Northrop, John Knudson

Northrop, John Knudson, 1895–1981, American aviation pioneer, inventor, and executive, b. Newark, N.J. He worked for the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Co. (1916–20) as a draftsman, designing seaplanes, including the F-1 flying boat, and biplanes. He then moved to the Douglas Aircraft Co. (1923–27), where he designed fuel tanks and became a project engineer. With Lockheed Aircraft Co. (1927–28), he designed and built the Vega monoplane, a version of which was flown by Amelia Earhart on her solo 1932 trans-Atlantic flight. In 1928 Northrop cofounded Avion Corp., which was bought (1929) by United Aircraft and Transport Corp. and renamed Northrop Aircraft Corp. There he developed the all-metal plane, including the Alpha and Beta monoplanes. In 1932, backed by Donald Douglas, he founded the Northrop Corp., which produced the Gamma and Delta transport planes, A-17 attack plane, and BT-1 dive bomber. Douglas Aircraft used Northrop's multicellular wing design in its DC-3. In 1939 he founded Northrop Aircraft, Inc., which he led until 1952. It produced the F-89 Scorpion interceptor, P-61 Black Widow night fighter, and Snark intercontinental missile. His flying wing project was ultimately the basis for the B-2 stealth bombers.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Aviation: Biographies