Northtop Flying Wing, inflight computing / was Re: XH558 - was Re: using new technology etc

Robert Ollerton rollerton at
Thu Jun 25 23:47:52 CDT 2015

>From memory, so please forgive a mistake or two:  The TB-49 Wings would Yaw
(side to side motion) while in flight, sometimes just enough to make the
crew seasick, sometimes enough to be dangerous when in formation with other
aircraft and always unable to stay on track to be a useful bomber.  I
recall someone saying the yaw was several wing spans in length in each
direction.  The autopilots of the time couldn't dampen it fast enough let
alone keep it under control.  Jack Northrup and his team knew they would
have to wait for something both programmable, more data inputs and faster.
there were about 4  or 6  piston engined, and 4 or 6 jet engine versions.
Stored on the ramp at Ontario California airport for many years and then
sold for salvage, I think in the late 60s or mid 70s.  Jack Northrup
continued to be enthusiastic about the tail-less design even in
retirement.  Much later, Jack was given a vip tour of the secret B2 factory
and presented with a model of the design in Lancaster CA before his
death.    Im pretty sure there is a book on this, perhaps from the
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

On Fri, Jun 19, 2015 at 2:40 PM, Brent Hilpert <hilpert at> wrote:

> On 2015-Jun-19, at 9:07 AM, Christian Gauger-Cosgrove wrote:
> >
> > Bringing this topic full circle, does anyone know if any minicomputers
> > (DEC PDP-8s or 11s, DG Novæ, HP 21XXs, et cetera) were ever used on
> > aircraft? Not transported by one, but I mean setup and used on one.
> On 2015-Jun-19, at 12:09 PM, Toby Thain wrote:
> > On 2015-06-19 3:05 PM, geneb wrote:
> >> On Fri, 19 Jun 2015, Toby Thain wrote:
> >>>
> >>> "in 1949 the Air Force ordered all the flying wings destroyed, all
> >>> the jigs and tools destroyed, every trace of the flying wing
> >>> eradicated. A few years later even the engineering drawings were all
> >>> destroyed by new Northrop management."
> >>>
> >> I don't know why they went to those lengths, but it's my understanding
> >> that the program was cancelled because at the time, the USAAF (USAF?)
> >> mandated stall testing as part of their development programs.  Without
> >> serious flight control computers, stalling a flying wing just ends up in
> >> a freshly planted aluminum tree.  Even WITH good computers, stalling a
> >> flying wing is a Bad Idea(tm).  AFAIK, the B-2 has never been stalled
> >> (on purpose), even during development.
> >
> > Thanks. I knew there must be more to it... I wonder if the cited book
> covers this angle.
> To tie these two lines of question together (and bring it back very much
> on-topic), the BINAC (amongst the first stored-program computers, 1949)
> was supplied to Northrop for research into airborne flight control (quick
> web search says part of the Snark missile project),
> I'm not suggesting the BINAC and YB-49 (the flying wing) were connected,
> but it's interesting they were contemporary projects both at Northrop, and
> computer control was just what the flying wing needed.

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