During the Summer of 2007, Red Bull North America contacted Jon Rimanelli and requested a proposal from the City of Detroit to host the Red Bull Air Races over the Detroit River. During the research phase of the proposal, Mr. Rimanelli learned of Detroit’s extensive aviation history, which included the world’s largest aviation holding company, Detroit Aircraft Corp., which was founded in 1922 by Edsel Ford, William Stout, and other industry leaders. Inspired by Detroit’s aviation history, the vision to return aircraft manufacturing to the City of Detroit was firmly planted with the Red Bull Air Race decision to restore air racing along the banks of the Detroit River in 2008.
The summer of 2010 would mark the last year of Red Bull Air Racing, and by the fall, Mr. Rimanelli had established a relationship with former NASA Langley Chief Strategist, Dr. Bruce Holmes, who led NASA’s Small Aircraft Transportation Systems initiative to mass produce small, highly automated aircraft to transport passengers. Inspired by Dr. Holmes, Detroit Aircraft was founded on July 11th, 2011 to leverage Detroit and Michigan’s skilled labor and industrial base to mass produce highly automated freight and passenger transportation systems to network the United States 20,000 airports. The history and vision of Detroit Aircraft inspired many to contribute time and effort toward re-establishing the aviation industry in Detroit. Below is a conceptual design of a 6-seat passenger aircraft designed by Jon Rimanelli and Camilo Pardo, based on a SATS prototype.
After several months of research, it was clear that the investment and risks of developing unmanned aircraft were very high. Determined to succeed, Mr. Rimanelli was inspired to pivot toward manufacturing small unmanned aircraft for first responders, law enforcement, infrastructure inspections, and freight deliveries (up to 6,000 lbs. per vehicle). Today, Detroit Aircraft has designed and built numerous small unmanned aircraft systems, and was recently selected as an authorized manufacturer, distributor, and training company by Lockheed Martin Corp. The relationship with Lockheed Martin — in 1929 Detroit Aircraft acquired an 87 percent interest in what was Lockheed-Vega Aircraft Co. — is truly historic. Up until 1933, when Detroit Aircraft was forced into bankruptcy due to the Great Depression, the company owned the entire capital stock of Aviation Tool Co., Grosse Isle Airport Inc., Marine Aircraft Corp., Park’s Air College, as well as three affiliated companies — Detroit Aircraft Export Co., Gliders Inc., and Eastman Aircraft Corp. It also owned a 90 percent interest in the Blackburn Aeroplane and Motor Company and a 40 percent interest in Winton Aviation Engine Co. The company acquired Mahoney-Ryan in June 1929, renaming it Ryan Aircraft Corp. (famous for building Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis).
BACK TO THE FUTURE While Detroit Aircraft Corp. was dissolved in 1933, Lockheed-Vega Aircraft Co. got an unexpected second chance only five days after the doors of the corporation had been locked. A group of investors bought the assets of the Lockheed division for $40,000, and in 1995 the company merged with Martin Marietta to become Lockheed Martin Corp., based in Bethesda, Md. We believe Detroit would have been a different place if Detroit Aircraft Corp. had survived the Great Depression, and this time, it shall achieve it’s objectives of global leadership in NextGen Air Mobility.
Ryan Aircraft Corp.: Incorporated into Detroit Aircraft Corp. on July 5, 1929., Ryan Aircraft acquired the assets and business of the Mahoney-Ryan Aircraft Corp., the successor to Ryan Air Lines. Ryan Aircraft manufactured four- and six-seat cabin monoplanes at their St. Louis facility, adjacent to the municipal airport. Detroit Aircraft Corp. owned Ryan Aircraft’s entire capital stock.
Aircraft Development Corp. ZMC-2
Aircraft Development Corp.: Incorporated on July 12, 1929 in Michigan to take over and continue development and construction of “metal-clad” airships for commercial, military, and naval uses. The company held patents covering the design and construction of “Metalclad” rigid airships and airship mooring towers. The first “Metalclad” airship, the ZMC-2, was constructed for the U.S. Navy in 1929. Detroit Aircraft Corp. owned the entire capital stock. Edsel Ford, William May, and William Stout, invested in the venture in an effort to make Detroit the manufacturing center of the dirigible industry. The Ford name was not closely associated with the ZMC-2 at the insistence of Henry and Edsel Ford, but Ford laboratories, on the property of the newly-completed Ford Airport conducted tests on the ZMC-2 and paid $500,000 for the 225-foot (69 m) dirigible mooring at Ford’s airport
Aviation Tool, Co. was incorporated in Michigan on June 11, 1929, to take over and continue the development of automatic riveting machines and their application to all types of aircraft. Detroit Aircraft Corp. owned the entire capital stock.
Park’s Air College and Affiliated Companies, Inc. see Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology
Grosse Ile Airport Inc. was incorporated in Michigan on Nov. 15, 1926. The company owned and operated an airport on Grosse Ile, an island in the Detroit River. The airport covered 403 acres (1.63 km2) of land and has water approaches on three sides. It contains a circular landing field, 3.000 feet (0.914 m) in diameter, and an airship hangar. Detroit Aircraft Corp. owned the entire capital stock.
Marine Aircraft Corp. was incorporated in Michigan on June 11, 1929 to specialize exclusively on all-metal amphibian and flying boat construction for commercial and naval uses. The company manufactured an all-metal, six-seat cabin amphibian plane. Detroit Aircraft Corp. owned the entire capital stock.
Eastman Aircraft Corp. was incorporated in Michigan on Nov. 26, 1928. The enterprise manufactured a light three- and four-seat flying boat ranging in price from $7,500 to $10,000. Detroit Aircraft Corp. owned the entire capital stock.
Blackburn Aircraft Corp. was incorporated in Michigan on May 20, 1929 to acquire, design, and patent the rights to an entire line of metal aircraft from Blackburn Airplane & Motor Co., Ltd. of England. Detroit Aircraft Corp. controlled 90 percent of the stock, with the UK company holding 10 percent of the stock.
Detroit Aircraft Export Co. was incorporated in December 1928 for the purpose of handling export sales in South and Central China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Detroit Aircraft Corp. owned the entire capital stock.
Gliders Inc. was engaged exclusively in the manufacture of sailplanes. The factory was located In Detroit, and Detroit Aircraft Corp. owned the entire capital stock.
Lockheed Aircraft Co. of Santa Barbara, Calif. had been a going concern throughout the 1920s. However, in 1929, the management of Lockheed voted to sell a majority share ownership to Detroit Aircraft Corp. In July 1929, Detroit Aircraft Corp. acquired 87 percent of the assets of Lockheed.Lockheed Aircraft Company