Smithsonian National Air and Space MuseumPioneers of Flight

Military Aviation

Air Racing

Jimmy Doolittle and a Curtiss R3C-2 Racer

Jimmy Doolittle and a Curtiss R3C-2 Racer U.S. Army Air Service Lt. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle, winner of the 1925 Schneider Trophy Race, and a Curtiss R3C-2 racer.

The Schneider Trophy
Air racing became an institutionalized sport in the 1920s, and the Schneider Trophy competition became the world's most famous air race. French industrialist and aviator Jacques P. Schneider created the event in 1912 to encourage the development of commercial seaplanes. American and European military teams competed in the name of international prestige, interservice rivalry, and the advancement of technology.

By 1925 the contest was the ultimate expression of high-speed flight and state-of-the-art aeronautical technology. Doolittle's Schneider Trophy victory in the R3C-2 captured the imagination of the public on both sides of the Atlantic.

Air Racing Activity

Air Racing Activity
Design and race your own aircraft in this fun activity.
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Jimmy Doolittle

Jimmy Doolittle was one of the great aviation pioneers of the 1920s and 1930s. As an air racer, he was the only person to win all three of what were considered the most important races of the era, the Schneider, Bendix, and Thompson Trophy competitions. As a test pilot with a doctoral degree in aeronautical engineering, he was at the forefront of new technology.

Who Was Jimmy Doolittle?
Doolittle was America's greatest air racing pilot in the 1920s and '30s, an aeronautical engineer and a fearless test pilot who made the first "blind" flight. He was also a national hero of World War II.

As an air racer, he was the only person to win all three of what were considered the most important races of the era, the Schneider, Bendix, and Thompson Trophy competitions. As a test pilot with a doctoral degree in aeronautical engineering, he was at the forefront of new technology.

By the end of the 1930s, Doolittle was a household name. After America entered World War II, he planned and led the first attack on Japan, the famous "Doolittle Raid," on April 18, 1942, for which he received the Medal of Honor.

The Curtiss R3C-2
U.S. Army Air Service pilot Jimmy Doolittle won the prestigious Schneider Trophy seaplane race with this airplane in 1925, then set a world speed record with it the next day.

Designed purely for speed, the R3C could be converted from a seaplane to a landplane, and it won races as both. Among its many innovative features were radiators for cooling the engine that were built into its wings and fuel tanks built into the floats.

Doolittle and the Curtiss R3C-2 racer won the prestigious 1925 Schneider Trophy competition at Baltimore, Maryland, on October 26, 1925, with an average speed of 373 kilometers (232 miles) per hour. The next day Doolittle flew the R3C-2 over a straight course at a world-record speed of 395 kilometers (246 miles) per hour.

The R3C-2 competed in two other races. The week before Doolittle's victory, on October 12, Army Air Service Lt. Cyrus Bettis raced the airplane in its R3C-1 landplane configuration to win the Pulitzer Trophy race. On November 13, 1926, Marine Corps Lt. C. Frank Schilt placed second in the Schneider Trophy competition at Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Smithsonian acquired the R3C-2 in 1927.

Transferred from the War Department

Curtiss R3C-2 Racer

Look Inside Curtiss R3C-2 Cockpit


Click and Drag to Rotate         Zoom In [Shift Key]       Zoom Out [Ctrl Key]
QuickTime VR panorama created from actual cockpit photography.

Wingspan, upper: 6.7 m (22 ft)
Length: 6 m (19 ft 9 in)
Height: 2.5 m (8 ft 1 in)
Weight, empty: 975 kg (2,150 lb)
Weight, gross: 1,152 kg (2,539 lb)
Top speed: 395 km/h (246 mph)
Engine: Curtiss V-1400, 610 hp
Manufacturer: Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co., Garden City, Long Island, N.Y., 1925

Transferred from the War Department
More information about this object.

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