1997 32¢ Northrop Alpha
Classic American Aircraft
Issue Date: July 19, 1997
City: Dayton, OH
Printed By: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
Despite its simple appearance, the Alpha fairly bristled with innovations in aircraft design and construction, setting a new pattern for transport planes. The first in a long line of “Northrop” high performance airplanes, the Alpha 2 was developed by John K. Northrop, a true pioneer and a self-made engineer.
Originally employed by Douglas Aircraft, Northrop later moved on to Lockheed where he designed the first of the Vega series. In 1928 he left Lockheed to form his own company. With his imagination fired by the semimonocoque (single shell) construction theories of Adolf Rohrbach, Northrop made detailed studies of all-metal aircraft and experimented with the practical application of “stressed skin” covering. In 1930 he built America’s first metal plane of semimonocoque construction for the U.S. Air Corps. The results were stunning.
Built for maximum performance, the Alpha was not only faster, but more economical as well. Powered with the Pratt & Whitney “Wasp” C engine, this sleek, low-winged monoplane plane could carry up to six passengers, and had removable seating for hauling large loads of mail and cargo. In fact the Alpha 2 and Alpha 3 that followed were so successful, that other companies quickly turned to building only all-metal monoplanes.