Pulitzer Trophy Race

By H.W. Underwood

The four planes entered, in addition to the Curtiss racers, were two Curtiss pursuits piloted by Lieutenants Cuddihy and Norton of the Navy, and a PW8 and PI piloted by Captain Cook and Lieutenant Dawson, respectively. Owing to the entry at six planes, and the possibility of trouble resulting from the hazard caused by the continual overtaking of the slower planes by the racers, it was decided by the Race Committee to divide the contest into two heats, and thus permit the two fastest planes to fly the course unhindered.

At shortly after 3 P. M. the first plane took off. It was Lieutenant Al Williams, flying the Navy Curtiss racer. His exact time was 3:14:26. He made a very smooth take-off and flew around the field for a few minutes warming up his engine.

Shortly afterward, at 3:16:39, the Army plane took off, piloted by Lieutenant Cyrus Bettis. By this time, Williams had decided to start off on the course, and, accordingly, approached the field from a far corner and, flying on full throttle, passed the timer's stand and the home pylon, being checked off by Otis Porter, chief timer.

The spectators had been expecting a close and thrilling race between the two Curtiss planes of which so much had been heard but were to be disappointed on this account, for Williams and Bettis crossed the starting line at such long intervals that all spirit of a race was entirely lost, the two planes going around the course, several miles apart. They flew at approximately 300 feet all the time. One very striking feature of the start of each plane as it crossed the line was the absence of the customary dive in an endeavor to gain excess speed. This, it will be recalled, was forbidden in this race by the National Aeronautical Association after the Dayton races last year, when steep diving over the starting line in the Pulitzer race resulted in the collapse of Captain Burt Skeel's plane, Under the new ruling this year the airplanes all approached the timer's stand in horizontal flight.

Another very noticeable feature observed as the Curtiss racers passed over the crowd on each lap was the considerable reduction in noise in this year's planes, the propellers making far less noise than those of the PW8's. With such high powered engines at the new Curtiss V 1400 and the high revolutions at which these engines run, this silencing is quite an interesting achievement.

The first lap made by Bettis was in excess of the record general average speed for this contest, which was 243.67 m.p.h. made at St. Louis in 1923. Williams' speed was also greater than this average, though by only a small margin.

The race, owing to the distance which separated the planes, had lost all recognition as such and resolved itself into a straightforward speed trial. As it progressed it was noticed that Bettis was beating his own speed at each lap, whereas just the opposite was the case with Williams, whose successive laps were getting slower with the exception of the last in which his speed for that lap reached 24366 m.p.h., or just under that for his first lap. However, his total time for the course as a whole, was still going down, as will be seen from the table of speeds.

Lieutenant Bettis' speed at the end of three laps had reached 248.7 m.p.h., virtually assuring a new closed circuit record, while Williams' speed at this lap was only 242.4 m.p.h. At the close of the race, four laps, Bettis had reached 248.975 m.p.h. and Williams 241.695 m.p.h. Thus, not only did Bettis win the Pulitzer Trophy for 1925, but, in doing so, he had set up a new world's speed record for a closed circuit. On crossing the line in the last lap, both took their planes high into the air and came around the outskirts of the field, landing and taxiing up to the enclosures.

At this moment, the four planes forming the second heat went off to compete for third place in the race. There was far more of the element of a race in the second heat, since the planes, a P1 and PW8 piloted by Lieutenant Dawson and Captain Cook of the Army Air Service, and two Curtiss pursuits flown by Lieutenants Norton and Cuddihy of the Navy, went off in close succession and chased each other at close quarters during the entire race.

As the planes started on their third lap, Dawson in the P1, which was faster than the others, was leading with Norton and Cuddihy following closely and Cook coming up fourth. It was interesting to note that the PW8's flown by Norton and Cuddihy were the same ones flown in the Mitchell Trophy race earlier in the afternoon, but from the start they commenced making much better speed than in the earlier race. Lieutenant Norton was piloting No. 50 at a speed 8 m.p.h. faster than the speed at which Matthews won the Mitchell Trophy. This fact was undoubtedly due to the difference in the length of the laps on the two races. The Mitchell Trophy course was twelve miles around, as compared with the 31.07 miles of the Pulitzer course. The former race, therefore, necessitated more and sharper turns than in the latter race and the resultant speeds for the two courses would differ accordingly.

Lieutenant Dawson still maintained a good lead as the four pursuit planes started on their final lap. He was followed by Norton while Cuddihy was compelled, by engine trouble, to drop out. Captain Cook, by this time, was at least a mile behind. The heat ended with Lieutenant Dawson finishing first, Lieutenant Norton a close second, and Captain Cook coming in third, a fact seconds later. Lieutenant Dawson's speed was 169.9 m.p.h., and Lieutenant Norton, flying a Curtiss pursuit, made 168.8 m.p.h. The speed differences resulting from the different lengths of the courses of the Mitchell Trophy race and the Pulitzer race are apparent when it is recalled that the same type of plane as that flown by Norton in the latter race made only 161.5 m.p.h. in the former.

The somewhat disappointing speeds made by the new Curtiss racers, in the Pulitzer Trophy race, may be attributed very largely to both the shape of the course and the windy weather which prevailed. The haze commenced to lift as the race drew to a conclusion and, as the two Curtiss racers came up to the enclosures, the sun began to come out and afforded a small army of photographers opportunity to get good pictures of the victors.

 

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