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History's Most Important Racing Aircraft

History's Most Important Racing Aircraft

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History's Most Important Racing Aircraft

Panjangnya:
616 pages
3 hours
Dirilis:
Nov 14, 2013
ISBN:
9781473831339
Format:
Buku

Deskripsi

Don Berliner, a prolific aviation author, puts pen to paper once again to provide us with a definitive overview of the most important, influential, and iconic racing aircraft of the last century. The book looks at the incredible variety, growth, and rapid expansion of this area of aviation design and production. Individual events are relayed which deal with teams of designers, often equipped with a lot more ideas than money, making wild dashes for the checkered flag and fame. The excitement of this endeavor is translated here into vivid prose. Supplemented throughout by extensive illustrations (over 200 images) this piece of work is sure to appeal to enthusiasts of the genre interested in seeing the most select racing aircraft of all time consolidated into one volume.Aircraft featured include the Schneider Cup winning 1919 Supermarine Sealion, the iconic De Havilland Comet, post-war jet racers such as the Lockheed P-80A and the North American F-86A as well as a whole host of Formula One, Sport Biplane and Jet Class racers. Details of the current status of each racer is given, indicating whether the craft is still active or whether preserved models are available for viewing. Berliner continues with characteristic style and ease of delivery, adding to his expanding library of acclaimed Pen & Sword publications.
Dirilis:
Nov 14, 2013
ISBN:
9781473831339
Format:
Buku

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History's Most Important Racing Aircraft - Don Berliner

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Introduction

In the 100 years since the first successful air race at Reims, France, in 1909, at least 2,000 pilots have flown some 1,700 individual aircraft in officially sanctioned closed-course and cross-country speed competitions. The great majority of these aircraft have been either specially designed and built for racing, or were standard craft highly modified for speed flying. In addition, hundreds of others, mainly factory-stock machines, have been raced in handicapped events, although they have added little in the way of technological improvements to the design and/or construction of subsequent flying machines.

At first, prior to World War I, there were no special-purpose airplanes. No specialized military airplanes, no commercial airplanes, no personal airplanes, no sporting airplanes. Any existing airplane could be used for a variety of purposes with few, if any changes, required. Almost any standard, multi-purpose airplane could become a strategic bomber by the simple act of handing its pilot a single small bomb and telling him to drop it on, or at least near some people who refused to behave themselves. Those were the days when a successful flight was still defined as one from which the pilot and any passengers could walk away under their own power.

It wasn’t long before the art and science of aeronautics had progressed enough to permit specialization, though many of the changes were accomplished in the field, as a result of some sudden new need. The first of these specific new needs was for increasingly fast airplanes to be flown in races. While airplanes could not yet be counted on to fly long distances to deliver packages, let alone passengers, a pylon race could be for as little as 10 miles, and so the risk of complete mechanical failure was minimized.

The very first major air race meet included many events for one or two laps around the 10km (6 mi) course, with the culmination being for the James Gordon Bennett Trophy, soon to be recognized as the first of a long series of prestigious competitions. From its initial field of standard Bleriot monoplanes and Farman biplanes, the Gordon Bennett drew increasingly specialized racing machines, whose ever-greater engine power, improved streamlining and reduced wing area established a pattern that still holds.

Over and over, a trophy race series or a racing class began with fairly standard aircraft and soon evolved into highly specialized machines whose general practicality faded as their power increased and their size decreased. Extracting more horsepower from a production engine eventually led to military and commercial airplanes with superior performance, as did the racing-motivated improvements in streamlining. The 1930s’ Thompson and Bendix Trophy Race series epitomized the ability of highly motivated individuals to compete against a few technologically well educated and/or financed teams vying for the same prized trophies.

Until the approach of World War II, many pure racing aircraft were capable of speeds well beyond that of the military airplanes in use by even the most scientifically advanced nations. Then, the wartime availability of funds for basic and applied research previously unimagined by airplane designers overwhelmed the limited capabilities of private racing teams. Immediately after the war, racing was taken over by modified combat airplanes which offered far greater speed and durability, though they lacked the individuality and creativity of their predecessors. At first, their far lower initial cost kept them in the spotlight, though that, too, fell victim to the need for expensive improvements.

The diminishing crowd-appeal of the souped-up ex-fighter planes led to the creation of what has become Formula One. As the 190 cu in Class of midget racers in 1947, it was aimed at reducing cost and increasing safety and competitiveness. Quickly achieving and then maintaining its goals, it soon spread to regional races and then to Europe, marking it by far the most successful class in air racing history.

