The History of Air Racing

1931 NAR Photos & Records

1931 National Air Races

The1931 National Air Races returned to Cleveland Municipal Airport and
arrangements were made to to hold the event here for at least the next
five years.
This arrangement prompted the building of new  permanent
  wood grandstands and race administration building. Special buildings
for   Army, Navy  and  Marine Corps units were also  added. Dates  for
this year were   August 29th through September 7th and Cleveland fans
were  eager to see    the races return. The  racecourse  was changed
to eliminate the racers over  flying the grandstands, for safety reasons.
 The  airfield is large enough  to permit  both  commercial  flights  and
air racing.

1931 Poster

The  schedule  called  for 38 events, with  prize  money  totaling  $100,000.
New this year, Shell Trophies Speed Dash, Entries to qualify at a speed of
no less than 200 miles per hour over a 3-Kilometer Straight-Away course in
front of the grandstands. These speed dash qualifiers would also qualify the
    men for the Thompson Trophy race and the women for the Aerol Trophy Race.
The major event and attraction was the Thompson Trophy Race, held here in
Cleveland for the first time.

1931 Logo

Bendix Trophy Race
Cliff  Henderson, managing director of the races convinced businessman
Vincent Bendix to    sponsor  a new  event. The Bendix Trophy Race------
Transcontinental Speed Dash open to men and women. Starting at United
Airport, Burbank California  to Cleveland Municipal Airport, a distance of
2043  miles. Non-stop  or refuel, any  type  aircraft, must arrive Cleveland
Airport before  6pm EST same day. With a purse of $15,000
the  Bendix
    was scheduled to arrive Cleveland on opening day of the National Air Races.
Eight  entries  were  launched,  two  of  the  pilots would  later  become
United States Army Air Corps Generals. They were Jimmy Doolittle &
Ira Eaker.


Vincent Bendix and Trophy

Laird SS.jpg (256180 bytes)
Bendix Trophy Winner
Laird "Super Solution" , pilot Jimmy Doolittle

Thompson Trophy Race

A small airplane Company by the name of Granville Bros. Aircraft Co. of
Springfield  Massachusetts entered  a  radical  new design,  the work of
engineer  Robert  Hall.  The  design  given  the nickname, "Gee Bee",  it
    was built“around” the Pratt and Whitney “Wasp” engine that powered
the airplane.
At, the ,controls, was ,airline ,pilot ,Lowell Bayles, from,
Mason, Illinois.

   Geebee Z w-Bales.jpg (146047 bytes)
Gee bee Model "Z"

The  original  intent  of the Thompson  Trophy Race  was to be an International
event. None of the European pilots of Countries invited entered the prestigious
race. Al Williams trip to Europe was successful in bringing several of Europe's
best aerobatic pilots. Capt. Boleslaw Orlinsky of Poland, Major Ernst Udet of
  Germany, Commander Mario de Bernardi of Italy, Captain Atcherley of England
 and Captain Alois Kubita of Czechoslovakia to name a few. While noneof them
  flew  in the races all demonstrated  their  flying skills and their aircraft. Perhaps
     the favorite of the air race was Ernst Udet who performed difficult aerobatics with
   his low-powered "Flamingo". Udet thrilled the crowd by picking up a handkerchief
     off the grass with his wing tip. Major Ernst Udet a German ace in WW I shot down
 an American pilot by the name of Wanamaker, Udet landed next to his crashed
     Newport 28 and offered him a cigarette while waiting for German Medics to arrive.
   At the same time Udet cut the tail fabric containing the pilots number as a prize of
war.  When  Udet  arrived  at  the races  he arranged for Wanamaker, now the
Mayor of  Akron, Ohio to be in the stands. Udet had the fabric of Wanamaker's
    plane framed and presented it to him. It is now on display at the Air Force Museum
in Dayton, Ohio

Wanamaker's tail fabric
Adam Snelly photo)

Major Ernst Udet

Udet's "Flamingo"

American and Foreign pilots relax together in front of the stands

Shell 3-Kilometer Speed Dash

Men's Trophy Women's Trophy
Lowell Bayles Maude Tait

Bendix Trophy Race

Thompson Trophy Race

1 Out in Lap 7 Engine Problem

#4 Gee Bee  profile.jpg (22706 bytes)

Please send comments to Bill Meixner

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