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Northrop Gamma 2H “N” Listings Northrop Gamma 2L

Northrop Gamma 2J2
Single-engine three-crew low-wing basic/advanced trainer monoplane

Archive Photos

Northrop Gamma 2J2, (NX18148, NC18148, c/n 146) (Northrop/Douglas photo via Reference 4)

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 2J2 [3,4]

After a long gap in Northrop Gamma production, during which Northrop built mostly Northrop A-17 Nomad attack bombers for the Army Air Corps, a unique aircraft was produced as a demonstrator to be entered in the Army Air Corps competition for basic and advanced trainers. Designated the Northrop Gamma 2J the aircraft was manufactured on 12/18/1935, c/n 186, and delivered for testing by the USAAC on 1/10/1936. The aircraft with a crew of three, powered by a 600-hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp S3H1-G engine (#6288) driving a three-blade propeller. The aircraft retained the standard Gamma wings but had a new fuselage and a fully retractable main undercarriage folding inward into the wing leading edge. This undercarriage design was also used in the Northrop A-17A Nomad, the first of which appeared seven months after the Gamma 2J. Delivered on 10 January 1936, the Gamma 2J lost the competition to the North American NA-26 (Air Corps BC-1).

After losing the competition to the North American BC-1, the aircraft was issued “X” license NX18148 on 12/21/1937 to the Northrop Corporation, Inglewood, California. The aircraft was used as a Northrop and Douglas company hack with a TT of 104:55 hrs, the aircraft was restricted to flights in the vicinity of the factory. The aircraft was later approved for NC license (NC18148) on 7/13/19 under ATC Gr. 2-553 (pending). The aircraft was used by the Douglas Aircraft Company, Santa Monica, California from 1937-1944.

The aircraft was sold to Danny A. Fowlie, Santa Monica, California on 3/18/1944. It was sold again on 9/1/1944 to Reese L. Milner, Los Angeles, California.

On 5/19/1945, the aircraft suffered an engine failure, stalled and crashed at El Paso Municipal Airport. The pilot, Aubrey S. Taylor, was fatally injured and the passengers Reese L. Milner and Edward C. Rutherford were injured.

Northrop Gamma Variants [2]

Civil Variants

Military Variants

Northrop Gamma Operators [2]

Military Operators

Civil Operators

Specifications — Northrop Gamma 2J2 [3,4]


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. 127-138.

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