Tag Archives: Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider

12 October 1925

Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis and his Curtiss R3C-1 cross the finish line at the 1925 Pulitzer Trophy Race. (NASM)
The Pulitzer Trophy

12 October 1925: At Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, Air Service, United States Army, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over 100 kilometers (62.14 miles), flying a Curtiss R3C-1 racing plane, #43. His average speed was 401.28 kilometers per hour (249.34 miles per hour).¹ Lieutenant Bettis was awarded the Pulitzer Trophy.

Bettis also won the Mackay Trophy for 1925.

Cyrus Bettis had previously won the 1924 Mitchell Trophy Race, sponsored by Brigadier General Billy Mitchell in honor of his brother, John L. Mitchell, who was killed during World War I.

Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, USAAS, with the Curtiss R3C-1 racer at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, 12 October 1925. The surface radiators on the wings can be seen. (Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co.)
Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, USAAS, with the Curtiss R3C-1 racer at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, 12 October 1925. The surface radiators on the wings can be seen. (Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co.)

The Curtiss R3C-1 was a single-place, single-engine, single-bay  biplane built for especially for air racing.  Two were built for the United States Navy and one for the Army. (The Army aircraft is identified by a Navy Bureau of Aeronautics serial number (“Bu. No.”) A-7054. It does not seem to have been assigned an Air Service serial number.) The airplane and its V-1400 engine were built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, which had been founded by Glenn Hammond Curtiss. It was converted to a seaplane configuration with two single-step pontoons, the R3C-2, for the Schneider Trophy Race, two weeks later, 25 October.

The R3C is 19 feet, 8½ inches (6.007 meters) long. The upper wing span is 22 feet (6.706 meters), with a chord of 4 feet, 8¼ inches (1.429 meters). The lower wing span is 20 feet (6.096 meters) with a chord of 3 feet, 3¾ inches (1.010 meters). The R3C-1 had an empty of 2,135 pounds (968 kilograms) and its maximum takeoff weight was 2,738 pounds (1,242 kilograms).

Curtiss R3C-1 (FAI)
Lieutenant Bettis’ record-setting Curtiss R3C-1 biplane. (FAI)

Constructed of wood, the fuselage had four ash longerons and seven birch vertical bulkheads. The framework was covered with two layers of 2-inch (51 millimeter) wide, 3/32-inch (2.38 millimeter) thick spruce strips. These were placed on a 45° diagonal from the fuselage horizontal centerline, with the second layer at 90° to the first. These veneer strips were glued and tacked to the frame. The fuselage was then covered with doped fabric. The wings and tail surfaces were also of wood, with spruce ribs and a covering of spruce strips.

The single-bay wings were wire braced and contained surface radiators made of thin brass sheeting. The radiators contained 12 gallons (45.4 liters) of water, circulating at a rate of 75 gallons (283.9 liters) per minute. By using surface radiators to cool the engine, aerodynamic drag was reduced.

The Curtiss V-1400 engine was developed from the earlier Curtiss D-12. It was a water-cooled, normally aspirated, 1,399.91-cubic-inch-displacement (22.940 liter), dual overhead cam (DOHC) 60° V-12, with a compression ratio of 5.5:1. The V-1400 was rated at 510 horsepower at 2,100 r.p.m., and could produce 619 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. It was a direct-drive engine and turned a two-bladed duralumin fixed-pitch propeller with a diameter of 7 feet, 8 inches (2.337 meters). The propeller was designed by Sylvanus Albert Reed, Ph.D. The V-1400 engine weighed 660 pounds (299 kilograms).

The R3C-1 had a fuel capacity of 27 gallons (102 liters). Its range was 290 miles (467 kilometers).

After the Pullitzer race, the R3C-1 was reconfigured as a seaplane for the Schneider Trophy Race. The fixed landing gear was replaced by two single-step pontoons and the airplane was redesignated R3C-2. Additional fuel was carried in the pontoons. On 26 October 1925, 1st Lieutenant James H. Doolittle flew the airplane to win the Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider at Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

The R3C-2 is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Lt. James H. Doolittle and Lt. Cyrus Bettis with the Curtiss R3C-2 (NARA 31758AC)
Lt. James H. Doolittle (left) and Lt. Cyrus Bettis with the Curtiss R3C-2 (NARA 31758AC)

Cyrus Bettis was born 2 January 1893, at Carsonville, Michigan, the first of three children of John Bettis, a farm worker, and Mattie McCrory Bettis.

