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Developed to compete in the National Air Races (also known as Pulitzer Trophy Races) the CR-4, based on the CR-3, was designed by Harry Crosby while recovering with a broken back and fractured skull from the 1936 crash of his CR-3.
The National Air Races are a series of pylon and cross-country races that have taken place in the United States since 1920. The science of aviation and the speed and reliability of aircraft and engines grew rapidly during this period; the National Air Races were both a proving ground and showcase for this.
Starting in 1929, the races that ran for up to 10 days, usually from late August to early September and ran until 1939 but then went on a hiatus because of WWII. The races included a variety of events, including cross-country races. The more popular events were the Thompson Trophy Races which started in 1929 and consisted of a closed-course race where aviators raced their planes around pylons and the Bendix Trophy Race across most of the USA starting in 1931.
Like the CR-3, the CR-4 was an all-metal low wing aircraft with conventional landing gear. The triangular wings featured a straight leading edge with a long chord tapering to a point at the wingtips. The canopy was set well back in the long-tapered fuselage. The landing gear used compressed air rather than mechanical or hydraulic mechanism. Power was from a 260 hp (190 kW) Menasco C6S-4 Inline engine driving a 2-bladed, 6 ft (1.8 m) diameter propeller enabling the CR-4 to reach a maximum speed of 335 Kts (386 mph, 621 km/h).
The CR-4's racing career with Crosby in the pilot seat was plagued by engine and other problems, finishing in only two of the four races that she was entered in.
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In 1938, she retired on the 14th lap due to an engine malfunction while competing in the Crewe Races. Repaired just in time to enter the Thompson Trophy races, she again retired this time because off a fuel leak. In 1939 things improved somewhat. Crosby landed after 14 laps to finish in third place, However, when a landing gear failed to retract. Engine problems in the Thompson Trophy forced him into fourth place.
The CR-4 is on display in the EAA Airventure museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
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