by Jack McKillop

North American Aviation Corporation (NAA) was founded in 1925 by the Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Company as a holding company of various airlines in an effort to provide a guaranteed market for Curtiss aircraft; NAA was reorganized and incorporated in 1928. Between 1925 and 1929, NAA purchased the stock of (1) National Air Transport (NAT) which began air mail service between New York, New York and Chicago, Illinois in May 1926 with ten Curtiss aircraft; (2) Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) formed in May 1928 to carry both air mail and passengers on transcontinental flights between New York and Los Angeles, California in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Railroad and Santa Fe Railroad; (3) Varney and Maddux Air Lines, two West Coast airlines; (4) Northwest Airways which provided service from Chicago to Minnesota and Wisconsin; and (5) the Cuban airline Compania Nacional Cubana de Aviacion Curtiss S.A. NAA also purchased the stock of the Douglas Aircraft Company.

Two wholly owned subsidiaries of NAA were Pitcairn Aviation and the Berliner-Joyce Aircraft Company. Pitcairn Aviation, which had begun service from New York to Miami, Florida via Atlanta, Georgia in May 1928, was purchased in July 1929 and renamed Eastern Air Transport in January 1930. Berliner-Joyce Aircraft Company was located at Logan Field, Dundalk, Maryland, a suburb southeast of Baltimore. At the time, Berliner-Joyce, renamed B/J Aircraft Corporation in 1930, was manufacturing biplanes for the U.S. military.

The year 1929 saw the formation of three huge aviation conglomerates that controlled a number of airframe, engine and propeller manufacturers and the major airlines. The last one formed was the Curtiss-Wright Corporation which was formed in June when the Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Company and the Wright Aeronautical Corporation merged. The new Curtiss-Wright Corporation, the parent of NAA, now combined an aircraft, engine and propeller manufacturer with six large airlines. However, the crash of the Stock Market in 1929 led to the Great Depression and sales of aircraft dropped dramatically in 1930. The year 1930 also saw a battle between NAA and United Technologies for two airlines with United Air Transport acquiring control of NAT and purchasing Varney.

TAT, which had purchased Maddux Air Lines in 1929, merged with Western Air Express (WAE) in July 1930 forming Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA). This merger saw the entrance of the worlds largest automobile manufacturer, the General Motors Corporation (GM), into the picture. GM had purchased a majority interest in the Fokker Aircraft Corporation founded by Anthony Fokker in 1924 as the U.S. branch of the Dutch firm. WAE had gained majority control of Fokker Aviation in 1929 and in 1931, GM had acquired effective control of WAE. All of the assets of the Fokker company were reorganized as the General Aviation Manufacturing Company (GAMC), a subsidiary of GM.

With decreased sales during the Great Depression, Curtiss sold NAA to GM in 1933; NAA then purchased all of the shares of GAMC, acquired the remaining stock of B/J Aircraft and consolidated all aircraft manufacturing in a plant in Dundalk, Maryland under the name GAMC. NAA also disposed of its interests in Douglas Aircraft and all airlines except Eastern Air Transport leaving NAA with two divisions, GAMC and Eastern Air Transport. NAA's fortunes again changed in 1934 upon passage of the Air Mail Act by the U.S. Congress. One clause in the Act prohibited any air mail contractor from having any interest in other aviation enterprises except landing fields; this clause became effective on 1 January 1935. On that date, NAA reorganized and absorbed all the assets of GAMC and became an aircraft manufacturer but also retained its ownership of Eastern Air Transport, renamed Eastern Air Lines in 1934, arguing that the precise wording of the new law did not preclude one company from building and operating aircraft. NAA finally conceded the principal of separating manufacturing and operating companies and sold its holdings in Eastern Air Lines in April 1938 thus ending NAAs 13-year investment in airlines.

General Motors finally sold all of its shares in NAA in June 1948.

When NAA purchased the shares of GAMC in 1934, General Aviation was working on two projects, the Model GA-43, a single-engine commercial airliner, and the Model GA-15, a three-seat observation aircraft for the U.S. Army. Another clause in the Air Mail Act of 1934 doomed the Model GA-43 transport; this clause forbad the use of single-engined transports operating in the U.S. to carry passengers on scheduled services at night or over terrain unsuitable for emergency landings. One Model GA-43 had been built and it was eventually scrapped because it could not be sold. The Model GA-15 observation aircraft, redesignated Model NA-25 when NAA became a manufacturing concern, was sold to the Army as the O-47.

