Photo of John Leland Atwood

John Leland Atwood

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Aerospace
For distinguished leadership, technical competence and integrity in the technological advancement of aviation and space travel.

Leaders in the aerospace industry describe John Leland Atwood as “a chief engineer’s chief engineer.” His technical competence was the driving force behind the evolution of North American Aviation into an aviation and space leader that produced more military aircraft than any other company to date.

His company shaped the face of military aviation, engineering many of the best fighter, bomber and experimental aircrafts, including the swift, agile World War II P-51 Mustang, which accounted for almost half the enemy aircraft downed in Europe during World War II.

Through his vision and managerial skills, Atwood established the company as an indispensable national asset in new high-technology fields, such as rocket propulsion, intercontinental ballistic missiles. Among Atwood’s greatest technological achievements are the Apollo spacecraft, allowing astronauts to walk on the moon, and the development of the Space Shuttle that continues to be used today.

By Jen Santisi