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The Grumman "Iron Works" was founded on 2 January 1930 by Leon Swirbul and Leroy Grumman. Grumman was a former Navy aviator and both men were former employees of Loening Aeronautical Engineering Company, which was absorbed by Keystone Aircraft Corporation in 1929. The two did not wish to relocate and raised $81,325 to start their own company, which was named after Grumman because he was the principal shareholder. The company initially made most of its revenue repairing damaged aircraft acquired at bargain prices from insurance companies. This was just profitable enough to keep the company in the black during the Great Depression, and the company got its first big break designing a rugged float for the popular Vought Corsair biplane. This incorporated retractable landing gear and turned the aircraft into a true amphibian. The Vought float contract was followed by a contract to design a retractable landing gear for a Navy fighter, the FF-1, which also proved highly successful. The FF-1 was followed by the F2F and F3F, the latter the last Navy biplane fighter.
The next Grumman fighter, the F4F-2 Wildcat, suffered from an unreliable version of the R-1830 Twin Wasp and the Navy chose the Brewster Buffalo instead. However, the Navy soon lost faith in the Buffalo, and ordered large numbers of the F4F-3 with a much improved engine. Production averaged 123 airframes per month during its production run. This was followed by the F6F Hellcat (383 airframes per month) and the TBF Avenger (211 airframes per month). By the end of 1944, Grumman employed 21,607 workers.
All of Grumman's designs had a reputation for excellent structural
strength, accounting for the "Iron Works" nickname.
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