100 Years of Air Racing

The first air races were held in 1909 - there was in fact a complete season of air racing during this first year. It is often stated that the August 28th, 1909, Gordon Bennett Trophy was the first air race. Is it true?

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The Absolute World Speed Record

Before WW1 there were no regulated distances or altitudes for absolute world speed records, and records were often set on closed courses. Between 1920 and 1923 the regulated distance was 1 kilometre, at less than 100 meters above the ground. This course had to be covered four consecutive times, twice in each direction. 1923 – 1953 the regulated distance was extended to 3 kilometres, since the measured times got too short for accurate measurments with the equipment of the time - less than ten seconds. After 1953 a distance between 15 and 25 kilometres at any altitude was allowed as an alternative to the low-level 3 km runs. This course has to be covered twice in opposite directions. After 1955 all absolute world speed records have been set over a high-altitude 15/25 kilometre courses.

The Absolute Speed Records list below also contains FAI homologated records for longer distances, when those records were faster than the contemporary Absolute records. Absolute records are indicated by bold font, while "non-absolute" records are indicated by normal font. Seaplanes are indicated by an asterisk (*).

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The Racing & Record literature list contains around 260 books that deal with racing and record aircraft. The list does not only contain "pure" R&R books – the criterion for inclusion is that the books should contain at least one reasonably informative chapter about R&R planes. A list of this kind is of course never complete, so we need your help to fill it, especially with books about general record-breaking and long-distance flights and books in other languages than English. If you know of any books that you think should be added to the list, please contact us! The list contains a couple of "special titles" published by periodical publications, but no magazines as such. It also does not include any air race programs.

You can also download the complete PDF format master list (400 kB), including publishing data, some extra comments and ISBN numbers (where available).

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What is a "Racing or Record Aircraft"?

We have had some debate about it, but not found any strict definitions – it will have to be up to each member…

 Many of us are most interested in pure speed, such as in pylon racing and speed records, but there are also enthusiasts for long-distance racing and records among us. However, a plane hardly becomes a racing plane because someone sticks a racing number on it, or becomes a record aircraft because it can be found in the Guinness Book of Records or any of the FAI lists of town-to-town records. On the other hand, many fantastic planes never achieved any success at all, or perhaps even left the ground.

There has to be some drama about Racing & Record Aircraft, the drama of exploring some unknown parts of mechanic, aerodynamic or human envelopes…