Bettis enlisted as a private, first class, in the Aviation Section, Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps, at Detroit, Michigan, 23 January 1918. The Bell Telephone News reported:

     Cyrus Bettis has gone to Detroit and enlisted in the Aviation Corps of Uncle Sam’s service.

     He expects to be called to service at any time and will probably go East for training. Cyrus has been the efficient and genial manager of the Michigan State Telephone exchange in Fenton for several years. He has made an excellent manager and entrenched himself in the good graces of his patrons and Fenton People in General. —Fenton Independent.

Bell Telephone News, Volume 7, Number 6, January 1918, at Page 4, Column 1

On 11 September 1918, Cyrus Bettis was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Service, United States Army. This commission was vacated 16 September 1920 and he was appointed a second lieutenant, Air Service, with date of rank to 1 July 1920. On 21 March 1921, Bettis was advanced to the rank of first lieutenant, retroactive to 1 July 1920.

On 23 August 1926, flying from Philadelphia to Selfridge Field in Michigan, Bettis flew into terrain in fog in the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania. With a fractured skull and broken left leg, Bettis crawled several miles to a roadway where he was found, 43 hours after the crash.

Bettis was taken by air ambulance to Walter Reed Army Hospital, but died of spinal meningitis resulting from his injuries, 1 September. He was buried at the Lakeside Cemetery, Port Huron, Michigan.

1st Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, Air Service, United States Army. (FAI)

¹ FAI Record File Number 9684

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 September 1931

Supermarine S.6B S.1595 at the London Science Museum

29 September 1931: After waiting all day for the fog to clear, at 5:49 p.m., Flight Lieutenant George Hedley Stainforth of the Royal Air Force High-Speed Flight at RAF Calshot, made a 43-second takeoff run and began an attempt to set a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course. ¹ His airplane was a Supermarine S.6B, number S.1595, the same seaplane that won the Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider race on 13 September.

The High-Speed Flight had originally intended to use the second S.6B, S.1596, fitted with a specially-prepared Rolls-Royce Type R engine, for the 3 kilometer record attempt. S.1596 had been damaged on landing after a test flight, 16 September. While being towed back to RAF Calshot, the airplane sank. Fortunately, the special speed record engine, number R27, was not installed in S.1596 at the time of the accident.

Supermarine S.6B S.1595

Supermarine S.6B S.1595 had engine R27 installed, along with a new airscrew provided by Fairey Aviation Company Ltd. Also new was the fuel mixture of “wood alcohol” (methanol), gasoline and ethanol, being used in the engine for the first time.

During the speed runs, the High-Speed Flight squadron engineering officer flew along the course at an altitude of 400 meters, carring a sealed barograph. This would later be used to calibrate the time measurements.

The course was flown between Hill Head and Lee-on-Solent, on the Hampshire shoreline, with Flight Lieutenant Stainforth making four runs, two in each direction, to minimize the effect of winds.

The runs were:

Run 1: 415.2 miles per hour (668.2 kilometers per hour)

Run 2: 405.1 miles per hour (651.9 kilometers per hour)

Run 3: 409.5 miles per hour (659.0 kilometers per hour)

Run 4: 405.4 miles per hour (652.4 kilometers per hour)

Average: 408.8 miles per hour (657.9 kilometers per hour)

The official record time as published by the FAI is 655 kilometers per hour (407 miles per hour). George Stainforth was the first pilot to fly faster than 400 miles per hour.

Air Ministry,

9th October, 1931.

ROYAL AIR FORCE.

     The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the Air Force Cross to the undermentioned officers of the Royal Air Force :—

Flight Lieutenant John Nelson Boothman.

In recognition of his achievement in winning the Schneider Trophy Contest, 1931.

Flight Lieutenant George Hedley Stainforth.

In recognition of his flights with the High Speed Flight of the Royal Air Force in connection with the Schneider Trophy Contest, 1931, culminating in the establishment of a world’s speed record on 29th September, 1931.

Flight, No. 1193 (Vol. XXIII, No. 45), Thursday, November 6, 1931 at Page 1110, Column 1.

S.1595 was Vickers-Supermarine S.6B Monoplane, designed by Reginald Joseph Mitchell, who would later design the legendary Supermarine Spitfire fighter of World War II. The racer was developed from Mitchell’s earlier S.4, S.5 and S.6 Schneider Cup racers, and was built at the Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers), Ltd., Southampton, on the south coast of England. There were two S.6Bs, with the second identified as S.1596.

