The Beginnings: 1903-1926

The Douglas Co. ... Military Plane Maker

By the mid-1920s, Douglas was a major manufacturer of military airplanes. Versions of the Douglas biplane were flown by commercial users and by the Army and the Navy to carry mail, for aerial observation, as attack airplanes, as seaplanes and as transports. Donald Douglas hired several key people, including engineer Edward H. Heinemann, who would go on to design many innovative aircraft; James Howard "Dutch" Kindelberger, who later would run North American Aviation; and John K. "Jack" Northrop, who would build one of the earliest "flying wings."

In addition to the Douglas World Cruiser, other variants of the DT included 276 observation biplanes. Douglas built the U.S. Army Aviation Service O-2 first, and the basic series remained in production for almost nine years. Douglas also used the DT as the basis for the 26 C-1 military transports, which could carry six to eight passengers as well as cargo. The C-1 was one of the world's first aerial tankers and one of the first aeromedical evacuation aircraft.

Douglas sold 59 mail planes derived from the DT, including the Douglas M-2, which was one of the first aircraft to fly U.S. commercial airmail. Western Air Express flew the M-2 from 1926 to 1930 on its Los Angeles-to-Salt Lake City, Utah, airmail route, sometimes carrying passengers willing to pay $90 to share the breezy, forward open cockpit with mail bags on the six-hour flight.

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