Tag Archives: World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers

24 July 1897–

Amelia Mary Earhart, 1926 (Associated Press)

24 July 1897: Amelia Mary Earhart was born at Atchison, Kansas. She was the older of two daughters of Edwin Stanton Earhart, an attorney, and Amelia Otis Earhart.

Amelia attended Hyde Park School in Chicago, Illinois, graduating in 1916. In 1917, she trained as a nurse’s aide with the Red Cross. While helping victims of the Spanish Flu epidemic, she herself contracted the disease and was hospitalized for approximately two months. In 1919 Earhart entered Columbia University studying medicine, but left after about one year.

Red Cross Nurse’s Aide Amelia Mary Earhart, circa 1917–1918. (Amelia Earhart Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University)

Amelia first rode in an airplane at Long Beach, California with pilot Frank Monroe Hawks, 28 December 1920. The ten-minute flight began her life long pursuit of aviation. She trained under Mary Anita Snook at Kinner Field near Long Beach, California.

Earhart was the sixteenth woman to become a licensed pilot when she received her certificate from the National Aeronautic Association on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) on 16 May 1923.

Amelia Earhart’s first pilot’s license. (National Portrait Gallery)

Amelia Earhart became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by air when she accompanied pilot Wilmer Lower Stultz and mechanic Louis Edward Gordon as a passenger aboard the Fokker F.VIIb/3m, NX4204, Friendship, 17–18 June 1928. The orange and gold, float-equipped, three-engine monoplane had departed from Trepassey Harbor, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and arrived at Burry Port on the southwest coast of Wales, 20 hours, 40 minutes later. (Although Earhart was a pilot with approximately 500 hours of flight experience at this time, she did not serve as one of the pilots on this flight.)

Fokker F.VIIb/3m Friendship at Southampton. (Historic Wings)

On 1 May 1930, the Aeronautics Branch, Department of Commerce, issued Transport Pilot’s License No. 5716 to Amelia Mary Earhart. On 25 June 1930, the newly-licensed commercial pilot set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Record for Speed Over a a Closed Circuit of 100 Kilometers With a 500 Kilogram Payload, averaging 275.90 kilometers per hour (171.44 miles per hour) with her Lockheed Vega.¹ That same day, she set another World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers of 281.47 kilometers per hour (174.90 miles per hour).² About two weeks later, Earhart increased her Vega’s speed across a shorter, 3 kilometer course, with an average 291.55 kilometers per hour (181.16 miles per hour).³

Amelia Earhart was a charter member of The Ninety-Nines, Inc., an international organization of licensed women pilots. She served as their first president, 1931–1933.

On 7 February 1931, Miss Earhart married George Palmer Putnam in a civil ceremony at Noank, Connecticut. Judge Arthur P. Anderson presided. In a written prenuptial agreement, Miss Earhart expressed serious misgivings about marrying Mr. Putnam, and stated: “. . . I shall not hold you to any midevil code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly.

Amelia Earhart models a women’s flying suit of her own design. (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Earhart had her own line of women’s fashions, made from wrinkle-free fabrics. She modeled for her own advertisements. In November 1931, Earhart was the subject of a series of photographs by Edward Steichen for Vogue, an American fashion magazine.

Amelia Earhart photographed for Vogue Magazine by Edward Steichen, November 1931.

At Warrington, Pennsylvania, 8 April 1931, Amelia Earhart (now, Mrs. George P. Putnam) flew a Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro to an altitude of 5,613 meters (18,415 feet). Although a sealed barograph was sent to the National Aeronautic Association for certification of a record, NAA does not presently have any documentation that the record was actually homologated.

On the night of 20–21 May 1932, Amelia Earhart flew her Vega 5B from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, solo and non-stop, across the Atlantic Ocean to Culmore, Northern Ireland. The distance flown was 2,026 miles (3,260.5 kilometers). Her elapsed time was 14 hours, 56 minutes. On 18 July 1932, Earhart was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by President Herbert Hoover, for “extraordinary achievement in aviation.”

