Schneider Trophy and Beyond : See Aviation Treasures in ‘Flight’ at Science Museum for Free

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Shneider Trophy at Science Museum, London, photo by A Howse

The Schneider Trophy

The full title of the impressive Shneider Trophy is Coupe d’Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider. Shneider was a French financier, balloon pilot and aviation enthusiast.

The large cup is formed of a silver and bronze sculpture set on a deep marble base and is currently on display on the 4th floor of the Science Museum, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD. The sculpture depicts skimming zephyrs (flying nymphs) riding across a sea full of waves where Neptune and other coastal creatures can be found alongside, also conquering the water and air elements.

The Story of the Shneider Trophy

Since Jacques Shneider originally announced the Shneider Trophy in December 1912 it has been awarded to winning pilots of a race that was held annually and in more recent times bi-annually. The first race was help in Monaco on 16th April 1913 and the original race award for the fastest pilot was around £1000. The aircraft that were included in the prestigious race included bi-planes and sea planes, which were popular in the early part of the 20th century.

The 150 mile or more race was a triangular shape and pilots would take off at 15 minute intervals with their speed over the distances recorded carefully by race managers, in the style of a time trial. This encouraged innovation and progress in the development of aircraft design, as engineers competed to produce the fastest aircraft in their type and weight class.

It was agreed that if an individual aero club won three races in five years they would keep the trophy indefinitely and the winner of each of the three races would receive 75,000 francs. Between 1913 and 1931 Great Britain, France, Monaco, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the United States all competed for the coveted prize. The race was hosted each year by the previous years winning country and over the years many thousands of onlookers attended Shneider Trophy events in Britain, Italy, Monaco and the United States. An excellent detailed table can be found on Wikipedia that denotes the race participants, individual aircraft and host countries.

There was a gap after 1931 and then in 1981 it was decided a special bi-centenary Shneider Trophy race would be held to relaunch the international aviation competition. Arranged by the Royal Aero Club and supported by a sponsoring computer company Digital Equipment Association (DEC) the annual races were supported by wealthy and royal attendees as well as being featured on a few television programs.

The Shneider Trophy at the British Race, Records and Rally Race Association Today

In combination with the Kings Cup, the Shneider Trophy race is still held annually whenever possible by the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain and often welcomes entries from other clubs in Europe. The pilot who most recently won the Shneider Trophy is British based Ian Harding in his Vans RV-7. To find out more information about getting involved in general aviation and visiting one of the air races in person as a spectator, or joining the club as a racer, visit the Royal Aero Club website and Facebook page.

See the Schneider Trophy at the Science Museum

Over a hundred years later the Schneider Trophy is still inspiring aviators to advance the speed and ability of their aircraft by entering this historic race. The Science Museum has designed a fascinating and wonderful permanent exhibition that follows the story of aviation since its beginnings in the early 1900’s and through to modern day jet aircraft and even a Red Arrows simulator. The Schneider Trophy has a cabinet with glass sides dedicated to perfectly displaying the fabulous and unusual art nouveau sculpture. The Science Museum is free, accessible and suitable for people of all ages. A tour of this ‘Flight’ show which features the brave aviators and engineers of the 20th century and brilliant artefacts such as original balloon designs, is well worth a visit to the West End of London.

(1) ‘Schneider Trophy’ Wikipedia, 17 March 20 ‘Schneider Trophy’ Wikipedia, 17 March 2023

(2) La Coupe Shneider et hydravions anciens, Pierre Pecastaingts, 13 May 1996 La Coupe Shneider et hydravions anciens, Pierre Pecastaingts

(3) The Royal Aero Club website, 17 March 2023 The Royal Aero Club website

(4) The Royal Aero Club Records, Racing & Rally Association, 17 March 2023 The Royal Aero Club Records, Racing & Rally Association

(5) British Air Racing Championship website, 17 March 2023 British Air Racing Championship website

(6) British Air Racing Championship Facebook page, 17 March 2023 British Air Racing Championship Facebook

(7) ‘Flight’ Science Museum, London, 17 March 2023 ‘Flight’ Science Museum, London

(8) ‘Barron Hilton, Pioneers of Flight Gallery, Schneider Trophy’ National Air and Space Museum Schneider Trophy, National Air and Space Museum, Smithonian Institute