The 1933 Cessna CR-3 Racer and Trophy Winner
By 1933, the 750-pound Cessna CR-3, only 17 feet long and with a wingspan of 18 feet, was hitting 255 mph on the power of its 145-hp Warner radial engine. In the two months it lasted, it never lost a race. Then owner-pilot Johnny Livingston bailed out when the retractable gear failed to extend.
This is a very easy model to build. The cowling modeling style is new as far as we know. Make a prop disk out of some clear plastic.
Look at the colors, and the funky shape of the fuselage...And no dihedral? If they were looking for a 1930s racer to make a toy of , this would be it!
Keep in mind that the engine it was using to break all these records was about the size of a mid sized motorcycle. And that the folks over at Grumman probably rubbed their hands with glee as they copied the retractable landing gear for use on their soon to come WWII Wildcat.
That's one weird plane Chip. It's interesting, I'm looking forward to building it. The artwork is well crafted ... but it's an odd bird. Which probably means it'll become one of my favorites. Regards, Dan Shippey
The Cessna CR-3 Racing Plane
Aviation owes much to a farm boy whose name became synonymous with monoplanes and played a major role in making Wichita the "Air Capital of the World."
Clear Cabin Cessna CR-3 Racer, submitted by Bob Martin. Thanks Bob!
Clyde Vernon Cessna had been a successful Overland automobile dealer in Enid, Oklahoma for several years until 1911 when he was struck with flying fever. Fascinated by the frail but efficient Bleriot XI monoplane that traversed the English Channel in 1909, Cessna eventually left Oklahoma for New York City, where he worked briefly for the Queen Aeroplane Company and learned about airplanes and how they were constructed.
Cessna dubbed his first airplane the "Silverwing." It was an American-built copy of the Bleriot XI, and would eventually teach Cessna the art of aviating. Powered by a two-stroke, four-cylinder Elbridge "Aero Special" engine that developed 40 hp. at 1,050 RPM, the Elbridge was a marine powerplant that had been converted for aviation use. In Throughout 1911 Cessna made many flights in the airplane on the Great Salt Plains near Jet, Oklahoma in an effort to teach himself how to fly. He and Silverwing suffered numerous accidents, but in December 1911 Clyde made a highly successful, five-mile flight near Enid that included turns and ended with a safe landing at the departure point.
Flushed with success, Cessna severed his ties with the automobile business and devoted his time, energy, and money to exhibition flying. It was a lucrative endeavor for any pilot who could keep his airplane aloft for only a few minutes at holiday events and county fairs. During 1912-1915 he built several monoplanes, all of them powered by six-cylinder Anzani radial engines that developed 40-60 hp. Although successful, the Cessna Exhibition Company only whetted Clyde's appetite to become more involved in the fledgling aviation business. Flying was fun and profitable, but what he really wanted to do was manufacture and sell airplanes of his own design to the public.
In 1916 he set up shop in a vacant building in Wichita, Kansas and built a new airplane for the 1917 exhibition season. Cessna also established a flight school at the "factory" and enrolled five young men as students. When the United States declared war on the Central Powers in April 1917, Cessna's exhibition flying ground to halt. Instead, he returned to farming at his home near Rago, Kansas and harvested wheat to help feed the "doughboys" fighting in France.
Clyde's interest in aeronautics never faded during the war, and he dreamed of returning to Wichita and resuming the manufacture of airplanes. Cessna continued flying, however, and bought a new Laird"Swallow" biplane that he flew during the early 1920s. He used the OX-5-powered Swallow to give his favorite nephew, Dwane Wallace, an introduction to the world of aviation.
Late in 1924, Cessna was visited by Lloyd Stearman and Walter Beech, who had been key employees of the Swallow Company under leadership of the cantankerous Jacob M. "Jake" Moellendick. The two young men, in concert with a few other people, had split from Swallow and planned to form a new business to be known as the Travel Air Manufacturing Company. Stearman urged Cessna to join them, chiefly because Lloyd knew he and Beech needed Cessna's expertise in aviation as well as his money and equipment. It was a hard sell, but Cessna agreed.