When the classic Cleveland National Air Races ended in 1949, there followed a 15-year period of little activity save for minor events for the midgets until Bill Stead, a successful cattle rancher and world champion Unlimited hydroplane driver, decided to recreate national air racing in the barren high desert near Reno, Nevada, in 1964. This was the beginning of a new era in which Thompson and Bendix-type airplanes became the Unlimited Class, the midgets soon became Formula One, and a collection of amateur-built, two-winged airplanes were grouped into the Sport Biplane Class. To that basic structure were gradually added new classes: AT-6 Class for the plentiful surplus military trainers, then the Sport Class for kit-built and mostly composite two- and four-passenger homebuilts, and most recently the Jet Class for several countries’ ex-military trainers.

The combined entry lists of all six classes at Reno’s National Championship Air Races soon topped 100, and their total purses exceeded $1,000,000. Participation from outside the USA began slowly, finally gaining speed in the early 2010s with pilots from Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Sweden, France, Spain and elsewhere.

Chapter One

James Gordon Bennett Trophy

Curtiss Reims Racer 1909

Length: 28ft 6in

Wingspan: 28ft 9in

Engine: 63hp Curtiss V-8

Colors: unpainted fabric, metal and natural wood

When, in 1909, the Aero Club of America (ACA) wanted to send a pilot and airplane to the world’s first major air meet, at Reims, France, its first choice was Orville or Wilbur Wright. When the Wrights turned down the invitation, the ACA offered its second choice – Glenn Curtiss – the opportunity.

Curtiss had established a reputation as a skilled designer and builder of engines, and held the title of The World’s Fastest Man, having driven a motorcycle of his own design and construction more than 136 mph at Ormond Beach, Florida, in January, 1907. The engine used in that record machine was intended for aircraft use; the entire motorcycle is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

After working with Alexander Graham Bell’s Aerial Experiment Association, Glenn Curtiss designed and built his Reims Flyer, a larger, more powerful version of his first, which was similar to the AEA’s Aerodrome No.3. It had its engine mounted behind the pilot and turning a single pusher propeller. Its most obvious difference from Wright airplanes was its use of ailerons, those hinged surfaces that are located near the wing tips and control an airplane’s rolling motion. The Wrights continued to use wing warping for the same purpose and became deeply embroiled in legal actions over claimed patent infringement.

The No.8 Reims Flyer was the first airplane intended purely for racing, and in a manner that was to become all-too-common in the sport, it had undergone little testing before being shipped to France, where it then performed flawlessly.

Curtiss made flights on six different days for the Tour de Piste, which was for one lap around the 10-km (6-mile) rectangular course. His best, among 13 entrants, was 47.63 mph, good for second place behind Louis Bleriot’s 47.89 mph. In the Prix de Vitesse, for three laps of the course, Curtiss beat eight others to win at 47.60 mph. In the featured Gordon Bennett Trophy Race, which consisted of two rounds of one lap, each, Curtiss edged Bleriot by 47.04 mph to 46.76 mph. In all, he won 38,000 French francs.

The Curtiss Reims Racer was sold to Charles Hamilton in 1910 and soon wrecked.

Bleriot XI No. 23

Length: 26ft 3in

Wingspan: 25ft 7in

Engine: 25hp air-cooled 3-cylinder Anzani

Colors: cream fabric, natural wood

Europe’s best-known pilot on the basis of his historic conquering of the English Channel a month earlier, Frenchman Louis Bleriot was the popular favorite to dominate the speed contests at Reims. As a result of his elimination of Great Britain’s isolation from continental Europe, more than 100 copies of his Type XI had been ordered prior to Reims, making it the world’s first production airplane.

The XI bowed in at the 1908 Paris Aero Salon, predecessor of today’s giant Paris Air Show, attracting great attention. When its original 35hp REP engine and four-bladed propeller were replaced by a more reliable Anzani and a two-bladed propeller, it became a major success, although only one other pilot would race one at Reims.

Construction of the Bleriot monoplane was primarily of ash, bamboo and steel tube, covered with Continental rubberized cloth. It had steel tube structures above and below the fuselage, to which bracing wires supporting the wings were attached. The propeller was carved from laminated strips of walnut.

At Reims, Bleriot entered two racing events. In the 1-lap Tour de Piste, he made several official attempts, with his final one in 7min 47.8sec being the fastest, edging Glenn Curtiss by less than two seconds. In the Gordon Bennett Cup competition, his first lap was more than four seconds faster than Curtiss. But his second was much slower, due to a sudden rainstorm. The final accounting saw Curtiss win by just 0.25 miles per hour.

Following the Reims Great Week of the Champagne, other Type XIs were involved in more history, being used for the first flight over the Alps, and the first use in war, when the Italians were fighting in North Africa. The Channel-crosser is now on display in the Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris.

Bleriot went on to take over the Deperdussin manufacturer, which eventually became SPAD, a firm that built thousands of highly successful World War I scouts and pursuits.

