|Northrop Alpha - NASA Photo|
|Designer||John K. Northrop|
|Introduction||April 20, 1931|
|Retired||1975 to Smithsonian Institution|
|Primary users|| Transcontinental & Western Air |
US Army Air Corps
|Variants|| Northrop Gamma |
The Northrop Alpha was an American single-engine, all-metal, seven-seat, low-wing monoplane fast mail/passenger transport aircraft used in the 1930s. Design work was done at the Avion Corporation, which in 1929, became the Northrop Aircraft Corporation based in Burbank, California.
A monoplane is a fixed-wing aircraft with a single main wing plane, in contrast to a biplane or other multiplane, each of which has multiple planes.
Northrop Corporation was a leading United States aircraft manufacturer from its formation in 1939 until its 1994 merger with Grumman to form Northrop Grumman. The company is known for its development of the flying wing design, most successfully the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.
Burbank is a city in Los Angeles County in the Los Angeles metropolitan area of Southern California, United States, 12 miles (19 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The population at the 2010 census was 103,340.
Drawing on his experience with the Lockheed Vega, John K. Northrop designed an advanced mail/passenger transport aircraft. In addition to all-metal construction, the new Alpha benefitted from two revolutionary aerodynamic advancements: wing fillets researched at the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, and a multicellular stressed-skin wing of Northrop's own design which was later successfully used on the Douglas DC-2 and Douglas DC-3. In addition, the Alpha was the first commercial aircraft to use rubber deicer boots on wing and empennage leading edges which, in conjunction with state-of-the-art radio navigation equipment, gave it day or night, all-weather capability. The aircraft first flew in 1930, with a total of 17 built.
The Lockheed Vega is an American six-passenger high-wing monoplane airliner built by the Lockheed Corporation starting in 1927. It became famous for its use by a number of record-breaking pilots who were attracted to the rugged and very long-range design. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in one, and Wiley Post used his to prove the existence of the jet stream after having flown around the world twice.
In mechanical engineering, a fillet is a rounding of an interior or exterior corner of a part design. An interior or exterior corner, with an angle or type of bevel, is called a "chamfer". Fillet geometry, when on an interior corner is a line of concave function, whereas a fillet on an exterior corner is a line of convex function. Fillets commonly appear on welded, soldered, or brazed joints.
The Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT), was a research institute created in 1926, at first specializing in aeronautics research. In 1930, Hungarian scientist Theodore von Kármán accepted the directorship of the lab and emigrated to the United States. Under his leadership, work on rockets began there in 1936. GALCIT was the first—and from 1936 to 1940 the only—university-based rocket research center. Based on GALCIT's JATO project at the time, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was established under a contract with the United States Army in November 1943.
The Alpha was further developed into a dedicated fast transport, the Northrop Gamma.
The Northrop Gamma was a single-engine all-metal monoplane cargo aircraft used in the 1930s. Towards the end of its service life, it was developed into the A-17 light bomber.
The Alpha entered service with Transcontinental & Western Air (TWA) making its inaugural flight on April 20, 1931. The trip from San Francisco to New York required 13 stops and took just over 23 hours. TWA operated 14 aircraft until 1935, flying routes with stops in San Francisco, California; Winslow, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Amarillo, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Terre Haute, Indiana; Indianapolis, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and New York. Three Alphas were operated by the US military as C-19 VIP transports until 1939.
Trans World Airlines (TWA) was a major American airline that existed from 1930 until 2001. It was formed as Transcontinental & Western Air to operate a route from New York City to Los Angeles via St. Louis, Kansas City, and other stops, with Ford Trimotors. With American, United, and Eastern, it was one of the "Big Four" domestic airlines in the United States formed by the Spoils Conference of 1930.
Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport is a public airport six miles (10 km) east of downtown Amarillo, in Potter and Randall Counties, Texas, United States. The airport was renamed in 2003 after NASA astronaut and Amarillo native Rick Husband, who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in February of that year.
The Northrop C-19 Alpha was a series of three aircraft purchased from Northrop by the US Army Air Corps in 1931. They were slightly modified versions of the civil Northrop Alpha Type 2.
TWA's were initially operated as a passenger service but the Alpha's were later modified at the Stearman factory in Wichita into the cargo-carrying 4A model with a new type certificate. Stearman and Northrop had the same parent company at the time.
The third Alpha built, NC11Y, was reacquired by TWA in 1975, and is preserved at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
The National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, also called the Air and Space Museum, is a museum in Washington, D.C. It was established in 1946 as the National Air Museum and opened its main building on the National Mall near L'Enfant Plaza in 1976. In 2018, the museum saw approximately 6.2 million visitors, making it the fifth most visited museum in the world, and the second most visited museum in the United States. The museum contains the Apollo 11 command module, the Friendship 7 capsule which was flown by John Glenn, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, the Bell X-1 which broke the sound barrier, the model of the starship Enterprise used in the science fiction television show Star Trek: The Original Series, and the Wright brothers' airplane near the entrance.
