The Beginnings: 1903-1926

The Davis Douglas Co. ... Fledgling Flight

You've got a real cloud duster, Doug.
-- Test pilot Eric Springer, so naming The Cloudster

Donald Wills Douglas was 11 years old when the Wright brothers made their first powered flight. He was 19 when he left the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., to take aeronautical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Douglas completed the four-year program in two and, in 1915, went to work for Glenn Martin at his company's Los Angeles headquarters.

During World War I, Douglas served a term as chief civilian aeronautical engineer for the Army Signal Corps Aviation Section and then returned to Martin, now relocated in Cleveland, Ohio. During this time, Douglas designed the Martin MB-1 bomber that first flew Aug. 17, 1918.

Donald Douglas started manufacturing airplanes in January 1920, when he left chilly Cleveland for balmy California, determined to make it on his own. He had only $600 and a family to support. Fortunately, he found financial backing from wealthy David R. Davis, who had $40,000 to back an aircraft manufacturing company, provided it built an airplane that would make the first nonstop, coast-to-coast flight.

The Davis Douglas Co. set up shop first in the back room of a Pico Boulevard barber shop and then in a 3,600-square-foot loft above a Los Angeles planing mill. Helped by a staff of five former employees of the Glenn Martin Co., Douglas designed and built the Cloudster, which first flew Feb. 24, 1921.

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