Amelia Earhart with her red and gold Lockheed Vega 5B, NR7952, at Culmore, North Ireland, after her solo transatlantic flight, 21 May 1932. (National Library of Ireland)

Earhart next flew her Vega non-stop from Los Angeles, California, to New York City, New York, 24–25 August 1932, setting an FAI record for distance without landing of 3,939.25 kilometers (2,447.74 miles).⁴ Her Lockheed Vega 5B, which she called her “little red bus,” is displayed in the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.

At 4:40 p.m., local time, 11 January 1935, Amelia Earhart departed Wheeler Field on the island of Oahu, Territory of Hawaii, for Oakland Municipal Airport at Oakland, California, in her Lockheed Vega 5C Special, NR965Y. She arrived 18 hours, 15 minutes later. Earhart was the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the Mainland.

Amelia Earhart with her Lockheed Vega 5C, NR965Y, at Wheeler Field, 11 January 1935.(Getty Images/Underwood Archives)

Amelia Earhart is best known for her attempt to fly around the world with navigator Frederick J. Noonan in her Lockheed Electra 10E Special, NR16020, in 1937. She disappeared while enroute from Lae, Territory of New Guinea, to Howland Island in the Central Pacific, 2 July 1937. The massive search effort for her and her navigator failed, and what happened to her and Noonan remains a mystery.

Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Electra Model 10E Special, NR16020.

Although the exact date of her death is not known, Amelia Mary Earhart (Mrs. George Palmer Putnam) was declared dead in absentia by the Superior Court, County of Los Angeles, 5 January 1939. (Probate file 181709)

George Palmer Putnam leaves the Los Angeles Superior Court after missing aviatrix Amelia Earhart was declared dead in absentia, 5 January 1939. (Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive , UCLA Library.)

¹ FAI Record File Number 14993

² FAI Record File Number 14956

³ FAI Record File Number 12326

⁴ FAI Record File Number 12342

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 July 1936

Louise Thaden with the Porterfield Model 35-W. (FAI)

12 July 1936: Louise Thaden set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers with an average speed of 176.35 kilometers per hour (109.58 miles per hour.)¹ She flew a Porterfield Model 35-W Flyabout over a course at Endless Caverns, near New Market, Virginia.

National Harmon Trophy

Less than two months later, 4 September 1936, Mrs. Thaden became he first woman to win the Bendix Trophy Race when she and her co-pilot, Blanche Noyes, flew a Beechcraft C17R “Staggerwing,” NR15835, from Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, to Mines Field, Los Angeles, California.

She was awarded the national Harmon Trophy as Champion Aviatrix of the United States for 1936.

Iris Louise McPhetridge was born 12 November 1905 at Bentonville, Arkansas. She was the first of three daughters of Roy Fry McPhetridge, owner of a foundry, and Edna Hobbs McPhetridge. She was educated at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, a member of the Class of 1927. She was president of the Delta Delta Delta (ΔΔΔ) Sorority, Delta Iota (ΔΙ) Chapter, head sports for basketball and president of The Panhellenic.

Louise McPhetridge had been employed by Walter Beech as a sales representative at Wichita, Kansas, and he included flying lessons with her employment. She received her pilot’s license from the National Aeronautic Association, signed by Wilbur Wright, 16 May 1928. In 1929, she was issued Transport Pilot License number 1943 by the Department of Commerce. She was the fourth woman to receive an Airline Transport Pilot rating.

Miss McPhetridge married Mr. Herbert von Thaden at San Francisco, California, 21 July 1928. Thaden was a former military pilot and an engineer. They would have two children, William and Patricia.

Louise Thaden served as secretary of the National Aeronautic Association, and was a co-founder of The Ninety-Nines. She served as that organization’s vice president and treasurer. She set several world and national records and was awarded the national Harmon Trophy as Champion Aviatrix of the United States in 1936.

Louise Thaden stopped flying in 1938. She died at High Point, North Carolina, 9 November 1979.

Louise Thaden flew this Porterfield Model 35-W to set a World Record for Speed, 12 July 1936. (FAI)

The Porterfield Model 35-W was based on the prototype Wyandotte Pup, which had been designed by Noel Ross Hockaday. The airplane was built by students of the aviation club of Wyandotte High School, Kansas City, Kansas.

