Northrop Alpha

The Northrop Alpha was a single-engine, low-wing blank out quick transport and postal aircraft of the U.S. Northrop Aircraft Corporation in the early 1930s. It was the first mass produced model of the manufacturer. Since it could not prevail against the twin-engined competition models, production ended after only 17 copies. The three copies ordered a military variant were designated YC -19 for the first and Y1C -19 for the other two machines.


In 1928, John founded Knudsen Northrop, the former chief engineer at Lockheed, the Avion Corporation (since 1929 as Northrop Aircraft Corporation of the United Aircraft Corporation) in Burbank, California. Based on the developed by Lockheed Vega him, he designed the improved in many details and as all-metal aircraft designed Northrop Alpha. The first flight of the prototype took place in 1930.

The first five series models acquired TWA and put them down in 1931 between New York City and San Francisco one. Despite numerous stopovers the route could be managed so in less than 24 hours. This provided for the air mail service and therefore equipped with only three seats aircraft received the designation Model 3 In the same year acquired TWA eight machines of the type model 2 for six passengers. Three identical aircraft appeared as Northrop C-19 in the service of the U.S. Air Force and served until 1939 as a VIP transporter.

Very soon the airlines decided for safety reasons for the use of twin-engine transport aircraft. With the market entry of competing models corresponding to this request, Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-2 ended the production of the alpha. The already delivered machines were then converted into cargo aircraft (Model 4 and 4a). Based on the Alpha then was also the single-engine cargo aircraft Northrop Gamma.

The last remaining Alpha came again in 1975 in the possession of the TWA and is now in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.


The Alpha was one of the first all-metal aircraft of the United States and pointed in the fuselage and wing design some pioneering innovations. The hull of the cantilever low-wing monoplane was constructed in half-shell construction. Up to six passengers were in an enclosed cabin in the front part of the aircraft. The open cockpit the pilot was located behind the wings. The aircraft had a rigid spur wheel chassis.

Power was the nine-cylinder radial engine from Pratt & Whitney Wasp, which gave the aircraft a high for that time speed. The high engine power in this approach allowed the use of smaller airfields.

The Alpha was equipped with a radio navigation system and a de-icing on the wings that gave the plane night flight and all-weather capability.

Specifications (Model 2)