12 August 1930

Frank Monroe Hawks, 1932 (Edward Steichen)
Frank Monroe Hawks, 1932 (Edward Steichen)

12 August 1930: Frank Monroe Hawks flew from Los Angeles Municipal Airport in California to Curtiss Airport, Valley Stream, Long Island, New York, in a record-breaking 12 hours, 25 minutes, 3 seconds. His airplane was a Travel Air Type R “Mystery Ship” named Texaco No. 13. It carried civil registration NR1313.

One week earlier, 6 August 1930, Hawks had flown across the continent from east to west, in 14 hours, 50 minutes 3 seconds. More favorable winds allowed the Type R to make a faster west-to-east flight.

Hawks’ Texaco No. 13 was the fourth of five specially designed and constructed racing aircraft produced by Travel Air Manufacturing Company of Wichita, Kansas. The company was founded by Walter Beech, Clyde Cessna, and Lloyd Stearman. The “Type R” refers to one of its designers, Herb Rawdon.

The Type R was a low-wing monoplane with a monocoque fuselage built of plywood. The very thin wing was braced by wires. Attempts to streamline the airplane included a raised profile behind the pilot’s head, “wheel pants,” as well as a NACA-designed engine cowling that provided better engine cooling and caused less aerodynamic drag.

The Mystery Ship was powered by an air-cooled, supercharged, 971.930-cubic-inch-displacement (15.927 liter) Wright Aeronautical Division Whirlwind Nine (also known as the J-6-9 or R-975) nine-cylinder radial engine, normally rated at 300 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m. Various sources state that Hawks’ R-975 had been modified by increasing its compression ratio and supercharger speed, and that it produced 400 horsepower, or more. The R-975 was built in both direct drive and geared versions.

One of the fastest airplanes of its time, the Type R set over 200 speed records.

Frank Monroe Hawks with the Texaco 13 Travel-Air Mystery Ship at East Boston Airport, 1930. (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)
Frank Monroe Hawks with the Travel Air Type R Mystery Ship, Texaco No. 13, NR1313, at East Boston Airport, 1930. (Courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection)
Frank Hawks, 1930 (SDA&SM)

Newspapers called the Type R airplanes “mystery ships” because Beech was very secretive about them. When two of them were flown to the 1929 National Air Races at Cleveland, Ohio, they taxied directly to a hangar and shut off their engines. They were immediately pushed inside. The hangar was kept locked and under guard.

Frank Hawks was an Air Service, United States Army, pilot who served during World War I. He rose to the rank of Captain, and at the time of his record-breaking transcontinental flight, he held a commission as a reserve officer in the Army Air Corps. His flying had made him a popular public figure and he starred in a series of Hollywood movies as “The Mystery Pilot.”

Frank Hawks’ Type R is in the collection of the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois.

Travel Air Type R, NR1313, Mystery Ship, Texaco No. 13, at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois. (MSI)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 thoughts on “12 August 1930

  1. Just wondering why your website is always 24 hours behind and not showing the current “day in aviation”??

    1. “Always”? Hmmmm. . . Well, Mr. Johnson, as of today I have published 1,170 posts on this blog and have another 8 drafts in preparation. I also write another Internet blog. I average about four hours researching and writing each post, though some take much longer. Sometimes I have to wait for information from various sources, or for permissions to use photographs. These may not come in until days or weeks later. The vast majority of posts are pre-set to publish several days ahead, with the time of individual posts based on the date of the occurrence. This results in posts being spread out over a day, rather than all being published at one time. (This helps keep all in order, and allows for adding posts which occurred between others which were previously published.) Further, the publication times are Pacific Time. So, depending on when and where you check my blog, there might be posts that will publish later. I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you. I will try to do better in the future. –Bryan

  2. I found, in my father’s archives, a quality picture with negative also, of Frank Hawks and CLLundblad (my father) posed on the left side of the Texaco no. 13 Mystery Ship taken circa 1930. Let me know if you are interested in seeing it…

  3. correction, they were posed on the right side of the plane. Frank was in his flying outfit and my dad in a suit…

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