Pushing the Envelope

The American Aircraft Industry
Donald M. Pattillo
The most comprehensive history of the aircraft manufacturing industry to date


Pushing the Envelope, a survey history of the American aircraft (now aerospace) manufacturing industry, is the most comprehensive history on the subject ever completed. Though it covers the development of the industry from the beginnings of flight to the present, it provides far more than a simple chronology by analyzing key economic, military, technical, and international influences on the industry and showing how the industry has been instrumental in American military and technological leadership from its modest beginnings.

Using original sources whenever available, Pushing the Envelope focuses on the business of aircraft. It is neither an aeronautical nor a production history of the industry, although both aspects are addressed. Instead, Donald M. Pattillo features the development and production of aircraft in different periods in the context of aeronautical progress. Pushing the Envelope also establishes that the central fact of the industry's existence, its dependence on military contracts, has been simultaneously its greatest strength and greatest vulnerability. Even during periods of military expansion, Pattillo illustrates, it has always been an unstable and insecure enterprise.

Carefully researched, Pushing the Envelope also assesses the environmental impacts on the industry, including those pressures that have often led it into ethical dispute. Unlike any other technological industry, the unique qualities of the aircraft industry are truly paradoxical—although it provides vital technical and production capability to the nation, demand for its capabilities may be influenced by external developments that it cannot foresee or influence.

Pushing the Envelope transcends narrow disciplines, commingling aeronautical science and technology, business management, international business, the history of science and technology, national security studies, and international relations. Written in nontechnical language, it can easily be understood by a diverse audience, including industry and military professionals as well as the general public interested in aviation and technology. With Pushing the Envelope, Pattillo fills a most conspicuous gap in the literature of both aviation and industrial history.

Donald M. Pattillo is an educational consultant in Acworth, Georgia.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . there is probably no better starting place for a general history of who built what and when and how the evolution of an industry was, in the end, at the mercy of its own commitment to military aviation as a priority. A good read. . . ."
    --AIR International
  • ". . . a comprehensive, in-depth study of the history of aircraft production in the United States from the days of the Wright brothers through 1998 and covers the ups and downs of the major aircraft companies through their lives. . . The book goes far below the surface of the companies to reveal some of the reasons why some failed and others attained success. It also discusses the activities of some politicians to attain position by forcing the relocation of companies to their states to improve their own political strength. It also questions the ethics of some of the aerospace management leaders who used apparent cover-ups and delaying tactics to maintain contracts from the government. . . . The historian who is seriously interested in the progress, and in many cases lack of progress, of the major members of the aircraft industry would do well to read this book in its entirety."
    --American Aviation Historical Society Newsletter
  • "In addition to Pattillo's fine research and strong writing style, the numerous tables throughout the book, along with a detailed chronology of the aircraft industry make the book a valuable resource tool. It should be required reading for all students of aerospace industry."
    --EH.Net: The Economic History Network
  • "...Pushing the Envelope is a welcome addition to the growing body of scholarly literature on aerospace history. Public historians, as well as a broader general audience, will find it a useful reference work."
    --Public Historian, Volume 21, No. 2, Spring 1999
  • ". . . a welcome addition to the growing body of scholarly literature on aerospace history. Public historians, as well as a broader general audience, will find it a useful reference work."
    --William M. Leary, University of Georgia, Public Historian

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 484pp.
  • 19 B&W photograph section, 16 tables, 1 figure.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08671-9

Add to Cart
  • $44.95 U.S.