The Future of Air Racing
MAJOR OLIVER STEWART, M.C., A.F.C.
WHEN two carefully prepared youths, divested of nearly all their clothing, advance towards one another and forthwith attempt to bash each other into a state of bloody insensibility, the spectators applaud. It is a legitimate method of satisfying the competitive instinct. Man is eternally desirous of proving his superiority over his companions, and boxing is one means of allowing him to do so. Air racing is another means and, as I see it, a far more intelligent and intelligible means than the obsolescent and ignoble art of boxing. It is difficult to understand why anyone should try to knock his neighbour silly with a gloved fist when applied science has provided him with a much more effective weapon, a weapon which, by the cunningest concatention of hammers, bolts, springs, pawles, catches, levers, triggers, blocks, arms and ratchets will . achieve the same result more certainly and with less exertion. It is even more difficult to understand why it should be necessary to knock one’s neighbour silly at all, when the car, the motor boat and the aeroplane provide more entertaining methods of demonstrating superiority in intellect, courage and physical stamina.
The antique blood-and-brawn sports must give way before the modem mechanical sports. And among these mechanical sports air racing takes a prominent place and in the future it should play a part of increasing
importance. The Schneider Trophy race is the greatest sporting contest of any kind that has yet been staged ; more money, more time and a greater variety of knowledge is expended upon it than upon any other contest. Governments take part and pit their resources against one another. The entire accumulated aeronautical knowledge and experience of the participating nations is brought to a head when the starting gun goes ; without an aim like that great race science might wander for ever, as it is so fond of doing, in the nebulous regions of abstract thought. The race seizes it, solidifies it and sets it to work. The Schneider Race calls forth a huge effort, comparable only with the effort that is put forth in time of war. It is on account of the magnitude of this effort that doubt has been expressed as to whether Governments will continue in the future to enter for this purely sporting event. Certainly if they have the vision to perceive its true purpose they will continue. For the Schneider race permits countries to satisfy their competitive instinct without resorting to the old fashioned form of community boxing called war. That is the
great task which in years to come air racing must fulfil. It must provide a humanitarian outlet for the combative instinct. I see in air racing,amplified and extended by motor car, motor cycle and motor boat racing, nothing less than a substitute for war. Terrific and furiously fought mechanical contests, closely related as they are to everyday life in this age of machinery, provide the I 4
moral equivalent of war” pogtulated by William James. This year Waghorn -min the Schneider Trophy at 328 m.p.h., an advance of 47 m.p.h. on the 1927 speed. The curve of probability gives an average speed of more than 355 m.p.h. for 1931. Peer still further into the future and you will see astonishing vehicles, polished eases with vast engines in their noses, rushing round the course at the speed of sound. You may observe many startling changes in these racers of the future. They are, for instance, less noisy. The winning machine this year made less noise than the 1927 machines. The geared airscrew has something to do with this increased silence, and it seems highly probable that the variable pitch airscrew which will be used if not in 1931 then soon afterwards, will still further reduce noise. The engines will be cooled with ethyline glycol or some similar substance, for already the wires and fuselage are too small to carry all the radiator surf .ces
which are needed when water is the cooling medium. These are normal developments. There may be abnormal ones, for such have been adumbrated both here and in Italy. For example, a suggestion has been made by the National Physical Laboratory that the Cierva autogiro or windmili aircraft might be specially suitable for racing because its speed range is greater than that of a ordinary aeroplane. It would therefore be possible to raise its wing loading and top Speed without making the landing Speed unpractically high. Again, floats
may eventually be suppressed altogether in racing seaplanes. The Italian Piaggio by most ingenious design succeeds in doing without floats, although this machine has still to prove its worth. Two or more engines may be used, as in the Savoia-Marchetti with it two Isotta Fraschini engines mounted in tandem. In all these directions, smaller radiators, variable airscrews, Gf floats, and multiplication of power units, progress may be looked for in air racing machines. In the actual organisation of air racing there is likely to be parallel progress. At present the King’s Cup is the only British air race of any
note. Special events for high speed light aeroplanes built on the lines of the Tiger Moth may be expected as well as ” sports ” aeroplane races like the stock car races now so popular. Cross country races rotted Britain will alternate with races round short triangular or quadrangular courses. And I hope that someone will .()on institute a 12 or 24 hours air race like the Le Mans car event. It is likely that 1930 or 1931 will see a revival of the Aerial Derby, an unrestricted high speed event for land machines, although it seems that some limit on landing speeds would be necessary.
But all these, interesting though they are, are purely local events, and the apex of air racing is reached only in a great unrestricted speed contest like the international Schneider Trophy race. This is the last word in mechanical sport. And besides providing one of the grandest imaginable spectacles, it fulfils a valuable humanitarian purpose. There is important work for a great international air race to do, and it is essential, if the future •of such events is to be assured, that thir true purpose should be understood and that they should receive enthusiastic public support.