Tag Archives: World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers

12 May 1951

Jacqueline Auriol in the cockpit of a SNCASE Mistral, a license-built version of the de Havilland DH.100 Vampire. (Flying Review)

12 May 1951:  Mme Jacqueline Marie-Thérèse Suzanne Douet Auriol flew a Goblin-powered de Havilland DH.100 Vampire to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record for speed over a given distance of 100 kilometers (62.14 statute miles), averaging  818.18 km/h (505.39 m.p.h.). ¹ Mme Auriol  took off from Istres, flew to Avignon and back. She broke the existing record, 703.38 km/h (437.06 m.p.h.) set 29 December 1949 by Jacqueline Cochran of the United States with a North American Aviation P-51C Mustang. ²

The Chicago Tribune reported:

MRS. AURIOL, 33, PILOTS PLANE AT RECORD 507 MPH

Breaks Women’s Mark of Jacqueline Cochran

     ISTRES AIRFIELD, Marseilles, France, May 12—[Reuters]—Mrs. Jacqueline Auriol, daughter-in-law of the French president, Vincent Auriol, today officially smashed the American held 100 kilometer [62.5 miles] air speed record for women.

     Mrs. Auriol, blue eyed mother of two children, flew the Istres-Avignon return course at an official speed of 818.558 kilometers an hour [about 507 miles].

     Thus she broke the three year old record of Jacqueline Cochran, who flew the distance at Coachella Valley, Cal., in a P-51 Mustang, powered by a Rolls-Royce piston engine, of 469 m.p. h.

     Mrs. Auriol established the new record in a French built Vampire jet, named “Mistral” after a prevailing French wind. The ship has two British De Havilland Gobling [sic] turbo-compressors.

Trial Run Even Faster

     At a trial run this morning Mrs. Auriol went even faster, covering the course at 509½ m.p.h. After the morning test run, Mrs. Auriol said she hadn’t “pushed” he aircraft at all. The French makers claim it can reach 567 m.p.h.

     Mrs. Auriol, 33, is slim, boyish, has her hair cut short and usually wears slacks. She studied painting, but gave it up after her marriage in 1938 to Paul Auriol, private secretary to his father.

     Her face bears the marks of a flying accident in which she nearly lost her life two years ago. She was co-piloting a seaplane which crashed into the Seine.

Holds U. S. Pilot License

     She spent a year in hospital in France before going to the United States to complete her treatment, which included 22 operations. Four eight months she had to be fed artificially.

     She learned to pilot a helicopter at Buffalo, N. Y., and passed her pilot test over Niagara Falls. She learned jet piloting in a Meteor with Test Pilot Raymond Guillaume, who was present today and made a test flight over the course before her record attempt.

Chicago Sunday Tribune, Vol. CX, No. 115, 13 May 1951, Part 1, Page 29, Column 1

For her record flight, Mme Auriol was named Chevalier de la légion d’honneur. Harry S. Truman, President of the United States, presented her with the Harmon International Aviatrix Trophy.

A SNCASE DH.100 Vampire. National Archives at College Park, National Archives Identifier 19982005)
A SNCASE-built DH.100 Vampire. (National Archives at College Park, National Archives Identifier 19982005)

The DH.100 was a single-seat, single-engine fighter powered by a turbojet engine. The twin tail boom configuration of the airplane was intended to allow a short exhaust tract for the engine, reducing power loss in the early jet engines available at the time.

Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est (SNCASE) assembled knocked-down kits of de Havilland DH.100 Vampires before entering into licensed manufacture of its own SE.530 Mistral.

The fighter variant, the DH.100 F1, was armed with four 20 mm guns.

Cutaway illustration of the Halford H.1B Goblin turbojet engine. (Flight)

The Goblin is a linear descendant of the early Whittle units. It comprises a single-sided centrifugal compressor delivering air to sixteen combustion chambers grouped symmetrically around the axis of the unit and leading to the nozzle of the single-stage axial turbine which drives the compressor. Compressor impeller and turbine rotor are coupled by a tubular shaft to form a single rotating assembly which is mounted on only two ball bearings. The maximum diameters of the engine, around the compressor casing, is 50in., [1.27 meters] and with a jet pipe of minimum length fitted the overall length is about 8ft. [2.438 meters] Equipped with a jet pipe and all the necessary engine auxiliaries the dry weight of the complete unit is 1,500 lb. [680 kilograms] Fuel consumption is at the rate of 1.23 lb. / hr. per lb. thrust.

FLIGHT and AIRCRAFT ENGINEER, No. 1923. Vol. XLVIII. Thursday, 1 November 1945 at Page 472, Column 2

The Vampire entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1945 and remained a front-line fighter until 1953. 3,268 DH.100s were built. The SE.530 Mistral served with the Armée de l’air from 1952 to 1961. SNCASE had assembled 67 Vampire FB Mk 5 kits and built 120 SE.530 Mistrals.

¹ FAI Record File Number 10834

² FAI Record File Number 12462

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

Jacqueline Auriol (5 November 1917–11 February 2000)

Jacqueline Auriol devant le Mystère IV, en juillet 1955. L’avion a servi de modèle au collier vendu aux enchères mardi 13 mai 2014 à Genève. [AP Photo/Str – Keystone]
Jacqueline Marie-Thérèse Suzanne Douet was born 5 November 1917 at Challans, Vendée, France. She was the daughter of Edmund Pierre Victor Douet, a ship builder, and Suzanne Jeanne Chevy. She attended school in Nantes, then studied art at L’École du Louvre, Paris.

On 26 February 1938, Paul Auriol, the son of Vincent Jules Auriol, who was later the first president of France’s Fourth Republic, married Mlle Douet. They would have two sons. The couple divorced, 12 November 1965, but re-married, 24 Jan 1987.

During World War II, Paul and Jacqueline worked with La Résistance française, fighting against the German invaders and the Vichy government of France.

After taking a flight with Commander Raymond Guillaume, Mme Auriol was determined to learn to fly. She earned a private license in 1948.

Jacqueline Auriol, 1947 (Ministère de la Culture – Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Studio Harcourt)

July 1949, Jacqueline Auriol was severely injured in crash of a Société de construction aeronavale (SCAN) 30 seaplane (a license-built Grumman G-44A Widgeon), on the Seine at Les Mureaux. She required 14 operations at the Foch Hospital to repair the damage to her face, followed by 8 more operations performed by Dr. John Marquis Converse at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in the United States.

In 1950, Jacqueline Auriol qualified as a French military pilot. She was then accepted as a test pilot for Société des Avions Marcel Dassault.

While in the United States for continued medical treatment, Mme Auriol trained as a helicopter pilot at the Bell Aircraft Company plant at Buffalo, New York. After only 23 flight hours in a Bell Model 47, she was awarded her helicopter pilot certificate, 23 January 1951. Larry Bell, president of the company, said that she was “the most extraordinary woman in the world. She has met fear head-on and conquered it. She has a complete passion for flying.” She became the eighth member of Whirly-Girls, the international association of women helicopter pilots.

Jacqueline Auriol and instructor Dick Buyers in the cockpit of a Bell Model 47D helicopter, N153B, Buffalo, New York, 23 January 1951. (Airport Journals)

On 12 May 1951, Mme Auriol flew a Goblin-powered de Havilland DH.100 Vampire to set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record for speed over a given distance of 100 kilometers (62.14 statute miles), averaging  818.18 km/h (505.39 m.p.h.). ¹ She broke the existing record, 703.38 km/h (437.06 m.p.h.) set 29 December 1949 by Jacqueline Cochran of the United States with a North American Aviation P-51C Mustang. ² For her record flight, Mme Auriol was named Chevalier de la légion d’honneur. Harry S. Truman, President of the United States, presented her with the Harmon International Aviatrix Trophy, 18 November 1951.

Jacqueline Auriol in the cockpit of a SNCASE SE 535 Mistral. (Flying Review)

On 21 December 1952, at Istres, France, Mme Auriol flew a license-built variant of the de Havilland DH.100 Vampire FB.53 fighter bomber—the Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est (SNCASE) SE 535 Mistral—to set an FAI World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers Without Payload, at 855,92 km/h (531.84 m.p.h.). ³ The aircraft was equipped with a Hispano-built Rolls-Royce Nene 104 turbojet engine. Mme Auriol won a second Harmon Trophy.

President Trumna presents the Harmon Trophy to Jacqueline Auriol.

On 31 May, 1955, Mme Auriol set a World Record for Speed Over a 15km/25km (9.3–15.5 statute miles) Straight Course, flying the prototype Dassault Mystère IV N interceptor. Her speed averaged 1 151 km/h (715 m.p.h.). ⁴ Again she broke a speed record set by Jackie Cochran with a prototype Canadair Sabre Mk.3. ⁵ For this flight, she was promoted to Officier de la Légion d’honneur, 31 October 1956. She was awarded a third Harmon Trophy, which was presented by President Dwight Eisenhower, 23 October 1956. Her record-setting Mystère IV N is on display at the Conservatoire l’Air et l’Espace d’Acquitane, Bordeaux Merignac Airport, France.

