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September’s Eagles: The Cleveland National Air Races, 1929-1949 Paul Rohrbaugh, ©2012 NASM.

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Presentation on theme: "September’s Eagles: The Cleveland National Air Races, 1929-1949 Paul Rohrbaugh, ©2012 NASM."— Presentation transcript:

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2 September’s Eagles: The Cleveland National Air Races, Paul Rohrbaugh, ©2012 NASM

3 Promotion and Show Fred Crawford (top, WRHS), founder of Cleveland Pneumatic, later Thompson Products Company. Fred Crawford (top, WRHS), founder of Cleveland Pneumatic, later Thompson Products Company. Cliff Henderson (bottom, WRHS), promoter of the Cleveland Nationals. Cliff Henderson (bottom, WRHS), promoter of the Cleveland Nationals.

4 Air Racing Ralph Pulitzer was first to offer prizes for various accomplishments and speed records in air travel. Ralph Pulitzer was first to offer prizes for various accomplishments and speed records in air travel. Bendix (cross-country US, top (NASM) speed race from LA to NY city. Bendix (cross-country US, top (NASM) speed race from LA to NY city. Thompson was close-course “unlimited” race from 100 to 500 feet above ground, in front of grand stand. Course marked by pylons (bottom, NASM). Thompson was close-course “unlimited” race from 100 to 500 feet above ground, in front of grand stand. Course marked by pylons (bottom, NASM). The “Nationals” made Cleveland the “air laboratory of the world.” The “Nationals” made Cleveland the “air laboratory of the world.”

5 Cleveland National Races (NAR) Parades, aerial stunt shows, and escalating “classes” of races led to Labor Day’s finale, the Thompson Unlimited! Parades, aerial stunt shows, and escalating “classes” of races led to Labor Day’s finale, the Thompson Unlimited! Race featured pistol shot race by pilots to their planes! Race featured pistol shot race by pilots to their planes! First Thompson Trophy Race winner was Doug Davis in the Travelair “Mystery Ship.” First Thompson Trophy Race winner was Doug Davis in the Travelair “Mystery Ship.” 1929 race attracted record number of attendees, over 100,000, surpassing the Indy race attracted record number of attendees, over 100,000, surpassing the Indy 500. Travelaire Mystery Ship (Author’s Collection) Doug Davis with 1 st Thompson Trophy (WRHS)

6 Daring and Innovation Aircraft technology advanced to monoplanes, retractable landing gear, 500+ HP radial engines, among others. Aircraft technology advanced to monoplanes, retractable landing gear, 500+ HP radial engines, among others. Many Aces from WWI and later WWII would figure prominently. Many Aces from WWI and later WWII would figure prominently. Designers ranged from major aircraft firms (Wright, Boeing, Lockheed among others) to amateurs (Jimmy Wedell, Granville Brothers, Bill Laird most famous). Designers ranged from major aircraft firms (Wright, Boeing, Lockheed among others) to amateurs (Jimmy Wedell, Granville Brothers, Bill Laird most famous). Roscoe Turner posing with his Wedell-Williams 44 racer (Author’s Collection). Lowell Bayles with the GB-Z in a pre-flight check of the engine (Author’s Collection).

7 Rich and Famous Cleveland Nationals attracted pilots and aircraft designers from all over the world. Cleveland Nationals attracted pilots and aircraft designers from all over the world. Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Wylie Post among famous aviators. Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Wylie Post among famous aviators. Three Stooges, Marx Brothers, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn were just a few of the movie stars and other celebrities to put in appearances. Three Stooges, Marx Brothers, Clark Gable, Errol Flynn were just a few of the movie stars and other celebrities to put in appearances. Photo of part of the grandstand Audience at the 1931 Thompson Trophy Race (WRHS). Click on the photo to see a film clip of the 1932 Nationals.

8 Winners and History Makers Jimmy Doolittle Jimmy Doolittle (Bendix in the Laird Super Solution, 1931) and Thompson (R2 Gee-Bee, Crap Shoot, 1932). Jimmy Doolittle Roscoe Turner Roscoe Turner only one to win the Bendix (1933) and three Thompson Trophies (1934, 1938 and 1939). Roscoe Turner Louise ThadenLouise Thaden, Blanche Noyes (1936), Jackie Cochrane (1938) women who won the Bendix. Louise Thaden Click on the pilots’ names to learn more about them. Roscoe Turner accepting 1934 Thompson Trophy after being congratulated by movie star, Mary Pickford. Click on the picture for more information (NASM).

