National Defense: Flying Manta

John Knudsen Northrop, 45, has designed such crack planes as the Lockheed Vega, the Army's A17, but it became evident last week that a big part of his heart and head was really in something very different. For, like most U.S. aircraft manufacturers, Northrop is an incurable visionary.

His dream ship is an entirely new type of airplane: a tailless, two-engined flying wing. The idea itself is not new. Long have designers known that the tail of an airplane, necessary as it always has been for rudders, elevators, leverage, is a drag on a...

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