The U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC), superseded by the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 20 June 1941, began to modernize in the mid-1930s ordering monoplane pursuit and bomber aircraft. The basic training aircraft used at the time were converted observation or primary training biplanes and it was realized that monoplanes were needed in the training role. The first order for basic training monoplanes was placed with Seversky in March 1935 and deliveries of the 20 BT-8s began in 1936. The BT-8 was expensive, tricky to fly, difficult to maintain and had a tendency to ground loop. NAA felt they could build a better aircraft and began work on the NAA Model NA-16 the first of over 21,000 trainers that NAA built for the U.S. and foreign military during World War II.

The NA-16 was a two-seat, all-metal, single-engine, low-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear and steerable tail wheel. The wings were metal covered while the fuselage was all-metal with detachable fabric-covered aluminum alloy frames aft of the engine. The vertical fin and rudder, the horizontal stabilizer, elevators and ailerons were fabric-covered. The original NA-16 featured two open cockpits with dual controls but the USAAC requested individually-operated sliding enclosures and fairings (wheel pants) over the main landing gear legs and inner halves of the wheels. The aircraft was powered by a 400 hp (298 kW)Wright R-975 engine driving a two-bladed, controllable-pitch propeller.

The USAAC placed an order for 42 aircraft, designated BT-9, on 28 September 1935; the production version was designated Model NA-19. The first contract was followed on 31 October 1935 by an order for 40 BT-9As, Model NA-19As, for the Air Corps Reserve. The BT-9A had the flight controls removed from the rear cockpit; the inclusion of a K-3B gun camera; two 30-caliber (7.62 mm) machine guns, one fixed in the nose and one flexible in the rear compartment; an interphone; and other minor changes.

An order for 82 aircraft highlighted the fact that the Dundalk, Maryland plant was inadequate for the manufacture of modern aircraft and a search was made for a new location in the Los Angeles, California area. A site was found on the southeast corner of the Los Angeles Municipal Airport (Mines Field) near Inglewood, and a new plant was completed in January 1936. The first BT-9 came off the assembly line in April 1936 and made its first flight on 15 April. Further contracts followed for 117 BT-9Bs (Model NA-23) for the USAAC, 67 BT-9Cs (Model NA-29) for the Air Corps Reserve and one BT-9D with redesigned wings.

The U.S. Navy (USN) also desired modern trainers and placed an order for 40 NJ-1s (NAA Model NA-28) through the USAAC on 14 December 1936. The NJ-1s were similar in most respects to the BT-9B except for the engine; instead of the Wright engine, the NJ-1 was powered by a 550 hp (410 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial engine.


NJ-1: 40 Model NA-28s powered by a 550 hp (410 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1340-6 engine.

NJ-2: The last NJ-1 temporarily re-engined with a 450 hp (336 kW) Ranger XV-770-4 engine.


The 40 NJ-1s were delivered to Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Florida between November 1937 and August 1938 and used for intermediate flight training. In December 1941, 39 NJ-1s were still at NAS Pensacola. As more modern training aircraft became available during World War II, some NJ-1s were used as the personal aircraft of high-ranking officers. The last NJ-1 was stricken from the inventory in August 1944.


Power Plant
  NJ-1: One 550 hp (410 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1340-6 nine-cylinder, single-row, air-cooled, radial engine.
  NJ-2: One 450 hp (336 kW) Ranger XV-770-4 twelve-cylinder, two-bank, air-cooled, inverted Vee engine.

Wing Span: 42 feet (12.80 meters)

Length: 27 feet 11.6 inches (8.52 meters)

Height: 8 feet 6.3 inches (2.60 meters)

Wing Area: 248.3 square feet (23.07 square meters)

Empty Weight: 3,250 pounds (1,474 kg)

Loaded Weight: 4,675 pounds (2,121 kg)

Maximum Speed: 174 mph (280 km/h) at sea level

Cruising Speed: 140 mph (225 km/h)

Service Ceiling: 24,900 feet (759 meters)

Maximum Range: 944 miles (1,519 km)

Armament: None