Th N-9MB Flying Wing

This is perhaps one of the most unusual aircraft I’ve had the privilege of photographing and it also happens to be one of my favorites. No matter how many times I’ve seen this plane fly or how boring the skies are photographically, I will always raise my camera for this plane. This is the N-9MB Flying Wing, built by Northrop and is one of four prototypes built and is the only left today.

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Jack Northrop started working on all wing designed aircraft in 1929 and the N-9M was the third in the lineage. It was one third of the size at 60ft long and the M standing for model. The N-9M was used as a test bed for the XB-35 and YB-35 heavy bombers. The preliminary order for the B-35 came in October 1941 and it included the 1/3 scaled model for testing and familiarization of pilots with the all wing design. In December 1942 the first N-9M flew. In 1943 an order was placed for three models and a fourth one was added on after the first N-9M crashed. They were designated N-9M-1, -2, -A, -B. Most of the air frame and skin were made out of wood with some steel tubing inside. Three of the models used the two 290 hp (216 kW) Menasco C6S-1 inverted air-cooled straight-six engines and driving twin-bladed propellers. The N9MB, the only one left, used two 300 hp (224 kW) Franklin XO-540-7 engines.

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Northrop test pilot John Myers was the first to fly the N-9M on December 27th, 1942. Over forty five test flights were flown with most being cancelled due to mechanical issues with the Menasco engines. The original N-9M crashed on May 19th, 1943 killing the pilot Max Constant. When the Flying Wing Bomber program was cancelled all the prototypes were destroyed except for N-9MB. The research data gathered from the N-9M and B-35 were used however to develop the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber which entered service in 1989.

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Today the N-9MB is housed at the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, CA. It is frequently in the air giving demonstrations for the masses at airshows. It is by far one of the quietest aircraft I have ever come across and at a distance in level flight, even with it’s bright paint job, it does disappear. Thanks to the help of many volunteers this important piece of aviation history lives on.

Images Captured with Nikon D4, 200-400 VR, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Flying Wing Soars Again

You know it never ceases to amaze me how something that seems so crazy at the time can later prove to be so awesome! This plane fits in that category. This is the N-9MB Flying Wing, one of three prototypes built and the only one that exists in the world. It was a design that later gave way to the B-2 Bomber. The really amazing thing about this plane is that there is no computer. Everything is manual in that plane and with only one pilot, that’s a heck of a lot of work for that one person. It’s got an amazing history which if you’re interested you can read here.

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Now photographically this little plane rocks! Shooting with a D4, 200-400 VR and SunSniper Strap, this is all just point and click. This plane has two major advantages about it when it comes to the capture. First is its shape, it is so unique and so arrow like that your eye has to go to it and follow it through the frame. Second it’s bloody bright yellow! Clouds or no clouds it just works when it’s in the sky. It’s one of the few planes that doesn’t look clunky when flying. It’s just made to do that.

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Now I have been fortunate enough to be able to photograph this plane a couple of times and now I look for the interesting angles that I didn’t see before. While I was at the Planes of Fame Airshow, I got this one shot with a star burst coming off of the wing tip. With no clouds it didn’t really stick out enough, so I tried something that I don’t often do with my plane shots, I went black and white. Maybe it’s the shape or maybe it’s the star burst adding intrigue but this one I kinda like.

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A Sweet New Plane in the Shed

This really is a sweet plane! The N9MB Flying Wing is the only example of it’s kind left in the world. This was one of three prototypes that were made as 1/3 scale models in development of the XB-35 long range bomber by Northrop. This plane flies with no tail and therefore no rudder. It also has no computer on board so all adjustments are done by the pilot. It’s an amazing piece of technology that led the way to the development of the B-2 bomber and other stealth planes.

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In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 200-400 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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