Noel Hackaday’s Wyandotte Pup, NX12546, circa 1932. The children are identified as Leland and Milton House. (Guy F. House, via Keith House)

Hockaday had previously been a designer for the American Eagle Aircraft Corporation and had designed that company’s Eaglet high-wing monoplane. Edward Everette Porterfield, Jr., the founder of American Eagle, was present when the Wyandotte Pup made its first flight. He bought the airplane and its production rights. American Eagle had gone out of business during the early years of The Depression, and a new company, Porterfield Aircraft Corporation, was formed to manufacture the airplane as the Porterfield Model 35.

The Porterfield Model 35 Flyabout was produced in several variants, and was available with LeBlond, Velle, Warner or Continental engines. It was was a single-engine, high-wing monoplane, which carried a pilot and one passenger in tandem in an enclosed cabin. The airplane had fixed landing gear with a tail skid. The fuselage was a welded tube structure, while the wing was built around two spruce spars, with spruce and plywood ribs. The airplane was covered with doped fabric. A distinctive feature of the Porterfield series are the parallel wing struts. (Most similar aircraft have their struts arranged in a “V”.)

Porterfield Model 35-70 Flyabout, NC 20700, powered by a LeBlond radial engine. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

The Porterfield Model 35-W was 22 feet, 1 inch (6.731 meters) long, with a wingspan of 32 feet, 0 inches (9.754 meters), and height of 6 feet, 7 inches (2.007 meters). The main wheel tread was 5 feet, 6 inches (1.676 meters). Maximum payload was 501 pounds (227.25 kilograms).

A 1936 Porterfield Model 35-W, NC16401, serial number 301. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

The Model 35-W was powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 301.458-cubic-inch-displacement (4.940 liter) Warner Aircraft Corporation Scarab Junior. This was a 5-cylinder radial engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.2:1. The Scarab Junior was rated at 90 horsepower at 2,050 r.p.m. at Sea Level for takeoff (five-minute limit). The engine was 1 foot, 2 inches (0.356 meters) long, 3 feet, 0.5 inches (0.927 meters) in diameter, and weighed 237 pounds (107.5 kilograms).

The 35-W had a cruise speed of 110 miles per hour (177 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 120 miles per hour (193 kilometers per hour). Its range was 340 miles (547 kilometers).

Porterfield Aircraft Corporation built approximately 240 Model 35s. Twenty-five of these were the Model 35-W.

Porterfield Model 35-70 Flyabout. This airplane appears to have the same striping pattern as the airplane photographed with Louise Thaden, above. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Noel Ross Hockaday was born 24 May 1905 in Marion County, Illinois. He was the first of two children of Jake Fred Hockaday, a farmer, and Mary Kathryn Sills Hockaday. He was married to Ruby I. Kelley (18 May 1905–1 January 1952).

In addition to the Eaglet and Pup, Hockaday designed the Rearwin Airplanes Inc., Speedster, Sportster and Cloudster. (Rearwin, like Porterfield, was based at Fairfax Airport, Kansas City, Kansas.)

Hockaday later formed Hockaday Aircraft Corporation at Burbank, California, to produce the Hockaday Comet.

Noel Ross Hockaday died at Los Angeles, California, 26 May 1959, at the age of 54 years.

Edward Everett Porterfield, Jr., circa 1925. (Airplanes and Rockets)

Edward Everett Porterfield, Jr., was born at Kansas City, Missouri, 7 November 1890. He was the son of Edward Everett Porterfield, Sr.,² a state circuit court judge, and Julia L. Chick Porterfield.

E.E. Porterfield, Jr., was a manager for the New England Equitable Life Insurance Company in Knsas City. On 17 January 1911, he married Miss Margaret Hughes in Nebraska. They would have two sons, both of whom died in infancy. Mrs. Porterfield sued for divorce, charging that she had been abandoned. The divorce was granted and she was awarded $30.00 per month in financial support.

Porterfield enlisted in the United States Army, 4 March 1918, and served as a sergeant with the 314th Trench Mortar Battery, 164th Field Artillery Brigade, 89th Division, American Expeditionary Forces. The division fought at the Battle of St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The 89th was inactivated following the war. Sergeant Porterfield was honorably discharged, 20 February 1919.

Porterfield’s second wife was Margaret Jellison Porterfield. They also divorced.

