When the U.S. armed services withdrew major support for the Schneider Trophy competition, with only one win to go to retire the cup for the United States, Navy Lt. Alford J. Williams stepped into the breach. Williams had earned the title “the Navy’s fastest flyer” by achieving a world record speed of 243.7 mph in the 1923 Pulitzer Trophy air race when he was the Navy’s chief test pilot and head of high-speed research. Hoping to develop a new racer to retake the trophy that Jimmy Doolittle won in 1925, Williams raised $30,000 to help the Navy build a streamlined “Mercury” seaplane to compete in 1929. In this video from the National Archives, the Mercury, the first monoplane the United States would enter, taxis on the Chesapeake Bay but does not lift off. According to contemporary news accounts, the aircraft did skim the water for approximately 100 yards. But the Navy-supplied Packard engine was not powerful enough to make the racer competitive, and Williams withdrew from the race, ceding the title to England, which retired the Trophy with a 1931 win. Williams resigned from the Navy in 1930.
Video: United States Navy (1:12)