Paul Mantz, Aviation, Class of 2002
Albert Paul Mantz was one of kind: a self-sure pilot who succeeded at anything he ever really wanted, be it aerobatics, a virtual monopoly on movie stunt flying or long-distance air racing.
After finishing third in the 1938 and 1939 Bendix Trophy Race in an old Lockheed Orion, the event was suspended upon the outbreak of World War II.
When the races resumed, Mantz established his legend with three consecutive Bendix wins. In 1946, Mantz flew the Van Nuys, California-to-Cleveland speed run at 435.5 mph in 4 hours and 42 minutes. The next year, he flew the same bright-red, war-surplus P-51C, christened "Blazing Noon," in 4:27 at an average speed of 460.42 mph.
In 1948, Mantz flew a different P-51 to Bendix glory in 4:34 at an average speed of 447.98 mph. His Bendix dominance ended only days before the 1949 race when pilot friends convinced him to "give someone else a chance."
The key to Mantz's victories was the then-novel idea to fill his plane's wings with fuel to make the transcontinental dash a non-stop affair. His 1938 and 1939 Bendix outings were marred by long fuel stops.
Mantz's racing planes carried the number 46, the record of punishing consecutive outside aerobatic loops he flew in a Fleet 2 aircraft over San Mateo, California in July of 1930.
Born in Alameda, California on Aug. 2, 1903, Mantz is best known as the motion picture industry's foremost stunt flyer. His career is chronicled in the 1967 biography "Hollywood Pilot."