In 1925, Porterfield founded the Porterfield Flying School at Richards Field, the first airport for Kansas City, Missouri. In 1928, he founded the American Eagle Aircraft Corporation at Fairfax Airport, Kansas City, Kansas.³

E.E. Porterfield married his third wife, Mildred Shiveley, at Odessa, Missouri, 25 December 1930.

Porterfield later founded the Porterfield Aircraft Corporation in 1932. During World War II, light aircraft production ceased and the company eventually went out of business.

Edward Everett Porterfield, Jr., died at Kansas City, Missouri, 29 August 1948, at the age of 58 years. He was buried at the Mount Washington Cemetery, Independence, Missouri.

Porterfield Model 35-70 Flyabout. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

¹ FAI Record File Number 12022

² Full Disclosure: Judge Edward Everett Porterfield, Sr., a Kansas state circuit court judge, had an involvement in the infamous Dr. Hyde murders which took place at the Colonel Thomas H. Swope mansion near Independence, Missouri (State of Missouri v. Bennett Clarke Hyde, 1910). Colonel Swope was a distant relative of TDiA.

³ The Kansas City Metropolitan Area is divided by the Missouri River, which is the boundary between the State of Missouri and the State of Kansas. Therefore, there is a Kansas City, Missouri, and a Kansas City, Kansas.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 October 1925

Lieutenant James H. Doolittle, USAAS, with the Curtiss R3C-2 Schneider Trophy winner, 1925. (U.S. Air Force)
Lieutenant James H. Doolittle, Air Service, United States Army, with the Curtiss R3C-2 Schneider Trophy winner, 1925. (U.S. Air Force)

26 October 1925: Lieutenant James Harold Doolittle, Air Service, United States Army, won the Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider (commonly called the Schneider Trophy) when he placed first flying his Curtiss R3C-2 float plane over a 217-mile (349 kilometer) course near Bay Shores on Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

His average speed for the seven laps around the triangular race course was 232.57 miles per hour (374.29 kilometers per hour). The second-place airplane, a Gloster-Napier III flown by Captain Hubert Broad, averaged 199.16 miles per hour (320.52 kilometers per hour).

Doolittle also set two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world records during the race: World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers, with an average speed of 377.83 kilometers per hour (234.77 miles per hour) (FAI Record File Number 11866); World Record for Speed Over 200 Kilometers, 377.16 kilometers per hour (234.36 miles per hour) (FAI Record File Number 11867). On the following day, Doolittle set a third FAI record: World Record for Speed Over a 3 Kilometer Course, 395.5 kilometers per hour (245.75 miles per hour) (FAI Record File Number 11868).

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

A contemporary news article commented on Jimmy Doolittle’s performance:

Gloster III Schneider Cup racer, powered by a 700 horsepower Napier Lion VII “broad arrow” W-12.

“. . . according to reports Lieut. Doolittle’s cornering was superb, and must have been to a great extent responsible for the excellent performance. Reports from America—coming, it is thought, from a reliable source—indicate that one particular engine out of the 12 built for the Pulitzer and Schneider Trophy races proved exceptionally good, as will often happen in a batch of engines, and it is believed that this engine was fitted in Doolittle’s Curtiss-Army Racer. This fact, taken in conjunction with the masterly handling of the machine, would seem to account for the wholly unexpected average speed maintained, which was, of course, far and away ahead of the speeds of the British and Italian competitors.”

FLIGHT, The Aircraft Engineer & Airships, No. 879 (No. 44, Vol. XVII.) October 29, 1923 at Page 703

The Curtiss R3C-2 Racer on display at the National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
The Curtiss R3C-2 Racer on display at the National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

The R3C-2 was a single-engine, single-seat biplane, equipped with pontoons for taking off and landing on water. It was built especially for air racing. The airplane and its V-1400 engine were both built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, which had been founded by Glenn Hammond Curtiss. The R3C-2 was converted from the R3C-1, the land plane configuration which had been flown by Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, AS, USA, to win the Pulitzer Trophy Race just two weeks earlier.

The RC3-2 is 22 feet long (6.706 meters), an increase of 2 feet, 3.5 inches (0.698 meters) over the R3C-1 configuration, resulting from the addition of the pontoons. 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).  Weight empty was 2,135 pounds (968 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 2,738 pounds (1,242 kilograms).