The Supermarine S.6B was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane with two fixed pontoons as an undercarriage. It was of all-metal construction and used a high percentage of duralumin, a very hard alloy of aluminum and copper, as well as other elements. The float plane was 28 feet, 10 inches (8.788 meters) long, with a wingspan of 30 feet, 0 inches (9.144 meters) and height of 12 feet, 3 inches (3.734 meters). The wing area was 145 square feet (13,5 square meters). The S.6B had an empty weight of 4,560 pounds (2,068 kilograms) and gross weight of 5,995 pounds (2,719 kilograms).

In an effort to achieve the maximum possible speed, aerodynamic drag was eliminated wherever possible. There were no radiator or oil cooler intakes. The wing surfaces were constructed of two thin layers of duralumin with a very small space between them. The engine coolant, a mixture of water and ethylene glycol, was circulated between these layers, which are known as surface radiators. The engine had a high oil consumption rate and the vertical fin was the oil supply tank. The skin panels also served as surface radiators. The fuselage panels were corrugated for strength, and several small parallel passages transferred lubricating oil from the fin tank to the engine, and further cooled the oil.

Rolls-Royce Type R SOHC 60° V-12 racing engine. (FLIGHT)

For the 3 kilometer record, S.1595 was powered by a liquid-cooled, supercharged, 2,239.327-cubic-inch-displacement (36.696 liter) Rolls-Royce Type R single-overhead-camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine, number R27. The Type R was a racing engine with 4 valves per cylinder and a compression ration of 6:1. In the 1931 configuration, it produced 2,350 horsepower at 3,200 r.p.m. It used a 0.605:1 reduction gear and turned a forged duralumin Fairey Aviation fixed-pitch airscrew with a diameter of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters). R27 weighed 1,630 pounds (739 kilograms).

There would have been no 1931 British Schneider Trophy Race team without the generous contribution of Lucy, Lady Houston, D.B.E., who donated £100,000 to Supermarine to finance the new aircraft. Lady Houston would later sponsor the 1933 Houston Mount Everest Flying Expedition.

The record-setting aircraft, S.1595, is in the collection of the Science Museum, London.

George Hedley Stainforth was born at Bromley, Kent, in 23 March 1899, the son of George Staunton Stainforth, a solicitor, and Mary Ellen Stainforth.

Stainforth was a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. On 11September 1918, Cadet Stainforth was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry, East Kent Regiment (“The Buffs”), ³ effective 21 August 1918 and served in France. On 30 March 1923, Lieutenant Stainforth, R.A.R.O., was granted a short service commission as a Flying Officer, Royal Air Force, effective 15 March 1923.

Flying Officer Stainforth married Miss Gladys Imelda Hendy at St. George’s Hanover Square Church, London, in March 1923.

Stainforth was promoted to Flight Lieutenant, 3 July 1928. He was granted a permanent commission in this rank 1 October 1929.

George Hedley Stainforth, 1929. (Stainforth Historical Archive)

In 1929, Stainforth won the King’s Cup Air Race, and on 10 September, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course, averaging 541.10 kilometers per hour (336.22 miles per hour) while flying a Gloster Napier 6 powered by a Napier Lion VIID broad arrow W-12 engine.

Stainforth was promoted to Squadron Leader with effect from 1 June 1936. On 12 March 1940, he was promoted to the rank of Wing Commander, with effect from 1 March 1940.

During World War II, Wing Commander Stainforth commanded No. 89 Squadron in Egypt. The New York Times reported that he was “the oldest fighter pilot in the Middle East.” On the night of 27–28 September 1942, while flying a Bristol Beaufighter near the Gulf of Suez, Wing Commander George Hedley Stainforth, A.F.C., was killed in action. He was buried at the Ismailia War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.

Bristol Beaufighter, No. 89 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

¹ FAI Record File Number 11831

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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28 September 1923

Lieutenant David Rittenhouse with Curtiss CR-3 A-6081, 1923. (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, SI-77- )
Lieutenant David Rittenhouse with Curtiss CR-3 A-6081, 1923. (National Air and Space Museum)

28 September 1923: Lieutenant David Rittenhouse, United States Navy, won the 1923 Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider (the Schneider Cup) race, held at Cowes, England. Lieutenant Schneider’s aircraft was a Curtiss CR-3 seaplane.

