Laird LC-DW-500 Super Solution
In the Super Solution, Doolittle had won the 1931 Bendix and gone on to set a transcontinental speed record of 2,882 miles in 11 hours, 16 minutes, and 10 seconds, while averaging 217 mph. But in the seventh lap of the Thompson, the plane’s 525-hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior radial engine blew a piston, forcing Doolittle to drop out.
Less than two weeks remained before Labor Day weekend and the 1932 National Air Races at Cleveland, Ohio. The main events—the Burbank-to-Cleveland Bendix Trophy endurance race and the closed-course, 100-mile Thompson Trophy dash—demanded two very different types of aircraft, but Doolittle believed he had a plane capable of winning both.
The pace of innovation meant that not even the Super Solution could age a year without the threat of obsolescence. Figuring the decreased drag would more than offset the increased weight, Doolittle replaced its fixed, spatted wheels with a retractable landing gear. He was about to regret the decision. As he attempted to winch down the hand-cranked gear, which had functioned according to plan in ground tests, the pressure of the slipstream prevented the wheels from deploying.
“I spent two hours trying to jar the gear loose...nothing worked,” recalled Doolittle. Finally he resigned himself to bellying in the LC-DW-500. He emerged unhurt, but with the plane’s prop blades bent and fuselage crumpled, the Super Solution would never make the Nationals.