The "Daily Mail" Trans-Atlantic Air Race

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The Daily Mail Air Race was a splendid institution, for which Motor Sport can perhaps take some credit, inasmuch as some time before the first announcement of it appeared we had suggested that the best way for this newspaper to combat the Daily Express‘ London-Sydney Marathon would be to hold a Trans-Atlantic aeroplane race to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first crossing of this ocean by Alcock and Brown in the British Rolls-Royce Vickers-Vimy. (Certainly the fact that a British aeroplane crossed first, eight years before America got over, should be emphasised, especially after seeing the insipid Lindbergh film the B.B.C. showed on the eve of the Daily Mail race, obviously propaganda in its time, with no mention of the Vickers-Vimy.) If the Daily Mail acted on our suggestion, we congratulate them on their initiative; if they thought of the Great Race from London-New York and vice-versa themselves, we still congratulate them. But not on their Press bulletin service, which, after enthusiastic promises, faded to less than a trickle, preventing us from commenting on vehicles to be used for ground transport, ranging from fast motorcycles and veteran and vintage cars, including a 1902 Panhard-Levassor, and a 1928 Volvo PV4, to Sir David Brown’s own Aston Martin DB6, a Jaguar E-type two-seater by the R.A.F. in America, and an A.C. 428. Be that as it may, the race came about and captured public imagination as the Daily Mail Cross-Channel Air Race did in 1959.

It is good for initiative to be encouraged, risks to be taken, unusual things to be done, in this age of security and standardisation. If some inconveniencies resulted, and if some people saw this race merely as an opportunity for self-advertisement which was an insult to aviation (and dressing-up a chimpanzee as a competitor beyond contempt), a lot of very commendable flying took place. We remember particularly the fine flights of the R.A.F. Pegasus Hawker Harrier jump-jet from its coal-yard take-off pad (some people, alas, couldn’t see the export sales potential for the coal dust!), the fastest time of all by the Royal Navy’s Phantom in 5 hr. 11 min. 22 sec., and Sheila Scott’s lone flight in the single-engined Lycoming Piper Comanche. Particularly do we remember Miss Scott’s splendid presence of mind, when a radio interviewer was insisting that she must have had some apprehensive moments on the 2,000-mile sea flight, in replying, with a girlish laugh, “I never feel apprehensive in my Piper Comanche”! Tony Samuelson’s attempt, using a war-time Rolls-Royce Merlin Supermarine Spitfire, was another of many fine efforts. All told, an excellent event. What can the Daily Mail do next to maintain its great tradition of organising enterprising aviation contests? Motor Sport ventures to suggest a competition for private and executive aeroplanes, repeating the Lympne Light ‘Plane Contests of 1924, appropriate in 1974, or something like another London-Melbourne race, for airliners, which might well take place in 1984.

W. B.