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Quest for Higher Speeds

Because of the constant striving for higher speeds for its pursuit planes, the Air Service participated in many races, both military and civilian, during the 1920s. One of the first of significance was on Nov. 25, 1920, when Lt. C.C. Moseley won the first Pulitzer Trophy Race in a Verville-Packard 600 at 156.5 mph. On Oct. 14, 1922, the Pulitzer was won by Lt. R.L. Maughan in a Curtiss R-6 at 205.8 mph. Four days later, Gen. Billy Mitchell flew the same type plane to a world speed record of 224.4 mph. On March 29, 1923, Maughan boosted the record to 236.5 mph.

Lt. Cyrus Bellis flew a specially-built Curtiss R3C-1 racer in the Pulitzer held on Oct. 12, 1925, and won with a new record of 248.9 mph. Two weeks later, Jimmy Doolittle flew the same plane equipped with pontoons and redesignated the R3C-2 to victory in the Schneider Trophy Race at 232.5 mph. He later flew the same plane to a new world seaplane record of 245.7 mph. For winning the Pulitzer and Schneider Races, Bellis and Doolittle were awarded the Mackay Trophy for 1925.

The Air Service entered many races which it did not win. However, practically every new idea which was developed and applied to its speed planes, and then tested and proved under the most exacting conditions, was later applied to its new pursuit airplanes.

Free-for-All Trophy
Army Air Corps pilot Lt. Eugene C. Batton received the Spokane Spokesman-Review Trophy for winning the "Free-for-All Military Pursuit Ship Race" at the 1927 National Air Races sponsored by the city of Spokane, Wash. This race consisted of 10 laps around a 12-mile course, and it was called a "free-for-all" because all the competing Army, Navy and Marine Corps pilots took off at the same time. Batton's aircraft, a Curtiss XP-6A Hawk, had been built by the Experimental Section at Wright Field, Ohio, by adding a 700-hp Curtiss V-1570 Conquerer engine and wings fitted with radiators to a standard P-6 fuselage. The clean design gave the XP-6A a winning speed of 201.239 mph, more than 10 mph faster than the nearest competitor.

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Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell