Archive Photos ¹

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

Avion Experimental No.1 (Northrop) “N” Listings Northrop Alpha 3

Northrop Alpha 2
Single-engine seven-seat closed cabin land monoplane

Archive Photos

Northrop Alpha 2 (3600x2400 pixel 3-view drawing by

Northrop Alpha 2 (NC11Y, c/n 2, mfg 11/1930) on display at the National Air & Space Museum, Washington, DC (2/20/2004 photo by Jim Hough)

Northrop Alpha under restoration at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino, California (8/27/2003 photo copyright © 2003 Skytamer Images by John Shupek)

Northrop Alpha 2 (NC999Y, c/n 4) (Historic photo from the NASA Langley Research Center Photo Collection)

Northrop Alpha 2 (NC942Y, c/n 6) (Historic photo by Northrop Aircraft from the Skytamer Archive)


The Northrop Alpha was an American single-engine, all-metal, seven-seat, low-wing monoplane fast mail/passenger transport aircraft used in the 1930s. Design work was done at the Avion Corporation, which in 1929, became the Northrop Aircraft Corporation based in Burbank, California.

Design & Development

Drawing on his experience with the Lockheed Vega, John K. Northrop designed an advanced mail/passenger transport aircraft. In addition to all-metal construction, the new Alpha benefited from two revolutionary aerodynamic advancements: wing fillets researched at the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, and a multicellular stressed-skin wing of Northrop's own design which was later successfully used on Douglas DC-2 and Douglas DC-3. In addition, the Alpha was the first commercial aircraft to use rubber deicer boots on wing and empennage leading edges which, in conjunction with state-of-the-art radio navigation equipment, gave it day or night, all-weather capability. The aircraft first flew in 1930, with a total of 17 built. The Alpha was further developed into a dedicated fast transport Northrop Gamma.

Operational History

The Alpha entered service with Transcontinental & Western Air (future TWA) making its inaugural flight on 20 April 1931. The trip from San Francisco to New York required 13 stops and took just over 23 hours. TWA operated 14 aircraft until 1935, flying routes with stops in San Francisco, California; Winslow, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Amarillo, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Terre Haute, Indiana; Indianapolis, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and New York. Three Alphas were operated by the US military as C-19 VIP transports until 1939.

The third Alpha built, NC11Y, was re-acquired by TWA in 1975, and is preserved at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.



Specifications (Alpha 2)




Tail Unit:


strong>Power Plant:



Weights and Loadings (Landplane):

Weights and Loadings (Seaplane):

Performance (Landplane):

Performance (Seaplane):


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