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

Toby Thain toby at
Fri Jun 26 08:11:15 CDT 2015

On 2015-06-26 12:47 AM, Robert Ollerton wrote:
>>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.

Indeed - The Flickr thread I linked to cites the book and also mentions 
those anecdotes from it.

[ Comment: , et seq. ]


> 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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