9 Dangers and Risks High Speeds and “edge of the envelope” airframes led to risky combinations. High Speeds and “edge of the envelope” airframes led to risky combinations. Many designs led to famous US WWII aircraft (P-47, P-51 among them). Many designs led to famous US WWII aircraft (P-47, P-51 among them). Burning wreckage of Lowell Bayles GB-Z, City of Springfield. The plane crashed moments after setting a new speed record, killing the pilot (NASM). Click on the photo to view a film about the 1939 Nationals.

10 Postwar Nationals The Nationals resumed in 1946 at Cleveland following WWII. The Nationals resumed in 1946 at Cleveland following WWII. The Thompson Trophy Race continued to be the climax event. This was now subdivided into two races, one for jet and another for propeller driven aircraft. All racers were either military (jets) or ex- military/surplus models. The Thompson Trophy Race continued to be the climax event. This was now subdivided into two races, one for jet and another for propeller driven aircraft. All racers were either military (jets) or ex- military/surplus models. Cook Cleland won the Thompson twice, the only other pilot besides Roscoe Turner to win this race more than once. Cook Cleland won the Thompson twice, the only other pilot besides Roscoe Turner to win this race more than once. Above: Cook Cleland’s #94 F2G racer (WRHS) Below: Roscoe Turner (left) presenting Thompson Trophy to Cleland (center), and Fred Thompson looking on (right). WRHS

11 Disaster 1949 Race would be the last in Cleveland. Favored racer was Jackie Cochrane’s P-51 Mustang, Beguine (named for popular song), piloted by Bill Odom (NASM) Race would be the last in Cleveland. Favored racer was Jackie Cochrane’s P-51 Mustang, Beguine (named for popular song), piloted by Bill Odom (NASM). The plane crashed into new housing development, killing a new mother and her baby son, along with the pilot (Cleveland Plain Dealer). The plane crashed into new housing development, killing a new mother and her baby son, along with the pilot (Cleveland Plain Dealer). Click here to access a quiz about the Cleveland Air Races. quiz quiz

12 Credits Anonymous. Air Racing History [internet site, 200?]. Accessed June 4, 2007: Anonymous. Air Racing History [internet site, 200?]. Accessed June 4, 2007: Freudenthal, Benjamin (2012). Gee Bee R1: The Thompson Trophy. Retrieved May 2013 from: Freudenthal, Benjamin (2012). Gee Bee R1: The Thompson Trophy. Retrieved May 2013 from: Hull, Robert (1984). A Season of Eagles. Bay Village, OH: Robert Hull Books. Hull, Robert (1984). A Season of Eagles. Bay Village, OH: Robert Hull Books (1979). September Champions: The Story of the America’s Air Racing Pioneers. Bay Village, OH: Robert Hull Books (1979). September Champions: The Story of the America’s Air Racing Pioneers. Bay Village, OH: Robert Hull Books. Meixner, Bill (February, 2013). The Thompson Trophy Story. Retrieved May 2013 from: Meixner, Bill (February, 2013). The Thompson Trophy Story. Retrieved May 2013 from: Mendenhall, Charles A. (1994) A Legacy of Speed: the Gee Bee Racers. North Branch, MN: Specialty Press, Mendenhall, Charles A. (1994) A Legacy of Speed: the Gee Bee Racers. North Branch, MN: Specialty Press, National Air Race Project (2010). The Story of the 1939 National Air Races [Movie}. Retrieved from: National Air Race Project (2010). The Story of the 1939 National Air Races [Movie}. Retrieved from: National Aviation Hall of Fame (2011). Louis Thaden. Retrieved May 2013 from: National Aviation Hall of Fame (2011). Louis Thaden. Retrieved May 2013 from: Roscoe Turner. Retrieved May 2013 from: Roscoe Turner. Retrieved May 2013 from: Onkst, David H. “Roscoe Turner.” (2003). US Centennial of Flight [internet site]. Accessed October 18, 2007: Onkst, David H. “Roscoe Turner.” (2003). US Centennial of Flight [internet site]. Accessed October 18, 2007: Simply the Best Sounds (1997). Plane_2.mp3 [internet site]. Accessed October 19, 2007: Simply the Best Sounds (1997). Plane_2.mp3 [internet site]. Accessed October 19, 2007: Smithsonian Institute. “Photos” (various). National Air and Space Museum. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute. “Photos” (various). National Air and Space Museum. Washington, DC: Warrington, Chester National Air Races [Home movie]. Retrieved from: Warrington, Chester National Air Races [Home movie]. Retrieved from: Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS, 2007). “Photos” (various), Cleveland National Air Races Archive Collection. Cleveland. Western Reserve Historical Society (WRHS, 2007). “Photos” (various), Cleveland National Air Races Archive Collection. Cleveland. Roscoe with His pet lion, Gilmore 1939 Cleveland Nationals Program


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