Brewster Aeronautical Corporation

The Brewster Aeronautical Corporation was a 1940s failure of the American aviation industry.

It started existence as an aircraft division of Brewster & Co., a company that originally sold carriages and had branched into automobile bodies and airplane parts. In 1932, Jimmy Work, an aeronautical engineer, bought the division for US$30,000 and created the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation. Brewster started out making seaplane floats and wing panels, but with the hire of chief engineer Dayton Brown, it embarked on its own designs.

Brown's first, in 1934, was a two-seat scout-bomber, the Brewster SBA, which first flew in 1936, but subsequently the Naval Aircraft Factory built them, with the designation SBN-1. The SB2A Buccaneer was a follow-on design that first flew in 1941 and was also used by the RAF, who named it the "Bermuda".

A design in 1936 for a carrier-capable monoplane resulted in the Brewster F2A (nicknamed "Buffalo" by the British), which was chosen over a biplane version of the F4F Wildcat. The Buffalo prototype handled well in 1938 tests, and the Navy ordered 54. However, production was slow, at least partly due to an inefficient factory in Queens, New York, and the Navy ended up ordering Wildcats too.

The Buffalo was exported to Finland starting in 1939, and more were intended for Belgium, but it was taken over before deliveries could begin. The UK also got Buffalos, and they eventually ended up in the East Indies, although they did not do well against the Japanese Zeros. In the end, the Buffalos were most popular with the Finns.

The Navy had installed a George Chapline as president of the company, easing out Jimmy Work, in the hopes of speeding up production, but then in early 1942 Jimmy Work got rid of him, just in time to get sued for US$10 million for financial misdeeds. At this the Navy simply seized Brewster (April 1942) and put the head of the Naval Aircraft Factory in charge.

When the Navy cancelled Brewster's last contract, for Corsair assembly, the company was in serious trouble. In October, after reporting a large loss, the management decided to shut down the company, and on April 5, 1946, the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation was dissolved by its shareholders.


F2A Buffalo
SB2A Buccaneer