In return for his participation and investment, Clyde was named president. The infant company began life in a cramped, 30x30-ft. space in the rear of a planing mill in downtown Wichita. Travel Air's first product was an attractive, two-bay biplane designed by Stearman and was dubbed the "Model A." It made its first flight in March 1925. At a price of more than $3,000, the OX-5-powered Model A was expensive compared with the plethora of war-surplus Curtiss JN-4 and Standard J-1 biplanes that still were available, but it outperformed them both and gradually sales increased to 19 airplanes the first year.
The company introduced the improved Model B biplane in 1926 that featured the new, 200-hp. Wright J4 air-cooled radial engine. That year Cessna convinced Walter Beech that the company should offer a monoplane with an enclosed cabin for use by small airlines. Beech agreed, and the Travel Air Type 5000 was based largely on a monoplane designed and custom-built by Cessna earlier in 1926. A slightly larger and more powerful version of the prototype airplane was ordered by National Air Transport, and 8 eventually were delivered to the airline.
Despite the success of the Type 5000, Cessna was restless. In January 1927 he sold his stock and resigned from Travel Air to build a full cantilever monoplane he named the "Phantom." It was a graceful, three-place machine powered by a 90-hp. Anzani radial engine and flew well. In 1927 Cessna and Victor Roos joined forces to found the Cessna Aircraft Company on the west side of Wichita. With help from his talented son Eldon and other company engineers, in 1927-1929 Clyde marketed a succession of 4- and 6-place monoplanes designated Model AA, Model BW, and the popular Model AW series.
With the advent of Wall Street's collapse in the autumn of 1929, Cessna and other manufacturers soon found themselves without customers for their products. To spur sales, Cessna slashed prices but to no avail. Faced with the prospect of bankruptcy, in 1931 the board of directors of the Cessna Aircraft Co. voted to oust Cessna and close the factory doors. It seemed as though Clyde's involvement in aviation was over, but he never gave up.
Undaunted, Cessna and Eldon rented vacant facilities in the abandoned Travel Air complex on East Central Ave. and created the C.V. Cessna Aircraft Co. that specialized in building diminutive, custom racing airplanes. The most successful of these was the CR-3 owned and flown by the great air-racing pilot Johnny Livingston. In the wake of losing his company to the stockholders in 1931, Cessna was dealt another blow in 1933 when his close friend Roy Liggett died in the crash of the CR-2 racer built by Clyde and Eldon. Cessna's grief ran deep. He withdrew from aviation and retreated to his farm near Rago.
In 1934 his nephew Dwane Wallace, armed with a degree in aeronautical engineering and with help from his brother Dwight Wallace, wrested control of the defunct Cessna Aircraft Company from the stockholders and introduced the classic Cessna C-34 monoplane. Clyde agreed to participate in the new venture only in a ceremonial capacity, and was not involved directly in the day-to-day operations of the company. The C-34 was a success and was named the world's most efficient airplane. Dwane Wallace went on to guide the company through the turbulent 1930s, oversaw development of the twin-engine T-50 that became the famed Cessna "Bobcat" of World War Two fame, and introduced the Model 190/195, Model 120/140 into the post-war market. Later, these airplanes were followed by the ubiquitous Model 150 and 172 Skyhawk as well as the sleek Model 310 made famous by the Sky King television series.
After more than 40 years in the aviation business and incalculable contributions to aeronautics, Clyde Cessna died in November 1954 age 74. He never held a pilot's license and had received only a rudimentary education, but his genius with airplanes coupled with an unshakable determination to succeed has made his name and legacy an icon in the history of flying.
After noting the impressive performance of Roy Liggett's little Cessna CR-2 at the 1932 National Air Races. Johnny Livingston decided he would have to try to get one of those for himself. He contacted builders Clyde and Eldon Cessna at Wichita, and within a month plans were being made for the construction of the Cessna CR-3 racer.
