History of the West Park
Neighborhood

Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio

Memories & Comments
of events and happenings of the West Park and nearby area

Present and former residents may feel free to contribute some of their memories of special events and happenings of the West Park area.  Contributions would be welcome.  Send them to Gary Swilik and Charles Chaney.


The Cleveland National Air Races

The Cleveland National Air Races was part of the National Air Races that took place annually from 1920 to 1949.  Initially the series of pylon and cross-country races, sponsored by publisher Ralph Pulitzer was at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York.  The first race was for military airplanes who competed in the Pulitzer Trophy Race.  Pulitzer used the races to publicize the science of aviation, and, of course, his newspaper.  The races eventually moved to Cleveland to become known as the Cleveland National Air Races.  The cross-country races now concluded in Cleveland.  No longer limited to military aircraft, the races attracted the best fliers of the time.  There was a variety of events including landing contests, airship flights, parachuting, gliders, etc.  The most popular events were the Thompson Trophy Race which was a closed-course race with flyers racing their planes around pylons, and the Bendix Trophy Race across the country.  The first Women's Air Derby was in Cleveland in 1929. This developed into the Powder Puff Derby.  The races usually ran for up to ten days at the end of the summer.  The races were suspended during World War II.  Following the war, the races resumed featuring newer surplus military planes that were much further advanced than the pre-war aircraft.  Following a crash of a P-51 during the races of 1949 in which the pilot, Bill Odom, and two people in the house into which the plane crashed died, the races were suspended.  In 1964 the Reno National Championship Air Races resumed the annual tradition.

Some of the illustrious pilots who participated in various events included Wiley Post, James Doolittle, Pancho Barnes, and Emelia Earhart.

Sources:      Wikipedia  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Air_Races
                    http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Hangar/7349/cleraces.html
                    http://www.clevelandairshow.com/press_room/natlairraces.htm
                   
http://air-racing-history.com/Cleveland%20Air%20Races.htm


 

  The air races used to be held in Cleveland before they went to Reno.  What a thrill to see those planes roar over your head! I used to love them. I don't remember if the pilots survived the wrecks but there seemed to be plenty of crashes. The crashed planes were stripped of engines and other important parts and just left lying around in the woods! I would climb around in the wrecked P-51's. Funny how there were no lawyers around to prevent such adventures. I would sit in the wrecks and dream of flying. What a kick! I went on to become a commercial pilot but the thrill started at the outskirts of the Cleveland airport, climbing into those wrecked racers. Can you imagine that today?

 

---  Mike Moody, Orange County, CA.  24 September 2007

 

 


 

 

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Created by: Charles C. Chaney
Updated 25 September 2007