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IN THIS, the last of three mini-essays on the Schneider Trophy seaplane races, there are contrasting technologies, contrasting views on sportsmanship—and a moral victory for risk takers.
As its title suggests, Hugh Cowin’s book, The Risk Takers, celebrates more than the Schneider Trophy races. Other chapters discuss Reims and the Aerial Adventurers, 1908-1913; The “Roaring Twenties,” 1919-1928; Air Racing’s Golden Era, 1929-1940; and Records Overshadow Racing, 1945-1972. Each chapter offers rare photographs, two of which are shared here.
With Italy’s successive Schneider Trophy wins in 1920 and 1921, the “Three And It’s Mine” concept livened the competition. However, England was Italy’s spoiler in Naples 1922.
Then, after its wins in 1923 and 1925, with no races in 1924, had the U.S. won the 1926 event, it would have earned permanent possession of the Schneider Trophy.
But this was not to be: Italy took the 1926 Hampton Roads event, and the 1927 venue returned to Venice. That year as well, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale decided to make the Schneider Trophy a biennial event.
The British brought an array of entrants in 1927, the Supermarine S.5 monoplane being the most successful and the eventual winner. (The Short-Bristow Crusader, another of the Brit entries, crashed in Venice testing—the cause, its aileron controls being cross-connected and not caught in pre-flight checks.)
The British won again at the next event, 1929’s Calshot venue near the Isle of Wight. Well contested by the Italians with a variety of craft, a Brit Supermarine S.6 proved supreme because of its reliability.
Thus, for 1931, at Calshot again, it was the Royal Aero Club’s turn with “Three And It’s Mine.” And, indeed, in marked contrast to the U.S. and 1924 (see www.wp.me/p2ETap-1cG), the RAeC held the races despite there being no international participation. A Supermarine S.6B won, with an average speed of 340.08 mph.
In retrospect, despite the British gaining permanent custody of the Schneider Trophy, the Italians earned a moral victory in their exploration of technology over the years of the event.
For example, the 1929 Savoia Marchetti S.65 had tandem 1080-hp Isotta Fraschini engines mounted in a central nacelle—with the pilot squeezed between them and flanked by oil coolers.
One engine operated as a tractor, the other, a counter-rotating pusher, thus balancing torque reactions. Slim booms held everything together.
The 1929 Piaggio-Pegna Pc 7 was even more unorthodox. Nicknamed “the flying submarine,” it had a sleek hydrofoil rather than floats and thus taxied semi-submerged.
A weakness was its pilot-managed system of shifting torque from its sea propeller to air counterpart.
The 1931 Macchi MC-72 had a pair of Fiat V-12s arranged as a V-24. They drove coaxial counter-rotating props—another way to eliminate torque reaction of a single powerplant while minimizing frontal area. For another variation on this theme, see the Bugatti 100P (www.wp.me/p2ETap-ZC).
The Macchi’s Schneider Trophy problems of ram-air induction solved by 1934, it went 440.68 mph at northern Italy’s Lago Garda in 1935, thus setting a world speed record for internal-combustion seaplanes. The record stands to this day. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013
Nice series, Dennis. Did not know about the Piaggio-Pegna…leave it to the Italians!!