The race began at 11:00 a.m. Competitors were required to taxi on the surface across the starting line before becoming airborne. National teams started at 15-minute intervals. The race consisted of five timed laps of a 68.9 kilometer ( 42.8 miles) triangular. The starting teams were: the United States, Great Britain and France. The Italian team had unexpectedly withdrawn a few days before the event. Several mishaps had sidelined airplanes from the remaining teams, and by the 23rd, only four seaplanes were ready for the race.

#3 Curtiss CR-3 A-6080, Lieutenant Irvine, 450-h.p. Curtiss D-12

#4 Curtiss CR-2 A-6081, Lieutenant Rittenhouse, 450-h.p. Curtiss D-12

#7 Supermarine Sea Lion Mark III G-EABH, Captain Biard, 500 h.p. Napier Lion III

#9 Hydroavions C.A.M.S. 38 F-ESFD, Hurel, 380 h.p. Hispano-Suiza 12 Fd

1923 Schneider Cup race course (FLIGHT)
1923 Schneider Cup race course (FLIGHT)

At 11:00 a.m., the two United State Navy Curtiss CR-3 seaplanes started the first lap. 15 Minutes later, the British Supermarine Sea Lion III flying boat followed, and fianally the French Hydroavions C.A.M.S. 38 made its start.

David Rittenhouse’s Curtiss was clearly the fastest airplane. He had nearly completed the first lap by the time the British Sea Lion III was starting, and the second as the French C.A.M.S. 38 began its run. Rittenhouse’s lap times were: (1) 15 minutes, 6-2/5 seconds; (2). 14 minutes, 22-1/5 seconds; (3) 14 minutes, 24-4/5 seconds; (4) 14 minutes, 22-1/5 seconds; and (5) 14 minutes, 11-1/5 seconds. Rittenhouses’ average speed over the final lap was 181.17 miles per hour (291.56 kilometers per hour), and for the race, 177.38 miles per hour (285.47 kilometers per hour).

Rittenhouse also set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over 200 Kilometers with an average speed of 273.41 kilometers per hour (169.89 miles per hour.)¹

Lieutenant David Rittenhouse, U.S. navy, with his Curtiss CR-3. (Unattributed)
Lieutenant David Rittenhouse, U.S. Navy, with his Curtiss CR-3. (Unattributed)

Lieutenant Rutledge Irvine, U.S. Navy, in CR-3 #3, finished in second place, 1 minute, 39 seconds behind Rittenhouse, with an average speed of 173.35 miles per hour (278.98 kilometers per hour). Captain Henry Biard, Royal Air Force, was third with the Sea Lion III, at 157.07 miles per hour (252.78 kilometers per hour). Hurel and the C.A.M.S. 38 dropped out on the second lap with engine trouble and did not finish the race.

The Curtiss CR-3 was a single-place, single-engine racing biplane with two pontoons for takeoffs and landings on water. It was 24 feet, 8 inches (7.518 meters) long with a wingspan of 22 feet, 8 inches (6.909 meters) and overall height of 10 feet, 9 inches (3.277 meters). Its empty weight was 2,119 pounds (961 kilograms), and gross weight, 2,597 pounds (1,178 kilograms).

The CR-3 was powered by a liquid-cooled, normally aspirated 1,145.1-cubic-inch-displacement (18.765 liter) Curtiss D-12 dual overhead cam (DOHC) 60° V-12 engine with four valves per cylinder and a 5.7:1 compression ratio. It was a direct-drive engine, producing 475 horsepower at 2,320 r.p.m. It turned a two-bladed forged aluminum fixed-pitch propeller designed by Sylvanus Albert Reed, Ph.D. The D-12 was 58¾ inches (1.492 meters) long, 34¾ inches (0.883 meters) high and 28¼ inches (0.718 meters) wide. It weighed 671 pounds (304 kilograms). The engine was fueled by a 50/50 mixture of gasoline and benzol.

U.S. Navy Curtiss CR-3 A-6081. (NASM)

David Rittenhouse was born at St. Paul, Minnesota, 16 June 1894. he was the second child of Charles Edwain Rittenhouse, a banker, and Grace Hubbell Rittenhouse. He was a member of the Class of 1918 at the University of Minnesota, but left before graduating to serve in France during World War I.

Rittenhouse enlisted in the French Army at Paris, 12 March 1917. He served with the 21st Division. He was discharged from the French Army 30 September 1917 and returned to the United States. Shortly after arrive, 5 November 1917, Rittenhouse enlisted in the United States Navy. He underwent aviation ground school at the Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, before being sent to Key West, Florida, for flight training. After six weeks there, he received advanced training at Miami and Pensacola.