Antoinette IV

Length: 37ft 9in

Wingspan: 41ft 0in

Engine: 50hp water-cooled Antoinette V-8

Colors: unpainted fabric, natural wood

It was probably the very first airplane designed by men who appreciated the impact of streamlining on performance. Many of the wooden and metal structural members, which had been out in the open in previous airplanes, were, in the Antoinette, enclosed. While this gave the airplane a modern, fast look, the actual improvement in the Antoinette’s speed was negligible. The design was based on the prior work of Jules Gastambide and Mangin, though the design and construction is credited to Léon Levavasseur.

The general layout of the airplane was that of most airplanes that followed, with its engine in the front of the fuselage, pilot’s compartment directly behind the engine, all portions of the rudder and elevator at the rear, and a form of tricycle landing gear, though there was a long skid in lieu of a nose wheel. Control of rolling motion was via wing warping.

Construction was of ash and spruce, with sheets of cedar covering the forward fuselage and Michelin rubberized fabric covering the remainder. The two-bladed aluminum propeller was one of the most farsighted innovations.

The only examples of the type at Reims were two owned and flown by Hubert Latham, who entered all three speed events. In the Prix de Vitesse, he placed second of 9 starters, behind only Glenn Curtiss. In the Prix de Tour de Piste, Latham finished third out of 12, with only Bleriot and Curtiss flying faster. In the featured Gordon Bennett Cup, he finished third behind the same two. His highest speed was 44.18 mph.

Improvements led to better performance, but the Societe Antoinette passed into history after a short time. Yet another airplane carried the Antoinette name in 1911 – the Antoinette Latham – which had the general shape of its predecessor, but carried streamlining to its ultimate at the time. Unfortunately, a lack of sufficient horsepower proved its undoing.

While the Antoinettes that were raced at Reims no longer exist, almost identical examples can be found in London’s Science Museum, and the Musee de l’Air north of Paris.

Nieuport Monoplane

Length: 23ft 0in

Wingspan: 27ft 6in

Engine: 100hp two-row, 14-cylinder, air-cooled Gnome rotary

Colors: natural wood, varnished cotton

The natural pressure of motor racing competition began to tell as early as 1911, during the Gordon Bennett Race held at Eastchurch, on the Isle of Sheppey, England in the first week of July. The new Nieuport Type II was the smallest yet seen, the best streamlined and as powerful as any, thus establishing a formula that would epitomize the sport for the next century.

In 1907, Edward Nieuport and his brother, Charles, established a company for the design and construction of small, fast airplanes and in June 1911 broke the existing world speed record on only 30hp. For the 1911 Gordon Bennett Race, they entered a pair of monoplanes, one with a single-row 70hp rotary engine to be flown by Edward Nieuport and the other with 100hp to be flown by Charles Weymann, an American living in Haiti.

After Gustave Hamel had been timed at better than 80 mph during a practice run in his clipped-wing Bleriot, Weymann was reduced to contemplating second place, at best. But on Hamel’s first competitive lap, his reduction of wing area and of wing-warping area proved his undoing, and he was lucky to survive the resulting crash, which demolished his airplane. This would not be the last time that excessive wing-clipping would produce more than just greater speed.

Weymann became the favorite and went on to complete the 25 laps of the 6-km kite-shaped course at a record 78.11 mph, more than two minutes quicker than Alfred Leblanc in a Bleriot, and three minutes ahead of Edward Nieuport who used the lower power engine.

On the previous June 21, Edward Nieuport had flown Weymann’s airplane over a 1-km. straight course to set an unofficial World Speed Record of 82.73 mph, breaking his own mark of 80.75 mph, set the previous month. Weymann had almost equaled that speed on a closed-course flight of more than one hour

In an airplane very similar to Weymann’s 1911 Nieuport, Peter Nesterov, of Russia, in 1913 flew the very first loop, inventing the sport of aerobatics.

Deperdussin Monoplane

Length: 20ft 0in

Wingspan: 21ft 10in

Engine: 140hp, two-row, 14-cylinder Gnome rotary

Colors: bronze with cream trim

Armand Deperdussin burst upon the French airplane manufacturing scene in 1910 in a blaze of glory, and left it three years later to the clanging of a jail door closing. In between, his company built scores of successful multi-purpose monoplanes, along with the fastest air racers in the world. The remains of his company formed the basis for SPAD, which built some of the best pursuits of World War I by the thousands.

The popular 1910 Dep was a considerable improvement on the original Bleriots. Thanks to the clever design work of Louis Bechereau and Fritz Koolhoven, both of whom would have stellar careers, by 1912 the Dep was the most streamlined airplane yet seen. In fact, the major manufacturers would not catch up with the design until well after World War I.

