President of American Airlines
Smith is credited with helping shape the U.S. airline industry into the thriving business we enjoy today
Cyrus R. Smith was born in Minerva, Texas, and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. In the 1930s when flying mail was the principal use of commercial airplanes, Smith realized that the future of air transportation was in passenger travel. In 1934 as president of American Airlines, Smith encouraged Douglas Aircraft to design the DC-3, a passenger plane with more seats and an increased payload. Later, he helped usher in the jet age when American Airlines ordered the Boeing 707. During World War II he served in the Army Air Force and rose to the rank of Major General in the Air Transport Command. A strong leader, visionary and pioneer of commercial aviation, Smith was a titan of the aviation industry for over 35 years.