David Rittenhouse was commissioned an Ensign, United States Navy, 6 September 1918. he was ordered to sea aboard the battleship USS Wyoming (BB-32), and then USS Idaho (BB-42). Ensign Rittenhouse was detached from the Pacific Fleet, 5 May 1922, and transferred to the Naval Air Station, Anacostia, effective 1 June 1922.

Ensign David Rittenhouse married Miss Marie Youngerman, 24 June 1922, at Des Moines, Iowa.

Rittenhouse was promoted to the rank of Commander, 1 August 1938. He retired from the United States Navy in March 1941.

After leaving the Navy, Rittenhouse went to work for the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation at Bethpage, New York.

Commander David Rittenhouse, United States Navy (Retired) died at St. Petersburg, Florida, 29 October 1962, at the age of 68 years. He was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.

¹ FAI Record File Number 11427

© 2018 Bryan R. Swopes

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26 September 1927

Flight Lieutenant Sidney N. Webster, RAF, leads the Schneider Trophy Race with his Supermarine S.5 N220. (Unattributed)
Flight Lieutenant Sidney N. Webster, RAF, leads the Schneider Trophy Race with the blue and silver Supermarine S.5 racer, N220. (Unattributed)
Flight Lieutenant Sidney Norman Webster, Royal Air Force.
Flying Officer Sidney Norman Webster, Royal Air Force, circa 1919. (Unattributed)

26 September 1927: Flight Lieutenant Sidney Norman Webster, A.F.C., of the Royal Air Force High-Speed Flight, won the 1927 Schneider Trophy Race, flying a Supermarine S.5 float plane, number N220.

The course consisted of seven laps of a 50-kilometer course at Venice, Italy. Webster completed the race in 46 minutes, 20.3 seconds, averaging 281.656 miles per hour (453.281 kilometers per hour). He established a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers.¹

Webster’s teammate, Flight Lieutenant Oswald Worsley, flying S.5 N219, placed second with a time of 47:46.7 and average speed of 272.91 miles per hour (439.21 kilometers per hour).

With its engine running, this Supermarine S.5 shows off its very clean lines.

The Supermarine S.5 was designed by Reginald Mitchell, who would later design the famous Supermarine Spitfire fighter. N220 was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane equipped with pontoons for landing and taking off on water. The airplane was of all metal construction, primarily duralumin (a hardened alloy of aluminum and copper). The airplane used surface radiators in the skin of the wings for engine cooling.

The S.5 had a length of 24 feet, 3½ inches (7.404 meters), wingspan of 26 feet, 9 inches (8.153 meters) and height of 11 feet, 1 inch (3.378 meters). The S.5’s empty weight was 2,680 pounds (1,216 kilograms) and gross weight was 3,242 pounds (1,471 kiograms).

Supermarine S.5 N220 at Venice, Italy, September 1927. (FlightGlobal)
Supermarine S.5 N220 at Venice, Italy, September 1927. (FlightGlobal)

Webster’s Supermarine S.5 was powered by a water-cooled, naturally-aspirated 1,461.135-cubic-inch-displacement (23.943 liter) D. Napier and Son, Ltd., Lion Mk.VIIB, serial number 63106, a double-overhead camshaft (DOHC) twelve-cylinder engine with three banks of four cylinders. This was called a “Triple-Four,” “W-12,” or “broad arrow” configuration. The Napier Lion had an included angle of 60° between each cylinder bank.

D. Napier and Son, Ltd., Lion VII “broad arrow” 12-cylinder aircraft engine.

The Mk.VIIB had four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 10:1. It produced 875 horsepower at 3,300 r.p.m. The Lion VIIB drove a two-bladed fixed-pitch propeller through a gear reduction unit with a ratio of 0.765:1. (Worsley’s Supermarine S.5, N219, was equipped with a 900 horsepower direct-drive Mk.VIIA.) The engine used a mixture of 75% gasoline, 25% benzol, and 0.22% “T.E.L. dope” (tetraethyl lead) additive. The Napier Lion Mk.VII was 5 feet, 6¼ inches (1.683 meters) long, 3 feet, 2½ inches (0.978 meters) wide and 2 feet, 10½ inches (0.876 meters) high. The geared Mk.VIIB was heavier than the direct drive Mk.VIIA, and weighed 920 pounds (417 kilograms).

The Supermarine S.5 had a maximum speed of 319.57 miles per hour (514.3 kilometers per hour).