Constructed of wood, the fuselage has four ash longerons and seven birch vertical bulkheads. The framework is 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 are also of wood, with spruce ribs and a covering of spruce strips.

Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis with the Pulitzer Trophy Race winning Curtiss R3C.
Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis with the Pulitzer Trophy Race winning Curtiss R3C-1. This airplane would be modified to the R3C-2 sea plane configuration. (Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company.

The single-bay wings are wire braced and contain 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-2 had a fuel capacity of 27 gallons (102 liters). Its range was 290 miles (467 kilometers).

The Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider at the Science Museum, London. (Wikipedia, edit by Eric Menneteau)

Jimmy Doolittle was one of America’s foremost pioneering aviators. He set many records, won air races, tested and developed new flying equipment and techniques.

He was a highly-educated military officer, having earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California Berkeley School of Mines, and M.S and D.Sc. degrees in Aeronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

During World War II, Colonel Doolittle planned and led the famous Halsey-Doolittle Raid against Japan, 18 April 1942, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

As a brigadier general, he commanded 12th Air Force in North Africa. Promoted to major general, he was given command of the 15th Air Force in the Mediterranean Theater, and commanded 8th Air Force as a lieutenant general, 1943–1945.

After the war, Lieutenant General Doolittle was placed on the inactive list. On 4 April 1985, by Act of Congress, James H. Doolittle was promoted to General.

Jimmy Doolittle
First Lieutenant James Harold Doolittle, Air Service, United States Army

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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14 October 1922

Lieutenant Russell L. Maughan with his record-setting Curtiss R-6 racer, A.S. 68564, 1922. (U.S. Air Force)

14 October 1922: Air races were an extremely popular event in the early days of aviation. An estimated 200,000 spectators watched the opening race at the National Air Races, held at Selfridge Field (now, Selfridge Air National Guard Base) near Mount Clemens, Michigan from 8 to 14 October.

The Pulitzer Trophy Race was Event No. 5 on the afternoon of Saturday, 14 October. It was a “Free-for-All Race for High-Speed Airplanes.” The course consisted of five laps around an approximate 50 kilometer course, starting at Selfridge Field, then south to Gaulkler Point on Lake St. Clair. From there, the course was eastward for ten miles, keeping to the right of a moored observation balloon. The airplanes would then circle an anchored steamship, Dubuque, and return to Selfridge Field.

Russell Maughan’s record-setting Curtiss R-6 at Selfridge Field, Michigan, 14 October 1922. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)

Lieutenant Maughan finished the race in first place with an average speed of 205.386 miles per hour (330.172 kilometers per hour). He also set two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Speed during the race: 330.41 kilometers per hour (205.31 miles per hour) over a distance of 100 kilometers, and 331.46 kilometers per hour (205.96 miles per hour) over a distance of 200 kilometers).

In addition to the Pulitzer Trophy, the first place finisher was awarded a $1,200.00 prize. Second place was taken by another Army pilot, Lieutenant Lester James Maitland, also flying a Curtiss R-6, A.S. 68563.

FAI Record File Num #15195 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a given distance of 100 km
Performance: 330.41 km/h
Date: 1922-10-14
Course/Location: Detroit, MI (USA)
Claimant Lieut: Maughan (USA)
Aeroplane: Curtiss R-6
Engine: 1 Curtiss D – 12

FAI Record File Num #15196 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a given distance of 200 km
Performance: 331.46 km/h
Date: 1922-10-14
Course/Location: Detroit, MI (USA)
Claimant Lieut: Maughan (USA)
Aeroplane: Curtiss R-6
Engine: 1 Curtiss D – 12

Russell Maughan had been a fighter pilot during World War I. He shot down four enemy airplanes with his Spad XIII C.I, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery in action. He flew in several air races and set records. He went on to fly the Dawn-to-Dusk transcontinental flight in a Curtiss PW-8, 23 June 1924. In World War II he commanded the 51st Troop Carrier Wing during Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa.

Lester Maitland along with Lieutenant Albert F. Hegenberger, made the first trans-Pacific flight from California to Hawaii in 1927. He was the oldest USAAF pilot to fly combat missions in World War II, flying a Martin B-26 Marauder, the Texas Tarantula, as the commanding officer of the 386th Bombardment Group. He was awarded a Silver Star and retired with the rank of brigadier general.

