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Aviation pioneer John Northrop spent decades developing the concept of an all-wing aircraft, trading the weight and drag of a conventional fuselage and tail for greater speed and range. On June 25, 1946, his XB-35 Flying Wing bomber lifted majestically from the run way of the Northrop Aircraft Co. and made its maiden flight to Edwards AFB (then Muroc Army Air Field). In this photo, taken from the escorting P-61, the XB-35's eight contra-rotating propellers are seen to advantage. Four Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major engines each drove a pair of four-bladed propellers rotating in opposite directions by means of an extension shaft and specialized gear box. Unfortunately, chronic problems with the propeller governors and the complicated gear boxes doomed the innovative bomber to early extinction. The basic concept was sound, however, and its 172-foot wingspan, sweepback angle, and total wing surface area were virtually identical to the B-2 which appeared decades later.


Type: Strategic heavy bomber prototype
Engine: 4 Pratt & Whitney R4360-17/25 radial piston
Crew: 7
Speed: 391 mph.
Range: 2,500 miles
Ceiling: 40,000 ft.
Max Weight: 209,000 lb.
Height: 20 ft. 1 in.
Armament: 20 machine guns in seven barbettes, and
up to 10,000 lb of bombs

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