Higher, Faster, Further: 1970-1996

McDonnell Douglas Corp. ... VTOL and Harriers

McDonnell's earlier work with helicopters had led to exploring vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, starting with the Air Force Experimental XV-1. Called "Convertiplane," the XV-1 used stub wings and a pusher propeller for forward thrust to augment vertical lift from the main rotor. The XV-1 made its first in-flight conversion from helicopter to aircraft in April 1954 and was the first rotorcraft to fly more than 200 mph.

During the 1960s, another VTOL aircraft was the more conventional McDonnell Model 120 helicopter, a ship-to-shore flying crane for the U.S. Marine Corps. In 1967, McDonnell produced Model 188, a four-engine turboprop short takeoff and landing (STOL) transport. All were too expensive to be successful.

McDonnell Douglas expanded its interests in rotorcraft on Jan. 6, 1984, when it bought Hughes Helicopters Inc., producer of the popular OH-6 Cayuse, Model 369. The commercial version of the Cayuse was the Hughes 500, which became the MD 500 series, although many of these were developed as armed military export "Defender" helicopters. After Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, it sold the MD 500 program to MD Helicopters, Inc.

Hughes Helicopters also built the powerful Apache attack helicopter, which first flew on Sept. 30, 1975, as the YAH-64. The first production model AH-64A flew Jan. 9, 1984, at Mesa, Ariz., and was accepted by the U.S. Army, Jan. 26, 1984.

In 1969 McDonnell Douglas partnered with British aircraft maker Hawker Siddeley and the U.S. Marine Corps to begin work on the AV-8B Harrier II, based on the original Royal Air Force GR. Mk. 1 Harrier. This unique VTOL "jump jet" proved itself as a ground-support attack bomber. Production of U.S.-built Harriers began in 1981. The Harrier II evolved into the radar-equipped AV-8B Harrier II Plus, which made its first flight in 1992. Production of both versions ended in 2003 with the delivery of the 509th aircraft.

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