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Northrop Gamma 2D “N” Listings Northrop Gamma 2EC

Northrop Gamma 2E
Single-engine two-seat low-wing bomber monoplane

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Northrop Gamma 2E (Northrop photo via Skytamer Archive)

Overview — Northrop Gamma Series [1]

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 2E Series [2]

The Northrop Gamma 2E/2EC/2EDs were two-place military attack bombers supplied on the order of the Chinese government during the 1934-1935 timeframe. Powered by Wright Cyclone R-1820-F53, 750-hp engines, they were armed with two .30-cal machine guns in the wings, and carried a 1,100-lb bomb load. A semi-retractable bomb-aiming panel and gun port was located under the rear cockpit. The first delivery was 19 February 1934. Two Northrop Gamma 2E's (c/n 14 and c/n 46) were sold, and the parts for an additional twenty-five aircraft (c/n 48 through c/n 72) were crated and shipped to China. Upon arrival, they were assembled at the plant of the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company (CAMCO). The aircraft were used by the Chinese Air Force during hostilities with Japan from 1934-1938.

One Northrop Gamma 2ED-C (c/n 13, K5053) was sold to the British Air Ministry in November 1934 and another Northrop Gamma 2EC (c/n 47, NC13760) was sold to the USSR.

Fifteen Northrop Gamma 2Es (c/n 15, 16, 23-27 and 30-37) also went to the Chinese government in 1934, as did seventeen 17 Northrop Gamma 2ECs (c/n 17-22 and 45). The Northrop Gamma 2EC and Northrop Gamma 2ED models differed from the basic Northrop Gamma 2Es in seating, tailplane configuration, and the use of three-bladed propellers.

Northrop Gamma Variants [2]

Civil Variants

Military Variants

Northrop Gamma Operators [1]

Military Operators

Civil Operators

Specifications — Northrop Gamma 2E [3]




Tail Unit:


Power Plant:



Weights and Loadings:

Performance (Maximum loading with 1,000 lbs = 450 kg bombs):

Performance (a loaded weight of 6,400 lbs = 2,000 kg without bombs and racks):

Credits and Works Cited

  1. Wikipedia, Northrop Gamma
  2. Allen, Richard Sanders, The Northrop Story 1929-1939, Orion Books, New York, 1990, ISBN 0-517-56677-X, pp. 138, 150-155.
  3. Grey, C.G. and Bridgeman, Leonard. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1936, Sampson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd., London, 1936, pp. 299c-300c
  4. Photo, Northrop Gamma 2E, Skytamer Archive

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