This rather sinister looking gent is Edgar Schmued, American with German heritage. Schmeud is an unsung hero in aviation because he designed one iconic aircraft after another.
Schmued was hired by James H. "Dutch" Kindelberger who was the CEO of North American aviation as chief designer. Where Schmued impressed by designing a trainer aircraft that outperformed many of the fighters that the USAAF had in service: The BT-9 "Yale"
But the Yale as impressive as it performed was considered Obsolete very quickly as the threat of war pushed aircraft designs fowards and planes had to become tougher and faster, the "Yale" was made according to WW1 specifications, steel tube fuselage spanned with fabric and wings largely made of wood.
Schmeud was asked to modernise the "Yale" which recieved an all metal contruction, retractable landing gear and a more powerful engine, resulting in what was to become North American Aviation's first best seller: The T-6 Texan.
The Texan and it's Canadian built cousin the Noorduyn Harvard was a slamming succes and many would be fighter pilot cut their teeth on flying this stable and forgiving plane. The Texan design was also adaptable for modification into close support aircraft, light bombers and fighters and A total of 15,495 T-6s of all variants were built in the USA, Canada (Noorduyn) and Australia (Commonwealth aircraft) Currently the Texan is being honored by having it's name revised on the Hawker Beechcraft T-6 Texan.
North American was asked to build a prototype for a twin engine medium Bomber which resulted in the XB-21
, the contract was won by Douglas so no further XB-21's were built but Schmued and his team had gained valuable experience. And a few years later when the USAAF again issued an order for a twin engined medium bomber Schmued came up with what became one of those iconic planes of World War 2: the B-25 Mitchell.
The Mitchell proved itself to be an easy to fly plane that could take a big beating and was adaptable to many roles, having been used as a close support attack aircraft, a maritime patrol aircraft an anti ship attack aircraft and as a bomber, the role it was designed for. After the war many B-25 was converted to a business plane, making it a direct forefather of the Learjet. A total of 6,608 B-25s were built at North American's Fairfax Airport plant in Kansas City, Kansas.
Then Kindleberger got a request from the British government in 1939 if North American could build the Curtiss P-40 warhawk because the RAF needed fighter aircraft quickly and in large numbers.
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." Schmued and his team went to work on a new design that would use the same engine as the warhawk but could be easier to produce and would outperform the P-40 on all fronts, to cut costs many of the hydraulics and the undercarriage of the T-6 Texan was used. The British set the deadline for the design to be ready at Januari 1941 but Schmued's master piece already flew in October 1940.
The Royal Air Force ordered the plane as the Mustang Mark I and the USAAF placed an order for the production version of the P-51A and the dive bomber version the A-36 Apache.
In a war setting, the Mustang proved itself to be a force to be reconed with, it was faster than the feared Focke-Wulf 190 and more agile than the Messerschmitt 109 but the notorious Allison V-1710-81 engine made it a quite thirsty plane and it also meant that it had a limited service ceiling. In both great Britain and the USA questions were being asked if they could turn the Mustang from a dependable workhorse into a thoroughbred. A P-51A casco was removed from the production line and fitted with a rolls Royce Merlin engine, an engine that was known for its dependability and for its economic fuel rate, having succesfully powered British aircraft such as the Hawker Hurricane, the Supermarine Spitfire and the AVRO Lancaster.
The resulting aircraft, the P-51B, suddenly made it possible for fighter pilots to accompany the long range bombers into Germany all the way and back again. A deal was made with Packard Automobiles that they would start licence building the Merlin making sure that North American would never be short of engines. The Mustang had come of age. And it would cumulate in the P-51 D which thanks to its bubble canopy giving the pilot unrestricted all round visibility also cut fighter pilot losses.
After the war and with Jet technology at his disposal Schmeud designed North American's first jet. The FJ1 Fury
The Fury used many of the avionics and the same kind of wing of the Mustang, the US Navy ordered 100 aircraft but later took that number back to only 30, used mainly for testing jet technology on aircraft carriers, nevertheless Schmued again had gained valuable experience which resulted in yet another iconic US-made aircraft.
The F-86 Sabre which utelised the swept wing technology pioneered by the Germans in World war two. The Sabre again was based on the Mustang in cockpit layout and avionics making it a dependable easy to fly plane which gained iconic status in the Korean war.
Schmued's last tenure with North American Aviation was the design of what was then the fastest aircraft in service, and which later in Vietnam proved itself to be one of the best of its kind. The first supersonic plane Schmued designed: the F-100 Super Sabre
After leaving North American aviation which then became Rockwell international, Schmued was hired by Northrop Aviation to help them design a light weight fighter, again the result proved itself to be a legendary plane.
The USAF ordered the N-156 as a trainer aircraft designated the T-38 "Talon" again Schmued had designed a trainer aircraft that outperformed the fighters that the USAF had in service, so the N-156 was also put in production as a light weight fighter called the F5 Freedom fighter and sold all over the world.
Although many pilots flew his designs (and many are still continuing to do so) Schmued himself had to wait until his 81' birthday until he finally flew in one of his own designs when he flew in the backseat of a modified twin seat P-51 Mustang, four years later he died at home on June the first 1985.