Thursday, 17 May 2007

Jack Northrop 1895-1981

John Knudsen Northrop's family moved to Santa Barbara CA in 1914, where he developed an deep interest in aeronautics in high school. In 1916 he had went to work for the Loughead Brothers as an engineering draftsman, contributing to the design of their twin-engine F-1 flying boat.

Moving in 1916 to Douglas Co in Santa Monica, he went from draftsman to designer to project engineer on several early Douglas aircraft. The next major move came in 1927, when he went with Lockheed, there designing the original Vega. However, needing to develop his own ideas about all-metal airplanes, he struck off on his own in 1929 to form Northrop Aircraft Co, there producing the Alpha, an airplane that was regarded as well ahead of its time. Following the success of Alpha, he developed the all-metal design into Beta, Delta, and Gamma.

Northrop Corporation was formed in 1932, and became a subsidiary of Douglas, to produce his designs of the USAC A-17 attack planes for and USN BT-1 dive bombers, as well as export models for foreign countries. In 1938 he sold his interests in the corporation to Douglas and formed Northrop Aircraft Inc, becoming its president and chief engineer until his retirement in 1952. There, in addition to many successful military aircraft, he developed his pet flying-wing project, the visionary concept of which, stalled by bureaucracy at the time, finally proved its value in our present stealth aircraft designs.

Jack Northrop was a widely-known and well-respected name in aviation by that time, and he was awarded the Presidential Certificate of Merit for his "extraordinary contributions to the nation's defense in World War 2." He presided over the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences in 1946, and became an honorary fellow in its successor organization, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a fellow of the Royal Aeronautics Society. In 1947 he received the St Louis Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for "meretorious service in the advancement of aeronautics."
Investiture in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame came in 1972 and in the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1974