W. Starling Burgess : Massachusetts Aviation Pioneer
Object ID:
2015.11.63
VE Exhibit Label 1:
Gordon Bennett Racer
The Burgess Company and Curtis Gordon Bennett Racer was a single place monoplane racer built for The Cup Defenders Syndicate, Chicago, Illinois for its defense of the American title to the Gordon Bennet Cup Race. With the race scheduled for September 9, 1912 and a lack of potential contenders from the United States, Norman Prince asked his friend, W. Starling Burgess to consider submitting a design to Charles Dickenson, the Chairman of the Chicago group that was hosting the air race and encouraging American participation.

The discussion on Burgess design–build project for the Bennett Cup Racer was initiated in Early June 1912 and the order with Burgess placed in early July. The company agreed to design and build in six weeks' time a monoplane racer which would use the Syndicates engine which was ordered from France. The Gordon Bennett Racer was delivered on schedule on August 24, 1912 to Clearing, Illinois, the site of the Gordon Bennett World's Championship Aeroplane Race.

The Racer was powered by an $8,500 Gnome 14 cyl 160 hp engine. It had an 8'2.5" Integrale propeller, a span of 29'3", wing area 128 sq ft, wing loading 8.9 lbs, length 24'3", and chord 5'. Its weight empty was 755 lbs with a gross weight of 1,135 lbs. It had a fabric covering of #10 Goodyear. The price for the monoplane was $17,500. Its structural analysis stress had a safety factor of 5, tested at MIT.

The aircraft was not test flown by the Burgess Company. Flight testing was to take place at the airfield at Clearing, Illinois. From the time it arrived, there was both good comments and criticism on the Racer's design and appearance. Aviator after aviator declined to fly the Racer yet others who were interested were not asked. Some aviators suggested they would fly it if, in Glenn Martin's case, he wanted the wings reduced in size and the Wright type control system replaced.

The Burgess Company with the Syndicate's approval constructed the new wing panels and made other recommended changes but it still wasn't flown. In the end, the aviators from France dominated the Race and the Cup went back to France along with the Syndicate's 160 hp Gnome engine.

The Gordon–Bennett Racer was never flown and was subsequently stored in an open junk yard in Chicago and then moved to an inside storage location somewhere in that area. As reported in correspondence circa 1980. What remains in storage includes the single fuselage and multiple sets of wing panels, rudders, control surfaces and other hardware, wires and metal parts which the Burgess Company brought to the race site or shipped later as changes were requested in the original design.
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Aeronautics 1912Aeronautics 1912
Aircraft Yearbook 1919Aircraft Yearbook 1919
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