REAL AIR RACE
is a peculiarity of the human mind that the value of things is enhanced in recollection with the passing of time. We talk of “the good old days “
in referring to events that may have occurred five, ten, twenty or any number of years ago, and are filled with a feeling of regret that things are not what they were. It is the antique complex, and often, if we would analyse our thoughts and feelings, we would discover that we are placing a grossly exaggerated value on the past while being lacking in appreciation of the present. But this is not always the case, and certainly not so when we consider English sporting flying. Those of us who are old enough and fortunate enough to recall the pre-War meetings at Hendon and Brooklands and elsewhere can say in all truthfulness that “those were meetings—those were.” Granted, aviation was more or less in its infancy then, but novelty alone did not make up the attraction. The variety of the machines, which to present day eyes would appear weird, wonderful and comic, the enthusiasm of those who tended and flew them, and the cosmopolitan atmosphere gave to these events a character which is almost entirely absent in their modern equivalents. Long cross-country races, until just before the War, had not been developed to any extent, of course, but some of those aerodrome circuit events with the old Deperdussin, Morane, Valkyrie and other craft, flying low and banking close to the pylons, provided a spectacle which one would dearly like to see again. Hamel’s, Hucks’ and Manton’s extraordinarily fine stunt shows formed part of the excellent fare and thrilled the crowd no less than do the aerobatics now seen at the annual R.A.F. Display. One also recalls the night-flying meetings, inaugurated just prior to the War, and therefore cut short by that calamity ; and there was the Round-Britain Contest. Organisers in those days showed enterprise and a keen perception of things. No doubt their task was made easier by virtue of the fact that there were few if any restrictive Government regulations to hamper them, and flying was a sport and had not become a commercialised, every day form of transport. Their public, if unsophisticated, was intensely interested ; one recalls the terrific pedestrian traffic jambs which occurred regularly in Colindale
Avenue at the conclusion of the Saturday meetings at Hendon which showed in a striking manner the popularity of those week-end fixtures.
After the War the aircraft industry went through troublous times ; firms which had been engaged in turning out machines for the flying services by day and by night, and had enjoyed a colossal prosperity were faced with a dead market and became defunct. Nevertheless, there were a few survivors of the slump, and these had enough foresight and keenness to support the few events which were arranged during the lean years of the early post-War period. There were, of course, the light ‘plane competitions at Lympne which were highly successful and thoroughly sporting in the fullest sense of the term ; the Aerial Derby (which was first held in 1912) was revived, and some real racing machines figured in. the entry lists ; something of the old pre-War spirit began to emerge, even though money was tight and the private flying movement had scarce been born.
The Post-War “Derby.”
One can remember the Derby of 1920 in which such special ‘planes as the Nieuport ” Nieuhawk,” the 400 h.p. Bristol “Bullet,” and the famous Gloster ” Mars I” competed. All these machines were real racers. It was in 1922 that the Aerial Derby was abandoned, and in its place the King’s Cup Air Race was inaugurated. This has always been a handicap event, and until recently, open to all types of British aircraft. Opinions may differ on the point, but there is a strong feeling that the Aerial Derby should never have been dropped and that it is high time that it should be reorganised and run again. Apart from the King’s Cup, we now have no big allBritish race, and it seems merely farcical when freightcarriers and 10-seater cabin machines compete in this event.
To be sure, in the first few years in which the King’s Cup was run there were a few machines which could be fairly placed in the racing category, but with the advance in standardised production of the light ‘plane, the entry lists have become more and more swollen with this type, and it is developing into a sort of garden party affair.
The situation has now been further aggravated by new regulations for this year’s event which bar the professional pilot, and confine the contest to amateurs. A ” professional ” is defined by the Royal Aero Club, the organisers, as “proprietor, partner, director, official, or employee of any firm of manufacturers, dealers or operators in aircraft or aircraft engines, or one employed as a professional pilot.” It may well be asked why this rule should have been introduced. Just imagine a similar stipulation enforced in any of the big races in the motoring world—the Ulstcr T.T., for instance !
