History’s Most Important Racing Aircraft


This delightful and informative book will appeal to aviation enthusiasts and all who enjoy racing and competitive activity in what are audible and visual spectator events.





NAME: History’s Most Important Racing Aircraft
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
DATE: 180113
FILE: R1928
AUTHOR: Don Berliner
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PAGES: 170
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: air races, racing aircraft, endurance races, modified aircraft, Schneider Cup, Pulitzer Trophy, Gordon Bennett Cup, MacRobertson Race, King’s Cup race, Goodyear Trophy Races, Reno Air Races
ISBN: 1-78159-072-9
IMAGE: B1928.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/qx4749q
DESCRIPTION: Choosing a title for this type of book is challenging. The title here suggests a comprehensive review of all of the most important racing aircraft. Adding in ‘Some of’ sounds a little imprecise, but there are bound to be some highly skilled enthusiasts who bridle at the title chosen, feeling that there are critical omissions.

Part of the difficulty is that aircraft have been raced formally and informally from the beginning. In the aftermath of a war, a huge selection of very low priced war surplus aircraft become available, providing an affordable entry into competitive and leisure flying. When they are raced, some races are never recorded accurately. Some aircraft never actually race but their owners use them to try out innovative modifications and technologies. These enhancements may not be raced by the owners, but be adopted, copied or further modified by others who do race. There have also been several forms of racing since the first aircraft flew. In the earliest years, a race might be a competition between different designs but the major objective was to demonstrate endurance rather than necessarily crude speed. Pilots followed roads and rail lines between cities until navigation skills developed. After WWI, aviation had advanced rapidly and in the period before WWII, long distance races linked continents and in some cases a handful of pilots prepared to become the first to fly a particular route but only one aircraft made it far beyond the start line. Since WWII, a variety of races have been established, some being regular annual events that attract large crowds and many competitors.

The author has done a good job in selecting a number of aircraft from the earliest days of flying to the present day. He has taken closed course and cross-country speed courses as the basis of what constitutes a race and he has included aircraft built specifically to be raced and those that have been built for some other purpose but then been modified for racing. The degree of modification can vary widely. In North America, unlimited racing could be achieved with a stock, or almost stock, WWII fighter, but as races have continued, the degree of modification has increased. It is now at the point where some aviation enthusiasts are unhappy that vintage war planes are being heavily modified, when they believe that these rare aircraft should be restored to original appearance for static exhibition or display flying.

Although there may be some enthusiast who complains that a particular important racing aircraft has been omitted, or some race not mentioned, this reviewer could not think of a convincing candidate for addition to the author’s selection. A common format has been followed through the book and it appears that full colour photographs have been used in illustration where ever available.

The period before WWII shows racing aircraft being used to extend the parameters of flying and to try new shapes and configurations. There were some stock aircraft that saw relatively minor modification but, predominately, the racing aircraft tried out new concepts and materials. The Schneider Trophy seaplanes pushed the boundaries of speed and introduced thin monoplanes, innovative cooling systems, very hot engines, new fuels and improved control systems. Amongst the long-range racers, the Comet employed a number of techniques in construction that were to be used on the outstanding multi-role Mosquito of WWII.

After WWII, the contribution of racing aircraft to aviation development is rather less obvious. The war surplus aircraft, particularly the Mustang and Corsair, were already highly developed high-speed aircraft that required little more than careful maintenance. The individual and the small enthusiast team took over again from the aircraft manufacturer. The individual could no longer hope to produce some world-beating new design because stock aircraft had already exceeded 400 mph and the development of military and passenger aircraft was moving firmly to jet power, which was beyond the pocket of the enthusiast and private designer/inventor. Instead, private efforts went into custom-built midget aircraft where 85hp engines could produce stunning performance and where a tight closed circuit could provide an equally stunning visual event for an audience.

The increasing popularity of midget racing has not removed the war bird from the race circuit. The Mustang has proved a popular aircraft for racing modification and been available in relatively large numbers, but the British Sea Fury and the Corsair have also proved popular. The T6/SNJ and T28 trainers have been eagerly adopted for racing. This has become contentious because the replacement of original engines with larger and more powerful units has changed the sound and shape of vintage designs. Even replacement canopies have caused resentment because the military canopy was developed to provide a good combat view and it can be replaced by very small low drag canopies that look very different.

What has proved slow to gather favour is jet racing and part of the difficulty is the cost of maintaining and operating a jet-powered aircraft that fully conforms to current regulations. To avoid a series of spectacular crashes, current rules limit participants to jet trainers with stock airframes and engines. Although understandable, these limitations currently prevent private innovation that might feed back through to production aircraft. There are now supplies of cruise missile engines and engines built originally for model jet aircraft that could be employed for a new generation of exciting midget racers. Coupled with composite construction and micro-electronics, small racing aircraft could produce new forms of low cost, high performance aircraft.

This delightful and informative book will appeal to aviation enthusiasts and all who enjoy racing and competitive activity in what are audible and visual spectator events.

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