The 1912 model, which included most of the aerodynamic improvements, swept the 1912 Gordon Bennett Race which was held near Chicago.

Nieuport 29V

Length: 20ft 4in

Wingspan: 19ft 8in

Engine: 300hp Hispano-Suiza Type 42 V-8

Four years of World War I produced the slaughter of millions of young men and planted the seeds of World War II, just two decades in the future. It also condensed many years of aeronautical progress into just a few: engines, structures, aerodynamics all jumped ahead.

When the James Gordon Bennett Cup Race series resumed in 1920 at Etampes, France, a fascinating variety of entries was promised, from re-worked military airplanes to those with futuristic ideas. The tried and true pursuits (fighters) were in the spotlight, just as they would be at Cleveland after the next war. They had proven engines and airframes, and most problems with their flying qualities had been revealed and corrected under the pressure of aerial combat.

First was Nieuport’s 29V, just too late for World War I, but the fastest pursuit of the early 1920s, with almost 1,200 built for or by a variety of countries. When air racing resumed, it was clear that with modifications the 29V could be competitive, and so three were converted into racers. The wing span was reduced by 12 feet, and the power was increased substantially. The first result was victory in the 1919 Coupe Deutsch de la Muerthe by Joseph Sadi-Lecointe at 165 mph (249 km/hr). When the time came for the first post-war Gordon Bennett Race, two Nieuport 29Vs were prepared, one to be flown by Sadi-Lecointe and the other by Georges Kirsch.

The race was for three laps of a 300-km (186-mi) course. Sadi-Lecointe, the reigning French speed pilot added to his reputation with a 168.74 mph victory over runner-up Bernard de Romanet in a SPAD S.20bis (also too late for the war), who trailed by more than a half hour. The most feared rival was Frederick Raynham in the little British racer with the big name: the Martinsyde Semiquaver, which was clocked at 178 mph before it dropped out at the mid-point of the first lap. A mystery ship was the American Dayton-Wright, which experienced mechanical problems.

Dayton-Wright RB-1

Length: 22ft 8in

Wingspan: 21ft 2in

Engine: 250hp Hall-Scott L-6s in-line six

Colors: silver-grey with black numbers

The RB-1 was the pride of the American Team gathered for the 1920 Gordon Bennett Race in France in late September. With so many new ideas in one package, it might have made more sense as a flying test-bed. But when a prestigious trophy awaits the winner, an all-out effort is hard to resist.

The RB-1 had fully-retractable landing gear, with a hand-operated crank used to pull it up into shallow wheel wells. This considerably reduced wind resistance, but would produce concern if one or both wheels refused to come down prior to landing.

It also had a fully flush cockpit canopy to additionally reduce wind resistance, though this also reduced the pilot’s vision, which was needed to see and avoid other racers on the course.

The design also had full-span leading and trailing edge wing flaps which increased the wing’s camber and produced additional lift at low speeds for take-off and landing. This enabled the overall wing area to be reduced, and thus the top speed to be increased.

With so many new devices, the chances of one of them failing during the race were increased. As it turned out, one of the actuating cables for the leading-edge flaps failed and the pilot could not raise them to the streamlined position.

The Dayton-Wright Racer was far ahead of its time. By the late 1930s almost all high-performance airline and military airplanes had fully retractable landing gear. Drooping leading edge flaps came into prominence with the second generation of jet airliners. Flush canopies have yet to become popular, as their drawback in vision is not worth the reduction in wind resistance, though Unlimited Class racers have seen effective attempts to reduce the height of the pilot’s canopy.

After the failure of the RB-1 in the Gordon Bennett Cup Race, it was never flown again, being eventually retired to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, where it recently underwent a complete restoration and is on display.

Sopwith 107 Rainbow

Length: 19ft 3in

Wingspan: 21ft 0in

Engine: 400 Cosmos (Bristol) Jupiter

It started life as the Sopwith Schneider floatplane, built by the Sopwith Aviation Co., which had produced thousands of scouts and pursuits during World War I. It then became the Rainbow landplane, but was plagued by technical and other problems through its brief life.

It was equipped with floats for the 1919 Schneider Cup Race, which was won by the dense English fog. It was then modified into the landplane Rainbow with wheels and a smaller engine, for the July 1920 Aerial Derby. Pilot Harry Hawker turned in a time good enough for second place, but was disqualified for failing to fly around the aerodrome at the finish.

Preparations were made to enter it in the 1920 Gordon Bennett Race with the original engine, which made it the favorite. Two weeks before the race, the Sopwith firm closed down, having been unable to adjust to civilian production. The airplane might have raced anyway, but bureaucrats placed so many obstacles in its way that it became impossible.

Tom Sopwith, Hawker and Fred Sigrist then

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