Again, the handicapping arrangements are open to criticism, since the minimum speed at which airacraft will be handicapped is 80 m.p.h. It seems likely, therefore, that the combined effect of these two rules will be to bar special, high-speed machines which would have been entered by the ” trade ” and flown by their own plots, and make it an event for club members with ” A ” licences and a handful of private owners in perfectly ordinary and relat’vely slow machines. What a very exciting prospect ! Another snag which faces the would-be competitor is to be found in the fact that the aircraft entered ” shall have been registered in the name of the entrant and the
C. of A issued not later than 31st May, 1931.” This will mean that between the issue of the latter and the day of the race the machine ought not to be flown in case some damage might occur to it and so wipe out the Certificate. So much for the King’s Cup Air Race, 1931.
And what else does the calendar hold ? The Schneider Trophy, being in a class entirely to itself, may be ignored, and save for sundry club meetings there is nothing at all.
Here is an extraordinary and ludicrous state of affairs. We are supposed to be an air-minded country ; we are the originators of the popular flying club movement ; we hold the World’s Air Speed Record, and our machines have a reputation second to none. Yet we have no air race worthy of the name.
Surely it is not too much to ask of the Royal Aero Club, and of the aircraft industry as a whole that they should introduce • and support at least one flying race during the year which would be comparable with our earlier efforts—particularly the Aerial Derby—or some of those events, which are so well-run and so successfully arranged abroad.
Let us have a real race, a Grand Prix of the Air.
Schneider Trophy News. though unconfirmed reports have been circulating during the past few weeks in connection with both the French and Italian entries for the
forthcoming Schneider Trophy Contest.
General Balbo is reported to have said that Italy will send four machines to England for the race, though what type they will be was not revealed. It is also rumoured that instead of choosing new pilots, the Italians will rely on Major de Bernardi (the 1926 winner) as commander, with Lieutenant Guazzetti, Ferrarin, and Don.ati forming the rest of the team. All of these are old and highlyexperienced pilots, of course.
Major de Bernardi has recently been flying a tandemengined Savoia-Marchetti monoplane, of a type resembling that which was at Calshot (but not used) in 1929, and it is rumoured that his test flights, contrary to certain opinions, showed this 2,000 h.p. “mystery ‘plane” to be quite controllable on turns, while its speed was over 400 m.p.h. Signor Donati, who is chief test pilot of the Fiat concern, will fly, so it is said, a modified Fiat C.29, which was also brought to this country for the last contest, but not used.
From various sources it is gleaned that several entirely new types are being carefully considered, and it is evident that Italy means to make a very determined effort next September. In regard to the French entry it is interesting to find the name of that veteran high-speed pilot, Sadi Lecointe mentioned. It is said that a machine with two engines arranged in tandem (as in the Sa.voia-Marchetti) is now being built for him by the Nieuport Co. While there is some doubt about this statement, it seems certain that M. Paillard will definitely be in the French team, particularly as he has been doing a number of test flights with a very special Hispano-engined Bernard monoplane. Further news is that a dozen picked pilots of the French
naval air service are now undergoing training, preparatory to a final selection.
The Life-saving ‘Chute.
some statistics recently published regarding R.A.F. crashes during 1930, it is revealed that 24 lives were saved by the use of parachutes.
The accidents concerned with these escapes were of different nature, being :—Engine failures, 3; collisions, 5; Airframe failures, 7; errors of judgment, 3; and other causes 1.
As examples of the efficiency of the modern parachute it is interesting to note that several of the pilots involved in these crashes and who made good their escape, had never made any practice “jumps ” previously, while the ‘chutes were often not opened till within 300 feet from the ground. Yet they landed without serious injury.
Private Owners Increasing. Automobile Association anticipates that touring by air in private aircraft will, during the coming season, show a marked increase
over the records for 1930.
Over a million miles were flown by A.A. members last year, and A.A. flying maps were issued covering a distance of over 400,000 miles.
Requests now being received for air routes indicate that longer distances will be covered, and that the seasonal nature of private flying is diminishing for the reason that pilots make for countries where good weather conditions prevail. During the Winter, Nice has been a popular destination, while several members flew to. Egypt, Northern Africa and Palestine.
In preparation for greater demands by flying members the Library of A.A. air route maps for hire has been extended to cover over 7,500 miles of routes in Europe.