Biographical / Historical
The Bendix Corporation, founded in 1924 by inventor Victor Bendix, began as a manufacturer of devices for use in the automotive industry, initially of engine-related items such as starting motors and carburetors, but soon expanding to brakes and hydraulic systems. In 1929, renamed as Bendix Aviation, the corporation branched out into the design and manufacture of equipment for the closely related aeronautics industry, including aircraft hydraulics for brake and flap systems, aircraft engine carburetors, and various electric and electronic instruments. In 1931, Bendix decided to sponsor the first Bendix Trophy Race—a transcontinental speed competition open to all comers, male or female—"to encourage experimental developments by airplane designers and to improve the skills of aviators in cross-country flying techniques such as weather plotting, high altitude and instrument flight." The Bendix Trophy Races were held in conjunction with the National Air Races, occurring with great fanfare annually from 1931-1939, but were suspended from 1940-1945 during World War II. In 1946, the races resumed, but now had to contend with the invention of the jet engine—accordingly, the Bendix Trophy Race was split into two categories: the "R" Division for reciprocating engine airplanes, and the "J" Division for U.S. military jet airplanes. Interest in air racing had declined in the post-war period, and no race was run in 1950. In 1951 the races resumed, and from this point on were limited to U.S. military jets only. Subsequent Bendix Trophy Races occurred in 1953-1957, and then (after a three-year gap) in 1961, with the last race held in 1962.
By this point in time, the Bendix Corporation—which had branched out to dominate the US market in aircraft radio and radar equipment during World War II—was producing missile and radar systems for the US military. In the 1960s Bendix was also building ground and airbourne telecommunications and telemetry systems for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Bendix Field Engineering division worked on the construction of Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex 39 at the Merritt Island Launch Area (MILA) adjacent to Cape Canaveral, Florida, including the Apollo Launch Control Center, Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), and operational support equipment. In the 1970s, Bendix and its numerous Divisions were involved in a series of mergers, sales, and other changes involving the Raytheon and Allied (later Allied-Signal Aerospace) corporations, followed by a hostile takeover attempt in 1982 by Martin Marietta. In 1983, Bendix was acquired by Allied-Signal Aerospace (later Honeywell International) which retained the avionics part of the business.
The original Vincent Bendix Trophy was donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 1985 [artifact number A19850368000]. On October 30, 1985, an event sponsored by Bendix/Allied-Signal was held at the museum in Washington, D.C., honoring aviators involved in the Bendix Trophy Races. Titled "The Golden Years," the program included interviews with several winners of the Bendix Trophy.