Alex Papana, a renowned Rumanian acrobatic pilot who performed at air
shows with the German-built Jungmeister, wanted a fast, single-seat
airplane for his personal use. Once again, it was Giuseppi Bellanca
who was approached to build the airplane. Meetings with Papana
concluded the airplane would be a single-seat, three-engined
monoplane with retractable landing gear and cantilever wing. The two
outboard engines were 250 hp supercharged inverted Menascos and the
center engine was a 420 hp supercharged V-12 Ranger. All three
engines were equipped with controllable-pitch propellers.
The airplane was registered in Rumania as YR-AHA and test flown by
Papana from the Bellanca Airfield in New Castle, Delaware, USA in
1937. Alex Papana was a superb acrobatic pilot who could put his
Jungmeister through any acrobatic maneuver of the day with precision.
However, he did not have a history of flying fast, supercharged
airplanes with controllable pitch propellers. On his first test
flight from Bellanca Airfield, he over-boosted the engines and
overshot the runway on landing. Fortunately, the airplane was not
damaged, except for burned-out engines.
Art Chester was flown in from the Menasco factory, and he overhauled
the engines at the Bellanca factory. The incident caused a flap
between Bellanca and Papana which caused the latter to cancel the
order. Giuseppe Bellanca harbored deep feelings about his airplanes.
If a pilot abused a Bellanca, and Giuseppe heard about it, it was a
certainty the pilot would hear from him.
Giuseppe Bellanca then decided to prepare the airplane for the 1938
Bendix cross-country air race and reregistered the airplane in the
USA as NX2433. Although off to an excellent start, pilot Frank
Cordova was forced to land in Cleveland, Ohio with a burnt-out
Menasco. The engine was so badly damaged it had to be removed from
the airplane and weights installed to balance the airplane. Cordon
flew the airplane back to Delaware on the two remaining engines for
By 1939, the airplane was ready for another attempt at winning the
coveted Bendix cross-country event. Art Bussy piloted the Bellanca
racer to a second place victory behind a new military Seversky
fighter The Seversky was the first in a series of military fighters
which would evolve into the mighty P-47 Thunderbolt used in WWII.
Bussy flew from Los Angeles, California to Cleveland in 8 hours and
21 minutes averaging 244.486 mph (393.4621 kmh). After refueling in
Cleveland, Bussy flew on to New York, New York, to finish. Second
place prize money was a mere $5,800, which barely paid the operating
costs for the race.
After this historic flight, the Bellanca racer was stored in a hangar
on Bellanca Airfield and never raced again. It was reported in a 1968
issue of Sport Flying that the airplane was sold to the Argentine
Government. This is the only information uncovered concerning the
fate of this remarkable airplane.
Single-seat long-distance air racer
Two 250hp Menasco C-6S six-cylinder and one 420hp Ranger twelve-cylinder