Air Enthusiast 1996-09
A.Pelletier - Towards the ideal aircraft? (2)
The Northrop (now Northrop Grumman) B-2A Spirit took the thoughts and ideals of John ‘Jack’ Knudsen Northrop into operational reality.
Northrop B-2A Spirit under test from Edwards AFB, California. The B-2 performs the role of a low observable, strategic penetration bomber - a function the B-49 would have met admirably.
The Northrop B-2 Spirit retained exactly the same span as its ancestor the B-49, but it benefited from new computerised technologies and fly-by-wire breakthroughs. B-2A AV-8 88-0329 ‘Spirit of Missouri’ during ceremonies marking its delivery to the 393rd Bomb Squadron, 509th Bomb Wing, at Whitelam AFB, Missouri, December 17, 1993.
Northrop B-2A Spirit.
A little known Northrop flying wing was the JB-10 ‘buzz bomb’ which was to be produced by the Ford Motor Company. Propulsion was provided by a single axially-mounted PJ-31-1 pulse jet engine. The warhead of nearly two tons was carried within the cast magnesium inner section of the wing on each side of the fuselage.
The Northrop XP-79B Flying Ram accomplished one single flight which ended tragically with the death of Harry Crosby. Its semi-monocoque structure was made of magnesium. If it had been produced, the P-79B was intended to cut off the tails of enemy heavy bombers thanks to its special wings. In the background can be seen a Cessna UC-78 Bobcat minus vertical tail (left) and a Fairchild AT-21-FB Gunner.
Northrop XP-79B Flying Ram.
The Northrop XB-35 during its maiden flight on June 25, 1948. This superb machine was the competitor of the Consolidated (later Convair) B-36. Unfortunately, the aircraft suffered from the malfunctioning of its contra-rotating propellers and gearboxes. Besides, it was unable to accommodate the 10,000lb Mk III atomic bomb in its bomb-bay.
Although impressive, the XB-35 was a small aircraft in regard to its competitor, the B-36. The XB-35 could accommodate the hangars built for the Boeing B-29 Superfortresses.
At the time of the cancellation of the programme some 15 XB-35s, YB-35s and YB-35As were either completed or under construction.
With the dawning of the jet age, the USAF decided to convert ten of the YB- and B-35s, to an all-jet configuration, when this photograph was taken in late 1948.
Eleven YB-35s at Northrop’s Hawthorn plant in the late 1940s. Ten were RB-49s, but only one ever flew, 42-102376.
John ‘Jack’ Knudsen Northrop was one of the world’s most brilliant aircraft designers. He was always more interested in probing new ideas than solving production problems.
With the XB-49 Northrop achieved the ‘clean plane’ he had always dreamed of. Unfortunately, the eight General Electric J35A-5s were fuel consuming and range was cut down dramatically.
The last Northrop flying wing was the YRB-49A which combined four turbojets buried in the wings, and two additional engines in pods slung underwing. This unique aircraft accomplished its maiden flight on May 4, 1950.
Northrop YB-49
The tail-less Northrop X-4s were two NACA/Air Force/Navy research aircraft designed to test the characteristics of a swept wing at transonic speeds.
The DH.108 was built to investigate the behaviour of swept-wing at low, medium and high subsonic speeds. TG283 flew for the first time on May 15, 1946.
VW120, the third DH.108, at the 1947 SBAC display at Radlett.
The Armstrong Whitworth A W.52G was a third-scale glider built to test the handling qualities of the forthcoming full-size A W.52. The structure was made of spruce and plywood and covered with Duralumin sheets.
The white overall Armstrong Whitworth A W.52 was a huge and elegant aircraft. Tests revealed an extreme sensitivity in pitch. It was rough pitch oscillations which obliged Joe Lancaster to use his Martin Baker ejection seat on May 30, 1949.
Waldo Waterman Arrowbile, the first successful flying automobile as the wings were made detachable for road travel. Flown in 1937, this machine proved very stable, impossible to spin and stall.
The Mitchell Wing B10 ultralight was stable since the pilot was suspended well below the wing.
The IAe.38 was a huge cargo flying wing designed by Reimar Horten after the war. Although powered by piston engines, the production variant was to be powered by 16kN Rolls-Royce Derwent 5 turbojets.
The IAe.38 on take-off for one of its few flights. Note how the wing fences had been added on top of the outer engine cowlings, most likely to improve directional stability. The programme was cancelled in 1962.
IAe.38 ‘Ala Volante’.
Designed during World War Two by Pierre Satre, SNCASE SE.2100 revealed promising performance, but its career was fairly short.
Geddes Air Liner No 4.
The 900-passenger FW-900 as designed by the engineers of Airbus Industrie. Of smaller size than conventional aircraft of the same capacity, the FW-900 can accommodate existing airport facilities. On the negative side, the passengers will have TV screens instead of the usual windows. Similar aircraft are being designed at Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas.