The YB-49 was a prototype jet-powered flying wing aircraft designed and built by Northrop Corporation in the 1940s and 1950s. On June 5, 1948, the YB-49 experienced a catastrophic crash near Mojave in Los Angeles County, California, which resulted in the death of all five crew members on board. Captain Glen Edwards was the co-pilot of the flight, and the namesake of Edwards Air Force Base. The crash was a significant event in aviation history, as it raised questions about the safety of experimental aircraft and the future of jet-powered flight.
The YB-49 was designed as a successor to the earlier Northrop XB-35 flying wing bomber, which had been developed during World War II. The YB-49 was a radical departure from traditional aircraft design, with no tail or fuselage and a single large wing that housed the crew, engines, and weapons. The aircraft was powered by eight General Electric J35 turbojet engines and was capable of speeds up to 500 miles per hour and altitudes up to 40,000 feet.
On the day of the crash, the YB-49 took off from Muroc Air Force Base in California for a test flight. The flight was routine until about an hour into the flight, when the aircraft suddenly went into an uncontrolled spin and crashed into the desert floor. The cause of the crash was later determined to be a malfunction in the aircraft’s flight control system, which caused the elevons (the wing-mounted control surfaces that control pitch and roll) to become stuck in a partially raised position. This caused the aircraft to become unstable and enter the spin.
Brave Men Lost
The crash of the YB-49 cost these men their lives:
- Major Daniel H. Forbes, Jr. – Pilot
- Captain Glen W. Edwards – Copilot
- Lt. Edward L. Swindell – Flight Engineer
- Clare C. Lesser – Air Force civilian engineers
- Charles H. LaFountain – Air Force civilian engineers
Muroc AFB was renamed Edwards AFB on December 5, 1949 in honor of the late Capt. Glen W Edwards
The crash of the YB-49 was a major setback for Northrop Corporation, which had invested significant time and resources into the development of the flying wing design. It also raised concerns about the safety of experimental aircraft and the need for more rigorous testing and evaluation of new designs before they are put into service. In the years following the crash, Northrop continued to develop and refine the flying wing design, eventually leading to the development of the B-2 stealth bomber, which entered service with the U.S. Air Force in the 1990s.
The crash of the YB-49 was a tragic event that highlighted the risks and challenges of experimental aircraft design. However, it also spurred innovation and development in the aviation industry, leading to the creation of new and advanced aircraft designs that continue to shape the field of aviation today.
YB-49 Crash Site Location summary
|Name||YB-49 Crash Site|
|Location||Mojave Desert, Los Angeles County, California|
|Latitude, Longitude||35.04243, -117.9926|
YB-49 Trail Map
The YB-49 came to rest East of Mojave just North of Highway 58. The site contains a small memorial and one should remember that this is the location of the deaths of five brave men.