Alexander Aircraft Company
|Predecessor||Alexander Film Company|
|Successor||Aircraft Mechanics, Inc|
|J. Don Alexander, S. Don Alexander|
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 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.
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.
|Model name||First flight||Number built||Type|
|Alexander Eaglerock||1925||893||Two seat biplane|
|Alexander Bullet||1929||12||Four seat low-wing monoplane|
|Alexander Flyabout D-1||1931||3||Two seat monoplane|
|Alexander Flyabout D-2||1931||15||Two seat monoplane|
None of the 12 Alexander Bullet monoplanes remains, but a Wyoming pilot named Mary Senft Hanson recreated an airframe, and flew it successfully in October 2006. Several Eaglerock aircraft survive, of the 893 built from 1926 to 1932. A 1926 OX-5-powered Model 24 Eaglerock Long Wing (NC2568) is on display at the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum, Pueblo, Colorado on loan from the Colorado Aviation Historical Society. Moved from the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, to Weisbrod Museum on 20 Sep 2013 and reassembled on 15 Oct 2013.
A 1930 Model A-14 Eaglerock (NC205Y), hangs at the west end of Concourse B of Denver International Airport. It was restored over a 25-year period by the Antique Airplane Association of Colorado. A 1929 Eaglerock is on display at the Science Spectrum in Lubbock, Texas.
A bucking bronco on the side of the fuselage.
- The Alexander Film Company was once the world's largest producer of theater film advertising. In today's movie theaters, theater film advertising is what is shown before the trailers which are shown before the featured film. While the Alexander Film Co. only made a whopping $2.50 its first year, the use of advertisements in local movie theaters quickly gained acceptance from theater owners and businesses nationwide. The use of theater advertising grew so rapidly in the early twenties that Alexander Film Co. decided to relocate to a larger studio in Englewood, Colorado in 1923 and then again in 1928 to an even larger lot in Colorado Springs. By the early 1950s Alexander was producing between 2000 to 3000 advertisement films a year and had a library covering over 8200 different subjects. In its heyday, Alexander Film Company's lot hosted 32 full size motion picture sets, modern film and audio laboratories, a sound recording department, an art department capable of creating cartoon animation, stop motion, backgrounds and other special movie effects, an engineering department and a full service print shop. To run this massive complex Alexander employed over 600 people locally and the annual payroll exceeded $2.5 million. A client list included a "who's who" of the nation's leading manufacturers including General Motors, Ford, U.S. Rubber, Philco, and Seven-Up. Regional offices were established in Dallas, New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The late 1950s saw the remarkable collapse of Alexander Film Co. through the advent of television and the closing of many local theaters throughout the country. What dealt the most crippling blow, however, was the fact that Alexander was a non-union shop which caused them to be "blacklisted" by industry professionals making it impossible for national advertisers to use Alexander produced commercials.
- Donald M. Pattillo. A History in the Making: 80 Turbulent Years in the American General Aviation Industry. p. 8.
- Southwest Aviator Magazine: Alexander Eaglerock Biplane, April/May 2000, Newberg, Ronald E.
- 1949 USGS "Colorado Springs 2.5 mi" map (depicted by Freeman)
- "A 1931 view of 3 biplanes in front of the Alexander Aircraft plant" (depicted by Freeman)
- "Alexander, Aircraft Mechanics". AEROFILES.com. July 11, 2006. Retrieved 2013-11-18.
B-1 1930 = Alexander's popular glider fitted with a Henderson motorcycle engine. POP: unknown, but one registered might be the only powered version of many gliders [602W] c/n 101.
- Tim Blevins (1 January 2011). "Aeronautics and Astronautics - Civil Aviation: Alexander to Maytag". Enterprise & Innovation in the Pikes Peak Region. Pikes Peak Library District. p. 184. ISBN 978-1-56735-302-0.
- MooneyEvents Website
- FAA registry
- "1928 Eaglerock (NC4648)". Museum of Flight. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alexander Aircraft Company.|
- Sketch of Alexander Aircraft Company manufacturing plant buildings
- Colorado Aviation Historical Society
- Alexander Eaglerock in the collection of the Seattle Museum of Flight
- Listing of Alexander model types, from Aerofiles.com
- Biography of J. Don Alexander
- The Bullet Project
- Al Mooney designs for Alexander Aircraft