From Aviation November 2, 1925.
The most intersting race ever held in the United States was the contest for teh Jacques Schneider Cup held at Baltimore on Oct. 26, which was won by Lt. James Doolittle of the Air Service at the astonishing speed of 253.573 m.p.h. A comparison of the records made this year and last year gives the great gains that have been made in one year's progress.
1924 Lt Ofstie 1925 Lt. Doolittle Increase 53 km. 176.25 m.p.h. 223.157 m.p.h. 46.907 100 km. 176.822 m.p.h. 234.772 m.p.h. 57.950 200 km. 178.250 m.p.h. 234.355 m.p.h. 56.105 350 km. 167.083 m.p.h. 232.573 m.p.h. 65.490
As will be seen from the comparative figures the increase is even greater than was thought to be possible with seaplanes. Further comparisons will show how remarkable thsi speed is. Last year, Lt. George Cuddihy set a new world's record for 3 km. at 188.82 m.p.h., which is 43.753 m.p.h. slower than Lt. Doolittle's speed for the 350 km. course. Early this year Henry Biard in the Supermarine-Napier S4 Monoplane "mystery ship" set a new world's speed record for 3 km of 226.7 m.p.h. or 5.873 m.p.h. under Lt. Doolittle's time for the entire 350 km. Schneider Cup course.
Turning to the winner of second place, Capt. Hubert S. Broad, in the Gloster-Napier III and making comparisions, a most intereseting as well as promising performance will be noted. When it is considered that the Gloucestshire Aircraft Company has specialized on land planes exclusively and has only built seaplanes for these races and that this was its first appearance in seaplane races, the speed made is almost as impressive as that of the winner. The speed for teh 350 km. for Captain Broad was 199.169 m.p.h. This shold be compared with the 1923 British entry at Cowes where Capt. H. Biard in a Supermarine "Sea Lion III" made a speed of 157.17 m.p.h. It will be seen tht British seaplane design has in the two years that have elapsed since the last race, increased the British speed for teh race, 42.059 m.p.h. It is proper also to note that the speed is also faster by 21.789 m.p.h. than that made by Lieutenant Rittenhouse, the American winner at Cowes in 1923 and 10.349 m.p.h. faster than Lieutenant Cuddihy's speed at Baltimore last year when the course was flown, but not in competition. It will be seen that the Gloster-Napier entry this year made a speed that would have won any other Schneider Cup race and would have boken all previous world's records.
The Macchi flying boat entry that finished third, piloted by Giovanni de Briganti also made an impressive showing when its speed of 168.444 is considered by making comparisons with previous flying boat records. It is well to remember that before the Curtiss pontoon type of racing seaplane astonished Europe at Cowes in 1923, the flying boat was considerd the only type of seaplane that could withstand the navigability watertightness and speed requirements of the Schneider Cup contest. Therefore, it will be seen that the Macchi monoplane flying boat this year exceeded the speed of the British Supermarine aircraft of the same type in 1923 by 11.274 m.p.h. It was 22.444 m.p.h. faster than the British seaplane winer at Naples, Italy, flown by Captain Biard in 1922, and 51.044 m.p.h. faster than a flying boat of Macchi manufacture, that won at Venice in 1921. On the second lap of the race at Baltimore, de Briganti went several miles out of his course through a misunderstanding of the location of the stake boat which reduced his true speed for the course. It will therefore be evident that the Macchi, although it appeared to have been a poor third, was in reality achieveing a great triumph for the flying boat type of aircraft.
It is only when the race is considered by comparisons such as the above that the real signiciance of this year's competition can be understood, and it has therefore been discussed before a description of the race was given.
Going back to the preliminaries of the pseed section of the race, the events of the morning of Monday, October 26th, should be recorded in detail for they had an important bearing on the final results in the race. Bert Hinkler, the reserve pilot of the British team had been given an opportunity of making his navigability test on the morning of the race, the delay being caused by weather conditions. While this delayed start was protested by the Italian team informally, the Contest Committee decided to permit the trialandconsider the validity of protests later. Previously, the Italian pilots, as will be seen in the account of the Friday navigability tests had shown their excellent sportsmanship by agreeing to waive technicalities and permit Hinkler to postpone his trial until Saturday mourning, but when two days went by they foresaw a possiblity of complications arising in the future by the precedent, and wished to have a definte ruling madewhich would make the competition fair for all entrants.
At daybreak, Hinkler, for the third time started the course. The Contest Committee, judges, and stake boats had shown their desire to do everything possible for teh contestants by being at Bay Shore Park, where the meet was held, and in their positions for the third morning. In some cases it is required that members of the Contest Committeee leave Baltimore at 3 a.m. The gale of Sunday had moderated but Chesapeake Bay was still being ruffled by the waves that had wrecked 17 Navy Seaplanes, the day before. The visibility was very low also, but as soon as it was light enough to see the markes, Hinkler in his reserve Gloster-Napier was slid down the runway into the water. As he was required to fly the five mile course twice, land twice and taxi two stretches of half a mile each before being moored for a six hour watertightness test, all before 2:30 p.m. he figured that he would have only until 7 a.m. to make the preliminary flights.