“Webbie” Webster had been awarded the Air Force Cross on 2 January 1922. He received a second award, signified by a “bar” added the the ribbon of his medal, 11 October 1927:

Air Ministry.

11th October, 1927.

     The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of a Bar to the Air Force Cross held by Flight Lieutenant Sidney Norman Webster, A.F.C., in recognition of his achievement winning the recent “Schneider Cup” Air Race.

Flight Lieutenant Sidney N. Webster, RAF, stands with his winning Supermarine S.5, N220, at the Woolston factory. Designer Reginald Mitchel is in the front row at center.
Flight Lieutenant Sidney N. Webster, RAF, stands with his winning Supermarine S.5, N220, at the Woolston factory. Designer Reginald Mitchell is in the front row at center.

In January 1946, Air Commodore Webster was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He was promoted to Air Vice Marshal in 1949 and retired from the Royal Air Force 12 August 1950.

Air Vice Marshal Sidney Norman Webster, C.B.E., A.F.C. and Bar, Royal Air Force, died 5 April 1984 at the age of 83 years.

Schneider trophy at the Science Museum, London. (Wikipedia)
Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider (the Schneider Cup) at the Science Museum, London. (Wikipedia)

¹ FAI Record File Number 11070

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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13 September 1931

Supermarine S.6B S.1595 at the London Science Museum. (sciencemuseum.org.uk)

13 September 1931: Having won the previous two Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider international seaplane races, the United Kingdom was in the position of permanently winning the famous Schneider Trophy if it were to win a third consecutive race.

The 1931 race was the twelfth in a series of annual or semiannual races which were first held in 1913, specifically for seaplanes. Teams from several nations, France, Great Britain, Italy and the United States, competed with float-equipped airplanes built specifically for the races. The national team which won three consecutive races would win the series and take home the Trophy. Italy had won three times (1920, 1921, and 1926); the United States, twice (1923, 1925); and France, one time (1913). The United Kingdom had previously won in 1922, 1927 and 1929.

Royal Air Force High-Speed Flight, 1931. (Unattributed)

Having won the race in 1929, Great Britain was the host nation for 1931. Like the 1929 race, the 1931 race was held over The Solent, a body of water between the harbor city of Portsmouth, England, and the Isle of Wight. Instead of the four-sided polygon used previously, the 1931 race course was a triangle of 50 kilometers (31.07 statute miles). Competitors would make seven circuits of the course, with all left-hand turns, for a total distance of 350 kilometers (217.48 statute miles).

Competitors would fly seven counter-clockwise laps of the 50-kilometer triangular race course (FLIGHT)

Italy had been developing the Macchi-Castoldi M.C. 72 with its 3,100-horsepower, 24-cylinder Fiat AS.6 engine, but the airplane was not ready by the required date. The United States was unwilling to invest the required money and had not entered since the 1927 race. France also was not prepared to compete. Both France and Italy formally announced their intention not to compete on 4 September 1931.

This meant that only a single British airplane was required to complete the race course to win the race and permanent possession of the trophy. Three airplanes were ready, one Supermarine S.6 and two new S.6Bs.

Three racing aircraft of the Royal Air Force High-Speed Flight at RAF Calshot for the 1931 Schneider Trophy Race. Left to right, #7, Supermarine S.6B S.1596; #4, Supermarine S.6 N.248; and #1, Supermarine S.6B S.1595. (FLIGHT)

Postponed because of rain and fog on the previous day, the 1931 race started at 1:02:10 p.m., Sunday, 13 September, with the firing of the starting gun from HMS Medea. Flight-Lieutenant John Nelson Boothman, Royal Air Force, in a blue and silver Supermarine S.6B, number S.1565, taxied across the start line at 1:10:19 p.m.

Race rules required that competitors take off, circle and land on the water. They were then required to taxi on the water for two minutes, before taking off a second time to begin the officially timed race laps. Observers reported that Flight-Lieutenant Boothman’s performance of the preliminary test was flawless. He taxied into position for his second takeoff and was airborne with a 40 second run.

Flight-Lieutenant John N. Boothman (FLIGHT)

Boothman’s lap times were:

Lap 1: 552.15 kilometers per hour (343.1 miles per hour)

Lap 2: 551.5 kilometers per hour (342.7 miles per hour)

Lap 3: 547.1 kilometers per hour (340.0 miles per hour)

Lap 4: 544.5 kilometers per hour (338.3 miles per hour)

Lap 5: 546.5 kilometers per hour (339.6 miles per hour)

Lap 6: 546.1 kilometers per hour (339.4 miles per hour)

Lap 7: 543.5 kilometers per hour (337.7 miles per hour)

Overall average speed: 547.3 kilometers per hour (340.08 miles per hour)

Air Ministry,

9th October, 1931.

