1946 National Air Races



Time had run out for the National Air Races in 1939 as the ten year deed of gift by Charles E. Thompson
to sponsor the big unlimited classic expired and Germany's Adolph Hitler's troops marched into Poland.
America would be busy manufacturing and testing new aircraft for the many European countries who did
 not  have  the capability  to  develop  and  produce  aircraft  that  could compete  against  the  Axis. The   
 Henderson  brothers who managed the races decided they  would  pursue other interests. Even  the  site
of the  great grandstands  would soon  be  taken over to build  the  NACA test facility. Perhaps what was
learned  by  the experience of  the men who designed and  flew the racers at the National Air races had 
a major impact on  achieving  air superiority  over  the far  advanced  German Luftwaffe  in  a short time.
 Many  race pilots,  either directly or  indirectly  made  major  contributions. In 1945,  following  the  end of
 WW II,  the  Cleveland Air  Foundation  was  established. in  January  of  1946  the  Air  Foundation of     
 Cleveland sponsored the first National Aircraft Show that featured a B-29 used in combat and an array   
of  private aircraft  reminiscent  of the 1929 Aeronautical  Exposition. Ben Franklin,  managing  director 
of the air races  stated there would be no foreign participants. The new site for the grandstands would    
  be directly in front of the Bomber Plant building using the two adjacent hangars (currently being used        
by   the Army Air Corps as Schlegel Field) to impound the racers after qualifying and until race time.      
 A number of  pre-war  race pilots and air show  performers returned  to Cleveland  in1946, some as        
  participants and many as judges and advisors.                                                                                                   



No doubt the largest military presence on record at an air show was in Cleveland to give the
public a first hand look at the latest combat aircraft developed during the six years since the
  last  air race here in 1939. General Spaatz,  commander of the Army  Air  Corps was here to 
   watch the show as the public was treated to the introduction of the "jet age" with the Lockheed
  P-80 "Shooting Stars" also known as "yo-yo's' because they could go straight up and straight
  down. The Chief  of  Naval Operations,  Admiral Nimitz for the United States  Navy  was  here.
 The Army Air Corps  opened  each  days program  with a flight of 20 B-29 Superfortresses in
  tight formation. Also the US Navy and the Marines Corps also gave the public a "good show".




A  few  months  prior to the opening of  the  Air Races,  Admiral  Chester  Nimitz,  ordered the
   formation  of  a US  Navy  demonstration  team  to  boost  Navy  morale and demonstrate naval
   air  power. The  team  had  just  transitioned  from  F-6 Hellcats  to  the  newer  F8 Bearcats  on
     August 25th. Cleveland was one of the first to see them. The underlying  mission was to generate
     public and  political support for a larger allocation of the shrinking defense budget. The team was
     assembled  and trained  in  a hurry in fear  US Air Corps General  Jimmy  Doolittle might create a
     similar demo team and beat the Navy going public. The team would be named the "Blue Angels".



The United States Marine Corps demonstrated their new aircraft, the Ryan "Fireball"
the first  aircraft to be equipped  with  both a conventional  engine and  a  jet engine.


Troop Carrier Command C-47 demonstrates a glider pick-up.
(Kenn Smith Collection)

Bendix Trophy Race

The Bendix Trophy Race now flown in two divisions, R-division for reciprocating engines
and the J-division for the jet engines flown by the military. The R-division attracted some
22 entries, 4 N. American P-51's, 14 Lockheed P-38's, 2 Bell P-63's, Goodyear FG1     
and a Douglas A-26. Most were seasoned pilots except for 18 year old Bill Lear Jr.         
Veteran Bendix pilots were Paul Mantz and Jacqueline Cochran. One of the first-timers  
was famous Indianapolis 500 race car driver Rex Mays.                                                       


The pre to post war Bendix Race was a major change from designer-builder- pilots
 to skilled airmen able to push their already state of the art machines to new limits.  
 The race launch was  moved from Burbank to the Van Nuys Airport  for the  longer   
 runway and  additional  ramp space  for the  22  entries.  Last minute preparations 
 for   those  unable  to  find  hangar  space were  conducted  along  a  blast  fence.  
 Paul  Mantz, who flew the  pre-war  Bendix by now had a sizeable  fleet of  aircraft  
including several P-51's. Mantz choose a "B" model as it was faster than the "D"  
 model with it's bubble canopy. Mantz consulted with his friend Lockheed Engineer
Kelly Johnson to determine how to fly the route non-stop. Johnson advised him to
  "wet the wings", fill all the openings, seal the inside and fill the wings with gasoline.
 With  875 gallons  of  super  cold gasoline Mantz was able to fly non-stop and win.


Bendix "R" division

  Place                Pilot    Race No      Aircraft       Speed      Time
     1    Paul Mantz       46    P-51C       435.50    4:43:14
     2    Jackie Cochran       13    P-51B       420.92    4:52:00
     3    Thomas Mayson       60    P-51C       408.22    5:01:05
     4    William Eddy       31    P-51D       373.25    5:29:18
     5    James Harp       95    F-5       370.44    5:31:47
     6    Donald Husted       45    A-26C       367.88    5:34:06
     7    Charles Tucker       30    P-63C       367.14    5:34:46
     8    Harvey Hughes       70    F-5       356.42    5:44:50
     9    Walter Bullock       50    F-5G       355.90    5:45:21
    10    Harold Johnson       63    F-5G       343.38    5:57:57
    11    John Carroll       22    P-38       337.88    6:03:46
    12    H. L. Marshal       99    F-5G       335.93    6:05:52
    13    Rex Mays       55    F-5G       327.52    6:15:16
    14    William Lear Jr,       71    F-5G       327.10    6:15:46
    15    Thomas Call       90    FG-1D       325.61    6:17:29
    16    W. A. Fairbrother       58    P-38J       325.29    6:17:53
    17    Andrew Grant       82    F-5G       261.66    7:49:44
    *    John Shields       36    P-38    
    **    Spiro Dilles       47    P-63C    
    ***    Herman Salmon       74    P-38L    
    ****    Hasson Calloway       48    P-38    
    *****    John Yandell       11    P-38    

                                                         *          Landed late
                                                         **        Out, Winslow AZ
                                                         ***       Returned, mechanical problem
                                                         ****     Out, Toledo OH
                                                         *****   Out, Hutchinson KS


    Paul Mantz P-51C                                                      Jackie Cochran P-51B



   Tom Mayson P-51C                                                                William Eddy P-51D


     James Harp F-5                                                            Donald Huster A-26C


Charles Tucker P-63C                                            Harvey Hughes F-5



                             Walter Bullock F-5G                                                 Harold Johnson F-5G



John Carroll F-5                                                           H L Marshal F-5G



          Rex Mays F-5G                                                        William Lear Jr. F-5G



  Thomas Call F4U                                                       W A Fairbrother P-38J



Andrew Grant F-5G                                                      John Shields F-5G



      John Shields F-5G                                                  Spiro Dilles P-63


      Herman Salmon P-38L                                                            John Yandell P-38



              Hasson Calloway P-38


Bendix "J" Division   

    Place                   Pilot      Race No     Speed     Time
       1      Col. Leon Gray     PN 465    494.779   4:08:25
       2      Maj. George Ruddell     PN 347    474.836  4:18:51.2
           Maj, Barber             1
           Maj. Loofburrow             2

                                                                                                      1 Out in Kansas, engine trouble.
                                                                                                      2 Out in Kansas, engine trouble.



         Col. Leon Gray's FP-80A


Halle Trophy Race (Women)
75 miles, 5 laps of a 15 mile course

   Place               Pilot   Race No       Aircraft    Speed
      1       Marge Hurlburt        81         AT-6    200.588
      2       Jane Page        54         AT-6    200.462
      3       Ruth Johnson        41         AT-6    196.221
      4       Arlene Davis        35         SNJ-3    191.098
      5       Dot Lemon        72         AT-6    109.007


Marge Hurlburt and her AT-6


SOHIO Trophy Race
240 Miles  8 laps of 30 mile course

   Place                Pilot    Race No         Aircraft     Speed
      1       Dale Fulton         61          P-51D     352.781
      2       William Ong         44          P-51D     345.867
      3       Jack Hardwick         34          F-5G     322.625
      4       Wilson Newhall         65          P-63C     310.545
      5       Earl Ortman          2          P-38     303.909
      6       James De Santo         51          F-5D     303.682
      7      Charles Bing         12          P-39Q     276.135


Dale Fulton P-51D                                                    Bill Ong P-51D


      Jack Hardwick  F-5G                                               Wilson Newhall P-63C



      Earl Ortman P-51D                                                                DeSanto F-5F



             Charles Bing P-39Q




The Thompson Trophy Race


There were many elements of the 1946 Thompson Trophy Race that differed from 1939.
New grandstands had to be constructed as the old ones no longer existed. The site had
       to be chosen as the NACA laboratory had been built on the site of the pre-war grandstands.
          The huge bomber plant complex proved to be ideal location for the spectators and the planes.
       The grandstands would be placed next to the north wall of the huge building and the adjacent
        hangars now being used by the Army Air Corps Reserve known as Schlegel Field. The large
          parking lot and open surrounding fields provided plenty of parking space. The double hangars
            were used to impound the planes after they qualified. A new race course was laid out south and
             east of the grandstands to avoid flying over homes. Home pylon was placed next to the hangars.


