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Entrepreneurial Success and Failure in the Aviation Industry: The History of the Waco Aircraft Company, 1919-1963.

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Master's thesis,

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This dissertation shows how the history of the Waco Aircraft Company reflects the transformation of the American economy in the twentieth century. Beginning just after the First World War, its entrepreneur, Clayton J. Brukner, developed a network of relationships within the aviation industry. This allowed his company to develop significant competitive advantages in the private flying market. Those advantages and the popular appeal of aviation helped Waco to become the largest manufacturer of civilian aircraft by 1929. The transformation of business-government relations during the New Deal demanded changes in Brukners business strategy. The depression significantly cut sales of its popular biplanes, but Waco kept its Troy, Ohio, factory open and earned some profits during the downturn. Brukners involvement with the trade associations in the 1930s revealed the critical role the government, the military in particular, played in the development of aviation. His flawed leadership in the changing context led to decisions that degraded the quality of its network signals and diminished Wacos effectiveness in crafting appropriate policies. As the international situation grew increasingly tense throughout the 1930s, Waco, like other manufacturers, turned to exports to enhance sales. Contracts with foreign governments partially offset the setback the depression had caused domestically. They did not, however, drive Brukner to evaluate sufficiently Wacos potential participation in the U.S. military market. Only after the Munich Crisis in September 1938, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to call for increased military spending, did the Waco Aircraft Company position itself to receive defense contracts. It was almost three years, however, before the Army Air Forces directed the company to design and manufacture transport aircraft and cargo gliders. In the meantime Brukner had not developed the organizational capabilities needed to manage military contracts.

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  • Aircraft

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