The new ship was to be a modified version of the CR-2 built to Livingston's specifications. The wing was raised to the shoulder position (the CR-2 was a mid wing design), the engine cowl was tighter with rocker box cover bumps, and the wheels were slightly larger due to the 20 x 4 tires. The cockpit canopy was a large transparent greenhouse which allowed room for Livingston to raise the seat four inches for landing visibility. Since the airplane was very sensitive, the designers were not sure of what might happen if the pilot's head was raised into the slipstream, however, later at Chicago a smaller canopy was fitted with no change in flying characteristics. Both versions closed over the pilot's head by means of snaps. The modified canopy, however, could also be left semi-opened in flight.
The CR-3's landing gear was retracted by releasing down-locks connected to cables and then to a lever in the cockpit. After these down-locks were released, the gear was wound up by a large lever type crank. When the gear was cranked down the down-locks snapped into place. The tail-skid retracted by means of another lever located at the pilot's left. The landing gear was very soft acting. It was equipped with an internal spring positioned between the upper ends of the members in a horizontal position.
A special prop was ordered from Hamilton Standard for the new racer and arrived just in time for the test flights that took place during June of 1933. This prop proved to be very efficient and was used throughout most of the CR-3's racing career. On two occasions the prop from Livingston's famous No. 14 Short-Wing Coupe was used. This prop gave the racer some additional performance but had only four inches ground clearance, and necessitated that landings and take-offs be made from almost the three point attitude-so the use of this prop was kept to a minimum.
The Cessna CR-3 was 17 ft. long, with a wingspan of 18 1/2 ft., and was 4 1/2 ft. high. Fitted with a 145 hp Warner engine it weighed 750 lbs. It was painted bright red and yellow, with red license numbers, and later carried the black number 27 on its flanks Livingston's certificate number was 1427 which accounts for the racing number 14 on his Monocoupe and the 27 on the Cessna. The Cessna cost $2,700 minus the engine and prop which brought it up to about $5,000.
The oil tank was left out until the last minute, then the plane was propped up in flight attitude with Livingston in the cockpit, and the tank was used as balance to give zero degrees longitudinal stability. The knife edged horizontal stabilizer therefore carried no up or down forces in level flight.
The metal fairing's that constituted the wing root filleting were left off during the first test hop. Immediately after take-off the horizontal stabilizer started to vibrate to such a degree that Livingston said it looked like it was four or five inches thick. Hoping it would stay together he returned to the field and made a safe landing. The fairing's were installed and no further vibration was experienced.
During these early flights Livingston found the plane to be so sensitive longitudinally that it was almost un flyable. First he would find himself bumping against the top of the canopy, and the next moment he would be forced down against the seat. During the second flight he attempted a fast roll but found he could not get the plane to rotate beyond the vertical position. Upon landing, a conference was held and it was decided that the special, tight fitting, engine baffle plates had set up a venturi effect that was responsible for this unusual behavior. The cowling and baffles were removed and another flight confirmed this theory. The sensitive elevator control problem was solved by placing a piece of slit copper tubing over the leading edge of the stabilizer distributing the airflow enough to decrease the sensitivity.
Although Livingston was never able to determine the plane's maximum performance he did attain a level flight speed of 255 mph. Stalling speed was 65 mph.
Late in August of 1933 Livingston left Detroit for a flight to Columbus, Ohio, where he was to subsequently appear in an air show. En route, he noticed that his tail skid would not retract. When he arrived over Columbus he further determined that a weld was broken on one of the main landing gear members and it would not lock down for landing.
After circling over Columbus for about 30 minutes he determined that it would be necessary to bail out. He dropped a note to that effect and flew out over some open fields where he attempted to ditch the plane. The Cessna spun twice as he tried to get clear of it, and he had to climb back in both times. Finally, on the third attempt, he dove free and the tiny ship plummeted to earth where it was completely demolished. However, during its short career and with Livingston's superb flying skill, the racer had swept the events it participated in during the American Air races in Chicago and had written its own particular page in American air racing history.
