Famous American Racers

By Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

Aviation Artist/Historian

1949 Thompson Trophy Winner, Cook Cleland

Print Size 12x18

Limited Edition $60.00 signed by Cook Cleland.

$6.00 Shipping anywhere in the world.

Open Edition $14.95 signed by the artist only.

"The Aviator!" Cook Cleland.

This is my painting of Cook's #94. The size is 2x4 feet, it has been autographed by Cook and is available for sale.

The 1949 Thompson Trophy Racer #94

Cook Cleland in his youth watched Jimmy Doolittle and Roscoe Turner fly in air races and set his dream to one-day fly such sleek powerful aircraft. In 1949 Cook Cleland entered the Thompson Trophy for the fourth time. Cleland was flying #94, with teammate Dick Becker flying #74, and Ben McKillan flying #57. Cleland qualifying at 407.21 MPH, and Becker 414.59 MPH. Cleland paid $2,818.00 for the above Corsair BUNO 14693, Civil Race #X5590N. In 1947, Dick Becker flew Cleland's racer #94 coming in second place behind Cleland, who won the 1947 Thompson Trophy in #74.

18 inches were cut off the wing tips of #94 in 1947. In 1948 Cleland and Becker had switched aircraft. Cook was now flying #94 and Dick Becker was flying #74. They were experimenting with a new Shell Oil formula fuel blended with Methyl Triptane. Cleland #94 qualified at 417.42 MPH, which was the 2nd fastest speed in air racing history. During that race Becker dropped out in the third lap. Cleland also dropped out of the race in the fifth lap. Both aircraft experienced early fuel detonation caused from the combination of the environmental conditions and the experimental fuel. Carburetion backfire blew off the intake air scoops. The chance to win the 1948 race was denied the racing duo.

Cook clipped 29 more inches off of each wing tip of #94 for the 1949 race. He capped off the ends of the wings with stabilizing end plates that helped control his turns. With 47 inches total cut off of each wing tip of the Corsair the glide ratio of the aircraft seemed to be reduced to a 9 to 1 ratio. Cleland remarked, "It was like flying a brick!"

Again the racing duo was ready on Labor Day weekend in 1949 with high hopes of another success. Cook was experimenting this year with a secret hydrogen peroxide formula.

Cook Cleland won the Thompson Trophy in 1949 for the second time at a speed of 397.071 MPH and beat his own world record for pylon racing from two years previous. That record went unchallenged for 20 years. Ben McMillan finished in third place. Ron Puckett in his own Goodyear F2G #18 finished in second place. Cleland won the Thompson Trophy in 1947 and 1949, a record matched by only one other aviator.

Corsair F2G's dominated the race winning first, second, and third in 1949. That was the only year that one aircraft type held and won the first three positions. Cleland said, "#94 was a go getting machine!"

The air races were known for pure excitement for the spectators yet unforgiving and dangerous for the participants. In 1947, 1948, and even in 1949 the race claimed the lives of air racing pilots. For this reason the racecourse was reduced in 1949 from the prior 300 miles to 225 miles.

Cook remembers those races as pure mental and physical stress as he pulled back on the aircraft control stick with his feet locked into the rudder peddles in high "G" sharp turns around the pylons. Cook was unable to look anywhere except straight forward towards the next pylon where he would again bank his Corsair sideways pulling the stick into his gut as he made his turn leveling out again giving him temporary relief before his next near death turn.

The Pratt & Whitney R-4360-4 engine powered the F2G. It had 28 cylinders in four rows of seven cylinders each. It was the largest radial engine ever built. During the race Cook found himself flying one of the fastest propeller driven aircraft flown.

For Cook Cleland's achievements in air racing he was also awarded the highest honor when he was inducted into the Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.

Photos of the Corsair Racer #94 in 1949.

You can see where Cook cut of the tips of the wings. They cut off 6 feet! This made the Corsair very unstable. It was virtually a flying torpedo.

The Pratt & Whitney R-4360-4 engine powered the F2G. It had 28 cylinders in four rows of seven cylinders each. It was the largest radial engine ever built. During the race Cook found himself flying one of the fastest propeller driven aircraft flown.

For Cook Cleland's achievements in air racing he was also awarded the highest honor when he was inducted into the Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.

 

Cook in 1948 after he blew up the carburetor and was not able to enter the race that year.

The Winner! Cook Cleland!

Here are diagrams of the final aircraft modifications.

I am so lucky to have met Cook and that we became friends.

The Thompson Trophy

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Please review the other seventy aviators that we have worked with and interviewed in the Print Directory.

Here you will find Bomber pilots, Navy and Marines Aces, Canadians, French, German, and Japanese pilots.

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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