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John L. Atwood

Leading Aerospace

Industrial Executive

Born Walton, Kentucky

October 26, 1906 – March 5, 1999*

John Leland Atwood graduated from the University of Texas in 1928 with a degree in Civil Engineering. A prominent figure in the nation's aerospace industry for more than 40 years, he has made numerous important engineering and managerial contributions to the field, from the beginnings of commercial flight to man's conquest in space. Starting out as a junior airplane engineer with the Army Air Corps in 1928, Atwood later joined the Douglas Aircraft Company, as chief of structural design, he helped develop the DC-1, DC-2 and DC-3 family of commercial planes.

Joining North American Aviation in 1934 as chief engineer and vice president, Atwood was later elected president and chief executive officer of the aircraft company. At North American he personally originated the design concept of the P-51 Mustang Fighter which has been described as "the most perfect aerodynamic aircraft of World War II." Other aircraft designed under his leadership include the T-6 Texan Trainer, used by almost every Allied nation during World War II; the B-25 Billy Mitchell Bomber, which made the historic raid on Tokyo in 1942; the F-100 Super Sabre, the world's first operational supersonic fighter, the Hypersonic X-15 which set world altitude and speed records, the XB-70, the most advanced aircraft of its size ever built, and the B-1 Strategic Bomber Headed by Atwood, North American Aviation produced over 60,000 military aircraft.

In 1967, North American Aviation merged with the Rockwell Standard Corporation, naming Atwood president and chief executive officer of the newly formed North American Rockwell Corporation, now known as Rockwell International.

Again under Atwood's direction, his company produced significant contributions to the aerospace industry including: the Apollo command and service modules, which carried men to the moon nine times; the S-II second stage of the Saturn V lunar launch vehicle; the F-1 and J-2 rocket engines of Saturn V and the guidance and flight control systems for the Minuteman intercontinental missiles. In addition, Atwood has been instrumental in the development of the Space Shuttle.

Atwood retired from his position as president of Rockwell International in 1970, remaining on the board until 1977.  He maintained his interest in the aerospace industry and continued to be a valued consultant to the aircraft corporation until his death.

Invested 1984 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

From "These We Honor," The International Hall of Fame; The San Diego Aerospace Museum, San Diego, CA. 1984

* Mr. Atwood died at St.John's Hospital of Santa Monica, California at the age of 94 years.  He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering.


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