Original U.S. Artifacts from Crashed Northrop YB-49 Flying Wing Experimental Bomber with Book and Signed Photograph
Original Items: One-of-a-kind set. This is an iconic plane design, which firmly installed itself in the minds of people as a result of the incredible cinematic masterpiece that is Raiders of the Lost Ark, the 1981 blockbuster from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. In the movie, Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, ends up getting in a fight underneath the most "Nazi German" of any aircraft: a FLYING WING.
The plane is ultimately destroyed, however the idea of a "flying wing" bomber being the epitome of German Airplane design since then has existed in the collective cinematic consciousness. Even in the recent movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, the Red Skull's ultimate weapon also ends up being a massive flying wing. However, in truth, a German flying wing bomber never made it past the testing phases before the end of the war. This was the German Horten Ho 229, the first flying wing to feature jet engines.
A flying wing is a tailless fixed-wing aircraft that has no definite fuselage, an idea that is almost as old as aviation itself. However the design was too modern, and beyond the technology at that time. Hugo Junkers patented a design in 1910, however even by 1931, his best design still required a fuselage. Soviet Russian designers also attempted to make a workable design, but in the end did not end up producing a workable flying wing design.
However, since the 1930s, John Knudsen "Jack" Northrop had been working on a "flying wing" design as well, and by 1940, after he founded Northrop Aviation, he had a workable scale prototype: the Northrop N-1M. The needs of WWII distracted from much active development, however by 1946 the Northrop YB-35 "Flying Wing" Strategic Heavy Bomber had taken flight. The next year, to solve certain problems, a jet engine version of the aircraft was launched, the YB-49.
Various test versions were made, however in 1949 the project was sadly cancelled, and unfortunately all surviving and in production examples ended up being melted down by order of Stuart Symington, Secretary of the Air Force. It is said that watching his dream of a "wing only" aircraft get melted down is what ultimately resulted in Jack Northrop's retirement, per his son John Northrop Jr.. This may have been part of a back door power struggle within the government, as government contracts were highly lucrative, and competition was intense.
However, Northrop Aviation would eventually have the last laugh. By the 1980s, the dramatically reduced radar profile of a "flying wing" resulted in renewed interest in the idea. This ultimately resulted in the eventually development of the Northrop B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber, which is still in service today, and one of the only successful flying wing designs ever in service.
As noted before, pretty much all of the original YB-35 and YB-49 planes were destroyed and melted down for scrap. However, during development, one sadly crashed, the remains of which are today some of the only artifacts in existence of the legendary project. This artifact set begins with a very nice matted photograph of the Jet Variant of the Northrop flying wing, the YB-49, pictured in flight over the airfield.
Below this are various fragments of a YB-49, recovered from the Crash Site, as documented in papers included with this wonderful set. They range in size from about 1 t 2 inches across, and include a variety of materials, including part of one of the windows. The caption describing the set is below this:
THE NORTHROP XB-35 MADE ITS FIRST FLIGHT ON
JUNE 25, 1946. AERODYNAMICALLY SOUND, THE
PROPELLER DRIVEN FLYING WING SUFFERED FROM
PROPULSION PROBLEMS AND THE ORDER FOR 200
EXAMPLES WAS CANCELLED. THE YB-49 JET
POWERED VERSION SHOWED AMAZING POTENTIAL,
BUT THE ENTIRE PROJECT WAS TERMINATED IN
YB-49 S/N 42-102368 WHICH CRASHED ON JUNE 5, 1948
KILLING THE ENTIRE CREW INCLUDING CAPTAIN
All of this is very nicely mounted inside of a very nice glazed metal frame. It measures about 15 1/4"W x 24 3/8"T x 1 3/8", and is in wonderful display condition. Included with the set are some auction records and crash site research, from where the artifacts were acquired. There is a Certificate of Authenticity from "Doc Aeronut Collectibles" indicating that they were recovered in 1992 from the Mojave desert near the crash site. There is also a photograph of the YB-49 on the ground.
Most interestingly, there is also a signed photograph of the YB-49 taking off, apparently for the first time. The hand written caption reads:
FIRST AIR FORCE FLIGHT
NORTHROP PLANT IN HAWTHORNE
January 13, 1948
Below this is a signature, which appears to be "Bob Sanders" but we cannot quite make it out. This photograph may have been acquired with the idea of replacing the one inside the frame, as it is definitely a more compelling piece.
To finish up this wonderful collection is a copy of NORTHROP FLYING WINGS: A History of Jack Nothrop's Visionary Aircraft by Garry R. Pape with John M. Campbell, ISBN 0-88740-689-0, published in 1995. It still has the original slip cover, and is in very good condition. It is 288 pages long, and measures 8 3/4"W x 11 1/4"H x 1". The book is full of pictures, illustrations, and information regarding history of this highly revolutionary and interesting aircraft design.
This is a lovely Northrop "Fling Wing" historical set, ready to hang on the wall and display!
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