The Masterpieces of John K. Northrop

"Without question, Jack Northrop was the most talented, and at the same time, the most sincere and gracious person I have ever met." ..... "As a result, the Northrop Corporation became known as a very good place to work."

From Richard Millar's forward to Jack Northrop and the Flying Wing (see below).

Sharing that experience in 1944 and 1945 was a rare privilege, with a lasting glow.

My introduction to Mr. Northrop's work came on a Sunday in 1932 when, in a hanger near Mines Field (now LAX), I first saw Frank Hawks' new plane, a beautiful silver bird with a red fire chief's hat on the side. It looked like no other airplane I had ever seen and established Mr. Northrop as my first aviation hero (Jimmy Doolittle was the second). At the time I didn't realize that Mr. Northrop was also responsible for the beautiful Lockheeds (Wiley Post's Winnie Mae, etc.).

My Favorite Northrop Aircraft


Mr. Northrop's greatness flourished during three distinct periods:

1926-1928 The wood monocoque period

BEST RESOURCE: Revolution in the Sky

He convinced Allan Loughead to establish Lockheed Aircraft Company to build his new "Vega" design. The Vega and its derivatives set records at an astonishing rate and became the most popular plane of its time. Northrop also laid out the basic design and configuration of the Air Express and Sirius.

1928-1939 The all metal, stressed skin, multicellular wing period

BEST RESOURCE: The Northrop Story

1928-1930 Avion Corporation

Designed and built the first "flying wing".

1930-1931 Northrop Aircraft Corporation

Avion purchased by United Aircraft, allowing access by Boeing to the Northrop metal construction technology. Developed the Alpha (1930) and Beta. Mr Northrop felt the Alpha was his most important and far reaching contribution to aviation, a view shared my many.


1932-1938 Northrop Corporation

Formed in association with Douglas Aircraft, and carried on the evolution of the Alpha concepts through the Gamma and Delta. Whereas the Vega and Air Express had been the premier record breaking planes in previous years, the Gamma quickly assumed the role, holding the transcontinental record in 1932 with Frank Hawks, and again in 1936 with Howard Hughes.

1939-1949 The flying wing period.

RESOURCES: Jack Northrop and the Flying Wing, Winged Wonders & The Flying Wings of Jack Northrop

Northrop Corporation. Airplanes, the likes of which had not been seen, and will likely not be seen again. Companions to the relatively conventional P-61 "Black Widow" series were the N-1M, N-9M, XB-35, XP-79, YB-49 flying wings, the startling XP-56, welded magnesium airplanes, turboprop propulsion systems, ... an endless array of new ideas.


Revolution in the Sky, The Lockheeds of Aviations Golden Age
Richard Sanders Allen, Orion Books, New York, 1988
A definitive history of the origin of Lockheed Aircraft with John K. Northrop's "Vega" and its derivatives. A must for anyone interested in this period of aviation history.

The Northrop Story, 1929 - 1939
Richard Sanders Allen, Orion Books, New York, 1990
The full story of John K. Northrop's all metal wonders, the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta.
Beautifully illustrated, thorough, readable, accurate account of Northrop Aircraft in the '30s. Continues the saga from "Revolution in the Sky" (above).

Jack Northrop and the Flying Wing
Ted Coleman, Paragon House, New York, 1988.
Through history of Northrop Aircraft. The birth and death of the flying wings.

Winged Wonders, The Story of the Flying Wings
E.T. Wooldridge, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 1983.
A history of tailless aircraft and Northrop's flying wings.

Northrop Flying Wings
Edward T. Maloney, Planes of Fame Publishers, 1975.

The Flying Wings of Jack Northrop
Garry Pape , Shiffer Military/Aviation History, Atglen, PA, 1994.

Northrop P-61 Black Widow
Garry Pape , Motorbooks International, Osceola, WI, 1991.

P-61 Black Widow in action
Larry Davis and Dave Menard, Aircraft Number 106, Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., Carrollton, Texas, 1990

Archives Division of the National Air and Space Museum