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The Jet Makers

The Aerospace Industry from 1945 to 1972

• Title
• Introduction
• Preface
• Acknowledgements

• I: World War II: Aviation Comes of Age
• II: The Aerospace Industry since World War II: A Brief History
• III: The National Military Strategy: Background for the Government Markets
• IV: The Principal Government Market: The United States Air Force
• V: The Other Government Markets: The Aerospace Navy, the Air Army, and NASA
• VI: Fashions in Government Procurement
• VII: The Heartbreak Market: Airliners
• VIII: Design or Die: The Supreme Technological Industry
• IX: Production: The Payoff
• X: Diversification: The Hedge for Survival
• XI: Costs: Into the Stratosphere
• XII: Finance and Management
• XIII: Entry into the Aerospace Industry
• XIV: Exit from the Aerospace Industry
• XV: The Influence of the Jet Engine on the Industry

• Notes
• Acronyms
• Annotated Bibliography


This volume presents the history of the American jet aircraft manufacturing industry from World War II to 1972, documenting the evolution of its technology and covering the intricacies of its management, economics, and relations with the government. A valuable contribution to general aviation history, it also provides a unique opportunity to study the dynamics of a major U.S. industry.

Charles D. Bright traces the momentous revolution of the aerospace era from birth to maturity, using as a base the jet aircraft industry. He investigates all significant aspects: the coming-of-age of aviation during World War II, including global transportation and aerodynamics; the development of jets and missiles from the Truman era to the Vietnam War; the controlling influence of national military strategy; the U.S. Air Force and other government markets; the mechanics of government procurement-bidding, pricing, buying; difficulties in the commercial airliner business; the ordering of technology and the prevailing “design or die” philosophy; and different systems of production through the years.

Special attention is given to major problems such as the industry's need for diversification and the skyrocketing costs that threaten to make aerospace products uneconomical. The conventional economic concerns of entry into and exit from the industry are treated in depth.

Bright focuses on the overall economic pattern, from the first demand for aerospace machines for military, space, and commercial uses to the failures of recent times as the industry entered recession and peacetime equilibrium. He tells of the desperate competition among giants of the industry, those companies on the frontiers of technology that manufactured fixed wing aircraft of their own design. This is the group that bore the brunt of adaptation to the jet age: Boeing, Curtiss-Wright, Douglas, Fairchild, General Dynamics, Grumman, Lockheed, Martin, McDonnell, North American, Northrop, and Republic.

Central to the story are the reasons for America's leadership in the jet age: enterprising business managers, scientists, and engineers; the pressure of economics; and manifold competition brought on by the cold war. Bright points to an industry that has responded to incredible demands and that has shown the strength to weather storms.

This volume is illustrated with fifty-five photographs depicting the growth in aircraft technology from 1945 to 1972. As a unique blend of aeronautic, economic, business, and military history, it will fascinate not only those connected with aviation and the aerospace industry, but also those interested in the history of technology, business management, and government-military-business relations.

The Jet Makers received Honorable Mention in the 1977 History Manuscript Award competition of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Dr. Charles D. Bright, photo by Howard Stephens

Charles D. Bright has flown the F-47, F-51, F-84, F-86, B-17, B-25, B-26, C-46, C-47, and T-33, and has been a member of fighter, fighter-bomber, fighter-interceptor, heavy bombardment, light bombardment, and troop carrier units. He served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force; in World War II he was a navigator in B-17s and in the Korean War he was a fighter-bomber pilot. He has also been an instructor pilot in fighter weaponry, and has taught aerospace studies.

Bright received the B.S. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the M.B.A. from Harvard University, and the Ph.D. in history from Kansas State University. He is currently associate professor of business administration at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas.