Turner RT-14 "Meteor" - (scan - 1996)

Designed by Roscoe Turner and modified by Matty Laird, this aircraft won the Thompson Trophy races in 1938 and 1939 making Turner a 3-time winner of the event.

Engine: Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp Sr., 1000 hp (Smithsonian caption)

Turner conceived general formula 1936 for advanced aircraft for Bendix long-distance, and Thompson closed-course races. Was elongated Gee Bee racer with very short, thin wings powered by biggest engine available. Got Howard W. Barlow and Prof. John D. Akerman to design the aircraft based on these ideas. Design turned over to Lawrence W. Brown, of Los Angeles, well- known manufacturer of racing planes. In previous aircraft, Brown favored small, low-drag, lightweight airframe powered by 300 hp Menasco in-line engine; Turner's was brute force design and quite opposite to Brown's approach. Brown and Turner couldn't agree on changes to basic design. Turner next turned to E. M. "Matty" Laird, Chicago, also famous figure in construction of fast racing planes. Made cost-plus arrangement with Turner to complete design of new plane in time for 1937 air races. 2 weeks before Cleveland air races, completed at Brown factory and made ready for first flight. Flew very well and seemed to have needed speed. Fuel tank leaks and a fire resulting from a welding torch being used in tank repair kept it out of the Bendix race. Later, Turner seemed to have Thompson race well in hand when he went back to circle a pylon he thought he had (but had not) missed. Won third place. Obvious that new aircraft was fast but not superior to contemporary racers. Turner realized he would have to win races in same old way--fly to maximum capability of aircraft and himself. Began making small improvements in streamlining the plane, now called Ring Free Meteor, in honor of MacMillan Oil Company which had backed him for so long. Won next two Thompson Trophy races 1938/39, first and only 3-time winner. Retired short time later feeling that at age 43 had pressed his luck long enough. Went into business in Indianapolis where he was reasonably successful until his death, in 1970, at age 74. Had been a dashing figure in crimson helmet, royal blue blouse, faun trousers, highly polished boots, diamond wings, natty mustache, and gleaming smile. Flew with his lion cub, Gilmore, until--at age 6 months-- cub got too big and potentially dangerous. Turner supported the lion at a private zoo for next 19 years and had him mounted after his death. Plane known as LTR, Laird Turner Racer, RT-14, Laird-Turner Special, Turner Racer, Ring Free Meteor, Pesco Special, and Miss Champion.


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