Edgar Schmued

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Edgar O. (Ed) Schmued
Edgar Schmued (photo).jpg
Edgar Schmued (photo: c. 1940s)
Born 30 December 1899 (1899-12-30)
Hornbach, Germany
Died 1 June 1985 (1985-07) (aged 85)
Oceanside, California
Occupation Designer, North American Aviation

Edgar O. (Ed) Schmued (Schmüd), German-American aircraft designer (1899–1985) was famed for his design of the iconic North American P-51 Mustang and, later, the North American F-86 Sabre while at North American Aviation. He later worked on other aircraft designs as an aviation consultant.

Early life[edit]

Edgar Schmued was born in Hornbach, Germany, 30 December 1899. At age eight, he first saw an airplane in flight and decided that aviation was to be his life's work. Edgar embarked early on a rigorous program of self-study to become an engineer, and later served an apprenticeship in a small engine factory. He also designed several innovative engine components for which he received patents. In his spare time, he continued the self-study of aviation. Schmued left his native Bavaria for Brazil in 1925, seven years after World War I had shattered the German economy. His experience in Germany led to employment with the General Aviation, the air branch of General Motors Corporation in Brazil. In 1931, he was sponsored to come to the United States through his excellent work for General Motors in Brazil (immigration rules were extremely strict at that time - he was one of 794 people admitted in the quota) and went straight to work for Fokker Aircraft Corporation of America, which was an aircraft company that was owned by General Motors and based in New Jersey.There he began his career as an aircraft design engineer. General Motors later sold its air arm and it became the forerunner of North American Aviation.

Aviation engineer[edit]

The talented and inventive Schmued, by now a citizen of the United States, was employed by North American Aviation (NAA) in Dundalk, Maryland. In 1935, North American was relocated to Los Angeles, California, from General Motors. When his wife Luisa proved reluctant to relocate from the east coast, Schmued joined Bellanca but his time there was short-lived. While traveling to California to work again for North American, the Schmueds' car was involved in a head-on collision on Route 60. His wife was killed, while Schmued was seriously injured.

North American Aviation[edit]

After recovery, Schmued went to work for "Dutch" Kindelberger in early 1936 as a preliminary design engineer. He was involved in the XB-21 (designing the front turret), creating the NA-50 single-engine fighter for Peru then going on to design work on the NA-62 (later the B-25 Mitchell). Schmued would later became Chief of Preliminary Design.[1]

The NA-35 (later Vega 35) is shown at NAA's facility, with Edgar Schmued standing at the right.

During his long tenure at NAA, Schmued contributed greatly to the design of many airplanes. By far his most famous design was the highly successful P-51 Mustang of World War II. The legend began with NAA's President, "Dutch" Kindelberger asking, "Ed, do we want to build P-40s here?" Schmued had been long awaiting a question like this. His answer would begin the design process, "Well, Dutch, don't let us build an obsolete airplane, let's build a new one. We can design and build a better one." [2] His adaptation of the then new laminar flow wing and other innovations made the P-51 performance outstanding in all respects and its flying qualities superb. This aircraft was still winning races and setting speed records for piston engine-powered airplanes decades after its production had ended. Although he was renowned as a workaholic at North American, Schmued undertook the design of the Morrow Victory Trainer in 1941 on an independent contract; it was dubbed the "Mini-Mustang" because of its close resemblance to the P-51.[3]

An urban legend has grown up about Edgar Schmued, possibly related to his German origins, claiming he had once worked for Willy Messerschmitt and that the Mustang was heavily influenced by the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Neither claim is true but the urban legend persists.[4] Just as familiar is the notion that the abortive Curtiss XP-46 was the basis of the P-51 design.[5]

Schmued was employed by North American Aviation, later a division of the Rockwell International Corporation, for 22 years. During his tenure, Schmued also designed the F-82 and, the other iconic NAA designs, the F-86 Sabre and F-100 Super Sabre.

Later years[edit]

After leaving North American, he spent five years as an aircraft designer for the Northrop Corporation, where he helped design the F-5 and the T-38.

Edgar Schmued died at Oceanside, California, on 1 June 1985.

Any damned fool can criticize, but it takes a genius to design it in the first place.
— Edgar Schmued, Chief Designer North American Aviation, [6]
Special US Commemorative Cover issued 1991


Edgar Schmued was inducted 14 September 1991 into the International Aerospace Hall of Fame.



  1. ^ Bloom 2007. p. 16.
  2. ^ Fowles, Curtis."NA-73X ... The Beginning: the aircraft that changed the course of a war..." The North American P-51 Mustang. Retrieved: 25 March 2007.
  3. ^ Bloom 2007. p. 16–18.
  4. ^ Haentjens, Christophe. "Mustang I." crazyhorseap, 2007 . Retrieved: April 27, 2012.
  5. ^ Baugher, Joe. "North American NA-73." aerofiles.com. Retrieved: April 27, 2012.
  6. ^ "Great Aviation Quotes." skygod.com. Retrieved: 29 July 2011.


  • Bloom, Scott. "Edgar's Mini-Mustang." Mustangs: North American Aviation's P-51: Past, Present & Future, Warbirds International, Summer 2007.
  • Wagner, Raymond. Mustang Designer: Edgar Schmued and the P-51. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2000. ISBN 1-56098-994-7.

External links[edit]