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AERO COMMANDER

At the end of World War II America was eager to use aviation as a business tool. Recognizing that need was Oklahoma City contractor and aviation enthusiast Rufus T. Amis, Jr. In 1950 he and aeronautical engineer George Thompson Pew established the Aero Design & Engineering Company of Bethany, Oklahoma. Their goal was to manufacture an airplane with twin-engine safety, superior comfort, and a cruise speed in the two-hundred-miles-per-hour class.

In May 1951 the prototype Aero Commander took off from Wiley Post Airport to deliver certification documents to Washington, D.C. To demonstrate aircraft safety, one of the propellers was removed for the 1,140-mile flight. The first production aircraft was rolled out that year, and by 1955 more than 250 had been produced at the company's factory, located near Tulakes Airport (now Wiley Post Airport). In 1955 Pres. Dwight Eisenhower personally selected the Aero Commander as his intermediate-range transport, and the U.S. Air Force purchased fourteen additional planes. In 1958 the company reported having conducted $12 million in transactions. In that year, Time magazine assessed Aero Commander as a "fast-rising newcomer" comparable to Cessna, Beech, and Piper.

In mid-1958 Aero Design and Engineering Company merged with Rockwell Standard Corporation. Under the umbrella of Rockwell International and Gulfstream Aerospace, a long series of reciprocating, turbo-prop, and jet corporate aircraft have since been produced under the Aero Commander name. The company also produced a series of single-engine personal and aerial application aircraft (crop dusters), including a turbo-prop version. NASA astronaut-trainee Geraldyn (Jerrie) Cobb and World War II ace Bob Hoover were test pilots for the company in its early years.

SEE ALSO: AVIATION MANUFACTURING, MANUFACTURING, OKLAHOMA ECONOMY, TRANSPORTATION.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Aero Design Rise Saluted," Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 13 February 1958. Gaston Litton, History of Oklahoma at the Golden Anniversary of Statehood (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1957). "Nine Share Aero's Tenth Anniversary," Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 18 December 1960. Keith Tolman, et al., The Oklahoma Aviation Story (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 2004).

Keith Tolman

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