Race planes of the thirties - the Laird-Turner Meteor LTR-14

By Willie Bodenstein


Commissioned by Matty Laird the Laird-Turner RT-14 Meteor was designed by Roscoe Turner and Professor Howard Barlow. A single example was built by the Lawrence Brown Aircraft Company and was the winning aircraft of the 1938 and 1939 Thompson Trophy races. The Meteor was the last of the Matty Laird race planes as well as the last race plane flown by Roscoe Turner.

The Thompson Cup Race, sponsored by Cleveland manufacturer Charles E. Thompson, was a closed-course event for unlimited planes, that 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 breathtaking 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.

In the 1937 National Air Races Turner was placed third after missing a pylon in the sun at 253.802 mph (408 km/h). A fire from a leaking fuel tank prevented him from racing in the Bendix Trophy race and required the fabric to be recovered before competing.

Turner returned to the 1938 National Air Races and won the Thompson Trophy Race at 283.416 mph (456 km/h). He subsequently finished in second place in the 1938 Oakland Air Race.

The original aircraft was put into storage at Weir Cook Airport for 29 years until it was restored, then donated to the Frederick G. Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum. In December 1972 the plane along with many of Roscoe Turner's trophies were transferred to the Smithsonian.[10] The aircraft retired with less than 30 hours flying time.

Classic Aircraft

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