The Early Years: 1927-1938

North American Aviation ... Moving to California

Like Donald Douglas, North American president "Dutch" Kindelberger preferred Southern California's year-round flying weather. Kindelberger was familiar with the climate since he had worked there for Douglas for 10 years.

In 1935, Kindelberger relocated all the North American Aviation machinery and its 75 employees from Dundalk, Md., to a 159,000-square-foot facility on 20 acres near the edge of the Los Angeles Municipal Airport in California. Rent was $600 a year.

Work on trainers and observation aircraft began in temporary manufacturing quarters while the original factory building at that location was expanded and remodeled. By the time the new premises were occupied in January 1936, there were 250 people on the payroll.

The trainers would become the "bread-and-butter" product for the fledgling company. The NA-16, a fixed-gear, two-place, low-wing monoplane, had won the trainer competition in 1934 and, on April 1, 1935, became the first North American model-numbered airplane to be flown. It evolved into the BT-9 (basic trainer) and was the predecessor of a series of trainers that continued in uninterrupted production for 25 years.

Kindelberger knew that North American Aviation would have the best chance of success if it concentrated on small, single-engined airplanes, rather than competing with manufacturers of large, multi-engined aircraft. The company also pursued overseas export contracts with other countries, including France, England, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

In 1939, the U.S. Navy ordered 40 trainers, and the French government ordered 460 NA-57 trainers, similar to the BT-9s. Like many American aircraft ordered by France at the onset of World War II, they could not be delivered to that country before it fell. They were diverted to the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940 under the designation Yale 1.

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