To start at the begining.............
The first event in air racing history was held in 1909;
the Grand Week of the Champagne at Reims, France, drawing many of the most important plane makers and pilots of the era, as
well as celebrities and royalty. The premier event--the James Gordon Bennett Trophy-- was won by Glenn Curtiss, who beat the
second place finisher by five seconds. Curtiss was named "Champion Air Racer of the World". This event was held yearly at
different locations. In 1934, the MacRobertson Air Race from England to Australia took place with the winning de Havilland
Comet flown by Scott and Campbell Black.
Between 1913 and 1931 the Schneider Trophy seaplane race
was run, which was significant in advancing aeroplane design, particularly in the fields of aerodynamics and engine design,
and would show its results in the best fighters of World War II.
In 1921, the United States instituted the National Air Meets,
which became the National Air Races in 1924. In 1929, the Women's Air Derby became a part of the National Air Races circuit.
The National Air Races lasted until 1949. The Cleveland Air Races was another important event. That year, pilot Bill Odom
suffered a crash during a race, killing himself and two other people in a nearby house. In 1947, an All-Woman Transcontinental
Air Race (AWTAR) dubbed the "Powder Puff Derby" was established, running until 1977.
In 1964, Bill Stead, a Nevada rancher, pilot, and unlimited
hydroplane racing champion, organized the first Reno Air Races at a small dirt strip called the Sky Ranch, located between
Sparks, Nevada, and Pyramid Lake. The National Championship Air Races were soon moved to the Reno Stead Airport and have been
held there every September since 1966. The five-day event attracts around 200,000 people, and includes racing around courses
marked out by pylons for six classes of aircraft: Unlimited, Formula One, Sport Biplane, AT-6, Sport and Jet. It also features
civil airshow acts, military flight demonstrations, and a large static aircraft display. Other promoters have run pylon racing
events across the USA and Canada, including races in Mojave, California in 1978; at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1984; at Hamilton,
California, in 1988; in Phoenix, Arizona in 1994 and 1995; and in Tunica, Mississippi in 2005.
In 1970, American Formula One racing was exported to Europe
(Great Britain, and then to France), where almost as many races have been held as in the U.S.A.
Red Bull has created a series
called the Red Bull Air Race World Series in which competitors fly singularly through a series of gates, between which they
must perform a prescribed series of aerobatics maneuvers. Usually held over water near large cities, the series has attracted
large crowds and brought substantial media interest in air racing for the first time in decades.
But by far the two most prestigious air races were the
Bendix and the National
BENDIX TROPHY RACES
The Bendix Trophy is an U.S. aeronautical racing trophy.
The transcontinental, point-to-point race, sponsored by industrialist VincenT Bendix founder of Bendix Corporation, began
in 1931 as part of the National Air Races. Initial prize money for the winners was $15,000. The last Bendix Trophy Race was flown in 1962.
The trophy was brought back in 1998 by AlliedSignal
the then current owner of the Bendix brand name (which later merged with Honeywell) to "recognize contributions to aerospace
safety by individuals or institutions through innovation in advanced safety equipment and equipment utilization."
The current awards of the Honeywell Bendix Trophy for Aviation
Safety includes a scale reproduction of the original Bendix Trophy design and a citation.
The purpose was to interest engineers in building
faster, more reliable, and durable aircraft. Bendix competitors flew from Burbank, California, to Cleveland, Ohio, except
for two years when the contest began in New York and ended in Los Angeles.
Famous competitors for the trophy included James Harold
Doolittle, who won the first race, and several women. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to enter the Bendix, taking fifth
place in 1935. In 1936, Louise Thaden and her copilot Blanche Noyes won the race. Laura Ingalls finished second. In 1938,
Jacqueline Cochran, arguably the greatest female aviator of all time, took home the trophy. Paul Mantz was the only pilot
to ever win the Bendix three consecutive years, from 1946 through 1948.
The race was not run during World War II. Post war
winners were frequently military veterans from the United States Army Air Forces: the 1956 winner, Capt. Manuel Fernandez,
Jr, was the third ranking WWII USAAF Ace. By the 1960s, American interest in air racing declined; this is likely due to an
increased focus on the space race during this time. Lt. Richard F. Gordon, Jr., the 1961 winner, went on to become an Astronaut
The Bendix Trophy Race now flown in two divisions, R-division
for reciprocating engines
and the J-division for the jet engines flown by the military. The R-division attracted some
entries, 4 N. American P-51's, 14 Lockheed P-38's, 2 Bell P-63's, Goodyear FG-1
and a Douglas A-26. Most were seasoned
pilots except for 18 year old Bill Lear jr.
