Aerospace: McDonnell's Second Stage

When James Smith McDonnell decided in 1939 at the age of 40 to start his own planemaking company, scoffers told him he was foolish because the aircraft industry was "overcrowded." He quit as chief project engineer for the Martin Co. and, with $135,000 in loans and a satchel full of his designs, opened his own twelve-man shop at the St. Louis airport. Today McDonnell Aircraft Corp., maker of a celebrated string of fighter planes and the Mercury and Gemini space capsules, is worth $149 million. In the sharply competitive aerospace business, where losses come easily, McDonnell's profits have increased for...

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