Home pylon was the only conventional type pylon as US Army barrage balloon's were used
to mark the balance of the quadrangular 30 mile race course.



Three pre war race pilots returned to fly ex WW II fighter planes, Tony LeVier, Earl Ortman    
and   Steve Wittman, all of them with a lot of experience   flying a race course. Joining them
would   be a number of test pilots, some of them helping to develop the very aircraft entered
 in the Thompson Trophy Race. Some of the pilots with thousands of hours flying war planes.
 Also on hand were pre war race pilots who would be judges, timers and advisors like Benny
 Howard,  Art Chester   and Roscoe Turner who were  a   great asset. Fred Crawford would   
 again  play a   very important role in      the resumption of the National Air Races. A problem 
with the Thompson Trophy  would   arise due to the fact that Roscoe Turner had the original  
plus  the   fact there would be two "divisions" of the race, one for prop planes or "R" division
  and the "J" division for the new jet aircraft. Two new trophy's had to be created, one for each.

Bell  Aircraft's Jack  Woolams  and  Alvin "Tex"  Johnson entered a pair of modified P-39
 Airacobra's.  Woolams  red  "Cobra I" and  Johnson's  bright  yellow  "Cobra II"  qualified   
at  the top of  the  list. Woolams  unhappy with  his engine  flew back  to the factory  for a   
  replacement. During a testflight "Cobra I" crashed into Lake Ontario killing Jack Woolams.

"Cobra I" & "Cobra II" at the Bell Factory
Courtesy of Mark Erickson

Thompson "R" division
300 miles 10 laps of a 30 mile course

   Place                    Pilot    Race No        Aircraft          Speed
      1       Alvin "Tex" Johnson         84        P-39Q         373.908
      2       Tony LeVier          3        P-38L         370.193
      3       Earl Ortman          2        P-51D         367.625
      4       Bruce Raymond         77        P-51D         364.655
      5       Robert Swanson         80        P-51D         362.052
      6       Cook Cleland         92        FG-1D         357.465
      7       Woody Edmundson         42        P-51D         354.395
      8       Steve Wittman          4        P-63C         341.225
      9       Howard Lilly         64        P-63A         328.154
     10       H L Pemberton         21        P-63F         304.406
      *      Charles Tucker         28        P-63C  
      **      George Welch         37        P-51D  

                                                                            *         Out 1st lap gear stuck
                                                                            **        Out 2nd lap engine problem



                                                              "Tex" Johnson P-39Q                                                  Tony LeVier  P-38L                                                



                              Earl Ortman P-51D                                                 Bruce Raymond P-51D



                                                                             Robert Swanson P-51D                                                      Cook Cleland Goodyear FG -1D



                         Woody Edmonson P-51D                                               Steve Wittman P-63



                                  Howard Lilly P-63                                                      H. L.  Pemberton P-63



                               Charles Tucker P-63                                                         George Welch P- 51D


                 Thompson "J" division 

    Place                   Pilot       Race No         Aircraft        Av. Speed
       1        Maj. Gus Lindquist        PN 123         P-80A          515.853
       2        Maj. Robin Olds        PN 027         P-80A          514.715
       3        Capt. A.M. Fell        PN 309         P-80A          509.382
       4        Capt J.E. Sullivan        PN 247         P-80A          470.048
         Lt. Col. R.L. Petit        PN 069         P-80A                1
         Maj. R.O. Chilstrom        PN 044         P-80A                2

                                                                             1  cut a pylon, disqualified
                                                                             2  Out on 3rd lap, mechanical                                       



Maj. Gus Lundquist
(Kevin Grantham collection)

Maj. Robin Olds
(Kevin Grantham collection)


Capt. J. E. Sullivan
(Kenn Smith Collection)

Photos are from the Hansen collection unless otherwise noted.




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Updated Wednesday, March 06, 2013