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The Thompson Trophy race was one of the National Air Races of the heyday of early airplane racing in the 1930s. Established in 1929, the last race was held in 1961. The race was 10 miles (16 km) long with 50-foot-high (15 m) pylons marking the turns, and emphasized low altitude flying and maneuverability at high speeds. As the race was flown around a closed course, crowds in the grandstands could easily see much of the spectacle.

There were two series of Thompson races. The first series followed the award of a "Thompson Cup" in the 1929 National Air Races to the winner of the "International Land Plane Free-For-All" (that is, the unlimited class race). Thompson Products (a predecessor to TRW) decided to sponsor a trophy to be awarded for the next ten years for unlimited class racing (though a stipulation was eventually added excluding women pilots). The trophy was designed by Walter Sinz[1] and is now at Air and Space Museum. Sinz also made a pair of 10-foot-tall (3.0 m) models of the trophy for promotional purposes. Races were held for the next ten years, ending in 1939. Further races in this series were precluded by the onset of war.

After World War II the original trophy was (according to stipulation) retired. Also, advances in airplane technology, especially the advent of the turbojet, complicated matters. It was decided to establish a new series, with "R" (piston engine) and "J" (jet-powered) divisions. The "R" class was for civilian competition; the "J" division was for military pilots and was administered by the United States Air Force. Roscoe Turner, the last winner of the pre-war trophy, refused to relinquish it, but the original molds were located, and two additional casts were made, differing only in the legend engraved at the base and by placards identifying the division. Division "R" races were held from 1946 to 1949; Division "J" races (also known as "Military Speed Dashes") were held from 1951 to 1961, except 1952 and 1960.


Year Location Pilot Plane Speed
1929 Cleveland Doug Davis Travel Air Type R Mystery Ship
194.5 313
1930 Chicago Charles W. Holman Laird LC-DW300 Solution
201.91 325
1931 Cleveland Lowell Bayles Gee Bee Model Z

236.239 380 $7,500.00
1932 Cleveland Jimmy Doolittle Gee Bee R-1

252.686 407 $4,500.00
1933 Los Angeles James R. Wedell Wedell-Williams 44

237.952 383 $3,375.00
1934 Cleveland Roscoe Turner Wedell-Williams 44

248.129 399 $4,500.00
1935 Cleveland Harold Neumann Howard DGA-6 "Mr. Mulligan" "

220.194 354 $ 6,750.00
1936 Los Angeles Michel Detroyat Caudron C.460

264.261 425 $ 9,500.00
1937 Cleveland R. A. "Rudy" Kling Folkerts SK-3
256.910 413 $9,000.00
1938 Cleveland Roscoe Turner Laird-Turner Meteor LTR-14
283.419 456 $22,000.00
1939 Cleveland Roscoe Turner Laird-Turner Meteor LTR-14
282.536 455 $16,000.00
1940 No races during this period due to World War II
1946 Cleveland Alvin "Tex" Johnston Bell P-39Q

(type example)
373 600 ?
1947 Cleveland Cook Cleland Goodyear F2G Corsair
396 637 ?
1948 Cleveland Anson Johnson North American P-51D

(type example)
396 637 ?
1949 Cleveland Cook Cleland Goodyear F2G Corsair
397 639 ?
1951 Detroit Colonel Ascani North American F-86E Sabre

(type example)
635 1,022 ?
1953 Dayton Brig. General Holtoner North American F-86D Sabre

(type example)
690 1,110 ?
1954 Dayton Captain Sonnenberg North American F-86H Sabre

(type example)
692 1,114 ?
1955 Edwards Air Force Base Colonel Hanes North American F-100C Super Sabre

(type example)
822 1,323 ?
1956 NAS China Lake Commander Windsor Vought F8U-1 Crusader
1,015 1,633 ?
1957 Edwards Air Force Base Major Drew McDonnell F-101A Voodoo

(type example)
1,207 1,942 ?
1958 Edwards Air Force Base Captain Irwin Lockheed F-104A Starfighter

(type example)
1,404 2,260 ?
1959 Edwards Air Force Base Major Rogers Convair F-106A Delta Dart

(type example)
1,525 2,454 ?
1961 Edwards Air Force Base Major Harold E. Confer Convair B-58A Hustler

(type example)
1,302 2,095 ?


  1. ^ Campen, Richard N., Outdoor Sculpture of Ohio, Chagrin Falls, Ohio: West Summit Press, 1980 p. 63

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