Model Airplane News
January, 1934

Model Airplane News Cover for January, 1934 by Jo Kotula Northrop Gamma

Northrop Gamma
Model Airplane News Cover Art for January, 1934
by Jo Kotula
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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

 The Northrop Gamma    The Northrop Gamma      The Northrop Gamma

Northrop Gamma
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The 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. The fixed landing gear was covered in distinctive aerodynamic "spats" and, unlike the Alpha, it had a fully enclosed cockpit. The 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. In June of 1933 Frank Hawks (of Texaco No. 13 and Time Flies fame) flew his Gamma 2A "Sky Chief" (shown on the cover) from Los Angeles to New York in a record 13 hours, 26 minutes, and 15 seconds. In 1935, Howard Hughes improved on this time by five seconds in his modified Gamma 2G.

 The Northrop Gamma Example of fillets    The Northrop Gamma Polar Star     The Northrop Gamma Controls Patent No. 2,031,177

Northrop Gamma "Polar Star"
left: example of "filleting"
right: Northrop Controls Patent No. 2,031,177
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The most famous Gamma was the "Polar Star" used in Lincoln Ellsworth's expeditions to Antarctica. In January of 1935, Ellsworth and pilot Bernt Balchen finally became the first people to fly over Antarctica. In November of 1935, Ellsworth attempted the world's first trans-Antarctic flight. After traveling over 2,400 miles, the aircraft ran out of fuel just 25 miles short of the goal. The intrepid crew took 6 days to walk the remainder of the way and stayed in the abandoned Richard E. Byrd camp until being rescued. Polar Star was later recovered and donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum where it resides to this day.

The US military found the design sufficiently interesting to encourage Northrop to develop it into what eventually became the Northrop A-17 light attack aircraft. Military versions of the Gamma saw combat with Chinese and Spanish Republican air forces.

Here is a video of a large scale model of the Northrop Gamma:

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