the armed forces of several allied nations. In 1956, Lewis was promoted to vice president of McDonnell Aircraft. He was instrumental in the company winning the Mercury spacecraft for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In 1962, Dave was named chief operating officer for all of the company’s activities.
As a part of the aerospace industry’s consolidation in the early 1960s, McDonnell merged with Douglas Aircraft Corporation. Lewis was named chairman of the Douglas Division and was charged with turning the company around regarding deliveries and its financial problems. With the infusion of McDonnell’s money and Lewis’s leadership and attention to detail, Douglas become profitable again and Lewis returned to St. Louis. He continued to work on DC-10 sales and was instrumental in winning the federal government’s contract to develop the F-15 Eagle.
Lewis became chairman and chief executive officer of General Dynamics in 1970 and had the corporate headquarters moved to St. Louis. By 1974 his leadership had made the company profitable. The biggest opportunity for the aerospace part was the competition for a new lightweight fighter. Dave Lewis took a very personal part to ensure a winning proposal: He flew to Fort Worth (where the F-16 proposal was being prepared) every Saturday to personally review the design, structural details, proposed development plans, and pricing. Their proposal was the winner, and General Dynamics went on to build several thousand F-16s.
During the Persian Gulf War, General Dynamics products were very much in evidence. Lewis was proud of the General Dynamics systems that were used by the U.S. military: Tomahawk Cruise missiles, F-16s, Phalanx ship defense gun systems, and the M1 Abrams main battle tank.
The submarine business at the Electric Boat Division then took much of Lewis’s time. The division obtained a contract for many SSN 688 attack submarines. Then Lewis worked hard to get the Trident ballistic missile submarine design and construction (including the building of a large new land-level assembly facility). He retired from General Dynamics in 1985.