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

Northrop Gamma 2G “N” Listings Northrop Gamma 2J

Northrop Gamma 2H
Single-engine two-place closed cabin low-wing landplane racing monoplane

Archive Photos

Northrop Gamma 2H, NC2111, NX2111, NR2111, c/n 12 (Northrop photo via Skytamer Archive [1])

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 2H (2D/2D-2) [3]

The Northrop Gamma 2H was a “one-of” single-engine two-seat closed-cabin low-wing landplane monoplane racer built during 1934. The Northrop Gamma 2H, started off life as a bit of a mystery. Northrop company records show the Northrop Gamma as the Gamma 2“H”, but all FAA records show it as a Gamma 2D or Gamma 2D-2, with no reference to an “H” suffix. The Northrop Gamma 2H was built to order for Marion Price Guggenheim, and flown in tests and races by Guggenheim pilot Russell W. Thaw.

Bought on order of Marron Price Guggenheim, but registered 12/21/1934 in the name of Guggenheim personal pilot Russell W. Thaw, Garden City, New York. The delivery date was 12/20/1934. License NX2111 on 1/2/1935, for testing of the Sperry automatic pilot. The Northrop Gamma 2H was approved for NR2111 license on 8/28/1935 for use as entry in the Bendix Intercontinental Race of NAR. Russell W. Thaw flew the aircraft to 3rd place in that race.

The aircraft then receive a NC license (NC2111) as of 10/14/1935 and quickly reapproved 11/35 with a NR license (NR2111) for flight of Russell W. Thaw to South America for the “rescue” of Lincoln Ellsworth and Herbert Hollick-Kenyon, thought to be lost in Antarctica.

On 9 December 1935, Atlanta, Georgia, the aircraft was involved in an accident in which the pilot Russell W. Thaw and mechanic William H. Klenke, Jr., escaped injury. On a predawn takeoff, the engine cut out, and the aircraft grazed trees, skidding 200 feet into a ditch. The, 1/g, etc. were badly damaged. The wrecked aircraft was then transferred in November 1936 to Jacqueline Cochran, New York, New York, but the bill of sale was dated 16 February 1937. it was thought that parts would be used to rebuild the Cochrane Gamma (c/n 11), but instead c/n 12 was rebuilt at the Northrop factory during 1-3/1937 and NC license (NC2111) was issued on 4/1/1937 hundred ATC Gr. 2-535.

After being repaired, the aircraft was sold to McFadden Publications, New York, New York on 7/28/38. The aircraft was flown by Bernarr R. MacFadden.

The aircraft was involved in another accident on 5/8/1938, Bendix, New Jersey, while piloted by Edward F. Gorski. The engine quit on takeoff, nosed over in landing, causing damage to the fuselage, left-wing, 1/g, tail, etc. The aircraft was sold as a wreck for $3,000 to Charles H. Babb, Glendale, California on 8/18/1939. The aircraft was rebuilt, and sold again on 4/1942 Continental Air Lines, Denver, Colorado, for executive Use. It was sold once more on 10/26/1942 to U.S. Army Engineers, San Francisco, California, for use on the Canol Project, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The ultimate disposition of the aircraft is unknown.

Northrop Gamma Variants [2]

Civil Variants

Military Variants

Northrop Gamma Operators [2]

Military Operators

Civil Operators

Specifications — Northrop Gamma 2H [3]


Power Plant:


Weights and Loadings:


Credits and Works Cited

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

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