Famed aviation pioneer Donald Douglas once said, "Every airplane flying today has some Jack Northrop in it." Northrop was an aviation genius who was more interested in developing new technology than selling airplanes or making a fortune. The Northrop story is the story of American aviation history; he worked with the Loughead brothers (who changed their name to Lockheed) and Donald Douglas, designing some of America's greatest airplanes from the Vega to the DC-3 and ultimately to the most controversial of all, ...
Famed aviation pioneer Donald Douglas once said, "Every airplane flying today has some Jack Northrop in it." Northrop was an aviation genius who was more interested in developing new technology than selling airplanes or making a fortune. The Northrop story is the story of American aviation history; he worked with the Loughead brothers (who changed their name to Lockheed) and Donald Douglas, designing some of America's greatest airplanes from the Vega to the DC-3 and ultimately to the most controversial of all, the flying wing. He also helped redesign the Spirit of St. Louis, lopping off weight and making it possible for Charles Lindbergh to successfully solo the Atlantic. Northrop developed the revolutionary flying wing, a plane without a fuselage. The U.S. Army gave him a contract to build 30 craft. But when Air Force Secretary Stuart Symington assumed office he ordered the cancellation of Northrop's contract. He also ordered the destruction of all the flying wings in production--presumably to recover components though the cost of destruction was infinitely greater than the value of recovered components. Conspiracy theories abounded. The destruction of his beloved flying wing was a metaphor for Northrop's career--it ended sadly and prematurely. However, he lived just long enough to learn about the development of the Air Force's stealth B-2 bomber, a flying wing bearing a remarkable similarity to his vision. The Northrop story is a bittersweet tale of invention, success and politics in the best American tradition. [1,689-word Titans of Fortune article]
Daniel Alef has written many articles, one law book, one historical anthology, Centennial Stories, and authored the award-winning historical novel, Pale Truth (MaxIt Publishing, 2000). Foreword Magazine named Pale Truth book of the year for general fiction in 2001 and the novel received many outstanding reviews including ones from Publishers Weekly and the American Library Association's Booklist. A sequel to Pale Truth, currently entitled Measured Swords, has just been completed. Titans of Fortune, biographical profiles of America's great moguls, men and women who had a profound impact on America and the World, began in April 2003. He is also a contributor to the recently released reference work: Gender and Women's Leadership pubished by Sage Publishing. Mr. Alef's experience as a lawyer, CEO of a public company, a rancher, and author, combined with his academic background-UCLA (B.S.), UCLA Law School (J.D.), the London School of Economics and Political Science (LL.M.), and Cambridge University (post-graduate studies)-gave him the perception to analyze the powerful titans and their achievements, and to place their lives and triumphs in a larger perspective. The Titans of Fortune series of articles appeared in several newspapers including the Lee Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, and became a weekly column in the Santa Barbara News Press. Mr. Alef also had a one-hour weekly radio show based on the Titans of Fortune column. He has appeared as a guest speaker and lecturer at various university, Rotary, and Kiwanis clubs, public libraries including San Francisco and Chicago, cruise ships, and at numerous historical societies across the nation. Mr. Alef serves on the Board of Trustees of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and on the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Activities League. He is a black belt in judo and one of the head instructors of the University of California at Santa Barbara Judo Club. He currently lives with his family in Santa Barbara.
The sleek B-2 stealth bomber emerged from the azure sky like a spectral alien, accompanied by the roar of thunder rumbling from its four General Electric F-118 engines. The low flyby above a million spectators lining the Rose Parade on Jan. 1 was hair-raising.
The most advanced and unique aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, literally a flying wing, was the brainchild of an aeronautical genius, Jack Northrop, who originated the idea nearly 80 years earlier. Famed aviation pioneer Donald Douglas once said, "Every airplane flying today has some Jack Northrop in it."
But Northrop encountered severe turbulence as he soared into aviation history with more than 50 unique aircraft designs, and his Flying Wing was enshrined with enough controversy to pique the interest of the most reluctant conspiracy theorist.
Northrop was born in Newark, N.J., and spent a few years in the Midwest before his father landed in Santa Barbara in 1904. Jack was nine and helped his father build a two-room tent-house on the Mesa close to the beach, a great place to watch sea gulls flying gracefully over the blue Pacific.
He loved school and attributed the sound education he received at Santa Barbara High for his success. "I believe," he said, "that the high school training I received was the sort of thing you would expect in a junior college at this time."
After graduating in 1913, Jack spent three idle months on a cattle ranch in Maui, in sharp contrast to the frenetic pace he would set for the next 40 years. When he returned, Northrop had several jobs: he worked for his father, drew plans for a prominent architect and was a mechanic in Bill Rust's garage.
At some point he became intrigued by airplanes, perhaps when he saw a French pilot take off and land on the lawn of the Potter Hotel. As serendipity would have it, in 1916 Allen and Malcolm Loughead set up shop in space rented from Rust at 101 State St. Northrop was a frequent visitor. The Lougheads planned to manufacture seaplanes and launch them from East Beach. Northrop joined the Lougheads and designed their F-1 10-passenger Flying Boat. Then World War I intervened. After a short stint in the Signal Corps, Northrop resumed his work with the Lougheads.