Most of us have heard of three of the four legendary aerospace pioneers – William Boeing of Boeing, Donald Douglas and James McDonnell of McDonnell Douglas.
The fourth legendary pioneer in aviation and aerospace is a man most have not heard of – Dutch Kindelberger of North American Aviation.
James H. “Dutch” Kindelberger was born May 8, 1895 in Wheeling, West Virginia.
In World War I, Dutch became a member of the US Army Air Service.
North American Aviation
By 1930, Dutch was a young engineer at Douglas working on the DC-1 and DC-2 transport aircrafts.
He left Douglas in 1934 to join the manufacturing division of North American Aviation, where he joined with Lee Atwood to become a unique American industrial team.
Dutch Kindelberger rose to be President of North American his first year with the company. Dutch was an extrovert, and a ‘pile-driver’ of a man. Atwood, in contrast, was quieter, serving as the companies Chief Engineer.
When the two men arrived at North American in 1934, the company had one passenger aircraft on order.
Dutch managed to get a $1 million order for BT-9 aircraft.
Then Britain asked North American to build P-40 fighters.
Dutch told them he could make a better design than that and completed the prototype of the legendary P-51 Mustang in four months.
42,000 P-51 Mustang aircraft were built by the company by the end of World War II.
Soon, Dutch concluded there would be a need for improved rocket engines based on those developed by the Germans for their V-2 rocket.
Dutch and Atwood decided in 1946 to invest in a rocket engine test facility in Santa Susana, California, and a supersonic wind tunnel at Los Angeles International Airport.
This paid off when North American landed the contract to develop the Navaho, a rocket-boosted intercontinental cruise missile.
Navaho allowed North American to develop expertise in rocket engines, inertial navigation systems, and supersonic aerodynamics.
Then in 1948, Dutch became chairman and chief executive officer of North American, with Lee Atwood replacing him as president.
North American went on to secure contracts for many advanced aerospace vehicles in the late 1950s – the X-15 manned hypersonic spaceplane, the Hound Dog missile, and the XB-70 Valkyrie triple-sonic bomber.
One report on Dutch Kindelberger’s contribution at North American Aviation:
“Under his guidance, North American Aviation broke technological barriers; produced propeller- and jet-powered fighters and bombers, military trainers, rocket engines, and rocket-powered aircraft; and began its role as the prime spacecraft contractor for the country’s Apollo program.
Dutch Kindelberger retired as CEO in 1960, however remained chairman of the board.
Between the years 1935 and 1967, North American Aviation (under Dutch’s direction) built more military aircraft than any other airplane manufacturer in U.S. history.
James H. “Dutch” Kindelberger died July 27, 1962.
In 1977, Dutch was inducted into The International Aerospace Hall of Fame.
In 2006, Dutch Kindelberger was honored in a documentary by filmmaker William Winship titled “Pioneers in Aviation: The Race to the Moon.”
This documentary profiled four legendary aerospace pioneers–William Boeing, Donald Douglas, James McDonnell and Dutch Kindelberger, whose achievements led our nation and the world from an era of open-cockpit biplanes to the very threshold of Space.
Now We know em