Capt Truman Weaver USAF
The little monoplane shuddered as its Warner Scarab radial engine coughed to life and settled into a steady, staccato rumble. The whole aircraft quivered as it sat nervously on the grass, surrounded by a small group of spectators who were anxiously awaiting its first flight. The pilot, nestled in the open cockpit, donned his leather helmet and flying goggles, nodding repeatedly as a lanky man stood behind the wing shouting last-minute instructions. After gesturing with his hands as if to drive home an important point, the man turned and walked briskly away from the silver machine. People covered their ears as the pilot thrust the throttle forward, all seven cylinders of the mighty little Warner roaring in anticipation as the airplane trumdled across the prairie for takeoff. The short taxi to the end of the field was a bone jarring experience, the pilot leaning his head first left, then right to check for obstructions ahead.
Swinging the ship into the Kansas wind, the aviator paused momentarily to check the plane's vital signs, then cast a nervous glance across the field at the crowd. Every eye was fixed upon him. Satisfied, he eased the throttle forward to the stop. The machine surged ahead, accelerating like a bullet as it pushed the pilot back against his seat. The Scarab howled in protest. A little forward movement of the stick lifted the tail up almost instantly. The pilot struggled to master his mount; full right rudder barely kept the monoplane's course straight. Using all his skill to maintain control, he eased the stick back, and the airspeed quickly passed the 80-mph mark. But the wheels stayed on terra firma, and fear began to tie knots in the pilot's stomach. At 100 mph, with the stick aft, the nose still refused to rise-the short, semi-elliptical wings strained to produce lift. The pilot's heart was pounding, his mind racing. What was wrong He watched in horror as the fenced perimeter of the field loomed ahead. In desperation he pulled back hard on the stick. Nothing happened. He was going to crash! Then, suddenly and without warning, the craft struck a small berm and was tossed into the air against its will. It staggered forward as if about to fall, but remained airborne.
The rebellious monoplane had even more surprises in store for its hapless pilot. As if the takeoff had not been exciting enough, he immediately discovered that longitudinal stability was marginal at best. The slightest movement of the stick provoked a nasty reaction that was no less offensive when opposite pitch input was applied. Fighting pilot-induced oscillations and realizing that the beast beneath him was virtually uncontrollable, the flier decided to land. Sweating profusely despite the icy January air that swirled through the cockpit, he carefully entered a slow turn back to the runway. But that maneuver only aggravated the pitching, and loss of control seemed imminent.
The pilot fought
back his fears and managed to gradually nurse the disobedient
machine around the field and onto final approach to the runway.
Maintaining airspeed was crucial. Now more anxious than ever to
get back on the ground, the pilot planned his approach carefully.
He had to get the machine down safely or thousands of dollars
and months of hard work could go up in smoke. With the airspeed
nailed at 130 mph to maintain elevator effectiveness, the pilot
grudged his steed ever closer to the waiting grass airfield. Then,
running out of patience and runway, he cut the throttle and switched
off the magnetos, and the landing gear hit the ground with a hard
The tiny airplane bounced precariously down the runway and finally rolled to a stop, the Scarab silent except for the crisp crackle of cooling cylinders. The crowd ran across the field and quickly surrounded the aircraft. Shaken and trembling, the aviator was helped from the cockpit, happy to have survived his baptism of fire in the air. So ended the maiden flight of the Cessna CR-1 (Cessna Racer, No. 1) with Eldon Cessna at the controls, on January 18, 1932.
Clyde Cessna once said, "Speed is the only reason for flying" By the end of 1931, his never-ending quest for speed had become the foundation of the infant C.V. Cessna Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kan. The company's only reason for existence was to design, build and race a new breed of diminutive, high-performance monoplanes, of which the CR-1 was the first example. Although the CR-1 had flown successfully, it was obvious to Cessna and his son Eldon after its trial flight that it was unsafe to fly and needed modifications. It was designed specifically as a competitive racer in closed-course events, with wings that spanned a mere 16 feet and a fuselage measuring barely 12 feet long. Its gross weight was less than 1,000 pounds. But the most significant feature of the capricious CR-1 was its retractable landing gear. Operated manually with a crank, the gear retracted flush with the fuselage. The elder Cessna believed the gear's configuration "was the only way to arrange it" because the wings, the strongest part of the craft, "should not have holes in them" to stow the gear. In fact, the wings' shallow depth and thin profile were unsuitable to accommodate the gear.
