Post-War Developments: 1946-1956

Boeing Airplane Co. ...The Dawn of an Era

Paths open for the future are paths of opportunity for the aggressive, capable company in the aerospace field, offering multiple choices of endeavor ... The years ahead promise to be at least as challenging and revolutionary as those through which we have come.
-- William Allen

The years immediately following the end of World War II rocked with change. The military canceled its bomber orders; Boeing factories shut down and 70,000 people lost their jobs. The same day the plants closed, attorney William M. Allen, somewhat hesitantly, took over as company president.

Model 377 Stratocruiser lower-deck loungeAllen promised to start hiring people back as soon as airlines ordered the Stratocruiser, a luxurious commercial airliner version of the company's four-engine troop C-97 transport, which first flew in 1944.

Boeing also expanded its product base beyond military aircraft by becoming a major producer of small turbine engines during the 1950s and 1960s, including the Model 502 gas turbine engine. The company built 2,461 engines before production ceased in April 1968.

Work still continued on the B-50 bomber, although the Army had cut its initial order of 200 down to 60. Boeing Wichita produced the L-15 Scout liaison-observation aircraft, which first flew in 1947.

Unfortunately, the elegant Stratocruiser was not the hoped-for financial breakthrough. What contributed most to the company coffers was adapting the C-97 air freighter as a propeller-powered troop carrier and as the KC-97, an aerial tanker.

At the same time the light of a new science glimmered on the horizon as U.S. aerospace industry benefited from "Operation Paperclip," which sent masses of scientific data, tons of unused missiles and several hundred scientists from Germany to the United States, once World War II ended.

Boeing began to build its Ground-to-Air-Pilotless Aircraft (GAPA), while North American began the Navaho missile project. Douglas started the Corporal and Nike missile programs. Convair began building the Atlas. These propulsion system developments took humans closer to space travel, although the prime objectives at the time were defense of the planet, rather than trips away from it.

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