The Curtiss R-6 Racers were single-engine, single seat, fully-braced biplanes with fixed landing gear, developed from the U.S. Navy Curtiss CR. The airplane and its D-12 Conqueror engine were both built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co., Garden City, New York. The fuselage was a stressed-skin monocoque, built with two layers of wood veneer covered by a layer of doped fabric. The wings were also built of wood, with plywood skins and fabric-covered ailerons. Surface radiators were used for engine cooling.

Two R-6 Racers were built of the U.S. Army at a cost of $71,000, plus $5,000 for spare parts.

The Curtiss R-6 was 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters) long with a wing span of 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters). It had an empty weight of 2,121 pounds ( kilograms).

The R-6 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 1,145.11-cubic-inch-displacement (18.765 liter) Curtiss D-12 dual overhead cam (DOHC) 60° V-12 engine, which was developed by  Arthur Nutt, based on the earlier Curtiss K-12 which had been designed by Charles B. Kirkham. The D-12 had four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 5.7:1, and was rated at 415 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m., and 460 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. During testing, it produced a 475 horsepower at 2,320 r.p.m. using a 50/50 mixture of 95-octane gasoline and benzol. The D-12 was a direct-drive engine and it turned a two-bladed, fixed-pitch, forged aluminum propeller designed by Dr. Sylvanus A. Reed. The Curtiss D-12 was 56¾ inches (1.441 meters) long, 28¼ inches (0.718 meters) wide and 34¾ inches (0.882 meters) high. It weighed 680 pounds (308 kilograms).

The R-6 racer had a maximum speed of 240 miles per hour (386 kilometers per hour). The service ceiling was 22,000 feet (6,706 meters), and it had a maximum range of 281 miles (452 kilometers).

A.S. 68564 disintegrated in flight at the Pulitzer Trophy Race, 4 October 1924, killing its pilot, Captain Burt E. Skeel.

The Pulitzer Trophy on display at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. (NASM)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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12 October 1925

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

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 a given distance of 100 kilometers (62.14 miles) with a Curtiss R3C-1 racing plane. His average speed was 401.28 kilometers per hour (249.34 miles per hour). Lieutenant Bettis was awarded the Pulitzer Trophy.

Lieutenant Cyrus K. Bettis and his Curtiss R3C-1 cross the finish line at the 1925 Pulitzer Trophy Race.
Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis and his Curtiss R3C-1 cross the finish line at the 1925 Pulitzer Trophy Race, 12 October 1925. (Unattributed)
The Pulitzer Trophy

FAI Record File Num #9684 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: C (Powered Aeroplanes)
Sub-Class: C (Aviation with engine)
Category: Not applicable
Group: Not applicable
Type of record: Speed over a given distance of 100 km
Performance: 401.28 km/h
Date: 1925-10-12
Course/Location: Mitchel Field, NY (USA)
Claimant Cyrus Bettis (USA)
Aeroplane: Curtiss R3C-1
Engine: 1 Curtiss V 1400

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

The Curtiss R3C-1 was a single-place, single-engine biplane built especially for air racing. 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, the R3C-2.

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).

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).

Lieutenant Cyrus K. Bettis, USAAS, with the Curtiss R3C-1 racer at Mitchel Field, 12 October 1925,
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 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 pontoons and the airplane was redesignated R3C-2. 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 and Lt. Cyrus Bettis with the Curtiss R3C-2 (NARA 31758AC)

Cyrus Bettis had 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. Bettis also won the Mackay Trophy for 1925.

Cyrus Bettis was born 2 January 1893, at Carsonville, Michigan, the first of three children of John and Mattie Bettis. Prior to the United States entry into World War I, he was employed as a manager for the Michigan State Telephone Company. Bettis enlisted as a private, first class, in the Aviation Section, Signal Enlisted Reserve Corps, 23 January 1918. On 11 September 1918, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Service, U.S. Army. Bettis was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant on 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. He was taken by air ambulance to Walter Reed Army Hospital, but died of spinal meningitis resulting from his injuries, 1 September.

Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis with the Pulitzer Trophy Race winning Curtiss R3C.
Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis with the Pulitzer Trophy Race winning Curtiss R3C-1. The surface radiators on the upper and lower wings can be seen. (Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co.)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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