Saturday, December 19, 2009

World Speed Records to 1937

I recently came across this Flight magazine table of world speed records [here] and thought it interesting as it contained both the land and air speed records on the same chart, and with the air speed record divided into seaplanes and landplanes.

As is well known, the Schneider Trophy (properly the Coupe d'Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider) accelerated the development of pure speed marine aircraft - although in directions Schneider didn't anticipate or intend, perhaps. Secondly there has always been a close relationship between the land speed record and aviation, with aero engines being a staple for those wishing to go faster on the ground - not to mention the careful application of aerodynamics for those that don't want to take short, fatal flights while going for the land speed record.

(Note also the short line for maritime speed, a fascinating story in itself.)

However what I found most interesting is where those record 'lines' crossed; with the air speed record lagging behind the land speed one until towards the end of the Great War - cars faster than 'planes. And then the way that seaplanes lagged behind landplanes until the mid twenties, after which the marine aircraft raced ahead in speed - another flip to modern perceptions of the relative potential performances of the types.

Surprises at both ends of the period.

PS: More 'who-what-when-where' here.

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