ROYAL AIR FORCE.

     The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Air Force Cross to the undermentioned officers of the Royal Air Force:—

Flight Lieutenant John Nelson Boothman.

In recognition of his achievement in winning the Schneider Trophy Contest, 1931.

Supermarine S.6B, S.1596. (BAE Systems)

S.1595 was Vickers-Supermarine S.6B Monoplane, designed by Reginald Joseph Mitchell, who would later design the legendary Supermarine Spitfire fighter of World War II. The racer was developed from Mitchell’s earlier S.4, S.5 and S.6 Schneider Cup racers, and was built at the Supermarine Aviation Works (Vickers), Ltd., Southampton, on the south coast of England. There were two S.6Bs, with the second identified as S.1596.

Cutaway illustration of the Supermarine S.6B. (George Horace Davis)

The Supermarine S.6B was a single-place, single-engine, low-wing monoplane with two fixed pontoons as an undercarriage. It was of all-metal construction and used a high percentage of duralumin, a very hard alloy of aluminum and copper, as well as other elements. The float plane was 28 feet, 10 inches (8.788 meters) long, with a wingspan of 30 feet, 0 inches (9.144 meters) and height of 12 feet, 3 inches (3.734 meters). The wing area was 145 square feet (13,5 square meters). The S.6B had an empty weight of 4,560 pounds (2,068 kilograms) and gross weight of 5,995 pounds (2,719 kilograms).

Supermarine S.6B S.1596 (BAE Systems)

In an effort to achieve the maximum possible speed, aerodynamic drag was eliminated wherever possible. There were no radiator or oil cooler intakes. The wing surfaces were constructed of two thin layers of duralumin with a very small space between them. The engine coolant, a mixture of water and ethylene glycol, was circulated between these layers, which are known as surface radiators. The engine had a high oil consumption rate and the vertical fin was the oil supply tank. The skin panels also served as surface radiators. The fuselage panels were corrugated for strength, and several small parallel passages transferred lubricating oil from the fin tank to the engine, and further cooled the oil.

Supermarine S.6B S.1596 (BAE Systems)

S.1595 was powered by a liquid-cooled, supercharged, 2,239.327-cubic-inch-displacement (36.696 liter) Rolls-Royce Type R single-overhead-camshaft (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine, number R29. The Type R was a racing engine with 4 valves per cylinder and a compression ration of 6:1. In the 1931 configuration, it produced 2,350 horsepower at 3,200 r.p.m. It used a 0.605:1 reduction gear and turned a Fairey Aviation fixed-pitch airscrew with a diameter of 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters). A special fuel, a mixture of benzol, methanol and acetone with TCP anti-detonation additive, was used.

Lucy, Lady Houston, with the Royal Air Force High-Speed Flight, 1931. R.J. Mitchell, designer of the S-series racers, is standing at right. (Royal Air Force Museum)

There would have been no 1931 British Schneider Trophy Race team without the generous contribution of Lucy, Lady Houston, D.B.E., who donated £100,000 to Supermarine to finance the new aircraft. Lady Houston would later sponsor the 1933 Houston Mount Everest Flying Expedition.

The winning aircraft, S.1595, is in the collection of the Science Museum, London.

Supermarine S.6B S.1596 (BAE Systems)

John Nelson Boothman was born at Harrow, northwest London, England, 19 February 1901. He was the son of Thomas John Boothman, a railway clerk, and Mary Burgess Boothman. He  became interested in aviation while very young, and took his first flight at the age of 10, as a passenger of Samuel Franklin Cody, the first pilot to fly a powered airplane in England.

Boothman was educated at Harrow High School. In 1918, when he was 16 years old, Boothman volunteered as a driver with the Croix-Rouge française (French Red Cross), serving in the Balkans until World War I came to an end. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre.

On his return to England, he took flying lessons and joined the Royal Air Force. He received a short-service commission as a Pilot Officer (probationary), 29 March 1921. He trained at No. 1 Flight Training School. He then joined No. 4 Squadron at Constantinople. On 22 March 1922, Boothman was confirmed in the rank of Pilot Officer. He was promoted to Flying Officer 29 September 1922.