The small protected water area near the shore was mooth enough and he took off easily and flew out about a mile to the starting line. There he saw that the water was very rough but rather than be considered a "quitter" he landed. The boats that had gone out to observe his test were rolling heavily. He made a perfect landing but as he skimmed the waves the seaplane got one or two bad shocks which bent one of the struts making the undercarriage structure collapse. The fuselage sank down and was supported by the cross members between the floats. Hinkler sat in his cradle, dishearteded because of his hard luck, until he was picked up and his plne towed back to the hangers by a gig from the Navy tender Shawmut. Rhis accident had scrateched the second of the three British entries.
By ten o'clcok, all the remaining contestants were testing their motors and getting their planes in readiness for the afternoon race. No difficulty was experienced by the three American Curtiss planes, nor by Captain Broad with his Gloster-Napier III, but when the Macchi engines, (Curtiss D12s) were started ti was seen immediately that one was not functioning properly. As the rules of the race required that all engines be sealed at the time of the navigability trials and no repairs or adjusments can be made to either planes r motors, there was a great bewailing of their misfortune by the Italian party. Riccardo Morselli who had become very popular by his quite and unassuming manner and who was to ilot the flying boat, the engine of which had gone wrong, went to the hangar and could not hold back the tears, his sorrow was so great over losing his opportunity to compete. As the plane would have been disqualified had the engine been adjusted, the Italian team left it to its fate and gave its full attention to the remaiing Macchi entry. For this reason, the casue of the engine trouble was not determined but undoubtedly it was ignition difficulties, possibly spark plugs or magnetos.
If either or both of these two unfortunate planes had remained in the race the order of the finish of the race for second and third place might have been changed. The five remaining planes were put in the water about two o'clock and prepared for the start.
The weather was ideal for the race. The surface of the waters off Bay Shore when the starting gun was fired at 2:30 p.m. was choppy. The sun shone brightly and glistened on the shining planes.
A squadron of Navy planes flew in formation over the heads of the spectators. Lt. Frank H. Conant, alternate Navy pilot for the Schneider Cup Race, thrilled the thousands with spectacular stunts in the pursuit plane used in the trip to Baltimore by Lt. Cyrus Bettis, winner of the Pulitzer Air Race at Mitchel Field a few weeks ago. The TC-5, a United States Army airship from Aberdeen, soared over Bay Shore like a majetic silver fish. Furing the race the blimp hovered motionless near the starting line.
Among the first to arrive were Louis Bregeut, of Paris, vice-president of the French airplane corporation that bears his name; C. M. Keys, president of the Curtiss Company; Glenn L. Martin, inventor of the Martin bomber and Grover Loening, president of the Loening Engineering Company. They were soon followed by Maj. Gen. Mason M. Patrick Chief of the Army Air Service. In his party were Colonel and Mrs. William E. Gilmore, Lieut. Donald Duke, aide to General Patrick; Mrs W. A Moffet, wife of the chief of the navy Bureau of Aeronautics, and her daughter, Miss Jeanette Moffett.
All the members of the teams with the designeres of the planes were busily engaged while the crowd that had swelled to about five thousand crowded to the pier.
Lieut. Cyrus Bettis, winner of the Pulitzer Race this year roamed through the crowd. He as in flying clothes, ready at the instant to replace Lt. Doolittle in an emergency. In fact for several days Bettis had practiacally played the part of mechanic to Doolittle. It was remarked by many of the visitors that these two lone Air Service representatives surrounded by Navy pilots, mechanics and ground crews, were more observed by thir businesslike modest bearing than any of the other flyers.
About noon two men walked slowly into the hangar area. Neither was cognizant of the others presence; neither was in uniform. As they strolled about the crowd, interested in the arrival of the army "blimp" TC5 and a parachute jump a short distance inland, paid no attention to them.
One of the men, in a brown fedora and a heavy overcoat approached a sailor and asked directions to the hanger where lay the wrecked Supermarine Napier, with which the British had hoped to win the race. The sailor snapped a salute. His action drew attention to the group. There was a rush to shake hands and congratulate Commander JOhn Rogers.
When Commander Rodgers saw the other man, Lieut. C. M. Shur, United States Navy, who accompanied MacMilan on his recent trip to the Arctic and effort to reach the north pole by airplane. Commander Rodgers and Lieutenant Schur spent an hour together "comparing climates."
