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Planes of Fame Original Northrop N9M Crash

Mark Nankivil

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Good Day All -

Sad news from California - the original Northrop N9M that the Planes of Fame had fully restored and has been flying for quite a few years crashed yesterday (4/22/2019), killing the pilot and completely destroying the aircraft.

Always wished I had seen this in person....

Mark
 

TomS

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RIP.

I feel like I need to change my avatar now.
 

Sundog

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Yeah, I just saw this news elsewhere. It's definitely a sad loss (first the pilot and then the plane).
 

GTX

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Luckily I did manage to see this up close a couple of years ago. A sad loss. My feelings go out to the family of the pilot too.
 

The Artist

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I have mixed feelings about important one of a kind historical aircraft being flown. Seeing it fly can be exciting but why risk losing it?
 

flateric

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Airplanes are built to fly. People who restored it and flew saved it from scrapyard.
 

AeroFranz

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Isn't there another (non flyable one) at the Smithsonian Udvar Hazy? [edit: it's an N-1M]
Very sad, both for the pilot and the machine. I remember seeing it fly more than a decade ago, maybe at Edwards. A very graceful airplane.
 

Foo Fighter

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Ireckon they could create a replica if they wanted, would they?
 

Mark Nankivil

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I would say doubtful but hey, enough money, time and a driven desire to do it is always possible. There was an excellent article, I think in Wings or Airpower, of the restoration and the aircraft was essentially handbuilt so an exact replica, at least structurally, don't think so. I remember sitting in the V-173 and being amazed at the woodwork - some real craftmanship that today would be rare to nearly extinct.

Enjoy the Day! Mark
 

Dynoman

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Video of the post accident site looks like the aircraft impacted at a very steep angle, destroying the aircraft completely and cratering the concrete significantly at the point of impact. Apparently the aircraft impacted in an uncontrolled state. I'm wondering what single engine performance is like in that aircraft without a vertical stabilizer/rudder.
 

Dynoman

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Looking at the startup video it appears that the aircraft has a critical engine. Failure of the right engine would produce greater asymmetric thrust than a left engine failure. The operable engine could send the aircraft into a stall-spin scenario if the aircraft was operating near Vmc. The spin recovery technique for a flying wing, from what I understand, is to pitch the nose down and roll the aircraft wings level and then recover from the resulting dive. If this is the case then the N9M would have rolled into a steep spiral dive before recovery could be executed. Another theory would be the separation of one of its split ailerons, sending it into an uncontrollable roll and then departing from controlled flight into a steep spin mode.
 
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Dynoman

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Interesting discussion of the N9M's handling qualities from the pilot, David Vopat himself in the video below, beginning at 9:35.

He says that the aircraft was not 'super responsive' and that the aircraft's yaw inputs have to be 'soft and light, almost delicate,' saying that N9M handled more like a bomber type aircraft than a light aircraft. Vopat had experience flying the antique aircraft, WW2 fighters (P-51, P-40) and bombers (including B-29) as well as corporate jets and airliners.

The N9M had two Franklin 300 hp engines embedded in the wing with a fluid converter mounted in between the engines and the prop shaft. This helped to dampen vibrations. The aircraft also had a unique flight control system. The aircraft's split aileron (yaw control) and elevons were cable actuated with hydraulic assist. The controls have a variable rate actuator that changes the rate of control surface actuation with airspeed.

 
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