Model Airplane News
March, 1957

Model Airplane News Cover for March, 1957 by Jo Kotula Curtiss RC3 Land-Sea Racer

Curtiss RC3 Land-Sea Racer
Model Airplane News Cover Art for March, 1957
by Jo Kotula
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The Curtiss R3C-2 Racer was the world’s fastest airplane in 1925 when it captured the imagination and enthusiasm of the public for aviation.

 The Curtiss RC3 Land/Sea Racer    The Curtiss RC3 Land/Sea Racer      The Curtiss RC3 Land/Sea Racer

Photos of the Curtiss RC3 Land-Sea Racer
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The R3C was actually two air racers in one. It could operate with wheels and a tail skid from an airfield (R3C-1) or a pair of floats, or pontoons, from the water (R3C-2) and it won races as both. Among its many innovative features were radiators for cooling the engine (see the ridges in the top and bottom wings) that were built into its wings and fuel tanks built into the floats.

  • As a seaplane, Army Air Service Lt. James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle piloted the Curtiss R3C-2 racer to win the 1925 Schneider Trophy, with an average speed of 232 miles per hour. The next day Doolittle flew the R3C-2 over a straight course at a world-record speed of 246 miles per hour. Later, Doolittle would lead the famous raid on Tokyo during the early days of World War II.
  • As a landplane, the R3C-1 won the Pulitzer Trophy race with average speed of 250 mph. It also established a record of 250 mph for landplanes over a 100 km course. Thus, on land or sea, the R3C racer was the fastest airplane in the world (in 1925)

The Smithsonian acquired the R3C-2 in 1927 where it was on display in the Arts and Industries Building for many years with the markings it carried in the 1925 Schneider competition. The racer then went on loan for several years to the Air Force Museum, where it was restored by Air Force personnel. After returning to the Smithsonian, the R3C-2 went on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

Here is a video of the Curtiss RC3 Land-Sea Racer in action:

Click Here for more information about the Curtiss RC3 Land-Sea Racer.

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