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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
Clayton J. Brukner
Clayton J. Brukner was raised in Battle Creek, Michigan, and it was here where he met Elwood J. "Sam" Junkin, a lifelong associate with whom Clayton shared a love of aviation. After graduating from high school in 1915, the pair became involved with the O.E. Williams Aeroplane Co. in Fenton, Michigan, where Brukner learned the mechanical aspects of airplanes.
In 1917, Brukner and Junkin headed to New York to work at the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corp., followed by work at the Aeromarine Plane and Motor Co. in New Jersey. It was here that they met Harold C. Deuther, George E. "Buck" Weaver and Charlie Meyers. Between the fall of 1919 and the spring of 1920, the DBJ Aeroplane Co. was formed by Deuther, Bruckner and Junkin in Lorain, Ohio.
In 1920, Deuther returned to his home in New York and Weaver again joined the group. They established a formal company called the Weaver Aircraft Co. The first airplane built by the group was a high-wing parasol called the "Cootie." The aircraft was damaged on its first test flight and rebuilt as a biplane. In 1921 the Weaver Aircraft Co., known by the acronym WACO, built its first practical airplane, the Waco Model 4.
In 1922, Weaver left the Weaver Aircraft Co. as Brukner and Junkin moved operations to Medina, Ohio. In 1923 the Weaver Aircraft Co. closed its doors, moved to Troy, Ohio, and reorganized as the Advanced Aircraft Co., with Brukner as president and plant manager.
In 1927 the Model 10 was introduced and became the leading aircraft registered in the United States with more than 1,200 aircraft sold. In 1929 the company again reorganized and became the Waco Aircraft Co.
From 1929 to 1938, with Brukner at the helm, the Waco Aircraft Co. outsold all other competitors two-to-one. Wacos, consisting of both open and closed cockpit biplanes, were found in 36 countries, making it the most successful aircraft company in the United States.
Following World War II, the Waco Aircraft Co. made the decision to stop producing aircraft. Brukner sold the company to Allied Industries in 1963 and it closed its doors for good in 1965.
Brukner passed away on December 26, 1977. He was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on May 21, 2011.