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.
The schedule called for 38 events, with
prize money totalling $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.
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 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 for opening day of the National Air Races.
Vincent Bendix and Trophy
The original intent of the Thompson Trophy
Race was for it 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 . 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 Chechoslovakia to name a few. While none of them flew in the
races all demonstrated their flying skills and their aircraft.
favourite of the air race was Earnst Udet who performed difficult
aerobatics with his low-powered "Flamingo" 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 an American pilot by the name of
Wanamaker, Udet landed next to the crash and offered him a cigarette while
waiting for the 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 Wanamakers plane framed
and presented it to him. It is now on display at the Air Force Museum in
Major Ernst Udet
American and Foreign pilots relax together in front
of the stands
The Bendix Trophy Race originated at
United Airport, Burbank, California with the finish line at the Cleveland,
Ohio grandstands. Only four entries were launched, two of them would later
become United States Army Air Corps Generals. (Doolittle & Eaker)
Laird "Super Solution" - Pilot Jimmy Doolittle - Bendix Trophy winner
A small airplane Company by the name of
Granville Bros. Aircraft Co. of Springfield Massachusetts entered a
radical new design based on the shape of a water drop , the work of
engineer Robert Hall. Given the nickname, "Gee Bee", at the controls was
airline pilot Lowell Bayles, from Atlanta Georgia.
Geebee Model "Z"
Shell 3-Kilometer Speed Dash
Bendix Trophy Race
Thompson Trophy Race
|| Geebee "Z"
|| James Welell