The reliable Wamer Scarab static, air-cooled radial engine, rated at 110 hp and surrounded by a full NACA pressure cowl, was an ideal powerplant for the CR-1, chiefly because of its small frontal area, low weight and cost compared with larger engines such as the 240-hp Wright J6-7 or the 300-hp J6-9. In addition, Cessna had already gained valuable experience with the Warner, which powered production versions of the popular Cessna Model AW. About 50 Model AWs were built between 1927 and 1930.
Although Clyde and Eldon Cessna were responsible for the overall design of the CR-1, much detail design and engineering work was completed by Garland Powell Peed, Jr., a local aeronautical engineer hired by the Cessna's to help transform their brainchild into reality. He had worked for Alexander Eaglerock in 1930 and participated in development of the Eaglerock Bullet, a low-wing monoplane equipped with retractable landing gear. Peed was also a talented pilot.
When he unveiled the speedster to the Wichita press early in January 1932, Clyde claimed it could attain 220 mph and said the airframe was being further modified to reduce drag Cessna had intended to enter Eldon and the CR-1 in the Miami All-American Air Races scheduled for January 5, 1932, but bad weather and delays in completing the racer thwarted those plans. During the months following its initial flight, Clyde and Eldon reworked the CR-1 into the CR-2. Its wingspan was increased to 18 feet to reduce wing loading, and the fuselage was lengthened to 14 feet 10 inches to improve longitudinal stability. In addition, the overall area of both the horizontal and vertical stabilizers was increased. A useful load of 325 pounds accommodated a pilot weighing up to 200 pounds and a maximum fuel capacity of 21 gallons.
On May 18 the modified racer was ready for its second flight. Instead of Eldon, however, the pilot was Clyde Cessna's longtime friend, Roy Liggett, who had flown a Model AW in closed-course competitions, winning a number of local and regional events.
The flight, witnessed by the same group of invited guests who had watched Eldon's ordeal nearly four months earlier, was uneventful. The ship handled well, and afterward Liggett estimated that the CR-2 should be able to hit the magic 200-mph mark. When asked how fast he had been flying, Liggett told Cessna, "Well, I'd say I was going fast, pretty fast." The airplane had reached speeds between 125 and 150 mph-far below the 200 mph Cessna had hoped for-but Liggett had not used full throttle. On subsequent flights made at maximum power, the craft easily exceeded 190 mph, with the Warner screaming at nearly 3,000 rpm in racing trim.
After additional changes to reduce drag, the CR2 broke the 200-mph barrier and was deemed ready for competition. Resplendent in a new coat of bright red paint and christened Miss Wanda in honor of Clyde's daughter, the nimble monoplane was flown to the Omaha air races on May 26. Accompanying Liggett, in Miss Wanda, were Eldon Cessna, in his highly modified Model AW, and pilot George Harte, in his 300-hp Cessna DC-6Awith Walter Beech riding shotgun in the right seat. Beech had been a member of Cessna Aircraft Company's board of directors and was a fixture at many air races in the early 1930s. The Omaha races featured many famous pilots, including Ben O. "Benny" Howard, Harold Neumann, Art Chester and John H. "Johnny" Livingston in his special Monocoupe with clipped wings. Clyde Cessna knew that Livingston was the man to beat. He had earned a well-deserved reputation as a tough, highly competitive pilot who had worked wonders with the Monocoupe and made it one of the fastest racers on the national air race circuit.
