The Northrop XP-79 ‘Flying Ram’ was a futuristic design proposal for a flying wing fighter aircraft. It was initially conceived as a rocket powered interceptor, but later the design was altered to allow for jet engines. Amazingly the USAAF briefly toyed with the idea of using XP-79’s to literally ram German bombers out of the skies. It was hoped that if the aircraft was built sturdily enough it would survive the impact and be able to be used repeatedly. The idea was to use the XP-79’s strong wings to slice the tails off the enemy aircraft. As it turned out the war ended before the first flight was ever made.
The XP-79 featured numerous unusual and advanced ideas and engineering solutions. Perhaps most unusual of all was the prone piloting position in which the pilot laid on his stomach with his head facing out of the canopy at the front. This layout meant he could withstand greater g-forces in the vertical axis. In addition to the odd layout, the XP-79 Flying Ram also featured a high-tech welded magnesium monocoque construction, instead of a more conventional riveted aluminium structure. Also unusual to the design was the four-wheel retractable undercarriage.
The Northrop XP-79 Flying Ram project was beset by problems from the outset. Even during initial taxiing tests it kept on bursting tires. Later, once this problem was resolved, the aircraft was taken for its maiden flight. On September 12th 1945, test pilot Harry Crosby took the XP-79 into the skies and up to an altitude of 7,000 feet. It flew without issues for around 15 minutes, then suddenly without warning it went into a spin. Crosby was unable to regain control of the aircraft and so attempted to bail out at around 2,000 feet. Unfortunately he got caught in the doomed aircraft’s slipstream and his parachute failed to open. Both he and the XP-79 smashed into the desert and the aircraft burst into flames.
After this accident the USAAF decided not to continue with the project, and the Flying Ram was cancelled.