Northrop N-9M

Kit:Sword, 1/72; completed on 2019-01-12. Many thanks to my friend Mike Hirsch for the kit.
Aircraft:1st prototype (no serial no.), Muroc, CA, circa 1944.
Northrop N-9M in 1/72

Northrop N-9M in 1/72

Northrop N-9M in 1/72

Northrop N-9M in 1/72

The Northrop N-9M was a 1/3rd scale prototype for the XB-35 flying wing bomber, originally built to test the aerodynamic concept; later, the four prototypes were used to familiarize pilots with the unique flying characteristics of an airplane of this type. The four prototypes (N-9M aka N-9M-1, N-9M-2, N-9MA and N-9MB) were all slightly different. Today, the N-9MB survives and has been restored to flying condition in Chino, CA. (UPDATE: Sadly, the N-9MB crashed on 2019-04-22, killing the pilot.)

Construction Notes

The Sword kit is accurate but requires some additional details to be built (wheel wells, engine intakes, landing gear details, new tail wheel, etc.). Luckily, the kit came with some resin parts for the cockpit. Also, since all four aircraft were used for research, at different times they had different sensors, etc., attached; they also had different markings and paint schemes. This makes the subject difficult from the modeler's standpoint.

I spent a lot of time preparing the surface of the model for painting. I filled in most of the existing panel lines and other "grooves", and scribed new lines for ailerons and flaps. I sprayed the model initially with Tamiya's flat white to reveal any imperfections. This process had to be repeated a few times, and even after spraying the yellow there were things that required attention (filling in, sanding).

Northrop N-9M model painted with primer

Initial coat of white primer revealed that there was more work to be done

Northrop N-9M model painted with yellow

Even after some coats of yellow there were cracks and imperfections that needed attention

Eventually, after three coats of yellow the model was ready for details and decals. I mixed the yellow from Tamiya's flat yellow by adding a bit of red, and thinning appropriately for airbrushing.

I added brake lines to the main landing gear, replaced some landing gear doors with thinner ones, and scratch-built the tailwheel. I should have added more weight to the nose of the aircraft, but luckily the tailwheel makes sure the model sits correctly.

The propeller hubs are not separate parts, but are molded as part of the engine nacelles. Propeller blades are separate parts. In my opinion, this is always a bad idea. I sawed off the spinners, attached the blades, and glued the propellers back in. The propeller manufacturer's logos on the blades came from an old decal sheet of Italeri's C-47, first coated with liquid decal film to prevent disintegration. The other decals came from the kit and went on really well. After the decals were treated with Future floor wax, the entire airplane was sprayed with a mixture of Testors' Dullcote and Glosscote (1 part flat, 3 parts gloss, 2 parts thinner).

Northrop N-9M model

Standing on its own landing gear; propellers now need some attention

Northrop N-9M model

Propellers done, ready for decals

References Used

  1. Aerophile vol 1 no 4
  2. Aeroplane Monthly March 1995, June 2007
  3. Air Classics February 1995, June 2002, January 2008
  4. Air Enthusiast No.64 (July-August 1996)
  5. Flying Wings of Jack Northrop (Pape et al); Schiffer Publishing 1994
  6. Wings of Fame volume 2
  7. Wings April 1997
  8. my own photographs of the Planes of Fame N-9MB

More About the Model

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