Formula F48 Air Racing

After the 1944 armistice the aircraft producers of the world had to scale down production of combat aircraft rapidly as almost all production contracts were cancelled. Besides the aircraft already in production there were also a lot of advanced prototypes meant for the next generation of fighters and bombers. All development projects were cancelled overnight.

The downscaling of all air forces flooded the market with second-hand warplanes, some of them barely used, enabling people to buy an aircraft for next to nothing. At the same time a lot of combat pilots lost their job and to find a new source of income.

Some of these pilots started buying the surplus aircraft in 1945 and organizing air races with them. This quickly became a very popular pastime drawing large spectator crowds. In 1946 the first World Pilots Championship was held consisting of 6 races which were held in different locations in the USA, Europe and Asia. This first championship was won by US pilot John Warner flying a P-51D Mustang.

Very quickly this World Pilots Championship became so popular that sponsors and aircraft manufacturers became involved. Some of the wartime prototypes and development projects were revived to compete in the races. I order to maintain a level playing field the organizers decided to freeze the technology that could be used in the races at the level of the 1st of January 1948.

The World Pilots Championship was renamed to the Formula F48 and formal rules were set up. The main rule was that aircraft had to be powered by one or more piston engine and propeller driven. Ant design, materials and engines used should be as available at the beginning of 1948.

Races were held around a 10-mile closed circuit. Spectators were positions on the outside of the circuit. Since 1955 a season consists of 12 races in 10 different countries. A maximum of 15 aircraft were allowed in each race, a qualifying event before each race deciding which aircraft could take part. In 1960 there were participants from 15 countries flying aircraft from the USA, UK, Italy, Germany, France, Japan and Sweden.

The Formula F48 races became very popular and major sponsors spent a lot of money to get their name on the aircraft. Although the rules specified that the engines used were the ones available before 1948, careful tuning managed to bring them to ever increasing output levels.

Below are the ten highest scoring aircraft in the 1980 season.

Aircraft Engine HP Speed
3 Messerschmitt Me-109X BMW 801E 2250 780 kph
5 Hawker Fury Bristol Centaurus 2500 820 kph
7 Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate Nakajima Ha-45 Homare 2300 770 kph
8 Focke Wulf Ta-152 Junkers Jumo 213E 2400 810 kph
13 Kyushu J7W Shinden Mitsubishi Ha-43 2500 800 kph
20 Messerschmitt Me-509 Daimler Benz DB603N 2500 810 kph
31 Supermarine Spiteful Rolls-Royce Griffon 2400 830 kph
44 Fiat G-56 Daimler Benz DB603N 2500 800 kph
46 Sud Ouest SO-8000 Narval Arsenal 12HO2 2400 810 kph
362 Saab J-21 Daimler-Benz DB 605D 2200 770 kph


Last updated: 13/01/2021