Post-War Developments: 1946-1956

The McDonnell Aircraft Corp. ... Phantoms and Goblins

It is going to be extremely interesting in the 20 years to come. While continuing our work in aeronautics, we must also go into missiles and space, and it will be just as hard to do that as it was starting. ... But we will do it successfully.
-- James S. McDonnell

James McDonnell had a different type of adjustment after World War II ended. His was a small company that was primarily a supplier of airplane parts. McDonnell realized he would have to compete by risking more and going further. He was willing to build smaller airplanes that took advantage of new and untried technologies.

As a result, the McDonnell XFD-1, prototype for the FH-1 Phantom jet fighter, first flew Jan. 26, 1945. Its name dated back to McDonnell's Princeton days and his keen interest in the spirit world. On July 21, 1946, a Phantom became the first American jet to both take off and land on an aircraft carrier, the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The Phantom was the fastest Navy combat airplane to fly during World War II, and 62 were built. With it, McDonnell began a long association with the Navy as the prime supplier of carrier-borne jet fighters. That first FH-1 Phantom was the precursor of the F-4 Phantom II, made famous during the Vietnam conflict, and which could fly more than twice the speed of sound.

McDonnell continued to name his airplanes after mythical beings. The Phantom was followed by the experimental tiny XF-85 Goblin, a parasite fighter designed to be stowed aboard a bomber. It first flew in 1948, but test pilots found it hard to hook the Goblin in flight to the host bomber's trapeze during its "recovery" process. Only two were built.

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