Famous American Air Racers

By Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

1947 Thompson Trophy Winner

Cook Cleland

There are 600 limited edition prints in this series. Print Size, 12x18"

Limited Edition, Signed by Cook Cleland and Artist.  Price $60.00

$6.00 Shipping anywhere in the world.

Poster Print $14.95 Signed by the Artist only.

This is my painting of Cook's number 47. The size is 2x4 feet and has been autographed by Cook. This painting is available for the discriminating buyer.

Thompson Trophy Winner 1947

When Cook was a young man he was totally infatuated with the famous air racers of his day. Jimmy Doolittle and Roscoe Turner were bigger that life itself. These famous air racers caused many of our famous aviators, aces and bomber pilots to pursue flying. Gabby Gabreski was the top Ace in Europe and he told me as a child he watched Doolittle famous race. Gabby knew in his heart that day he would some day fly like his hero. Cook Cleland was enthralled with the famous racers and as soon as he was old enough he entered flight training and became a fearless dive-bomber pilot in the Pacific War.

After the war Cook turned to racing airplanes. He was able to obtain three F2G Corsairs and put all of his time and money into his dream. His dreams came true when he won the 1947 Thompson Trophy and then again won the Trophy in 1949. His goal was to win the Trophy three times like Roscoe Turner but in 1948 when using an experimental fuel he blew the carburetors of both his competing aircraft putting him out of the race.

The 1947 Thompson Trophy Race

Goodyear manufactured the F2G Corsair. This fighter was designed for fast intercept in combat of the Japanese Kamikaze in the Pacific. The war ended with Goodyear producing only ten-production types of the massive F2G "Super Corsairs" and nine of the prototype XF2G. Both Corsairs were powered by a new Pratt & Whitney R-4360-4 Wasp Major engine.

World War II Navy dive-bomber pilot and ace Cook Cleland was one of the most eager aviators of his era. Cook found a new calling after the war with an interest in air racing which was his first love. After the war surplus Army aircraft from WWII began dominating the National Air Races. Mustangs, Lightings and Thunderbolts.

Cleland known for his enthusiasm wanted to compete and win the Thompson Trophy flying a Navy aircraft. Legend has it that Cook appealed to Admiral "Bull" Halsey that the Navy needed to be better represented in the air races. Halsey asked Cleland what it would take to guarantee a Navy aircraft would win the race. Cleland replied, "An F2G, sir!" Cleland convinced Halsey that the Navy should sell him one of the surplus F2G's.

Within days Cleland paid the Navy $1,250.00 for his F2G Corsair and picked up his future race plane at NAS Jacksonville, Florida on February 24, 1947, at 3:15 P.M. This aircraft cost the Navy $1,000,000.00 just six months earlier. Pretty good deal I would say.

Cleland scraped together the money and manpower needed to convert the "Super Corsair" from a bulky fighter to a streamlined racer. By qualifying day in 1947, Cook had lightened the F2G by 1,000 pounds, shortened the wing span, installed the humped back air scoop, and painted the Corsair dark blue with a checkerboard cowling. With new modifications to the engine 4,000 plus horsepower was available in spurts of up to 30 minutes! Cook proudly arrived at his first race to fulfill his dream with his F2G-2 BUNO 88463, Civil Race #NX5577N, Racer #74.

Cook astounded everyone with the fastest qualifying time of 401.79 MPH in #74! In this race Cook had two friends Dick Becker flying F2G #94 and Tony Janazzo flying F2G #84. Cleland owned all three of the Corsairs however all three men worked day and night getting them ready for the race.

Of the thirteen air racers that started the race in 1947 only six of the aircraft finished the race. Tony Janazzo led very early in the race but fell back as Cleland and Becker passed him.

Cook Cleland came in first place setting a new closed course world record of 396.13 MPH with Becker placing second. Cleland won $19,500.00 for first place, and Becker won $8,100.00 for second place. Cleland later stated, "Beck and I had good chemistry."

Cook and Becker rejoiced with their winning however the moment became bitter when they learned that their friend and teammate Tony Janazzo had crashed and died. During the race extreme heat burned through the firewall and Tony became overwhelmed by carbon monoxide.

In 1949 at the Thompson Races, Becker was flying Cleland's #74 and again set a new race qualifying time of 414.59 MPH! Ironically #74 stripped the propeller reduction gear after the qualifying run and was unable to fly in the race. However Cleland won his second Thompson Trophy flying his modified #94.

I love this photo, Cook wore a tie during the race!

The 1947 Thompson Trophy Race

What a great photos!

Here is Cook accepting the Thompson Trophy.

All of the photographs on this pages were personally given to me by Cook Cleland or his grandson for my use here and in future publications.

Cook in his office.

The Thompson Trophy

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All research, writings and artwork are by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette.

No one is permitted to republish any part of this story with out my personal permission.

Please call or e-mail me for any use of this story.

I do not mind sharing, just call or e-mail and ask for permission.

Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

Aviation Artist/Historian

107 Arthur Moore Drive

Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043

E-Mail Address; aviationartstore@peoplepc.com