Today in History – June 5, 1948 – The YB-49 “flying wing” crashes north of Muroc Air Force Base, CA

The Northrop YB-49 was an eight-engine jet-powered experimental flying wing bomber prototype, modified from a propeller-driven Northrop XB-35. It was hoped that the all-wing design would result in a highly efficient airplane because of its very low drag characteristics. However, the design could be unstable under various flight conditions. While undergoing stall recovery performance testing when the aircraft suffered a catastrophic structural failure with the outer wing panels tearing off.

The crew on the ill-fated mission included Maj. Daniel H. Forbes Jr., pilot; Capt. Glen W. Edwards, copilot; Lt. Edward L. Swindell, flight engineer; Clare E. Lesser and C.C. La Fountain. Later, two Air Force installations were renamed in honor of the pilots who lost their lives with the aircraft. Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., was named in honor of Capt. Edwards, and Forbes Air Force Base, Kan., was named in honor of Maj. Forbes.

During flight tests in the 1940s, it was noticed that the aircraft had a small radar cross-section, due to its flying wing design. Decades later, this stealthy detail would prove crucial to the design of Northrop-Grumman’s advanced, all-wing B-2 bomber.[4][5]

Sources: Wikipedia, This Day in Aviation by Bryan R. Swopes

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