|R614K posing outside Travel Air's Wichita Hangar when she was fairly new.|
Built to beat the Army's fighters that were perennially winning the National Air Races, #31 stunned even its designers on its first flight with an airspeed that was 15% greater than what they'd predicted from their calculations.
During the 1929 Thompson Trophy race, pilot Doug Davis and the Mystery Ship were in the lead when he accidently cut a pylon, so he had to circle back and re-fly that particular turn. Back on course, Davis found himself at the back of the pack, but the little Model R was so fast that he caught up and passed all the other contestants. His average speed was an unheard-of 194.90 mph. The Army's entry, a Curtiss P3A, was a distant second with an average speed of 186.84 over the fifty mile course. Roscoe Turner in a Lockheed Vega was third, and a Navy Curtiss F6C-6 was fourth.
While Travel Air only built five of the Model Rs, a sixth one was built by Jim Youngkin (some sources say that it was built in 1979, the FAA registration lists the manufacture date as 1971, and the registration certificate issued 3/10/1976; a photo and writeup can be seen here). While termed a re-creation or replica, it was built meticulously from the original plans, and carries the registration number N614K. It is currently owned by the Staggerwing Museum Foundation, and appeared in the movie The Rocketeer.