Sunday, September 19, 2010

NR6239 - The World's Fastest Travel Air Biplane

Anyone who has ever flown in an open cockpit biplane would agree... you'll not soon forget the experience. And if you've ever flown over about 110 mph in one, you'd probably say its unforgettable. Things start to vibrate, whir, shimmy, and shake. It's probably the flying and landing wires that really get your attention. They really go from their typical "whining" sound to a literal "screaming" sound as they cut through the wind.

I have never flown that fast in a Travel Air biplane. I guess the closest thing was a ride I got one time in a Waco Taperwing with Gordon Borland. I was pretty young at the time. We did one high-speed pass down the runway. We must have been screaming close to 110 mph. That was a flight to remember. I was reflecting on that flight today and I began thinking of Travel Air biplanes. I wonder what the World's Fastest Travel Air biplane is. Granted, I really prefer flying low and slow. But there are those who love the thrill of flying fast.

Travel Air NR6239 - Can you imagine going 144 mph in this airplane?

One such individual I know of may just hold the record. On May 28, 1929 Sydnor Hall of Saint Louis posted a speed of 143 mph during the preliminaries and then 144 mph the next day during the Final heat of the Gardner Trophy Air Races. His airplane was a highly modified model D4000 Travel Air s/n 690, registered as NR6239.

Whats incredible to me is that the 143 mph speed is not just a one-time short burst of diving speed. But it is the average speed over a 790-mile distance run. I can only imagine how tiring it would have been and the beating endured by Hall for more than 5 and a half hours.

Sydnor Hall's entry in the Parks Air Field registry, May 28, 1929 (click image to enlarge)

Sydnor's success did not come without some major modifications. You can read more about this super fast Travel Air biplane in my articles on the Gardner Trophy Air Races.

Part 1 The Gardner Trophy Races, - The Preliminaries

Part 2 The Gardner Trophy Races, - The Final

Can you spot all of the changes in comparison to the photo at the top of this page?

1 comment:

  1. I know Sydnor Hall's son who is now in his 80's. His is a very active person still playing tennis every week and working and vacations with friend and has a wonderful heart. I have seen some of the photos but wonder it there are others that he (his son) may not have. I know he would love copies. Are there sites he can log on to for more photos.


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