Business & Finance: Comeback at El Segundo

When jovial, ruddy-faced, six-foot Donald Perell Smith suddenly quit as Vultee Aircraft general manager in 1938, airport wiseacres said his luck had run out, figured he was through with aviation for good. Yet last week Don Smith was playing his biggest role ever: president and spark plug of California's Interstate Aircraft & Engineering Corp.—a smart, fast-growing aviation concern which has produced a plane so good the whole aviation industry is buzzing.

Borrow $80,000. Only a few months after he left his swanky Vultee office, Don Smith got a strange offer: take charge of Interstate Aircraft, a year-old, struggling parts maker with no...

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