The Planes of Fame Northrop N-9M crashed shortly after take-off from the Chino, California, airport on Monday, killing the pilot. This N-9M, the last remaining flying-wing, third-scale prototype used to develop the B-35, was being flown in preparation for the upcoming Chino airshow. Local authorities have confirmed that the sole occupant of the aircraft was killed. Photos on social media depict the crash site adjacent to a state prison in Norco; the N-9M appears to have suffered a comprehensive post-crash fire.
This particular N-9M was restored by the Planes of Fame Museum starting in 1981 and completed its test flying in 1996. It was one of four third-scale prototypes built by Northrup in the 1940s to test design concepts that would eventually yield the B-35 flying-wing bomber. The B-2 Spirit bomber also traces its lineage to the N-9M. Powered by two 300-HP Franklin eight-cylinder engines buried in the wing, the N-9M had twin pusher props and advanced flying-wing features like leading-edge slots.
According to the Planes of Fame website, “The primary mission of the N-9Ms was to provide flight test information from which the manoeuvrability, controllability and performance of the XB-35 could be predicted. It was flown at Muroc Army Airfield (later Edwards Air Force Base) by well-known pilots including Robert Cardenas, Russ Schleeh, John Myers, and Bob Hoover.” The identity of the pilot has not been released. No one on the ground was injured.