The Type R "Mystery Ships" were a series of wire-braced,
low-wing racing airplanes built by the Travel Air company in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Travel Air Type R Mystery Ship "1929"

RoleRacing aircraft
ManufacturerTravel Air
DesignerHerbert Rawdon
First flightAugust 29, 1929
Number built5

 




Curtiss Aircraft

Travel Air Type R Mystery Ship
"1929"

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Travel Air Type R Mystery Ship "1929"

The Type R “Mystery Ships” were a series of wire-braced, low-wing racing airplanes built by the Travel Air company in the late 1920s and early 1930s. They were so called, because the first three aircraft of the series (R614K, R613K, B11D) were built entirely in secrecy.

In total, five Type Rs were built and flown by some of the most notable flyers of the day, including Jimmy Doolittle, Doug Davis, Frank Hawks, and Pancho Barnes, not only in races but also at air shows across the United States, and most notably, by Hawks in Europe.

Operational history

The environment in air racing at the time was one of give and take with the military. A civilian designer would take an existing aircraft design, modify it for greater speed and enter it in the race. Since the military already had access to the fastest and most advanced aircraft available, it was simply a matter of upping the horsepower on whatever aircraft they were using and the problem was solved. This led to the military completely dominating the air racing scene. In an effort to combat this, two Travel Air designers; Herb Rawdon and Walter Burnham undertook proving that a civilian aircraft built from scratch and designed exclusively for racing (as opposed to combat or passenger/mail service) could out-fly the military

During an era when biplanes were still common, the use of a monoplane planform, a NACA engine cowl, and large wheel pants significantly reduced aerodynamic drag, creating a streamlined design. Construction of the fuselage and wings was based on a plywood structure with the thin wings braced with wires. The sleek, polished fuselage continued the shape and width of the cowl throughout, with the cockpit featuring a small windshield, set nearly flush with the skin. A turtle deck extended from the cockpit to the vertical tail creating a fairing for the helmeted head of the pilot.

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Travel Air Type R Mystery Ship "1929"

The Model R series set numerous speed records for both pylon racing and cross-country flying, and were the most advanced aircraft of the day, by far outpacing anything that even the military could offer. On September 2, 1929, Doug Davis entered the “Mystery Ship” in the Thompson Cup Race. Davis won at a speed of 194.9 mph (one lap flown at 208.69 mph), beating the military entries, even recircling one of the pylons twice. Davis missed the second pylon of the course, circled back and while circling it again blacked out momentarily. Not knowing if he had missed the pylon again, Davis went around one more time, then continued on to win the race. This was the first time in the history of air racing that a civilian racer had outperformed a military aircraft

Specifications

  • Crew: One pilot
  • Length: 20 ft 2 in (6.15 m)
  • Wingspan: 27 ft 8 in or 29 ft 2 in (8.43 or 8.89 m)
  • Height: 7 ft 9 in (2.36 m)
  • Empty weight: 1,475 lb (669.05 kg)
  • Gross weight: 1,940 lb (879.97 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Wright J-6-9 , 300, 400 or 425 hp (224, 298 
  • Performance

    • Maximum speed: 235 mph (394.29 km/h, 204 kn)

Aircrafttoaal encyclopedia

The Type R "Mystery Ships" were a series of wire-braced,
low-wing racing airplanes built by the Travel Air company in the late 1920s and early 1930s.