Travelair Mystery Ship

Travelair Mystery ShipThe Travelair Mystery Ship was more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. Developed in great secrecy, it’s only purpose was to attract more attention.

In the late 1920’s the Travelair company built a few “Mystery Ships,” racing airplanes whose details of construction were closely guarded secrets. In 1930, Texaco bought the fourth “Mystery Ship” from the Travel Air company, for Frank Hawks to fly in the National Air Races.


“Texaco 13” was identical to the other “Mystery Ships”, but included a cockpit full of special instruments for long distance flights, so the ship was heavier than the other three. The cockpit was fully enclosed and almost flush with the top of the fuselage. The racer was painted a Stearman vermilion and white, with a blue stripe separating the red and white. On two occasions he cracked the ship up, one time injuring himself very, seriously. He never did well at the Nationals as his plane was not set up for pylon type racing. However, he raced at the 1930 National Air Races, his “Texaco 13” wearing their Texaco shorter racing wings – race No. 28. This wing switch was made at the factory prior to the races. Hawks entered the Thompson Trophy Race but pulled out of the race on the third lap. A piece of masking tape placed over the gas cap (for streamlining) caused a loss of pressure and the engine would not operate at full throttle.

Even so the “Texaco 13”, with Frank Hawks at the controls, did set many long distance records both in the United States and in Europe. then beat his own speed record flying the legenday Travel Air mystery ship Texico No. 13 which now hangs in Chicago’s Museum of Science.