Post-War Developments: 1946-1956

The McDonnell Aircraft Corp. ... Computer-Assisted Design

McDonnell improved on the Phantom with the faster and larger F2H (F-2) Banshee and produced a total of 895 Banshees, which served during the Korean conflict. Banshees were followed by Demons; the first of 522 F3H (F-3) Demons rolled off the St. Louis production line in 1951. The Demon was the first carrier aircraft to fire air-to-air guided missiles while deployed at sea. The next McDonnell fighter was the F-101 Voodoo, which first flew Sept. 29, 1954, and was the fastest tactical fighter in service at the time.

Because new wartime technologies included breakthroughs in computer science to store and access information and to make quick mathematical computations, the McDonnell Aircraft Corp. started using punched-card equipment in 1941. By 1942, these forerunners of modern computers were being used at McDonnell in St. Louis for rapid calculation of engineering problems.

They installed the IBM card-programmed calculators (CPC) in 1950, the TEAC analog computer in 1951, and two IBM 701 computers -- the first commercially available electronic computers -- in 1953. Two years later McDonnell placed the largest order of the time for analog computers when it replaced CPCs with IBM 650s. Later installations included the Datatron 204 and the world's first EAI 131-R, and in 1957, the IBM 705/II started to process payroll and administrative programs.

The Phantom II, which first flew May 17, 1958, was designed during 1954 and 1955 with the aid of computers, manufactured with the aid of computers and "test flown" on computers. It was the first Navy tactical aircraft produced without an experimental prototype flight model.

In March 1960, the McDonnell Automation Center, later McAuto, was formed with 258 employees and $7 million worth of computers in the basement of the company's manufacturing plant in St. Louis.

Previous narrative | Next narrative