The History of Air Racing

Photos & Records

1929 National Air Races and Aeronautical Exposition

Clifford Henderson brought the faltering National Air Races to Los Angeles Mines Field in September  of  1928.  He also  added an  Aeronautical  Exposition to showcase the latest in aircraft and related equipment. The 1928 National Air Race was a major improvement over previous  exhibitions held at non spectator-friendly military bases. A number of Cleveland
city officials  along with business leaders traveled to Mines Field to see if the races might benefit  Cleveland's  position  as  the aviation capitol of the country. They were favorably impressed  and  succeeded in bringing the next year's event to Cleveland. 1929  would be a quantum leap in quality and a much-needed public exposure of aviation in general.



Race officials photo op.
Committee members and airport officials
gather in front of Richland Oil Company's
luxury appointed Fokker F -10.


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The  size  and facilities of the  Cleveland Airport  were among determining factors
which  enabled Cleveland  to get  the  National Air Races  here for the first time in
1929.   The  airport  was  the  first  municipally  owned in the country.  It was large
  enough to host the races on the west end of the airfield without interrupting normal
  commercial  traffic  at  the east end. A state-of-the-art passenger terminal building
   had just been opened, complete with beautiful landscaping. Many new hangars and
  support buildings were either complete or under construction. The city of Cleveland
spent $450,000 in conditioning the airport for the races.

New Passenger Terminal

One of many new hangars

    The   Aeronautical   exposition
was held in the new $10 million Public Hall.
Nearly  every  manufacturer  of aircraft and
allied  industries  were  represented  in  the
200,000 sq. ft.  of  floor  space.  Exhibitors
displayed  $3  million worth aircraft motors
 and accessories.

Cliff Henderson, a talented musician and college
orchestra   leader  wrote  the lyrics for the races
theme  song  "On  Wings  of  Love"  sung every
evening  at 11:00pm by Marie De Ville a regular
 singer on radio station WTAM.

Cleveland built
A  full  size  Great  Lakes  trainer  was suspended
 at  the  display  area  of the Cleveland Trust Bank
   on  the  corner  of   East   9th  and  Euclid  Ave. As
 promotion of the National Air Races.

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Parade in downtown Cleveland
On  the  day prior to the opening  of the  races,  a very large
parade was held on the main street of downtown Cleveland,
 The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported; "300,000 downtown see
    5 miles of flowers  mark  city's welcome" Overhead, an armada
of military and civilian aircraft accompanied the parade.

(Mark Braunich collection)

Great Lakes Aircraft Company located on Cleveland's
east side also displayed one of their trainers on a parade float.

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The Boeing Aircraft Company sent
it's newest tri-motor Transport, the Model 80A;
prior to it's entrance into airline service.
The new Boeing was the major attraction of
the Expo. pictured here on display outside of
Cleveland City Hall.

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Celebrities Cleveland City Manager
William Hopkins with Amelia Earhart,
Ed Thompson, and Mrs. Ed Thompson.


 Many dignitaries and movie stars were in attendance,
national  hero  Charles  Lindbergh  and  Commander
Hugo Eckner of the Graff Zeppelin, to name just two.
Pilot  Jimmy  Haizlip said "the whole  of  aviation  was
there and you could have put them all in a dance hall
and have half of it left over"

The daily schedule included other aviation
attractions such as parachute jumping, military
demonstrations, lighter than-air craft, air derbies
and aerobatics demonstrations. Coupled with the
Aeronautical Exposition and concerts, this was a
major entertainment spectaCle and a much needed
public exposure of military and civilian aviation.

Women pilots were making their presence known
known and wanted to be part of the National Air Races.
A  first  ever  air  derby was  created for  women pilots
only,  sponsored  by  The  National  Exchange  Club the
cross  country  race  would  start  at  Clover  field Santa
Monica CA.  and  finish at  Cleveland. The  women were
given  nine  days to reach the races already in progress.
The  winne  would  be  the  pilot with  the shortest time in
the air. The two divisions, were based on engine size.




Twenty women pilots including two foreign entries
started the race, most flying open cockpit biplanes.
A small number were seasoned pilots while most had
only limited flying experience. At the time of the race
there were just over 100 licensed female pilots in the US.

Start of the Women's Air derby

Chairman Floyd J. Logan, Louis W. Greve,
President of The Cleveland National Air Races
holding the starting gun and Cliff Henderson in
contact with Clover Field by phone.

Louise Thaden, was the first to cross the finish
line at Cleveland with the shortest time in the air.
Louise won the Women's Air Derby (Class D division)
in a new Travel Air sponsored by Walter Beech.

Phoebe Omlie was the winner of (Class C division)
in a Monocoupe.

Women's Air Derby Trophy
Class D 510 to 800 cu. in.



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The forty plus trophies on display at the Expo in Public Hall

Event No 26 Free-for-all Speed Contest

The Thompson Cup

While the military dominated the previous National Air Races, this year would be different.
Walter Beech, President of the Travel Air Manufacturing Co. in Wichita
along with two of
his engineers developed two low-wing monoplanes with great speed potential to enter
in the NAR. Original design called for a new inline engine. Two examples were built, one
with the new Chevrolair inline engine and one with a Wright radial engine. Tests reviled
the inline engine did not perform as expected but both were flown to Cleveland and entered.
Walter Beech himself flew one of the two. During construction these aircraft were built in a
hangar restricted to employee's only . Walter did not allow any media people to see the
construction, so the press called them “Mystery Ships”. As soon as the planes landed in
Cleveland, they were rolled into the a hangar with the windows covered and doors closed.

"Mystery Ship" with Chevrolair Engine                         "Mystery Ship" with Wright Radial engine

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On Sept. 2nd, Doug Davis, an airline pilot from Atlanta, Georgia,
flying the Travel Air "Mystery Ship", won event no. 26, the 50-mile
free-for-all speed contest. During the race, Davis cut inside one
of the pylons and had to re cirCle it but still managed to beat both
the Army's and Navy's fastest pursuit planes. Charles Thompson,
president of Thompson Products Company, sponsor of the event
personally, awarded the large cup to Doug Davis. Second place
went to Lt. Breen in a Army P-3A. Third place went to Roscoe
Turner in a Lockheed Vega.


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