1931-1962 (1998-2011) – Bendix Trophy
The Bendix Trophy, sponsored by Vincent Bendix, whose company manufactured aircraft parts, began in 1931 as part of the National Air Races. The race was flown from Burbank, California to Cleveland, Ohio and was established to motivate engineers to build faster, more reliable and more durable aircraft. The Bendix Trophy led to the development of “Mister Mulligan,” a Howard DGA-6 built specifically to win the Bendix Trophy. It would become the only aircraft to fly the entire distance from Burbank to Cleveland without refueling, in turn changing the way long-distance aircraft were built. Notable Bendix competitors included James Doolittle (namesake of the Doolittle Raid), Amelia Earhart and Jacqueline Cochran. The last Bendix Trophy was awarded in 1962, but was brought back under the name “Honeywell Bendix Trophy for Aviation Safety” from 1998 to 2011.
1934 – MacRobertson Air Race
The MacRobertson Air Race was established by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and a prize of $75,000 was sponsored by Sir Macpherson Robertson, under the condition that the race be named after his company. The MacRobertson Air Race was one of many that were organized by the Royal Aero Club. The race was flown just once in October of 1934 from RAF Mildenhall in East Anglia to Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. The route totaled approximately 11,300 miles. Competitors were required to stop in Baghdad, Allahabad, Singapore, Darwin and Charleville (Queensland, Australia) along the way. Otherwise, each pilot’s route was left up to him or her. The outright winner was a DH.88 Comet from Britain, finishing the race in 71 hours, which was close to 20 hours faster than the second place finisher.
1947-1977 – All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race
The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of female pilots, focused their efforts on reviving women’s air races after World War II, thus forming the All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race (AWTAR). The two-to-three-thousand-mile race took place annually from 1947 to 1977, taking off from different locations each year, including Palm Springs, San Diego, Oakland, Bakersfield, Calgary and Atlantic City, and arriving in cities like Tampa, Miami, Detroit, Long Beach and Washington DC, among others.
1952-present – British Air Racing Championship
The Royal Aero Club is the national coordinating body for Air Sport in the United Kingdom, founded in 1901. The Royal Aero Club oversees a number of air racing leagues, one of which is the British Air Racing Championship. The British Air Racing Champion is crowned after a full season of “handicapped” air races, typically consisting of 16 races total. The pilot with the most points at season’s end is crowned the British Air Racing Champion and given the Jubilee Trophy. The first Jubilee Trophy was presented in 1952, and is still presented annually to this day.
1964-present – National Championship Air Races (Reno Air Races)
The Reno Air Races, also known as the National Championship Air Races, are multi-lap, multi-aircraft races that take place over several days in September. Each race takes place on oval-shaped courses between 3 and 8 miles long. High-performance aircraft that compete in Reno include biplanes, formula one aircraft, jets, homebuilt “sport class” racers and an “unlimited warbird racing class” consisting of modified WWII-era planes that often exceed speeds of 400 mph. The Reno Air Races include several days of qualifying, followed by five days of multi-aircraft heat racing. Crowds have thinned since a 2011 crash killed the plane’s pilot and 10 spectators while injuring 69 others, making it the third most devastating air race accident in history.
Check out this footage from 2015’s National Championship Air Races: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_MJzwMw8ms
1965-present – Hayward Air Rally
The Hayward Air Rally is an annual air race that takes off from Hayward, California. The destination has changed often over the years. In 2016, pilots took off for Reno, Nevada. In its 50+-year history, the Hayward Rally’s finish line has moved between Las Vegas, Laughlin, Palm Springs, Bend and Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The goal of the Hayward rally is to test pilots’ flight planning, navigation and pilotage skills. The scoring system undergoes changes almost every year. Today, participants are scored on a combination of A) identifying checkpoints B) matching predicted time and C) matching predicted fuel use. To make things a bit more interesting, pilots and their navigators may not use GPS, LORAN, DME, RNAV or a digital fuel flow meter during the rally. 2016’s winners were Tim Ronan and Michael Saboff.