More than once, commenting on the exciting Cross-Channel Air Race which the Daily Mail organised in 1959 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bleriot’s channel crossing, Motor Sport expressed the hope that in 1969 this great newspaper would stage a Transatlantic air race to commemorate the first direct crossing of the ocean by aeroplane, which Capt. John Alcock and Lt. Arthur Whitten Brown (later both were knighted) accomplished in 1919 in a Vickers Vimy biplane powered by two Rolls-Royce Eagle engines. Now this has come about, although we shall probably never know whether or not the idea stemmed from our suggestion. (The Daily Mail announced its intention of holding this ambitious race on April 26th. Motor Sport had said in March that perhaps the only way for the Daily Mail to counter the London-Sydney Marathon of The Daily Express would be a Transatlantic air race in 1969. So maybe we can claim some of the credit?).
We must admit that we made the suggestion with some misgiving, wondering whether such a long-distance event open to all kinds of aeroplanes might be too dangerous for even the Daily Mail to contemplate. On the other hand, we applaud bravery and initiative and feel strongly that any minor inconveniences to other citizens that this race may involve can be excused on this score. The race is open to anyone, from pilots of Service aircraft to members of the public using charter or normal air-line facilities. It will take place between May 4th and May 11th next year and involves getting from the top of the Post Office Tower in London to the top of the Empire State Building in New York, or vice versa, as quickly as possible without transgressing any laws or regulations of the countries over which a competitor passes.
We congratulate the Daily Mail, perhaps with a prompt from Motor Sport, on staging an event which could well be the last great adventure left to the individual before the supersonic and “jumbo” jets establish a new era of mass high-speed travel. We hope that the race will not be overshadowed by the arrival of the first American on the moon . . . .
This splendid adventure will involve the same meticulous planning, the same luck with traffic conditions, as the Cross-Channel affair, in which we remember some good runs by racing motorcyclists, small Renaults and helicopters. For example, it might involve using a motorcycle (or more likely a car, as the aeroplanes will presumably require more than just a pilot as crew on this occasion) from the P.O. Tower to the Westland Heliport at Battersea, then a helicopter from there to London Airport or some other take-off point. There is the matter of the time needed to descend by lift from the P.O. Tower and ascend to the top of the E.S. Building at the other end of the route, or vice versa. (The New York Times has calculated this as 3 min. 13 3/5 sec. and 3 min. 11 1/5 sec., respectively.) There will be interest in seeing if light aeroplanes try the crossing, presumably with extra tankage installed. (The distance is nearly 3,500 miles—the range of a normal D. H. Dove 7 and S, for instance, is around 1,175 miles.) Light aeroplanes are encouraged, however, by the Evening News prizes, which are for the shortest times, in each direction, by men and women, using light aeroplanes not exceeding 12,500 lb. authorised weight and not jet or turbo-let propelled, with a minimum of two stops, at Newfoundland and Scotland, en route. This still means a crossing of some 2,000 miles and the range of most small aeroplanes is around 500 miles or less. Moreover, the Evening News has a prize for the best performance, either way, using an aeroplane of not more than 5,000 lb. and the Butlin prize embraces originality and ingenuity of method and personal initiative, so one supposes that single-engined aeroplanes may be entered. They can do it because Jim Mollison did the first east-west solo crossing in a Gipsy III D.H. 80 Puss Moth in 1932 and Sheila Scott, O.B.E. has done it in recent times, as have pilots on delivery flights. We hope there will be entries from the motor racing fraternity—such as Colin Chapman sponsoring a Lotus entry. And we regret that The Aeroplane no longer exists as an independent paper, for it would undoubtedly have illustrated and described in detail each competing aeroplane, as it did under the inimitable C. G. Grey before pre-war King’s Cup, London-Australia and other air races, pus-race coverage which put the motor journals to shame (and which we would have copied unashamedly, except that it is not practicable in a monthly journal!).
The entry fee for this great Daily Mail Transatlantic race is £10 per entrant, which makes club motor racing seem fabulously extravagant. Prize money exceeds £56,000, including £10,000 put up by the organisers, £8,000 by Rothmans of Pall Mall Ltd., £5,000 by Aer Lingus, £5,000 by B.O.A.C., £5,000 by the Butlin organisation, £5,000 by the Ziff-Davis Publishing Company of New York, £5,000 by the Daily Sketch, £5,000 by the Evening News, £2,500 by Unit Trusts, £2,500 by the Financial Times, and £1,000 each by B.A.C., Vickers Ltd. and Blick. A special medal, struck for the occasion, will be awarded to every competitor and Motor Sport will give each one a metaphorical pat on the back.
Entries close on April 19th next and details are available from the Daily Mail, Transatlantic Air Race Bureau, Temple House, Temple Avenue, London, E.C.4 or, ditto, 50, Rockefeller Plaza, N.Y.—W. B.