Also in 1922, Pilot Officer Boothman married Miss Gertrude Andrews. They would have one son.

Flying Officer Boothman returned to England in 1924 and was assigned as a flight instructor at the Central Flying School. He was also a member of an aerial demonstration team.

After five years of service, on 1 January 1926 Boothman’s commission as a Flying Officer, Royal Air Force, was made permanent. He returned to the Middle East, joining No. 55 Squadron in Iraq, 21 September 1926. This was a bombing squadron, equipped with the de havilland DH-9A. Boothman was promoted to Flight-Lieutenant 1 July 1927. He served with the Air Staff before going on to No. 30 Squadron, which also flew DH-9As, as a flight commander, 24 February 1928.

Flight-Lieutenant John Nelson Boothman, Royal Air Force.

Flight-Lieutenant Boothman was assigned as a test pilot at the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment, Felixstowe, Suffolk, 10 February 1930. On 11 May 1931, he became a member of the High-Speed Flight at RAF Calshot.

After winning the Schneider Trophy Race, on 3 October 1931, Flight-Lieutenant Boothman was assigned as a flight commander with No. 22 Squadron, a test squadron supporting the Aeroplane Experimental Establishment at RAF Martlesham Heath. During 1932, he became seriously ill and was removed from duty for several months. He returned to duty 13 August 1932 as a test pilot in the Experimental Section at RAE Farnborough. He then served as Chief Flying Instructor, Central Flying School.

Flight-Lieutenant Boothman attended the Royal Air Force Staff College in 1935. He was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader, 1 December 1935. From 4 January 1936, he was assigned to Air Staff, Headquarters, Coastal Command. On 26 March 1937, Squadron Leader Boothman was assigned to Air Staff, Headquarters, Royal Air Force, Far East.

Boothman was promoted to Wing Commander, 1 January 1939. In September he was placed in command of No. 44 Squadron at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. This was a light bomber squadron which flew Bristol Blenheims and Handley Page Hampdens.

During the early stages of World War II, Wing Commander Boothman was assigned to Air Staff—Directorate of Operations (Home), and Air Staff, Headquarters, Bomber Command. He returned to RAF Waddington in March 1940 as the station’s commanding officer. He was promoted to Group Captain (temporary), 1 March 1941, then sent to the United States as an adviser to the U.S. Army Air Forces. Boothman returned to England as commanding officer of RAF Finningley, South Yorkshire.

On 6 June 1943, Group Captain Boothman was promoted to the rank of Acting Air Commodore, and assigned as Air Officer Commanding, No. 106 Wing. The wing controlled all photographic reconnaissance units in the United Kingdom. In 1 December 1943, Air Commodore Boothman’s rank was changed from Acting to Temporary.

In July 1944 Air Commodore Boothman was assigned as Commandant, Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A. & A.E.E.) at RAF Boscombe Down, Wiltshire. In the King’s Birthday Honours, 1944, Air Commodore Boothman was invested Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Military Division (C.B.).

On 2 July 1945, was promoted to Acting Air Vice Marshal and appointed Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Technical Requirements). On 9 October 1945, The U.S. Army Air Forces awarded him the the medal of Commander, Legion of Merit.

Air Vice Marshal John Nelson Boothman D.F.C., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, is presented the Legion of Merit by General Carl A. Spaatz, United States Army Air Forces. (Smithsonian Institution)

Air Vice Marshal Boothman once again returned to Iraq in 1948 as Air Officer Commanding, Air Headquarters, Iraq.

On 4 September 1950, he was promoted to Acting Air Marshal, and Controller of Supply (Air), Ministry of Supply. On 15 November 1953, Air Marshal Boothman became Commander in Chief, Coastal Command and Commander in Chief (Air) Eastern Atlantic Area.

In the King’s Birthday Honours list, 7 June 1951, Air Marshal Boothman, C.B., D.F.C., A.F.C., was promoted to Knight Commander of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (K.B.E.).

In the Queen’s Birthday Honours, June 1954, Air Marshal Sir John Boothman, K.B.E., D.F.C., A.F.C., was invested Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B.).

On 1 October 1954, Sir John was promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal. He retired from the Royal Air Force in 1956.

Air Chief Marshal Sir John Nelson Boothman, K.C.B., K.B.E., D.F.C., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, died 29 December 1957 at the age of 57 years.

Air Vice Marshal Sir John Nelson Boothman, 1946. (Photographed by Walter Stoneman)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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