The Curtiss R3C-2

Army Air Service Lt. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle and the Curtiss R3C-2 racer won the prestigious 1925 Schneider Trophy competition at Baltimore, Maryland, on October 26, 1925, with an average speed of 373 km per hour (232 miles per hour). The next day Doolittle flew the R3C-2 over a straight course at a world-record speed of 395 km per hour (246 miles per hour).

Designed purely for speed, the R3C-2 could be converted from a seaplane to a landplane, and it won races as both.

Aircraft Details
Wingspan, upper: 6.7 m (22 ft)
Length: 6 m (19 ft 9 in)
Height: 2.5 m (8 ft 1 in)
Weight, empty: 975 kg (2,150 lb)
Weight, gross: 1,152 kg (2,539 lb)
Top speed: 395 km/h (246 mph)
Engine: Curtiss V-1400, 610 hp
Manufacturer: Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co., Garden City, Long Island, N.Y., 1925


Other Races
The R3C-2 competed in two other races. The week before Doolittle’s victory, on October 12, Army Air Service Lt. Cyrus Bettis raced the airplane in its R3C-1 landplane configuration to win the Pulitzer Trophy race. On November 13, 1926, Marine Corps Lt. C. Frank Schilt placed second in the Schneider Trophy competition at Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Smithsonian acquired the R3C-2 in 1927.

Designed to Win
The sleek Curtiss R3C represented the latest concepts in high-speed racing design. Wood monocoque construction, thin airfoil shapes, a close-fitting engine covering, corrugated brass radiators built into the wings, and minimal external bracing for the single-bay biplane wing reflected emerging methods in aerodynamic streamlining and drag reduction.

The 610-horsepower Curtiss V-1400 engine and the Reed Duralumin propeller were the state-of-the-art in high-output propulsion technology. The combination of the two—the “banging, clanging” sound of the propeller tips going supersonic and the “bark” of the V-1400’s short exhaust stacks—made the experience of attending an air race unmistakable and unforgettable.

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