Veteran Bendix pilots were Paul Mantz and Jacqueline Cochran. One of the first-timers
famous Indianapolis 500 race car driver Rex Mays.
The pre to post war Bendix Race was a major change from
to skilled airmen able to push their already state of the art machines to new limits.
launch was moved from Burbank to the Van Nuys Airport for the longer
runway and additional
ramp space for the 22 entries. Last minute preparations
for those unable
to find hangar space were conducted along a blast fence.
who flew the pre-war Bendix by now had a sizeable fleet of aircraft
including several P-51's. Mantz
choose a "B" model as it was faster than the "D"
model with it's bubble canopy. Mantz consulted with his friend Lockheed
Kelly Johnson to determine how to fly the route non-stop. Johnson advised him to
"wet the wings", fill all
the openings, seal the inside and fill the wings with gasoline.
With 875 gallons of super cold
gasoline Mantz was able to fly non-stop and win.
– 2,048 miles
Mantz 46 NAA P-51C NX-1202 4:42:14
Cochran 13 NAA P-51B NX-28388 4:52:00 420.925
Mason 60 NAA P-51C NX-1204 5:01:06
Eddy 31 NAA P-51D NX-66851 5:29:18
Harp 95 F-5G NX-79123
6. Donald Husted 45 A-26C NX-37482
Tucker 30 Bell P-63C NX-63231 5:34:47
Hughes 70 F-5G NX-70087
Bullock 50 F-5G NX-70005
10. Harold Johnson 63 F-5G
11. John Carroll 22 F-5G
12. H.L. Marshall 99 F-5G
13. Rex Mays
55 F-5G NX-57492 6:15:17
Lear Jr. 71 F-5G NX-66613
15. Thomas Call 90 FG-1D
NX-63382 6:17:29 325.612
16. W Fairbrother
58 P-38L NX-69800 6:17:54 325.255
17. Andrew Grant 82 F-5G
John Schields 36 P-38L NX-66692
Dilles 47 Bell P-63C NX-67115
Calloway 48 P-38L NX-26927
Salmon 74 F-5G NX-56687
Yandell 11 F-5G NX-66678
– 2,048 miles
Mantz 46 NAA P-51C NX-1202
4:26:57 460.423 mph
DeBona 90 NAA P-51D NX-33699
Lunken 33 NAA P-51D NX-61151 5:00:45 408.723
Gimbel 13 NAA P-51B NX-28388 5:04:11
Eddy 31 NAA P-51D NX-66851 5:26:25
Mason 60 NAA P-51C NX-1204 5:26:49
Whitton 99 FG-1D NX-63382
Lear Jr. 25 F-5G NX-56687
Hlavacek 63 F-5G NX-21765
Ruble 88 Lockheed P-38F NX-5101N
Diana Cyrus 91 Douglas A-26B NX-67807
Kinkella 92 Bell P-63C NX-62822
The Reno national air races
The competition is in four classes:
The Unlimited Class is open
to any piston-driven aircraft with an empty weight greater than 4500 pounds [the weight restriction was added in 2005]. Aside
from a very few "scratch-built" aircraft, the Unlimited Class has generally been populated by stock or modified WWII fighters,
the most-often-flown types including the P-51 Mustang, F-8F Bearcat, and Hawker Sea Fury. Aircraft speeds in the Unlimited
Class reach 500 mph.
Formula One aircraft are
all powered by a Continental O-200 engine (the same 100 hp engine used in a Cessna 150). Weights and sizes of every major
engine part must be within stock limits. The cam profile and carburetion are strictly controlled. Race aircraft must have
66 square feet of wing area, weigh at least 500 pounds empty, and have a fixed landing gear and fixed pitch propeller. The
fastest Formula One aircraft reach almost 250 mph on the 3.12-mile race course at Reno. Many Formula One aircraft are built
by the pilots that race them and are a relatively inexpensive way to enjoy the excitement and satisfaction of air racing.
The Biplane Class is represented
by small, aerobatic aircraft like the Pitts Special, the Mong, and the Smith Miniplane, giving pilots a chance to apply their
skills to racing on a 3.18-mile course at speeds exceeding 200 mph.