To make the CR-2's public debut a memorable one, Liggett flashed across the field at maximum speed, the Warner straining at the top of its voice as the steel propeller ripped the air asunder. After landing, Liggett and his craft were quickly surrounded by crowds intent on getting a closer look at Cessna's latest creation. In its first competitive event, the CR-2 managed only a disappointing 166.08 mph and fourth place behind Livingston's Monocoupe, which flew the course at 170.44 mph. The next day Liggett again found himself behind Livingston at the finish line, this time taking fifth place. Still, Miss Wanda had asserted herself well against more powerful aircraft such as Russell Boardman's Gee Bee Model Y, which won the event. The CR-2's final effort at Omaha proved no better. Liggett finished fifth behind Earl Ortman in the speedy Keith-Rider R-2 San Francisco, at a speed of 172.21 mph. Despite a significant horsepower disadvantage, however, the CR-2 had raced wingtip to wingtip with some serious competition and took home some hard-earned cash
To become truly competitive, however, the airplane needed more power. After the Cessna racing team returned to Wichita, Clyde Cessna contacted the Warner engine company in Detroit about obtaining a 145-hp Warner Super Scarab powerplant to replace the 110-hp engine. He believed that with 145 hp Miss Wanda could close the performance gap between herself and the competition and place in the top three finishing spots. With more regional races on the agenda and cash in short supply, Cessna temporarily deferred ordering the Super Scarab.
But the little red racer was not idle. That summer Liggett took the airplane to the East Coast and entered it in a series of competitions, including the Niagara, N.Y., races, where it again flew in the wake of Johnny Livingston's Monocoupe. By August, Liggett and his eager mount had yet to win a maJor race or achieve victory over Livingston, Benny Howard or S.J. "Steve" Wittman, another flier who was making a name for himself in American air racing. For the CR-2's next outing, Cessna had his eye on the upcoming NatioHa1 Air Races (NAR) set for August 27-September 5 in Cleveland, Ohio.
During a time when the nation was suffering from severe economic depression, many Americans found solace in the annual NAR, which served for many as a welcome diversion from their daily struggle to survive. In those days, daredevil pilots such as Jimmy Doolittle, Roscoe Turner, Jimmy Wedell and others were heroes to youngsters and adults alike. They were larger-than-life figures who had captured the respect and admiration of the people, and each September when they gathered in Cleveland in an exciting clash of aerial titans, the public loved it. As for the pilots, they were attracted by the opportunity to make thousands of dollars in a few days by winning races. It was a lucrative sport for those who had the skill and the right airplane to win.
In preparation for the NAR, Clyde Cessna had hoped to install the 145-hp Warner in Miss Wanda, but it turned out that she would have to face her adversaries with the 110-hp engine. Cessna planned to enter the ship in events open to airplanes with engines up to 800-cubic-inch displacement, and the team spent many hours at the shop in Wichita preparing the scarlet monoplane to do battle around the pylons. Every inch of the airplane was carefully manicured for speed. On August 27 Liggett took off for Cleveland .Clyde and Eldon also attended the races, the latter had won second place and $500 in the Western Division of the Cord Cup Race. The Cessna racing team was off to a good start at the 1932 NAR.
But problems soon arose with the CR-2's landing gear that cost Cessna first place in the Cincinnati Trophy Race. It was a cross-country event flown between Cleveland and Cincinnati with a landing at Cincinnati before the return leg of the race. Liggett again found himself up against his arch rival Johnny Livingston, and during the initial leg Miss Wanda showed her tail to the Monocoupe for the first time. Before landing at Cincinnati, however, Liggett failed to fully insert the down lock pins into the landing gear, and the tubing was twisted when the airplane touched down. As a result, the gear could not be retracted for the final leg of the race, and Liggett was forced to fly the distance with the gear extended. It cost him the race. He quickly fell from first to third place, flying the route in 2 hours, 32 minutes, 39 seconds and collecting $300. Much to Liggett's disgust, Livingston won, taking home $900, and S.J. Wittman took second, pocketing $500.
Clyde Cessna was upset with Liggett for making such a serious mistake at a crucial time, but he also was thankful that the gear had not collapsed, putting the racer out of contention for the remainder of the NAR. Repairs were hastily made and the gear system checked out. Time was running out for the Cessna team Anxious to make Miss Wanda pay her way, Cessna next entered the airplane in the Free-For-AIl race for 510-cubic-inch, engines. Liggett was determined to redeem himself, and he flew the ship hard around the pylons. His efforts were rewarded with a second-place finish behind Benny Howard in his Menasco-powered racer dubbed Ike, winning $225. But Liggett had finally beat Livingston to the checkered flag.
