Crosby CR-4 racer. The CR-4 was the brainchild of Harry V.
Crosby, a barnstormer, airmail pilot, and test pilot who was
killed trying to bail out of the Northrop XP-79B jet flying
wing in 1945. He was also apparently an incredible fast
talker, as he managed to have the CR-4 design wind-tunnel
tested in the Guggenheim lab at Cal Tech for free, as well
as having students at the Curtiss-Wright Technical Institute
build it for free. And just for good measure, he managed to
talk a Texas oilman into financing the operation.
most of his competition was flying planes covered with
plywood and fabric that had been designed by the eyeball
method, some still sporting wire bracing on wings and tail,
Crosby's sleek all-metal racer was obviously one of the most
advanced and fastest planes in the world. However, this was
not enough to make the plane a success, as it suffered from
constant mechanical woes.
designed to take a Ranger V-12 engine, which became
unavailable to Crosby, he instead installed a Menasco C6S-4
from a previous racer, theCrosby C6R-3 (see pictures below).
While the plane was still extremely fast with the smaller
engine, that specific engine was prone to erratic
performance. Another problem with the plane was its weight.
As it was designed for the more powerful Ranger, its weight
with the Menasco was about 600 lbs. heavier than the
Folkerts SK-4, which was about the same size and used the
weight, coupled with the tiny wing, made the plane very poor
at pylon turns. Also a major headache was the landing gear,
which was operated by a CO2 fire extinguisher. Empty
extinguisher bottles and leakage made the gear prone to
extending any time the airplane was turned hard. The CR-4's
racing record: 1938 Greve - out; 1938 Thompson - out; 1939
Greve - flagged down on 13th lap, 164.9 mph, 3rd place; 1939
Thompson - 244.5 mph, 4th place.
there was still some "snort" left in the design, as I have
read that there where plans to install a Ranger V-12 in the
CR-4 and enter it in the 1947 National Air Races. This never
transpired, however, and the airplane effectively
disappeared shortly thereafter. Efforts to trace the plane's
whereabouts were futile until 1990, when Morton Lester heard
about a lady in North Carolina selling some old aircraft
parts, which had been collected by her late husband.
part of the collection consisted of parts for 6-cylinder
Menasco engines, which were most often found under the cowls
of racing aircraft. Next was a weather-beaten aluminium
fuselage and wing centre section resting on the rotted
remains of sawhorses in a nearby woods. While it certainly
resembled the still unaccounted-for CR-4, there was no
engine, cowl, outer wing panels, canopy, control surfaces,
registration numbers, or any other reliable identification.
Mr. Lester proceeded to search the rest of the property for
more parts and found some (cowl parts, as I recall), but
still nothing conclusive regarding the ID of the fuselage in
took one last look at the property, making sure he hadn't
missed anything, when he noticed two old bus bodies in the
woods. Why put a bus in the woods? To store things, of
the control surfaces, canopy, landing gear doors, and outer
wing panels were stashed in there. One of the wing panels
had half of the CR-4's NX92Y registration number on it , so
the identity of the airplane was confirmed. And if that
story wasn't lucky enough for you, consider the fact that
the lady who had the CR-4 was just days from having the
"junk" cleared from her property. Just the thought makes me
shudder. Since then, the CR-4 has been under restoration,
first by Mr. Lester and his crew, and more recently
completed by the EAA Air Adventure Museum restoration staff.
in Oshkosh, WI. Currently, the aircraft is on display in the
EAA Airventure Museum.