The wingspan of a bird or an airplane is the distance from one wingtip to the other wingtip. For example, the Boeing 777-200 has a wingspan of 60.93 metres, and a wandering albatross caught in 1965 had a wingspan of 3.63 metres, the official record for a living bird. The term wingspan, more technically extent, is also used for other winged animals such as pterosaurs, bats, insects, etc., and other fixed-wing aircraft such as ornithopters. In humans, the term wingspan also refers to the arm span, which is distance between the length from one end of an individual's arms to the other when raised parallel to the ground at shoulder height at a 90º angle. Former professional basketball player Manute Bol stands at 7 ft 7 in (2.31 m) and owns one of the largest wingspans at 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m).
In aviation, manufacturer's empty weight (MEW) is the weight of the aircraft "as built" and includes the weight of the structure, power plant, furnishings, installations, systems and other equipment that are considered an integral part of an aircraft before additional operator items are added for operation.
The maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) or maximum gross takeoff weight (MGTOW) or maximum takeoff mass (MTOM) of an aircraft is the maximum weight at which the pilot is allowed to attempt to take off, due to structural or other limits. The analogous term for rockets is gross lift-off mass, or GLOW. MTOW is usually specified in units of kilograms or pounds.
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
The Lockheed Model 9 Orion is a single-engined passenger aircraft built in 1931 for commercial airlines. It was the first airliner to have retractable landing gear and was faster than any military aircraft of that time. Designed by Richard A. von Hake, it was the last wooden monoplane design produced by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation.
The Curtiss A-12 Shrike was the United States Army Air Corps' second monoplane ground-attack aircraft, and its main attack aircraft through most of the 1930s. It was based on the A-8, but had a radial engine instead of the A-8's inline, water-cooled engine, as well as other changes.
The Curtiss A-8 was a low-wing monoplane ground-attack aircraft built by the United States company Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, designed in response to a 1929 United States Army Air Corps requirement for an attack aircraft to replace the A-3 Falcon. The Model 59 "Shrike" was designated XA-8.
The Lockheed Model 10 Electra is an American twin-engined, all-metal monoplane airliner developed by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in the 1930s to compete with the Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-2. The type gained considerable fame as one was flown by Amelia Earhart on her ill-fated around-the-world expedition in 1937.
The Curtiss XA-14 was a 1930s United States airplane, the first multi-engine attack aircraft tested by the United States Army Air Corps. Carrying a crew of two, it was as fast as the standard pursuit aircraft in service at the time.
The Lockheed Model 75 Saturn was a small feeder airliner produced by the Lockheed Corporation in the mid-1940s. Lockheed announced the project on November 19, 1944. The design team, led by Don Palmer, created a high-wing, twin-engine monoplane with 14 seats and a top speed of 228 mph (367 km/h). Lockheed touted the Saturn as an airliner to service small towns with limited airport facilities and could take on passengers and cargo without ramps or stairs.
The Boeing F2B was a biplane fighter aircraft of the United States Navy in the 1920s, familiar to aviation enthusiasts of the era as the craft of the Three Sea Hawks aerobatic flying team, famous for its tied-together formation flying.
The Boeing F3B was a biplane fighter and fighter bomber that served with the United States Navy from 1928 into the early 1930s.
The Curtiss F6C Hawk was a late 1920s American naval biplane fighter aircraft. It was part of the long line of Curtiss Hawk airplanes built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company for the American military.
The Lockheed Altair was a single-engined sport aircraft of the 1930s. It was a development of the Lockheed Sirius with a retractable undercarriage, and was the first Lockheed aircraft and one of the first aircraft designs with a fully retractable undercarriage.
The Douglas O-31 was the Douglas Aircraft Company's first monoplane observation straight-wing aircraft used by the United States Army Air Corps.
The Douglas O-43 was a monoplane observation aircraft used by the United States Army Air Corps.
The Consolidated Model 2 was a training airplane used by the United States Army Air Corps, under the designation PT-3 and the United States Navy under the designation NY-1.
The Northrop Beta was an American single-engine, all-metal, low-wing sporting monoplane built in 1931.
The Stearman M-2 Speedmail was a mail-carrier aircraft produced by the Stearman Aircraft Company of Wichita, Kansas. It first flew in January 1929. The Speedmail was a single seat biplane, with two large cargo compartments in place of a front cockpit. The fuselage and tail unit were constructed from welded chrome-moly steel tube faired with wooden formers and fabric covered aft of the pilots cockpit, detachable aluminium alloy panels covered the fuselage forward of the pilots cockpit. The wings were constructed from spruce spars and plywood built-up ribs, all fabric covered. It differed from previous Stearman aircraft by having a tailwheel instead of a tailskid due to its size and weight.
The Northrop Delta was an American single-engined passenger transport aircraft of the 1930s. Closely related to Northrop's Gamma mail plane, 13 were produced by the Northrop Corporation, followed by 19 aircraft built under license by Canadian Vickers Limited.
The Northrop XFT was an American prototype fighter aircraft of the 1930s. A single engined low-winged monoplane, it was designed and built to meet a United States Navy order for an advanced carrier based fighter. It exhibited poor handling, and was rejected by the Navy, the single prototype being lost in a crash. A variant, the Northrop 3A, also was unsuccessful.
The Lockheed C-121 Constellation is a military transport version of the Lockheed Constellation. A total of 332 aircraft were constructed for both the United States Air Force and United States Navy for various purposes. Numerous airborne early warning versions were also constructed. The C-121 later saw service with smaller civilian operators until 1993.
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