Formed originally as a holding company in 1928, North American did not manufacture any airplanes; it was a holding company division of General Motors which had absorbed Atlantic Fokker as General Aviation.
In 1933, North American Aviation Co., Inc., took over the assets of Berliner/Joyce, changing its corporate name to the B/J Co.
In 1935 General Aviation became North American Aviation.
The manufacturing facilities were moved from Dundalk, Maryland, to the West Coast in 1936 and a new modern production plant was erected on the Los Angeles Municipal Airport where the firm has a site of approximately 24 acres. Originally the plant covered an area of 172,000 sq. ft. but it has since been increased to approximately 500,000 sq. ft. The firm maintains one of the most complete laboratories for aircraft production tests and for research in materials.
North American's first product was the O-47 Army observation aircraft of 1937. The NA-16 Yale two-seat military trainer followed, being developed through fixed- and retractable-landing-gear variants into the T-6 Texan/Harvard trainer which continued in production in Canada until 1954 and served with virtually every non-Communist air arm in the world.
North American's best known aircraft was the P-51 Mustang fighter, and significant aircraft evolved by North American include the B-25 Mitchell twin-engined medium bomber; the B-45 Tornado, the first American four-jet bomber; the F-86 Sabre, the USAF's first swept-wing fighter; the F-100 Super Sabre, the world's first operational fighter capable of supersonic speed in level flight; the T-28 Trojan/Fennec trainer and light ground-attack aircraft which succeeded the T-6; the A-5 Vigilante carrier-based jet bomber/reconnaissance aircraft; the XB-70 Valkyrie supersonic bomber with Mach 3 speed capability; and the X-15 rocket research craft, which attained an altitude of 107,960m in 1963 and was flown at a speed of 7,298km/h in 1967. In the same year
North American and Rockwell merged in 1967, to form the Rockwell Corporation in 1972.
The Aero Commander company was taken over by North American Rockwell.