Sensing that things were beginning to go his way, Liggett next flew the CR-2 in the Woolaroc Trophy Race, sponsored by Oklahoma oil tycoon Frank Phillips. From start to finish the event was hotly contested by Miss Wanda, Benny Howard in Ike, and Ray Moore flying a Keith Rider machine. In the end, Moore took first place and $1,125 at a speed of 182 mph, while Liggett managed third at 176.5 mph, winning $375. In a hard week of racing, the CR-2 had earned $900, and Eldon had collected another $770 for a total of $1,670-good wages by any measure in the Depression era. But the team already had their eyes on other prizes. After the end of the NAR, Liggett and Eldon Cessna flew their ships to nearby Sky Harbor, Mich., to compete in the American Legion Charity Air Meet on September 8. Liggett placed second in the Free-For-All race, and Eldon won the Sportsman Pilot event in his trusty Model AW.
With nearly $2,000 in their pockets, the Cessna's and Liggett returned to Wichita and began laying plans for the 1933 racing season. Clyde and Eldon had shown the "big boys" that Kansans could build fast, competitive airplanes, and the CR-2 had struck the fear of Cessna into Messes. Livingston, Howard, Wittman and other patriarchs of the sport. Yet one fact was inescapable: Miss Wanda still was too slow to win consistently. To do so, she would have to be capable of speeds in excess of 200 mph, and to attain that goal a more powerful engine was mandatory. With cash in hand, Cessna obtained a 145-hp Super Scarab. Unlike the 110-hp version, the Super Scarab featured a strengthened crankshaft as well as a larger bore of 4% inches and a stroke of slightly more than 4X inches. It weighed 305 pounds compared with the Scarab's 275 pounds, but the additional power more than offset its greater weight.
Installation of the new powerplant required that some changes be made to the CR-2's slender airframe, chief among those an extension of the fuselage to maintain proper weight and balance characteristics. The Super Scarab's diameter also was larger than its Scarab sibling, and a larger cowl had to be fabricated to enclose and properly cool the engine. Finally, further work was done to reduce drag. On December 28 the aircraft made its first flight and was unofficially clocked at 225 mph, according to Clyde Cessna. To achieve that speed, the propeller blade pitch was set at an angle that allowed the engine to turn about 2,800 rpm and develop nearly 175 hp. Charged with a fresh burst of enthusiasm, Clyde and Eldon quickly completed flight testing and prepared the CR2 for the upcoming Miami All-American Air Races in January, which would kick off the 1933 air racing season. With Roy Liggett at the stick, a reborn Miss Wanda won the Colonel Green Trophy Race at an average speed of 195.74 mph, earning $300. Liggett savored the victory even more because his old nemesis, Johnny Livingston and his faithful Monocoupe, placed a distant second. Miss Wanda had beaten the Monocoupe with little difficulty, and it was evident to Livingston that the CR-2 was a much more serious adversary to be reckoned with in 1933 than it had been in 1932.
To a savvy, experienced pilot like Livingston, losing the race signaled that the days of his beloved Monocoupe were numbered. He soon decided to have a talk with Clyde Cessna about obtaining a new racer similar to the CR-2. Liggett went on to place second in the Unlimited Free-For-All race, trailing Jimmy Wedell and his Pratt & Whitney-powered No. 44 monoplane. Roy collected $200, and Miss Wanda posted an average speed of 195.25 mph.