The lanuching of the seaplanes proceeded with no excitement. The winning plane was the first to be launched. The two Navy planes soon followed. The British plane then was pushed into the water. Some time after this the Italian plane went in.
The conditions of the course had by this time become as nearly perfect as could be desired, the water was choppy, but not rough, the wind from the right direction and the early morning haze had burned off. Promptly at 2:30 Lt. Doolittle left the hangar position and taxied to the starting line. As he reached rougher water, spray was thown up on all sides making it appear that he was going to have difficulty in taking off. He was allotted the five minute period from 2:35 to 2:40 in which to take the air after taxiing across the line. Just in mid-time he gave his engine the throttle and made a perfect take-off. At five minute intervals he was followed by the Captain Broad in the Gloster Napier III, and Lts. Cuddihy and Ofstie in their Curtiss racing seaplanes. Giovanni de Briganti followed in hsi Macchi flying boat. All made their take-offs easily before their time periods had expired. The low hung monoplane wings of the Macchi, having only a two foot clearance above the water, gave the crowd a thrill by its long run before taking the air, but de Briganti handled his seaplane masterfully.
By this time "Jimmy" Doolittle had become teh hero of the crowd. He had made his first lap in 223.157 m.p.h. from a taxiing start. His flying was just what was to have been expected from the pilot who always gives at meets in his PW8 an exhibition of stunt flying that excites the greatest admiration. He cut the pylons at almost a vertical bank with his engine apparently running full-out. The only other pilot that ventured to make such tight tunes was de Briganti, who of course was not flying at such a high speed. Those in the Judge's enclosure that knew how easily a pilot could, by making such a turn lose consciousness, marveled at Doolittle's judgement in roudning the pylons so perfectly that he was able to keep his head clear every moment.
With a new wold's record in sight all eyes watched the British contender, Captain Broad. When his time for the first lap, 194.275 m.p.h. was announced, it was felt certain that barring accident, the Schneider Cup would remain in the United States another year. With Captain Broad off on his second lap, the interest centered on Lt. Cuddihy, for the rivalry between him and Lt. Doolittle was the topic of greatest discussion for several days before the race. When his time of 211.590 m.p.h. was announced, the Navy contingent became silent and sad. A few minuted later, when Lt. Ofstie roared past, new courage came to the Navy partisans, only to be lost when 207.959 m.p.h. was marked up. Both Navy pilots appeared to be taking their turns very wide and not flying as direct a course as Doolittle.
At this point it should be mentioned that Lt. Ofstie was flying the famous "dogship" with the "oiless" engine in which the widely advertised time of 302 m.p.h. was made by Lt. Al Williams in one of those preliminary dashes that usually turn out to have wind and other elements mixed with speed. When te two engines for the Pulitzer races reached Garden City, Bettis and Williams flipped a coin for teh choice of engines. Williams won and the Navy chose the engine that it considered the better. It was this engine that was flown by both Lt. Williams in the Pulitzer Race and Lt. Cuddihy at Baltimore. Lt. Doolittle was flying Lt. Bettis' Curtiss converted racer that won the Pulitzer Trophy.
Toward the end of the race after it had become certain that Lt. Doolittle, barring trouble would break all world's seaplane records, up to 350 km., the onlookers were again brought to a high pitch of excitement by the non-appearance of both Lts. Cuddihy and Ofstie at their due times. As the minutes passed, and no news came to the awaiting timers it beamce evident that both were down somewhere around the circuit. It was soon learned, however, that Lt. Ofstie had been forced down by engine trouble while making his sixth lap around the course. He landed five miles west of Huntingdon Point, the second pylon on the route, and was towed to the BayShore hangars. He was uninjured.
Lt. Cuddihy was compelled to abandon the race when the finish line was almost in sight. We was just about to complete his seventh and last lap when hsi motor became overheated through loss of oil and took fire. He put out the blaze wth a small extinguisher and made a good landing, uninjured. He was towed to shore.
By this time, Doolittle had finished and as he rounded the last pylon he zoomed up several thousand feet and everyone who had seen him fly wondered if in his happiness over his victory he was going to do some of his usual stunts. But he soon came down, made a perfect landing, and was towed to the ier and received the applause of the thrilled spectators who had seen as wonderful and exhibition of speed flying as hasever been witnessed in this country.
General Patrick, his wife and a host of friends, including the downcast Navy group, gave him a greeting that he will long remember.
When de Briganti crossed the finish line he continued on his course instead of landing. It was thought at first that he did not know that he had completed his final lap becuase of a misunderstanding of signals and preparations were made to inform him when he came over the Judges' stand again. Carl Schory, the excellent Contest Committee representative secured a large Italian flag and was ready to salute the Italian Ace from a point of vantage with a wave of the flag and "Vive d' Italie" in his best Italian. But the Macchi pilot did not return. Later it was leanred that he had seen that Cuddihy and Ofstie were down far out on the 31 mile course and had gone to give them such assistance as he could render. Meanwhile, both Navy pilots had been taken in tow. De Burunti in searching for them ran out of gas and landed desiring to indicate to rescurers the spot he thought the plane disappeared.
