Race planes of the 1930s' - The Hawks Miller HM-1

By Willie Bodenstein


In 1936, Frank Hawks approached "Pete" Miller, the Granville Brothers chief engineer responsible for their famous Gee Bee racers, to create a racing aircraft from his own design, the Hawks Miller HM-1. Miller formed the New England Aircraft Company, with himself as president and Hawks as vice president.

Hawks obtained sponsorship from the Gruen Watch Company and named the aircraft "Time Flies".

The Hawks Miller HM-1 design featured a streamlined shape, including the unusual feature of "burying" the cockpit with a curved windshield contoured to fit the fuselage top. This was extended for take-off and landing, but was retracted in flight with the pilot's seat lowered and the windshield flush with the fuselage.

After its first flight on 18 October 1936, Hawks flew "Time Flies", from Hartford, Connecticut to Miami, Florida on 13 April 1937, in 4 hours and 55 minutes. He then flew to Newark Airport, New Jersey, in 4 hours and 21 minutes but bounced on landing at Newark. After the third bounce, a wooden spar broke in the right wing while other spars were also damaged. Short of funds, Hawks decided not to rebuild the aircraft and sold the rights to the design, including engineering data to Tri-American Aviation, a concern that wanted to convert the design into a fast attack/observation aircraft.

Tri-American Aviation engaged Miller to rebuild the aircraft in 1938 as a two-seater with a greenhouse canopy added. The aircraft was renamed the Miller HM-2, but when the company was reorganized as the Miller Aircraft Co., it was called the MAC-1, the "Hawks Military Racer" and Military Aircraft HM-1.

The Thompson Cup Race, sponsored by Cleveland manufacturer Charles E. Thompson, was a closed-course event for unlimited planes and had its origins when it was added to the National Air Races in 1929. It was an immediate success. The Thompson Trophy provided the climactic final event of each year's National Air Races meeting and it was also the premier closed-course race in the world. Although the courses varied in length and shape, the races were generally flown over a course of about 10 miles long with 50-foot-high pylons marking the turns. With their high speeds and wing-tip-to-wing-tip flying, the closed-course races were loaded with breath taking action. Because the races were flown at low altitudes and around a closed course, the crowds in the grandstands could easily see much of the spectacle.

With the intention to demonstrate the aircraft's potential, pilot Leigh Wade entered the MAC-1 in the 1938 Thompson Trophy Race. In essentially military configuration with dummy machine guns fitted, Wade flew the aircraft to a fourth-place finish.

After the Thompson race, Earl Ortman flew the MAC-1/HM-1 at East Hartford, Connecticut to display its flight capabilities for foreign military interests and to seek out military contracts. While reaching speeds approaching 425 mph (684 km/h), a wing sheared off. Ortman was able to bail out safely, but the aircraft was destroyed and the project was abandoned.

Classic Aircraft

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