the development of aviation a spirit of sporting and
competition became a major aspect of its ever-growing
appeal. Air races began to enjoy a worldwide popularity, and
two of the most coveted prizes were the Pulitzer Trophy and
the Schneider Cup. In 1912 a wealthy French aviation
enthusiast, Jacques Schneider, established a trophy to be
awarded annually to the winner of a race to be flown over
water in seaplanes. The Pulitzer Trophy Race, on the other
hand, was sponsored by an American newspaperman, Ralph
Pulitzer, to promote high speed in landplanes.
In 1925 the U.S. Army and Navy ordered from the Curtiss
Aeroplane and Motor Company aircraft of basically the same
design but with individual variations. These airplanes ran
away with first place in both trophy races in that same
year. One of them also established a straightaway speed
record for seaplanes.
This airplane was the R3C-1/R3C-2 (the -1 is the landplane
and the -2 the seaplane version).
The R3C-1, piloted by Lt. Cyrus Bettis, won the Pulitzer
Trophy Race on October 12, 1925, at a speed of 248.9 mph. On
October 25, fitted with streamlined single-step wooden
floats and redesignated the R3C-2, it was piloted to victory
by Army Lt. James H. Jimmy Doolittle in the Schneider Cup
Race held at Bay Shore Park, Baltimore. The average speed
was 232.57 mph. On the day after the Schneider Race,
Doolittle flew the R3C-2 over a straight course at a world
record speed of 245.7 mph. In the Schneider Cup Race of
November 13, 1926, this same airplane, piloted by Lt.
Christian F. Schilt, USMC, and powered by an improved
engine, won second place with an average speed of 231.4 mph.
The R3C-1 was similar in dimensions and plan to the R2C-1 of
1923 but had a more powerful Curtiss V-1400 610-hp engine
(665 hp in the 1926 racer).
The R3C-1 was a single-seat, single-bay, wire-braced
biplane. The wings were covered with twoply spruce planking.
3/32-inch thick, forming a box structure that required no
internal bracing. Among the interesting features were the
low-drag wing radiators made of corrugated brass sheeting,
.004-inch thick, covering much of the surface of both upper
and lower wings with the corrugations running chordwise. The
upper wing was flush with the top of the fuselage,
permitting the pilot to see over the wing. All ribs were of
spruce conforming to the Curtiss C-80 airfoil section, and
the ailerons, made of metal, were fabric-covered. The
cantilever vertical fin and horizontal stabilizer were of
ingeniously fabricated streamlined monocoque structure, the
fuselage consisted of a shell of two layers of spruce over
which fabric was doped for added strength and protection.
This shell was formed over seven birch plywood bulkheads
that were connected by four ash longerons, making a rigid
The unbalanced movable controls were metal. Only necessary
navigation and engine instruments were installed. They
consisted of gauges for water temperature, oil temperature,
oil pressure, and fuel quantity, as well as a tachometer and
an airspeed indicator.
The fixed landing gear in the R3C-1 was a tripod
configuration. A laminated hickory tail skid was added to
protect the rudder. As a landplane, the R3C-1 carried only
27 gallons of fuel, which gave 48 minutes flying time at
full throttle. In the R3C-2, the fuel capacity was increased
to 60 gallons, enough for 1.3 hours at full throttle, by
installing fuel tanks in the floats.
The wings and elevators were painted gold; the fuselage,
stabilizer, fin, struts, fairings, cowling, pontoons and/or
wheels were all black. Contemporary star cockades were
painted on the right and left sides of the upper surface of
the top wing and the lower surface of the bottom wing,
outboard of the wing radiators. The rudder was painted with
red, white, and blue vertical stripes, the blue stripe being
next to the rudderpost. Both sides of the vertical fin were
lettered ‘U.S. Army," in white. On both sides of the
fuselage aft of the cockpit a large numeral 43 was painted
in white. This was the number used in the Pulitzer Race.
When flown in the 1925 Schneider Race, the aircraft carried
the number 3, and in the 1926 Schneider Trophy Race it was
It was on loan for several years to the Air Force Museum,
where it was restored by Air Force personnel. It now hangs
in the Pioneers of Flight gallery at the National Air and