For this act of courtesy he was given an ovation when he appeared in Baltimore later, after having been towed to Bay Shore Park.
Captain Broad in his Gloster-Napier had flown a superb race. His time for every lap was so nearly the same that only a variation of two miles was shown. On his two fastest laps he made a speed of 201.474 m.p.h. which will the British record for 100 km. The Napier engine of over 700 hp. had functioned perfectly through the 226.35 mi. course. As this is the first seaplane race that the convereted Napier Lion engine was used in, H. T. Vane, the managing director of D. Napier and Son Ltd. who was present was congratulated warmly on all sides.
In fact everyone appeared to be extreamly happy over the outcome of the race, except of course the representatives of the Navy, headed by the gracious and ever helpful Lt. Comdr. Homer C. Wick, Commanding Officer of Anacostia Naval Air Station and representative of the Bureau of Aeronautics at Baltimore. The designer of the winning plane, William Gillmore and Arthur Nut the engine expert of the Curtiss organization were congratulated on all sides. D. Longden of the Gloucesteshire Company and H. P. Folland the designer of Captain Broad's racer were cheered by the often expressed hope that they would come back next year and again make the United States enter its very best pilots and planes in competition for the premier international trophy. The Italian team were too downcast over the withdrawl of one of their entires at the last minute and the lack of knowledge of the whereabouts of de Briganti to receive their portion of the general congratulations until the eveing festivities.
General Patrick beamed on everyone with his happy smile. With the Pulitzer Trophy and the Schneider Cupp added to the list of achievements of his depearment, his appearnace of delight could be well understood.
The captain of the British team Capt. C. B. Wilson and Col. F. H. Derby, Chairman of the Race Comitte of the Royal Aero Club, after spending days of waiting for the rain, wind and fog to disappear, became the leaders of a group of Englishmenthat radiated the spirit of infectious cheer.
In general design the Gloster and Curtiss racers were very similar. They were both twin float seaplanes and to the causal observer seemed very much alike. In the Curtiss racer the fuselage filled the entire gap between the wings, while in the Gloster a header tank for the water cooling system filled in the considerable space between the fuselage and the top wing. Viewd head on the Gloster looked like the smaller plane and was very chuncky in appearance while the Curtiss gave the same impression when viewed from the side. Both planes with their extreamly small spans and short fuselage looked top heavy and unstable on the water when compared to normal seaplanes. This impression is more of an optical illusion than an actual fact for by using a motor of high r.p.m. and a metal propeller, the diameter of the propeller is no larger than in planes of lower horsepower, and the hub which is the governing factor in the height of h fuselage and wings is no higher than in a torpedo plane.
Close scrutiny revealed the fact that the Curtiss racer, at least externally was a much more finished product than the Gloster. The pontoon struts for example on the Curtiss run right in to the fuselage and the fittings are all on the inside while on the rival plane the fittins were external and, though streamlined, offered more resistance. Control surface horns were external on the Gloster and internal on the Curtiss. The Lamblin radiators on the Gloster were fitted on the lower wings on both sides of the fuselage and though one of the most efficient of racing radiators they certainly do not give as clean an appearance as the wing radiators do. The Gloster tail was braced with external wires two of which were not even of streamline section. These and many other minor details which the Curtiss engineers have worked out thorugh their years of racing experience probably account for a good deal of the difference in speed between the two planes. The duralumin pontoonson the Gloster plane were certainly a beautiful piece of work and externally at least they looked very simple in construction.
The Macchi monoplane aroused much interested comment. It was the most original plane which actually flew in the race and the details were beautifully wokred out. The speed which the only flying boat showed was very much lower than the pontoon seaplanes but it must be remembered that it was considerably heavier than any of the other competitors and that the Italian plane was powered with one of the older types of Curtiss motors which probably develop a hundred less horsepower than the more recent models. It also used a wooden propeller. The handling of the plane in the air was a revelation to most of those present. The Italian pilot put the monplane in a vertical bank on the corners and seemed to have perfect control at all times. His turns at the home pylon were as sharp as those of Lieutenant Doolittle. On the water, the flying boat seemed to handle surprisingly well though the wings were so close to the water that they would have been damaged by a really heavy swell.
The Supermarine racer which was crashed during the preliminary trials was one of the most interesting planes scheduled to enter. In general outline it followed the Ferbois racer which holds the world's speed record. The workmanship and finish of the plane was very fine and in the air it was the most graceful of the planes entered. Every one was disappointed that it could not participate in the race.