Alexander Aircraft Company

The Alexander Aircraft Company was an aircraft manufacturer in Colorado in 1925.

The company began life as the Alexander Film Company[a] that specialized in film advertising, and the younger J. Don Alexander decided that his salesmen could sell more film advertising if they had airplanes. He wrote to plane manufacturers around the country asking for a price on a lot of 50 planes. But the builders, who were happy to get an order for one craft in those days, thought his letter was the work of a crackpot. It went into the wastebasket. This angered Alexander. He decided to build his own planes. He moved his operation to Englewood, Colorado and set up the aircraft company. He sent Justin McInaney to Marshall, Missouri (then a center of aviation manufacturing) to buy a plane and learn to fly. Justin’s instructor was the great Ben O. Howard, who later became famous as a plane racer and test pilot. Justin soloed after only ten hours of instruction. He bought a Swallow airplane for $2,300 and proceeded to fly back to Denver. That trip involved so many forced landings and other aerial adventures that he ended it almost an overnight veteran. Justin began teaching other men to fly, among them Vern Simmons; O.R. Ted Haueter (past vice president of Continental Airlines); Ray Shrader (past vice president of Braniff Airlines); Red Mosier (past vice president of American Airlines); Jack Frye (past president of TWA); plane designer Al Mooney. As the national sales manager, Justin helped build the firm to the top producer in the United States (eight planes a day, just before the depression). Originally headquartered in Englewood, the film-turned-aircraft company was forced to move to Colorado Springs in order to expand.

West of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and the Monument Valley Highway (now Interstate 25), the aircraft company had an El Paso County manufacturing plant between Pikeview and Roswell[3] in 1931. The company went bankrupt in August 1932 and was acquired by Aircraft Mechanics Inc., founded by W F Theis and Proctor W Nichols, in April 1937. It produced World War II Douglas Aircraft Company components, US Air Force ejection seats, and Space Shuttle crew seats.

Aircraft

The company built a number of successful versions of the Alexander Eaglerock biplane. These planes were especially popular with barnstormers. (Test pilot Tony LeVier took his first flying lesson from a barnstormer in an Eaglerock in 1928.) They were also used for carrying airmail, aerial photography, crop dusting, and air racing.

For a brief period from 1928 to 1929, Alexander was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, and more aircraft were built in Colorado than anywhere else in the world. In the early 1930s, the firm built a revolutionary new plane—the forerunner of modern aircraft, with low wing and retractable gear—called the “Bullet”. Several of them crashed in the testing process because the government insisted that the unspinnable plane be tail-spun. The plane later was certificated, though, and became famous in racing and civil aviation. The depression and losses suffered in the Bullet program forced the aircraft firm to fold in the mid-1930s. Alexander would also be known for starting the career of Al Mooney, the founder of Mooney Aircraft, a general aircraft manufacturer that continues in operation in Kerrville, Texas.