1929 National Air Races
By Bill Meixner

Clifford Henderson brought the faltering National Air Races to Los Angeles Mines Field  in September of 1928.  He also added an Aeronautical Exposition to showcase the latest in aircraft and related equipment.  The 1928 National Air Race was a major improvement over previous exhibitions held at non spectator-friendly military air stations. 1929 would be a quantum leap in quality and a much-needed public exposure of aviation in general.

In 1929, Cleveland hosted the National Air Races and Aeronautical Exposition. The Cleveland Airport was the first municipally owned in the country. It was large enough to host the races on the west end of the airfield without interrupting normal commercial traffic at the east end.   A state- of -the -art passenger terminal building had just been opened, complete with beautiful landscaping. More than a dozen new  hangars and support buildings were either complete or under construction. 


The Aeronautical Exposition was held in the new $10 million Public Hall in downtown Cleveland. No less than 250 exhibits displayed $3 million in aircraft, motors and accessories. Musical extravaganzas were offered each day and evening.

Boeing Aircraft Company sent it's newest tri-motor Transport, the Model 80 prior to it's entrance into airline service. Pictured above on display outside of Cleveland City Hall

On the day prior to the opening of the races, a very large parade was held on the main street of downtown Cleveland, with no less than 100 floats, most of them covered with fresh flowers.  Overhead, an armada of military and civilian aircraft accompanied the parade.

Cleveland City Manager William Hopkins with Amelia Earhart,  Ed Thompson, brother of Charles, and Mrs. Ed Thompson.

Many dignitaries and movie stars were in attendance, national hero Charles Lindbergh and Commander Hugo Eckner of the Graff Zeppelin, to name just two. Pilot Jimmy Haizlip said "the whole of aviation was there and you could have put them all in a dance hall and have half of it left over". The daily schedule included other aviation attractions such as parachute jumping, military demonstrations, lighter than-air craft, air derbies and aerobatics demonstrations. Coupled with the Aeronautical Exposition and concerts, this was a major entertainment spectacle and a much needed public exposure of military and civilian aviation.

Committee members and airport Officials gather in front of Richland Oil Company's luxury appointed Fokker F -10

Start of the Women's Air derby:
Chairman Floyd J. Logan, Louis W. Greve, President of The Cleveland National Air Races holding the starting gun, with Cliff Henderson in contact with Clover Field.

Opening of races at Cleveland:
Louise Thaden, flying a borrowed Travel Air, won the Women's Air Derby,  sponsored by the National Exchange Club.

The forty plus trophies on display at the Expo in Public Hall

While the military dominated the previous National Air Races, this year would be different.  President Walter Beech of the Travel Air Manufacturing Co. in Wichita had secretly developed a low-wing monoplane with great speed potential to enter in the free-for-all race.   This aircraft was tested and flown to Cleveland, where Beech had arranged for a private hangar for his entrants.  As soon as the plane landed, it was rolled into the hangar and the doors closed. The press called it the "Mystery Ship".

On Sept. 2nd, Doug Davis, an airline pilot from Atlanta, Georgia, flying the Travel Air "Mystery Ship", won event no. 26, the 50-mile free-for-all speed contest. During the race, Davis cut inside one of the pylons and had to re-circle it but still managed to beat both the Army's and Navy's fastest pursuit planes. Charles Thompson, president of Thompson Products Company, sponsor of the event personally, awarded the large cup to Doug Davis. Second place went to Lt. Breen in a Army P-3A. Third place went to Roscoe Turner in a Lockheed Vega.

Event 26  Winners  (Thompson Cup)

The Travel Air "Mystery Ship"  License number R614K Race number 31 Pilot Doug Davis

USAAC P-3A XP-524 Race number 80

Lockheed Vega NC 3354 Race number 192 Pilot Roscoe Turner

1929 Thompson Cup Race  Event No.26 September 2  Cleveland Ohio (5 laps  10 mile course 50 miles  Total purse $1500)

Place         Pilot         Aircraft   No. License No.   Speed
     1 Doug Davis   Travel Air-R      31     R 614 K   194.90
     2   Lt. R.G.Breen   Curtiss P3A     80     XP 524    186.84
     3   Roscoe Turner LockheedVega   192    NR 7954    163.44
     4 Comm. J.J. Clark   Curtiss F6C-6   210    A 7144    153.38
     5    H.S. Myhres       Simplex    71    NR 43M    152.15
     6    McConaughey     Travel Air   30    NR 612K   145.20
     7     C.E. Clark     Travel Air    32   NR 613K    N A
    8    C.D. Bowyer      Cessna   53   NC 6450    DNF