The T-6 Class features match
racing between stock aircraft, including the original T-6 "Texan", the Canadian-built "Harvard", and the US Navy "SNJ" version
All of the T-6 variants are powered by the Pratt & Whitney Wasp R-1340-AN-1 air-cooled radial engine,
which develops about 600 horsepower, and all have essentially the same airframe.
Originally built by North American
Aviation, the 15,495 aircraft that were manufactured over the life of the model served primarily as advanced trainers, helping
pilots bridge between basic trainers and front-line tactical aircraft such as the P-51 Mustang.
The fastest T-6 aircraft
generally post race speeds into the 220-230 mph range on the 5.06-mile course at Reno. Because the aircraft are all of the
same type, the T-6 class provides some of the most exciting racing at Reno, with an emphasis on strategy and pilot skill rather
than raw horsepower.
The Sport Class highlights
the new and innovative work being done in the development of high performance kit-built aircraft. Competition in the Class
is fierce, with the rapid introduction of race-driven engine and airframe technology. Eligible aircraft include production
model kit-built aircraft, of which 5 or more kits have been produced and delivered to customers by the manufacturer, powered
by a reciprocating engine of 650 cubic inches or less. All aircraft must have a current FAA issued airworthiness certificate.
Class aircraft race on a 6.37-mile course at speeds reaching nearly 350 mph.
The Jet Class was inaugurated
in 2002 as an invitation-only class, featuring match racing with Czech-built Aerovodochody L-39 "Albatros" jets, racing at
speeds in the 400+ mph range. In 2004, sponsorship and interest had developed to the point where the Class was opened to participation
by any qualified pilot and aircraft.
The races take place over a
four-day period in September, from Thursday through Sunday, but time trials are held earlier in the week. Planes are assigned
to heats based on their qualifying times and those with the eight fastest times in heat races move on to the "Gold" championship
race on Sunday.
If the number of entries permits, there are two other championships
in each class, the "Silver" and "Bronze" races, each with eight planes, based on their times in heats.
The closed-circuit course is a little over 9 miles long.
Since speeds approach 500 miles an hour in the Unlimited class, it takes a little more than a minute for a plane to negotiate
one lap, and all the action is in clear view of spectators. The Unlimited "Gold" championship race is usually flown over eight
laps, the "Silver" race over eight laps, and the "Bronze" race over six laps.
About 150,000 spectators turn out over the four-day period.
In addition to racing, they get to see exhibitions of aerobatics, stunt flying, and skydiving, as well as flyovers and demonstrations
by military teams.
In closed-circuit air racing, the course
is marked by six pylons, about 30 feet high, and placed so a pilot can see at least the next two pylons from any point along
the course. There are two straightaways.
The length of the course varies with
the type of plane being raced, from 2-3 miles for Formula Vee planes up to 9-10 miles for planes in the Unlimited class. In
Formula One racing, the course is usually 3 miles in length and each straightaway is a mile long.
The number of planes in a race is generally
limited to eight. If more than eight planes are entered, they may compete in preliminary heats, with the top finishers in
each heat advancing to the finals. In some events, qualifying laps are used to determine the finalists. Each plane flies two
laps and the average speed for the second lap is used for qualifying.
There are two types of starts. An air
start is similar to the start of an auto race: The planes get into the air, line up in formation behind a pace plane, and
follow the pace plane to the starting line. Just beyond the starting line, the pace plane pulls up and the race is on.
In a racehorse start, the planes line
up in a takeoff grid on the runway. Positions in the grid are usually determined by their qualifying times. At the drop of
a flag, the pilots take off and head for the course. Timing begins when the first plane crosses the start line.
A race is made up of a predetermined
number of laps. In major Formula One races, there are usually eight laps, for a total of 24 miles.
A plane must pass outside the pylon
when cornering. Traveling inside or over the top of a pylon is a violation that usually results in a time penalty. Altitude
must range from 25 feet to 500 feet, although a pilot may fly higher for reasons of safety. During an emergency, which is
signaled by a yellow flag from the officials, the lead plane must climb to at least 300 feet. The other planes must follow
to the that altitude and remain there until the emergency has passed.
The aircraft have to keep a safe distance
apart during the race. A pilot attempting to pass is responsible for ensuring the safety of the maneuver. However, a pilot
being passed must stay on course, without attempting to impede the other plane.
The plane that crosses the finish line
first, after having completed the required number of laps, is the winner, provided no penalties were incurred during the race.
Click on the link below, to download the programme
for the 1971 California Air Races
1971 California Air Race Programme