Dassault Mystère IV N 01 F-ZXRM, right side profile. (© Collection Pyperpote)

Flying a delta-wing Dassault Mirage III C, at Istres, 22 June 1962, Jacqueline Auriol averaged 1 850,2 km/h (1,149.7 m.p.h.) to set an FAI  World Record for Speed Over 100 Kilometers Without Payload. ⁵

Jacqueline Auriol climbs out of the cockpit of a Dassault Mirage IIIC. (Joyeux Magazine)

The following year, 14 June 1963, Mme Auriol flew the reconnaissance version, the Dassault Mirage III R, over a 100 kilometer course at an average speed of 2 038,70 km/h (1,266.79 m.p.h.). This set her fifth FAI speed record. ⁷ She was the first woman to exceed Mach 2.

Jacqueline Auriol flew this Dassault Mirage III R, 307, to an FAI world speed record, 14 June 1963. (Archives Musee BA 102 – Collection Particuliere)
Jacqueline Auriol (1917-2000), aviatrice française. Remise du Record international féminin (14 juin 1963) par Jacques Allez, directeur de l’Aéroclub de France. Paris, janvier 1964.

In 1965, Mme Auriol set two world speed records while flying the prototype Dassault Aviation Mystère-Falcon 20 business jet, F-WLKB. On 15 May, she averaged 819,13 km/h (508.98 m.p.h.) over a 2000-kilometer (1,242.7 statute miles) closed circuit, ⁸  and on 10 June, over a 1000-kilometer circuit (621.4 miles), 859,51 km/h (534.08 m.p.h.). ⁹

Jacqueline Auriol steps off the Dassault Aviation Mystère-Falcon 20.

On 28 December 1979, Jacqueline Auriol was promoted to Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur, and 13 July 1992, to Grand officier de la Légion d’honneur.

She was awarded the Grand-croix Ordre National du Merite, 14 May 1957.

Mme Jacqueline Marie-Thérèse Suzanne Douet Auriol died at Hotel-de-Ville, Paris, 11 February 2000. Her remains were interred at the cemetery in Ville de Muret, France

Jacqueline Auriol, 1956. (Association Amicale des Essais en Vol/CEV Brétigny)

“Now I know that only life and death are important. When I am in the air, close to both, things finally take on their proper perspective. Nonsense becomes nonsense. The big things stand out, become alive.”

—Jacqueline Auriol

¹ FAI Record File Number 10834

² FAI Record File Numbers 4476 and 12323

³ FAI Record File Number 12462

⁴ FAI Record File Number 9074

⁵ FAI Record File Number 8870

⁶ FAI Record File Number 12391

⁷ FAI Record File Number 12392

⁸ FAI Record File Number  9073

⁹ FAI Record File Number  1351

© 2022, Bryan R. Swopes

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.

Doolittle’s 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);¹  World Record for Speed Over 200 Kilometers, 377.16 kilometers per hour (234.36 miles per hour).²  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).³

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 triangular Schneider race course stretched from Bay Shore Park to Gibson Island to the south and across Chesapeake Bay to Huntingfield Point. Contestants had to fly the 50-kilometer (31-mile) course seven times.” Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
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, single-bay biplane, equipped with pontoons for taking off and landing on water. It was built especially for air racing. Two R3Cs 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 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 replacement of the fixed wheeled landing gear with the single-step 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, 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 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. General Doolittle is the only person to have been awarded both the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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

¹ FAI Record File Number 11866

² FAI Record File Number 11867

³ FAI Record File Number 11868

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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 Russell Lowell Maughan, Air Service, United States Army, flying a Curtiss R-6, Air Service serial number A.S. 68564, 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,¹ and 331.46 kilometers per hour (205.96 miles per hour) over a distance of 200 kilometers).²

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

Russell Maughan had been a fighter pilot during World War I. He shot down four enemy airplanes with his Spad S.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.

Curtiss R-6, A.S. 68564, P-278. (FAI)

The Curtiss R-6 Racers were single-engine, single seat, fully-braced single-bay 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.

The 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 (962 kilograms).

The R-6 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 1,145.111-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)

¹ FAI Record File Number 15195

² FAI Record File Number 15196

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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