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Burnelli GB-888A supersonic 

In 1917, at the outbreak of the first World War, a number of bankers saw the potential for colossal profits in aviation and formed a cartel, a monopoly which was in the 1920s and 1930s referred to as the Air Trust.

[Trust defined: "the term "Trust" is applicable to any act, agreement or combination believed to possess the intention, power, or tendency to monopolize business, interfere with trade, fix prices, etc." -- John Moody "The Truth About the Trusts" Greenwood Press, 1904 / reprinted 1968, p. XIV]

Anyone who belonged to the Air Trust would pool their patents for their mutual benefit but they went one step further, they made a deal with certain officials of the United States Government to steal patents from inventors who did not belong to the cartel. This theft was implemented by the insertion of a "save-harmless-clause" in government procurement contracts with favored companies.

    "The save harmless clause is in fact simply an authority granted by officials of the United States to certain private aircraft manufacturers to steal boldly and deliberately the patents of any inventor whose patent appliances the air trust may desire to use or may find necessary in its continued hold on the Government's pocketbook!"

    Mr. Nelson of Wisconsin, Congressional Record [2 MB/PDF]
    1st Session, 68th Congress, Jan. 29, 1924, pg. 1630 [264K/PDF]

The cartel still exists as does the 'save harmless clause' and the method of stealing inventions hasn't changed as is witnessed by the 1984 McDonnell Douglas letter and the 1963 Boeing letter and the 1964 Ling-Temco-Vought letter.

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Burnelli CBY-3 circa 1946 

in flight - QuickTime movie [3.5 MB]
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