After the Miami races concluded, Liggett returned the airplane to Wichita, where it underwent a series of minor modifications during the winter months to reinforce its competitive advantage. Those changes were deemed necessary because Clyde and Eldon had by then created their own worst competition- the CR-3 they built for Johnny Livingston. The first meeting of the two Cessna racers occurred at the Chicago American Air Races in July 1933. Liggett was unavailable, and Clyde asked racing pilot Art Davis to take command of Miss Wanda. As foretold by Clyde Cessna himself, the two Wichita racers were about to go wingtip to wingtip in a fight for the big money. Livingston won first, in the Baby Ruth Trophy race at a speed of 201.42 mph, with pilot Art Davis flying the CR-2 to a second-place spot at 200.76 mph. It was evident that the two machines could not have been more evenly matched.
Only the skill of their pilots ultimately decided who would cross the finish line first. The two racers fought again on July 4 in the Aero Digest Trophy race. They battled each other for the lead, with the CR-2 and the CR-3 almost neck and neck around the pylons. But as the race progressed, Livingston was able to capture precious fractions of a second during pylon turns that eventually gave him the victory over Davis. Livingston won $2,250, with Davis collecting $1,250. Livingston and the CR3 seemed unbeatable. A frustrated Clyde Cessna, however, had his own plans for further modifying Miss Wanda into a more aggressive contender. The airplane was returned to Cessna's shop. Thirty days later she emerged from behind closed doors sporting a new, dark-red paint scheme, a completely redesigned cockpit enclosure similar to that of the CR-3, and a set of small panels that completely enclosed the landing gear when it was retracted.
A new cowling hugger1 the Super Scarab and featured prominent, tapered blisters that covered the rocker boxes above each cylinder. The leading edge of the cowl formed a smaller intake area than the previous unit had. Unfortunately, the snazzy new cowling would prove to be the airplane's Achilles' heel. Cessna dubbed the racer the CR-2A, and Roy Liggett flew a series of speed trials with the airplane on August 30, 1933. It was unofficially clocked at 250 mph on one pass across the airport, and Cessna reported to the local press that the airplane had hit 270 mph.
With no time remaining for a thorough flight-test program, later that day Cessna sent Roy Liggett off to Chicago to compete in the International Air Races being held there September 1 through September 4. Liggett and the airplane arrived without mishap, and his spirits were high. Clyde and Eldon flew to the races in Eldon's Model AW and quickly began final preparations to make Miss Wanda ready for racing. During qualifying heats Liggett and his steed easily met minimum performance requirements, clipping around the course at a leisurely 183 mph to conserve the Super Scarab for the serious battles to come. When the competition began, Liggett took second in the 550 cubic-inch displacement race with an average speed of 191.4 mph. He was confident that he would win or place well in four upcoming events that were ideally suited for the speedy CR-2A.
On September 2, high winds were blowing across the Curtiss-Reynolds Airport as Liggett took off to compete in the Shell Speed Dash event. With his airspeed approaching 200 mph, Liggett flashed across the field at an altitude of about 300 feet, fighting the turbulence. According to Clyde Cessna, who was watching the race, a section of the cowling suddenly ripped free and smashed into the right wing, separating it from the fuselage. Miss Wanda whipped into a vicious roll to the right that Liggett was powerless to oppose. In seconds, the red racer plunged into a cornfield and exploded with a thunderous boom. Liggett was killed instantly, and the racer was consumed by fire and destroyed. The impact was so great that the steel tubing of the fuselage clenched Liggett's mangled body like a closed fist. Rescue workers were forced to use special equipment to free his corpse.
Cessna was shocked and stunned by what he had seen. Not only had he lost a
friend, but the loss was also made more painful because one of his own creations
had taken that friend's life. Something within Clyde Cessna snapped that day.
In an instant, he lost the drive and determination to build fast airplanes that
had been the heart and soul of his aviation career for the past 22 years. People
who knew Cessna well later agreed that, after Liggett's death, Cessna lost virtually
all interest in aeronautics, air racing and flying. But true to his character,
he provided financial support to Liggett's widow and children.
The CR2 and the CR-3 were a special breed of flying machine whose sole purpose was to push the limits of aviation technology. Flown by pilots who dared to force themselves and their machines to the edge of extinction, the Cessna racers wrote a key chapter in the annals of a bygone era, a time when sheer speed and nerves of steel forged the Golden Age of air racing.