Once having tasted flight you will walk this earth with your eyes turned skyward. For there you have been and there you long to return.
- Leonardo da Vinci
Brief Over View.
Air racing got its start in the United States when newspaperman Ralph Pulitzer offered a trophy to promote high-speed flight. He did this because American aircraft were making a poor showing in European air races. The first Pulitzer race was held at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, on November 27,1920.
The National Air Races
1920 was the first National Air Races, although then not yet known by that name. 1929 was the first of the true civilianized" events, previously dominated by featured military and corporate-sponsored planes. 1929 marked the ninth year for the National Air Races, and the first year that the event was held in Cleveland,Ohio.Louis Greve was appointed to the position of president of the National Air Races in Cleveland. He had played a major role in securing "the races" and he would continue to hold the position of president through 1939. This enterprise would become one of the leading aviation events in the world. The 1929 event ran from August 24th through September 2nd,and consisted of some 35 closed course flying events,eight(8)Air Derbies,an Aeronautical Exposition,the National Glider Conference, and Wings of 1929,a Aeronautical Musical Extravaganza.It was also at this 1929 Air Classic of the Century that the Golden Age of Air Racing,Is said to have started. On Monday, September 2,1929.when during a racing "free for all"(We call it unlimited today) The domination by the Army and Navy came to an end during "Event #26- Free For All" The grand finale at the 1929 Cleveland Air Races, when Pilot Doug Davis beat the Army and Navy in his sleek little Travel Air Mystery Ship monoplane. This crushing defeat of the military domination of air racing was a defining moment in aviation history. It caused the military to get rid of their World War I concepts of Aerial warfare and to start ordering state-of-the-art aircraft.More than 500,000 tickets were sold for the 1929 races, which took place over a ten-day period. That was the zenith of air racing as a spectator sport. The Great Depression, combined with the decreasing novelty value of flight, cut into attendance figures during the 1930s. Nevertheless, the National Air Races continued through 1939. They were held in Cleveland every year except 1933 and 1936, when Los Angeles hosted them. And two major events still drew sizeable crowds.
In 1930,Charles E, Thompson, President of Thompson products,Inc.,established a trophy to encourage faster land planes. The Thompson Trophy Race became the feature event of the National Air Races.This race like the Pulitzer Trophy Race, was a Pylon race, meaning that it was flown around a closed circuit marked by Pylons.
Bendix Trophy Race
The Bendix Trophy Race was conceived in 1931 by Cliff Henderson, the originator of the National Air Races. That year he convinced businessman, Mr. Vincent Bendix, that the UnitedStates needed an annual "free for all" cross-country air race to help stimulate advancement within the aviation community of both aircraft engine and airframe design. Speed, reliability, and endurance were the ultimate quest.
The Bendix Race attracted some of America's most daring and colorful characters. After the World War II, with the exception of three-time winner Paul Mantz, and 1949 winner Joe DeBona, the race became strictly a military event. The last Bendix Trophy Race was flown in 1962 when Captain Bob Sowers piloted an Air Force B-58 Hustler from Los Angles to New York in the then amazing time of 2 hours 56seconds. This was quite a contrast to the first race in 1931 when Jimmy Doolittle in his Laird Super Solution flew from Los Anglesto Cleveland in 9 hours 10 minutes, or to Louise Thaden's 1936win from New York to Los Angles in her Staggerwing BeechcraftC-17R with a time of 14 hours 55 minutes.
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