Air Shows and Air Races: A SourcebookThis sourcebook is under constant construction. Last updated December 7, 2009
See the very bottom of the page for bibliography and webography
The First: Reims Air Meet - August 22-29, 1909On December 17, 1903, at Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina, Orville Wright lay prone on the bottom plane of the air machine called a Wright Flyer, started the engine, and was catapulted down a long launch rail and into the air. Twelve seconds later the craft skidded to a halt on the sand dune (for it had no wheels), and the first powered and controlled flight of a heavier-than-air machine had taken place.
A little less than six years later, aviation around the world had progressed to such an extent that the first air show and air races were held, in France. (In the United States, progress was hampered by the Wright patent disputes.)
Of the 35 planes, 33 were French designs. Of the 22 pilots, 20 of them were French. The only non-French pilots were a Scotsman, George Cockburn, and the American Glenn Curtiss.
National Air Races: 1920-1949n 1920, newspaper publisher Ralph Pulitzer sponsored the Pulitzer Trophy Race for military airplanes at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York. It was a move designed to publicize both aviation and his newspaper. Over the next few years, the races continued, but in different locations. Even when the race had settled for the most part in Cleveland, Ohio, every few years a race would be held in Los Angeles, instead.
The races usually ran for up to 10 days, usually at the end of August. World War II put a stop to the races, and but resumed in 1946. The races included a variety of events, including cross-country races, landing contests, glider demonstrations, airship flights, and parachute-jumping contests. The most popular events were the Thompson Trophy Race, a closed-course race where aviators raced their planes around pylons, and the Bendix Trophy Race across most of the USA.
In 1949, pilot Bill Odom lost control of the P-51 he was piloting, "Beguine," and crashed into a house. Both he and two of the people inside the home were killed. There was a backlash and the races were cancelled.
In 1964, the Reno National Championship Air Races, taking place in mid-September in Reno, Nevada, would take up the reins.
Go to the Society of Air Racing Historians which has entries on each year's National Air Races..
1953: EAA Fly-in (Osh Kosh)The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) was founded in 1953 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by individuals who shared a love for building and/or restoring aircraft. Over the years the organization grew to include almost every aspect of recreational aviation and aeronautics.
The EAA held their first fly-in in September of the the same year, at the Wright-Curtiss (now Timmerman) Field in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. It was part of the larger Milwaukee Air Pageant. This fly-in featured a handful of airplanes, mostly homebuilt, and received only about 150 guests.
The Fly In continued to be held ever year at the Field until 1959, growing more popular each year. In 1959 the sheer number of vistors forced a move to an airport in Rockford, Illinois. The show continued to grow in popularity, and in 1970, was moved to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where it has remained ever sice.
The Fly-In, originally called The EAA Annual Convention and Fly-In, was re-named to AirVenture Oshkosh in 1988.
The official website is www.airventure.org/.
Reno Air RacesFounded in 1964, the Reno Air Races feature multi-lap, multi-aircraft races between extremely high performance aircraft on closed ovoid courses which range between about 3 miles (Biplanes and Formula One) to about 8 miles (Jet, Unlimited) in length per lap.
Aircraft in the Unlimited class, which consists almost entirely of both modified and stock World War II fighters, routinely reach speeds in excess of 400 miles per hour. In 2003, Skip Holm piloted Terry Bland's modified P-51D Mustang, Dago Red, and reached an all-time speed record of 507.105 mph in a six-lap race around the eight-and-a-half mile course. The recently added Sport Class racers, mostly homebuilt aircraft, are already reaching speeds in excess of 350 mph. In 2009, Curt Brown set a record of 538 mph on his L-29 jet Viper.
Go to the official Reno Air Races website.
Sun 'N FunThe Sun 'n Fun Fly-in was founded in 1974. It was first organized by the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, but is now an independent corporation. It is held annually at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, Florida, usually during the second or third week of April.
The 2006 Sun 'n Fun marked the first civilian appearance of the new F-22 Raptor.
The Florida Air Museum at Sun 'n Fun, Florida's Official Aviation Museum and Education Center, is also located on the Sun 'n Fun campus.
BibliographyRace With The Wind: How Air Racing Advanced Aviation. Birch Matthews. MBI Publishing. 2001.
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