John Knudsen Northrop

//John Knudsen Northrop

John Knudsen Northrop

Inducted in 2002

Pioneer In The Aerospace Industry

1895 – 1981

John “Jack” Northrop’s aerospace career began in 1916 as a mechanical draftsman-engineer for the Loughead Aircraft Company. In 1923 he joined the Douglas Aircraft Company and helped design the famous “World Cruisers” — the first airplanes to fly around the world. He later rejoined the Lockheed (Loughead) Aircraft Company as chief engineer. While there he designed the immortal Vega series of airplanes with their unique prefabricated fuselage and aerodynamic design. Piloted by legendary flyers Wiley Post and Amelia Earhart, the Vega design established many record-breaking flights.

Northrop founded his first aircraft company in 1928, Avion Corporation, which became the Northrop Aircraft Corporation in 1930. Under his leadership, the company designed and built the first all-metal body airplanes, the Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

In 1939, the newly formed Northrop Corporation changed its focus from commercial to military aircraft designs. During World War II, the company produced military planes such as the P-61 Black Widow night-fighter. Northrop’s lifelong dream was to build an all-wing airplane without a drag-producing fuselage or tail. His vision soared for a short time in the XB-35 and the YB-49 flying wing bombers of the 1940s and 1950s.

Jack Northrop’s influence on American aircraft designs extended well into the 21st century. Before his death he saw a model of the USAF classified flying wing bomber. His vision still lives on in the “Spirit” known as the B-2 Stealth Bomber.