John Knudsen "Jack" Northrop (November 10, 1895 – February 18, 1981) was an American aircraft industrialist and designer, who founded the Northrop Corporation in 1939.
His career began in 1916 as a draftsman for Lockheed Aircraft Manufacturing Company (founded 1912). He joined the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1923, where in time he became a project engineer. In 1927 he rejoined Lockheed, where he was a chief engineer on the Lockheed Vega transport. He left in 1929 to found Avion Corporation, which he sold in 1930. Two years later he founded the Northrop Corporation. This firm became a subsidiary of Douglas Aircraft in 1939, so he co-founded a second company named Northrop.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Northrop grew up in Santa Barbara, California. In 1916 Northrop's first job in aviation was in working as a draftsman for the Santa Barbara-based Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company. In 1923, Northrop joined Douglas Aircraft Company, participating in the design of the Douglas Round-the-World-Cruiser and working up to project engineer.  In 1927 he rejoined the Loughead brothers and their newly renamed (in 1926) Lockheed Aircraft Company, working as chief engineer on the Lockheed Vega, the civilian transport monoplane with a cantilever wing that produced unusually high performance for that period, and was widely used by such top pilots as Wiley Post, Amelia Earhart, and Hubert Wilkins. In 1929 he produced an all-metal monoplane with pilot and engine within the wing structure. Although this aircraft had booms to attach the tail group, it was in fact the first step toward the flying wing.
FLYING WING WING AND OTHER AIRCRAFT
While working at this company, Northrop focused on the flying wing design, which he was convinced was the next major step in aircraft design. His first project, a reduced-scale version tested in 1940, ultimately became the giant Northrop YB-35. The Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet, a welded magnesium fighter was one of the more significant of his World War II designs, along with the Northrop P-61 Black Widow, the first American night interceptor, of which more than 700 were constructed. His inventions continued into the postwar era of jet aircraft, to produce the Northrop F-89 Scorpion all-weather interceptor, the Northrop YB-49 long-range bomber, the Northrop Snark intercontinental missile, and automatic celestial navigation systems. He produced a number of flying wings, including the Northrop N-1M, Northrop N-9M, and Northrop YB-49. His ideas regarding flying wing technology were years ahead of the computer and electronic advances of "fly-by-wire" stability systems which allow inherently unstable aircraft like the B-2 Spirit flying wing to be flown like a conventional aircraft. The flying wing and the pursuit of low drag high lift designs were Northrop's passion, and its failure to be selected as the next generation bomber platform after World War II, and the subsequent destruction of all prototypes and incomplete YB-49s ordered by the federal government were a blow from which he never recovered, causing his association with Northrop Aviation to become almost non-existent for the next 30 years. In an interview for the Discovery Channel's documentary The Wing Will Fly, his son John Northrop Jr. recounted his father's devastation and lifelong suspicion that his flying wing project had been sabotaged by political influence and backroom dealing between rival Convair and high-ranking officials in the Air Force
- Famous People of Aviation