McDonnell Douglas is a registered trademark of Boeing. Twenty or thirty years ago, the very idea that these two companies could have a merger would have sounded ludicrous. For years, Boeing and MD were the two titans of aerospace in the United States, occasionally challenged by Lockheed or another third party.

But then again, MD was itself the result of a merger between the two companies of James McDonnell and Donald Douglas on April 28, 1967.

McDonnell Aircraft started operations in 1939. James McDonnell was an MIT graduate who had entered the Air Reserve through ROTC. After his commission expired, he tried to build an airplane, the Doodlebug, which crashed. After that, he shuffled around between Huff Deland (which evolved into Delta Air Lines) and Martin Aircraft (which is now part of LockMart) before starting his own company.

McDonnell made aircraft parts during World War II, and started selling whole airplanes to the military around the Korean War. They later received contracts for rockets and ballistic missiles, including the Mercury and Gemini capsules. Their most famous aircraft was the F-4 Phantom II.

Douglas Aircraft was founded by Brooklyn native Donald Douglas in 1920. Like McDonnell, Douglas was an alumnus of both MIT and Martin Aircraft. He started his company in Los Angeles, where his first contract was to build a biplane, the Cloudster, for a cross-country race. While the Cloudster never made it across the country, it proved Douglas's engineering prowess, and he was soon receiving government contracts for new planes.

The most famous Douglas aircraft are its early transports: the two-engined Douglas DC-1, DC-2, and the best-selling aircraft of all time, the Douglas DC-3. These DC-planes were followed by the four-engined Douglas DC-4, DC-6, and DC-7 after the war. Douglas also built the B-26 Invader and A-20 Havoc during the war, and produced the C-74 and C-124 Globemaster II transports afterwards. Their Douglas DC-8 and DC-9 airliners brought America into the jet age, and the Nike, Thor, and Delta missiles were an important part of the US's massive retaliation arsenal during the Cold War.

McDonnell Douglas built Douglas' last airliner, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. They produced the highly successful F-15 Eagle and F/A-18 Hornet aircraft in the 1970's, as well as the Harpoon anti-ship missile and the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile. They were also the main contractor behind Skylab.

In 1984, Hughes Helicopters was absorbed by MD, and the result was the deadly AH-64 Apache attack chopper. They continued to build jet transports, producing the C-17 Globemaster III, MD-11, and MD-90 aircraft.

Finally, in 1997, MD was absorbed by Boeing, and with the company came its contracts for the International Space Station, F-22 Raptor, Super Hornet, and Airborne Laser, all of which have since been developed and marketed by Boeing. The MD-90 became the Boeing 717, and was phased out of production. With the merger, McDonnell Douglas passed into aviation history.


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