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(Photo by John Shupek copyright © 200x Skytamer Images)

Northrop Gamma 1E “N” Listings Northrop Gamma 2B

Northrop Gamma 2A Texaco Sky Chief
Single-seat all-metal low-wing sport monoplane


Archive Photos

Northrop Gamma 2A (3-view drawing by Skytamer.com)

Northrop Gamma 2A (Historic photo by Northrop Grumman)

Overview — Northrop Gamma Series


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 a light bomber.

Design and Development — The Northrop Gamma was a further development of the successful Northrop Alpha and shared its predecessor's aerodynamic innovations with wing fillets and multicellular stressed-skin wing construction. Like late Northrop Alphas, the fixed landing gear was covered in distinctive aerodynamic spats, and the aircraft introduced a fully enclosed cockpit.

Operational History — The Northrop Gamma saw fairly limited civilian service as mail planes with Trans World Airlines, but had an illustrious career as flying laboratory and record-breaking aircraft. The US military found the design sufficiently interesting to encourage Northrop to develop it into what eventually became the Northrop A-17 Nomad light attack aircraft. Military versions of the Northrop Gamma saw combat with Chinese and Spanish Republican air forces. Twenty Five Northrop Gamma 2Es were assembled in China from components provided by Northrop.

On June 2, 1933 Frank Hawks flew his Northrop Gamma 2A Texaco Sky Chief from Los Angeles to New York in a record 13 hours, 26 minutes, and 15 seconds. In 1935, Howard Hughes improved on this time in his modified Northrop Gamma 2G making the west-east transcontinental run in 9 hours, 26 minutes, and 10 seconds.

The most famous Northrop Gamma was the Northrop Gamma 2B Polar Star. The aircraft was carried via ship and off-loaded onto the pack ice in the Ross Sea during Lincoln Ellsworth's 1934 expedition to Antarctica. The Northrop Gamma 2B was almost lost when the ice underneath it broke and it had to be returned to United States for repairs. The Northrop Gamma 2B Polar Star's second return to Antarctica in September 1934 was also futile — a connecting rod broke and the aircraft had to be returned yet again for repairs. On January 3, 1935, Ellsworth and pilot Bernt Balchen finally flew over Antarctica.

On November 23, 1935, Ellsworth and Canadian pilot Herbert Hollick-Kenyon attempted the world's first trans-Antarctic flight from Dundee Island in the Weddell Sea to Little America. The crew made four stops during their journey, in the process becoming the first people ever to visit Western Antarctica. During one stop, a blizzard completely packed the fuselage with snow which took a day to clear out. On December 5, after traveling over 2,400 miles (3,865 km) the aircraft ran out of fuel just 25 miles (40 km) short of the goal. The intrepid crew took six days to travel the remainder of the journey and stayed in the abandoned Richard E. Byrd camp until being found by the Discovery II research vessel on January 15, 1936. The Northrop Gamma 2B Polar Star was later recovered and donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum where it resides to this day.

Overview — Northrop Gamma 2A


Northrop's first Gamma the “2A” was a single-engine, single-seat, enclosed cabin, low-wing, land monoplane. The aircraft was powered by a 700-hp Wright Whirlwind GR-1510 #13648, fourteen-cylinder, twin-row, radial engine. The Northrop Gamma 2A was built to the order of Lt. Cmdr. Frank M. Hawks, director of the Aviation Department of the Texas Company, a major oil producer/distributor. The Northrop Gamma 2A was approved for “X” license (NX12265) on 22 August 1932 to the Northrop Corporation, Los Angeles Municipal Airport, Inglewood, California, "for development of long-range, high-speed mail transport."

The Northrop Gamma 2A was sold on 14 February 1933 to the Texas Company, New York City, New York. The price was $40,000, the delivery date being 17 December 1932 (same day as the Wright Brothers first flight). The aircraft was named “Texaco 11” and called Texaco Sky Chief. The aircraft was approved for “R” license on (NR12265) on 28 February 1933, "for long-distance flight." Flying between Los Angeles and New York, Cmdr. Hawks in the Northrop Gamma 2A set a new nonstop transcontinental speed record 13 hours 27 minutes. Other nonstop speed records set by Hawks in his speedy Gamma 2A included: Los Angeles to Atlanta and Regina, Saskatchewan, and to Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The aircraft was sold on 22 June 1934 to Garfield Arthur "Gar" Wood, Detroit, Michigan. The aircraft was named Kinjockety II and was entered into various Air Race competitions. On 4 September 1936, during the Bendix Transcontinental Race of NAR, near Stafford, Kansas, the aircraft "exploded in midair." The pilot Joseph Palmer Jacobsen was able to escape via parachute, unhurt. The aircraft was totally destroyed.

Northrop Gamma Variants


Civil Variants

Military Variants

Northrop Gamma Operators


Military Operators

Civil Operators

Specifications — Northrop Gamma 2A


Credits and Works Cited



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