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Northrop Gamma 2G
Single-engine two-place closed cabin landplane monoplane racer

Archive Photos

Northrop Gamma 2G, NC13761, c/n 11 (Northrop photos via Skytamer Archive)

Overview — Northrop Gamma Series [2]

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 2G [3]

Ordered by the already famous aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran, the Gamma 2G (X13761/NC13761) was the sole Gamma to be powered by a liquid cooled engine, a 700-hp Curtiss Conqueror SGV-1570F-4 driving a two-blade propeller. The aircraft was fitted as a two-seater and did not have a forward cargo compartment, but in all other respects it was generally similar to the Gamma 2Ds. However, the aircraft was extensively damaged during its delivery flight on 30 September 1934, when the ferry pilot, Wesley Smith, was forced by the overheating Conqueror engine to make a forced landing near Tucumcari, New Mexico. This accident forced to Jacqueline Cochran to abandon her plan to enter the Gamma 2G in the MacRobertson race from England to Australia and the aircraft had to be rebuilt from parts from s/n 13, and uncompleted Gamma 2D. At that time the aircraft was re-engine with a Pratt & Whitney engine and Jacqueline Cochran entered it in the 1935 Bendix Trophy Race. Bad luck struck again as Jacqueline Cochran was forced out of the race by rapidly deteriorating weather conditions. She then leased the Gamma 2G to Howard Hughes, who had a 1000-hp Wright SR-1820-G2 radial engine, driving a three-blade constant speed propeller, installed. As the most powerful Gamma, the aircraft was used by Howard Hughes to set a new transcontinental nonstop record on 13-14 January 1936. The record flight was from Burbank, California to Newark, New Jersey in 9 hours 26 minutes 10 seconds with an average speed of 259 mph (417 km/h). Less than six months later, on 10 July 1936, the Gamma 2G was destroyed when engine failure on takeoff from Indianapolis, Indiana, forced Jackie Odlum to attempt an emergency landing. The aircraft nosed was over, ground looped and was damaged beyond repair.

Northrop Gamma Variants [2]

Civil Variants

Military Variants

Northrop Gamma Operators [2]

Military Operators

Civil Operators

Specifications — Northrop Gamma 2G [2,4]


Power Plant:


Weights and Loadings:


Credits and Works Cited

  1. Photo, Northrop Gamma 2G via Skytamer Archive
  2. Wikipedia, Northrop Gamma
  3. Francillon, René J., McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920: Volume I, Putnam Aeronautical Books, London, 1995, ISBN 0-85177-827-5, pp. 134
  4. Allen, Richard Sanders, The Northrop Story 1929-1939, Orion Books, New York, 1990, ISBN 0-517-56677-X, pp. 138, 150-155.

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