Sunday, July 25, 2010

Horten 229 Just Hanging Around

We were in San Diego last month and while there I took the opportunity to visit the Air & Space Museum there in Balboa Park. Part of the reason was to see what was new and part of it was to commune with the airplanes.

This is one in particular that I was anxious to see: the full-scale mock-up of the Horten Ho-229, the world's first pure-wing turbo-jet fighter. While Jack Northrop and his company were becoming synonymous with pure flying wings in the United States, the Horten brothers were quietly pushing the design in Germany.

Ironically, it was Northrop's success with the pure-winged N-1M, which flew 70 years ago this month, that allowed the Hortens the opportunity to build the 229. Interavia magazine published an article on the N-1M that was read by the German Luftwaffe high command. They immediately requested similar designs from their industry and a whole slew of flying wing proposals appeared from every company in Germany. The Hortens, who had been experimenting with pure-wing gliders, saw their opportunity and developed their airplane. Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering liked what he saw and gave them the go-ahead to build the vehicle. The first prototype flew in December 1944. It crashed in around February 1945. The Hortens were captured by the Americans in April and Germany surrendered in May.

I actually had a hand (literally) in the construction of this full-sized mock-up. Northrop was contracted by the producers of a documentary on the Ho-229 to build and test the airplane on our radar test range. The Engineering Labs model shop built the airplane, but our department made the stencils for the markings. My hands can be briefly seen in the documentary pulling the masking from the wing crosses. I can also be glimpsed in the background while the build leader was interviewed on camera.

I think I got 15 nanoseconds of my allotted 15 minutes of fame. Oh, was interesting and fun.

It was shown on the National Geographic Channel and is available on DVD from the producers. If anyone is interested, here's a link:

They did a really good job and I'm proud of my association, however limited, with the project. In any event, the mock-up was Northrop property after the shoot as our sector funded part of the project. It was donated to San Diego and hung there last year.

It looks fabulous there and they have a small theater right by the 229's location showing the DVD on a continuous loop.

My hands are famous! Life is good.

1 comment:

  1. This is utterly cool to see. Loved the TV special!