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History’s Most Important Racing Aircraft

History’s Most Important Racing Aircraft Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review March 2014 Title History’s Most Important Racing Aircraft
Author Don Berliner Publisher Pen & Sword
Published 2014 ISBN 9781781590720
Format 192 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $39.95


Aircraft modelers!  Take a break from camouflage paint schemes and drab military liveries!

History's Most Important Racing Aircraft recaps the terrific tale of air racing through capsule case studies of dozens of milestone machines.

Contents course chronologically through all major events, eras and aircraft:

  • James Gordon Bennett Trophy
  • The Schneider Cup
  • The Pulitzer Trophy
  • Long Distance Races of the 1930s
  • Coupe Deutsch de la Muerthe
  • "Other European Racers"
  • Pre-War U.S. National Air Races
  • Post-War Cleveland National Air Races
  • The Reno Air Races

Air racing popularized aviation and air travel.  It fostered aircraft engineering and design innovations.  And it promoted production and propulsion progress.

Like many countries, The United States, the author notes, "decided closed-course racing would be a very good way to test advanced design concepts and to draw attention to the country's need for a more modern Air Force."

Racing also attracted entrepreneurs and adventurers with dozens of one-off designs.  Pioneering and pedestrian.  Familiar and fantastic.  Courageous and commonplace.  This little book distills the whole history, aircraft-by-aircraft.

Like the Bleriot XI – the world's first production aircraft.  The Piaggio-Pegna Pc.7 – a seaplane with hydrofoils instead of floats.  The Crosby CR-4 – with advanced stressed metal-skin construction and flush riveting.  The Pack Grey Ghost – with a diminutive 13' wingspan.  The minuscule Mahoney Sorceress – a bizarrely beautiful biplane with reverse stagger.  And that Amsoil-Rutan Racer or Sharp Nemesis Next – wow!

Of course, P-51 and T-6 variants – perennial postwar participants – also appear.  And every sort of race.  Closed-course pylon.  Cross-country.  Long-distance.  Trans-oceanic.  Even "ladies" events.

It's peppered with air racing's principal personalities, too.  Curtiss.  Laird.  Doolittle.  Cochran.  The Granville brothers.  Even Mussolini.  They're all here.

Entries include each aircraft's capsule history, length, wingspan, powerplant and color scheme.  At least one photo – most in B&W, some in color – accompanies most descriptions.

So grab Hawk/Testors' 1:48 Travel Air Mystery ship.  Or William Brothers' 1:32 Wedell Williams.  Or Airfix's 1:72 dH.88 Comet.  Or conjure some scratch-building or kit-bashing magic.  And let this cool compendium inspire your next model project!


With thanks to Casemate for the review copy.