In 1928 John K Northrop and Ken Jay formed the Avion Corporation at Burbanks, California. In the previous year Northrop had designed Lockheed’s first aircraft, the Vega, and his first design for his own company was known as the Flying Wing. The company’s first business success however was his next design, the Alpha (an all-metal seven-seat single engine low wing monoplane) when Trans-Continental and Western Air Inc ordered five machines for scheduled flights between San Francisco and New York. Ultimately TWA would acquire thirteen of the seventeen Alphas built by the Northrop Company (the others going to the USAAC).
In 1929 Avion Corporation became the Northrop Aircraft Corporation, a division of the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation of which Boeing was also a part. Due to labor difficulties United Aircraft and Transport was dissolved in 1937, the Northrop Company becoming the El-Sugundo division of the Douglas aircraft company.
During the 1930s the Alpha spawned various derivatives including the A-17 two seat attack aircraft for the USAAC and the BT-1 a Navy version that would ultimately be developed into the SBD Dauntless dive-bomber
During the Second World War the El Sugundo site was largely involved in the building of A-26 Invaders for Douglas but in 1942 the company received an USAAC contract for the development of a three-seat twin engine night fighter. The P-61 Black Widow entered service in 1944 and serving in the North-West Europe theater in the night intruder role (the Luftwaffe being largely a spent force by the time that the P-61 arrived in theater).
Post war, Northrop was contracted to build the F-89 Scorpion, a jet engine P-61 replacement which would serve until 1959. In 1963 work commenced on the F-5 Freedom Fighter a single seat lightweight tactical fighter which has been perhaps one of Northrop’s greatest success stories-Many hundreds of which are still serving in air forces around the world today.
In 1994 the Northrop Company was acquired by the Grumman Corporation to form Northrop-Grumman, among its many and varied projects being involved in the building of the B-2 Spirit strategic bomber for the USAF.
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