Northrop N9MB Flying Wing Destroyed in Crash

The only one of its kind, nothing remains of the final prototype of the XB-35.

The one-of-a-kind Northrop N9MB was a beautiful sight to see as it flew during the Planes of Fame Airshow.Courtesy cclark395

A piece of aviation history was lost yesterday as the last of four 1/3-scale prototypes built during the development of the Northrop XB-35 Flying Wing bomber, the N9MB, crashed in a prison yard in Norco, California.

The Flying Wing has been maintained and operated for many years by the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino, which specializing in keeping historic airplanes in flying condition. In a statement, the organization said "the flight was being conducted in preparation for the upcoming Planes of Fame Airshow where it was scheduled to fly." A cause for the accident has not yet been determined and the statement did not announce the name of the pilot who was lost in the accident, pending notification of family. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of the pilot and our deepest sympathies go out to his family," the statement said. From images published in several media outlets, all that remains of the airplane is an ashen shadow.

The bright yellow N9MB commonly wowed the crowds at the POF Airshow with its vivid, one-of-a-kind design and swooshing sound as it flew along the flight line. The N9MB was built in 1944. The four prototypes were painted in different colors, this one bright yellow, and were flight tested at the Muroc Army Airfield, now Edwards Air Force Base, to determine the maneuverability and controllability of the XB-35. The design of the XB-35 was the basis for the B-2 Stealth Bomber. While the other N9M flying wing prototypes were destroyed, this one was obtained by Ed Maloney, the founder of POF, in the 1950s. The restoration took 13 years, from 1981 to 1994, and, since then, the POF has meticulously kept the airplane in immaculate condition.

The N9MB was powered by two 300-hp Franklin eight-cylinder engines and POF claims it was the first to use a fully hydraulic flight control system with airspeed sensitive feedback. The N9MB was also designed with leading edge slots, flaps, elevons and split rudders.