Story of the 1929-1949 National Air Races
produced by The National Air Races Project, Twins burg, Ohio, $28.95 plus postage and handling (www.nationalairraces.net)
In the days before television, the National Air Races drew huge crowds—just as big as the ones the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500 still draw today. Pylon racing and cross-country events routinely attracted as many as 100,000 fans. Whether it occurred to them or not at the time, those same spectators were also watching aeronautical design evolve right before their eyes.
This documentary on air racing’s golden age incorporates footage from con temporary newsreels as well as images from private photo and film collections. Its producers claim much of it has never before been seen by the public. It consists of more than 600 still photos and nearly an hour of vintage film footage, covering all the major races as well as several other airshows in a year-by-year compendium.
For any aviation history fan, watching this is extremely heady stuff. You don’t have to be a pilot to imagine the devastating G forces involved in high-speed tight turns around those pylons. On top of that, the archival film footage combined with vintage voice-overs by the likes of Walter Winchell invokes the frenzy of competition as well as the awareness that disaster could occur at any moment.
Originally published in the November 2008 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.