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

Northrop Alpha 4A “N” Listings Northrop Beta 3

Northrop YC-19/Y1C-19 Alpha
Single-engine five-place Military VIP transport monoplane

Archive Photos

Northrop Alpha 2 (3-view drawing by

Northrop YC-19 Alpha (A.C. 31-516), historic photo via the National Museum of the United States Air Force

Northrop Y1C-19 Alpha (A.C. 31-518) historic photo via the National Museum of the United States Air Force


The Northrop YC-19 Alpha and Y1C-19 Alpha was a series of three aircraft purchased from Northrop by the US Army Air Corps in 1931. They were slightly modified versions of the civil Northrop Alpha 2. The major difference between the C-19s and the Alphas was that the civilian version carried a pilot and six passengers while the Army version carried a pilot and four passengers. One aircraft, the last of the three purchased, crashed between Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia on Sunday, March 19, 1933, killing its pilot and two passengers. The other aircraft were used for several more years until being sent to training schools as subjects for maintenance and repair classes.

Northrop Alpha Series

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 benefitted 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.



Northrop YC-19/Y1C-19 Alpha Specifications




Tail Unit:


Power Plant:



Weights and Loadings:


Credits and Works Cited

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