unacceptable loss levels, and by assisting bombers in penetrating enemy targets by attacking and destroying segments of the enemy's air defense system.

The Hound Dog missile program began on 15 March 1956 when Headquarters Air Force issued a General Operations Requirement (GOR 148) for an air-to-surface missile to be carried on the B-52 strategic manned bomber. In August 1957, Secretary of the Air Force James H. Douglas telephoned J. H. Kindelberger of North American Aviation to tell him that his company had won the development contract. And on 16 October 1958, Headquarters USAF awarded a Hound Dog production contract to North American Aviation, Inc." More here... 

AMMS Alumni Website- The Authority on the Hound Dog PDF

Birth of the Hound Dog (Missile) By Ellis Katz PDF

"I joined the Missile Division of North American Aviation in Downey in May 1955 and was assigned to the Preliminary Design Section headed by Bill Parker. Reporting to Bill were Bob Wilson for Design and Bernie Chew for Operational Analysis. My background at the time was aerodynamics and missile design. I was identified as a Responsible Engineer under Gordon Olson and George Jeffs. As an RE, I was to lead teams on projects to which I was assigned. On July 13, 1957, the North American Navaho program was abruptly canceled. The cancellation was a result of the successes of the Atlas ballistic missile program. The Navaho, a 3,000-mile ramjet cruise missile, was deemed as not competitive for the prescribed mission. Ironically, much of the success of the Atlas could be directly traced to the technology developed for the Navaho. Only weeks after the cancellation, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force invited North American to come up with a design for a “lightweight air-to-surface missile”. It was to be carried by the B-52 bomber with a weight of not more than 12,500 lb fully fueled and armed. We were told it was a “hurry-up” project and that the concept had to be back in Washington within a week." More here from Ellis Katz - Birth of the Hound Dog



XB-70 Valkyrie

North American Aviation's XB-70-Valkyrie

"To achieve Mach 3 performance, the B-70 was designed to "ride" its own shock wave, much as a surfer rides an ocean wave. The resulting shape used a delta wing on a slab-sided fuselage that contained the six jet engines that powered the aircraft. The outer wing panels were hinged. During take off, landing, and subsonic flight, they remained in the horizontal position. This feature increased the amount of lift produced, improving the lift-to-drag ratio. Once the aircraft was supersonic, the wing panels would be hinged downward. Changing the position of the wing panels reduced the drag caused by the wingtips interacted with the inlet shock wave. The repositioned wingtips also reduced the area behind the airplane's center of gravity, which reduced trim drag. The downturned outer panels also provided more vertical surface to improve directional stability at high Mach numbers. Attached to the delta was a long, thin forward fuselage. Behind the cockpit were two large canards, which acted as control surfaces." NASA. More here...

Historic maiden flight of North American Aviation's XB-70 Valkyrie. Redlands Daily Facts Mon. Sep. 21, 1964

North American's XB-70 "The Great White Bird" 

The B-70 Valkyrie, with a planned cruise speed of Mach 3 and operating altitude of 70,000 feet, was to be the ultimate high-altitude, high-speed manned strategic bomber

"The XB-70A number 1 (62-001) made its first flight from Palmdale to Edwards Air Force Base, CA, on Sept. 21, 1964. Tests of the XB-70's airworthiness occurred throughout 1964 and 1965 by North American and Air Force test pilots. The Flight Research Center prepared its instrument package. Although intended to cruise at Mach 3, the first XB-70 was found to have poor directional stability above Mach 2.5, and only made a single flight above Mach 3. Despite the problems, the early flights provided data on a number of issues facing SST designers. These included aircraft noise, operational problems, control system design, comparison of wind tunnel predictions with actual flight data, and high-altitude, clear-air turbulence." NASA. More here...

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