Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

Mystery Airplane: January 2015

Keith Rider R-5

In the years before the Second World War, air racing was the catalyst for improvements in engines, fuels, lubricants, streamlining, and structure. Part of that development encompassed the famous Menasco powered racers of the 1930s. An air cooled, inverted, four or six cylinder inline engine, ranging from the 90 hp Pirate to the souped up 315 hp Buccaneer, they powered racers built by Bennie Howard, Clayton Folkerts, Lawrence Brown, Art Chester, and Keith Rider. Herschel Smith in A History of Aircraft Piston Engines (Sunflower University Press, 1991), describes the racing Menascos as "temperamental screamers ... running a hot Menasco called for incantations and spells as well as ... expertise." Far different from powering the Ryan ST series!

The first Keith Rider, the R-1, appeared in 1931 powered by a 200 hp Menasco B-6S. Known as the San Francisco, and later rebuilt as Suzy, it was flown by well known racing pilots Roger Don Rae and Rudy Kling. It was followed by the R-2, sometimes known as the Bumblebee, flown by Earl Ortman. Rider's R-3 broke the pattern, using a 750 hp Twin Wasp. The R-4, again with a Menasco, became famous as the Schoenfeldt Firecracker when flown by Tony Le Vier (of Lockheed fame) and Roger Don Rae.

The subject of this photo taken at the Pioneer Airport at Oshkosh, is the Rider R-5, NR264Y, with a 330 hp Menasco, also known as the Elmendorf Special, and in 1938, the Marcoux-Bromberg Jackrabbit. As Race 22, the R-5 appeared in the 1936 races at Los Angeles flown by Dave Elmendorf. It finished in third place at 224.551 mph. Raced again in 1938 by Earl Ortman, it managed only 192.503 mph. Its racing career was over. It survived WWII and for a time was used as outdoor advertising for a Chinese restaurant in California. It came to the EAA Museum in 1966.

This month's winner is Jim Sweet of Eagan. Also knowing the Rider R-5 were Graydon Carlson, Bob Heavirland, Joe Connell, Timothy Aanerud, and Bruce Spicer of Kooskia, Idaho. Blue skies and tail winds for the New Year!


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