Post-War Developments: 1946-1956

The McDonnell Aircraft Corp. ... Rotorcraft

During the 1940s, James McDonnell became interested in helicopters. He bought a share in Platt-LePage Helicopters in 1942 and, a year later, formed a helicopter division within the McDonnell Aircraft Corp. The company developed the XHJD-1 Whirlaway, an experimental utility helicopter for the Navy. It first flew April 27, 1946.

The next McDonnell rotorcraft was the 12.5-foot-long XH-20 Little Henry, which first flew in 1947. Another ramjet-powered utility helicopter was the larger McDonnell Model 79 Big Henry, which first flew March 26, 1952. Both proved to be noisy and not very fuel efficient, so they were not produced past the prototype models.

The McDonnell Model 82 Convertiplane (a helicopter that converted to a 200-mph airplane) program started in 1952. It evolved into two prototypes, designated XV-1 (Experimental Vertical flight airplane No. 1) by the Army. Although the program was terminated in 1957, the XV-1 performed the first successful conversion from helicopter takeoff to conventional airplane flight.

While the McDonnell Phantom and other fighters established the company's reputation as an manufacturer of military aircraft, McDonnell made two small ventures into the commercial transport business. The first was building the McDonnell Model 220, a small four-engine jet that found no customers. The second was acquiring the rights to market the French-designed Breguet 941 STOL (short takeoff and landing) aircraft as the McDonnell Model 188. This aircraft also did not sell.

Previous narrative | Next narrative