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On December 17, 1903, Americans Wilbur and Orville Wright made first powered flight.
The study of aeronautics had begun at @MIT in 1896 mechanical engineering student Albert J. Wells built a thirty-square-inch wind tunnel as part of his thesis.
C. Fayette Taylor was professor of mechanical engineering and director of @MIT ’s Sloan Laboratory for Aircraft and Automotive Engines, funded by General Motors. Earlier in his career, Taylor had been the engineer in charge of the US Army’s Air Service Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio
While there, Taylor met Orville Wright and before joining MIT he oversaw aircraft engine design at the Wright Aeronautical Corporation. He was heavily involved in developing the air-cooled ‘Whirlwind’ engine used on Charles Lindbergh’s historic transatlantic flight.
Just ahead of the Depression, Curtiss – which under its owner Glenn Curtiss had long been the largest manufacturer of aircraft in the US – had merged with the Wright Corporation to form the Curtiss-Wright Corporation.
The goal of the Curtiss-Wright merger was to create the General Motors of the sky; in effect a vertically integrated aviation company. The business built and operated aircraft as well as running flight schools under one holding company.
American aviation industry had become dynamic and efficient in adapting to the harsh times of the Depression. The removal of the airmail postal subsidy from the airlines had forced efficiency and cost saving into manufacturing.
Airlines and plane makers struggled for profitability in the Depression. Many firms had gone bankrupt. The surviving plane manufacturers now produced, efficiently and cheaply, large numbers of high quality, reliable planes for their customers in the civil aviation industry.
The simplicity of design and the manufacturing process helped reduce costs, as did using as many high-quality parts as possible. On top of this, mechanisation of the factory floor raised productivity levels. Factories in the US were becoming assembly centres
Interchangeable parts sourced from a supply chain were rapidly put together. Curtiss-Wright assembled engines from parts sourced from ten separate suppliers. The airlines received fast, reliable planes with long ranges, allowing them to turn a profit.
Travellers could always choose to use the train or drive if they had concerns about cost, safety or punctuality. But for speed, nothing could beat the plane if you wanted lunch in Chicago and dinner in New York
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