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U.S.N. CONTRACT #54109
6-30-22 - T-217?


Curtiss Racers
When the '20s were roaring,
they roared to victory
Among the more glorious aircraft of the 1920s were the racers developed between 1921 and 1925 by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Engine Company of Long Island. The sleek biplanes in this series were used by both the Navy and the Army, and provided the foundation for a complete line of fighters and engines that culminated in the beautiful Curtiss P-6E.

The R-6 under construction in the Curtiss
factory. The sleek biplane was powered
by the revolutionary new Curtiss D-12
Navy CR-3 flown by Lieutenant David Rittenhouse won the prestigious Schneider Trophy race (sponsored by Frenchman Jacque Schneider) in 1923 at 177.4 miles per hour. It was America's first Schneider race victory. Also in 1923, another Navy pilot, Lieutenant Al Williams, won the Pulitzer race at 243.68 miles per hour in an R2C-1,
     The competitions in which they participated, and excelled, were more than mere trials of speed; they were also the laboratories and proving grounds for many key advances in aircraft development. As such, they became headline-grabbing events where beautifully built planes from Britain, France, Italy, and the United States became the instruments by which international aviation prestige was acquired or lost, as the case may be. Naturally, the races were watched closely by the governments of the aforementioned countries, for the prestige that came with winning could translate into tremendous financial gain in the aircraft sales market.
fame) with an average speed of 176.7 miles per hour. An Army variant, designated R-6, had an uprated engine and the sensational new Curtiss wing-surface radiators, which greatly reduced drag; thus modified, and with Lieutenant Russell Maughan at the controls, the aircraft claimed the 1922 Pulitzer at a sizzling 205.8 miles per hour. Four days later Brigadier General Billy Mitchell used the same plane to set a world's speed record of 224.28 miles per hour.
     The CR-1s and CR-2s were subsequently modified and given a new designation, CR-3. Equipped with floats and a 475-horsepower engine, a much improved version of
the R-6.
     The United States could have won permanent possession of the Schneider Trophy in 1924, when it was the only nation able to field a racing team in the competition, instead, however, it gallantly agreed to postpone the race until the following year. It is interesting to note that Britain, when faced with the same opportunity in 1931, elected to fly their Supermarine racers around the course to an uncontested victory. The British thus laid permanent claim to the trophy, but in so doing tarnished their reputation for sportsmanlike conduct.
     The United States upset the international applecart with its fleet of Curtiss racers, which dominated the competition for five years running. Although improved and modified every year, particularly through the installation of more powerful engines, the basic formula for the Curtiss racers remained the same: single seat, open cockpit biplanes with frames as streamlined as contemporary aviation technology would allow.
     The first two planes of the series were retroactively designated CR-1 and CR-2. Flying a CR-2, a Navy pilot named Bert Acosta won the 1921 Pulitzer Trophy race (sponsored ty the Pulitzer brothers of publishing

Bert Acosta leans against his Curtiss R-1 after winning the 1921 Schneider race.
Standing on the ground in front of him is the Schneider cup.

  Above: Lt. Jimmy Doolittle stands on the float of an Army R3C-2 at Baltimore. Doolittle won the 1925 Schneider race in a sistership of this plane. Right:Cyrus Bettis poses with his R3C-1 , in which he won the 1925 Pulitzer race.
     In 1925 the Army and Navy jointly purchased three racers, the R3C series. Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis, and Army pilot, won the Pulitzer race, coaxing 248.9 miles per hour out of his plane. Another Army
  pilot, the incomparable Jimmy Doolittle, then enjoyed upstaging a Navy entrant in the Schneider Trophy race, flying a float-equipped R3C-2 to win at 245.7 miles per hour. The R3C-2 may still be seen today, in the National Air and Space Museum, a glistening gold-and-black tribute to one of the greatest line of racers in history.  

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