Wing construction, Fuselage construction Part 2 and the first Trial Assembly
Another two weeks have passed (4 weeks total) and the builders are making good progress. All three are experienced modelers and are making minor modifications from the plan as they proceed. Such is the attraction of scratch building – the builder has the freedom to inject their own preferences into the build.
For “plank” wings like the M.18’s, our West Coast modeler likes to make a plywood template to cut identical ribs. He then glues those blanks together with a glue stick, sanding the resulting block of ribs to make them all identical. Then he cuts the spar notches and bird’s mouth for the Leading Edge with a blade or file. Soaking the block in rubbing alcohol dissolves the glue stick, and once the alcohol dries off, a stack of perfectly identical ribs is the result. The slight taper of the Miles wing does require altering the ribs slightly for the outboard panels, but this is easily done keying off the main spar notches to keep everything true.
Fuselage Construction – Part 2
Our West Coast modeler took a slightly different path in constructing the fuselage box. He built the fuselage sides directly atop each other, at the same time, with no saran wrap in between. He’s careful with glue (CyA) and slides a single edge razor between the constructed sides to separate them. He also used small dryer sheet pieces to reinforce the wing saddle joints and installed 1/64 plywood rear motor peg doublers.
Cockpit & Nose area
Ah, this is a tricky part – and one where builders take different approaches. The M.18 plan shows full sheeting in the cockpit area from the top longeron up. One modeler used a creative technique to mold, cut and fit this sheeting using a vellum template. Another used a similar light paper template technique, but sheeted only from the lowest stringer up. Interestingly, both modelers chose to install the M.18 cowl side panels not shown on the plan. One modeled this using sheet balsa while another used a vellum panel approach. Both techniques look great at this point.
Closing Build Update #2
Ok, we’re going to close this second M.18 build update here. These modelers are already progressing into the tissue covering and final assembly stages so it won’t be too long before the next update. Stay tuned!
Until then, keep those balsa chips flying! Don’t forget to post your constructive comments or questions (none are too basic).
3 modelers are building the 24in wingspan Miles M.18 free flight rubber scale model. Join in on the build and/or share positive thoughts via the Comment Forum.
It’s been two weeks since we announced this online build and we’ve got 3 folks building the 24in wingspan Miles M.18 Mk2 free flight rubber scale model. Two modelers are on the East Coast and one in the Pacific Northwest. All have completed the tail framework, one has constructed the wing and two have made solid progress on fuselage construction. We’ll share some to-date pics along with some of the techniques employed so far.
Two builders “tiled” the PDF plan and printed the appropriate sections on their home printer and dove right into the build. One got the PDF file printed at Arch D size at the local print shop and cut the plan into sections for the build.
While one modeler has constructed the wing, we’re going to hold off on coverage there until the next update when all builders should be well into that phase. Let’s move on to discuss M.18 fuselage construction, where two builders have been progressing more or less in lockstep. It’s interesting to see their similar, but slightly different approaches.
Both builders constructed the fuselage side frames first in the conventional manner over the plan side view. One builder constructed the second fuse side over the first which is a technique to help ensure the second side frame is a duplicate of the first fuselage side frame. This helps achieve a straight and square fuselage box later. With this technique, the plastic cling wrap that the first fuse side is built on is folded over that constructed first frame to prevent the second frame built ontop from cementing to the first one underneath.
Building a square balsa stick box is a challenging task and here’s where it’s interesting to compare the approach the builders took. Both builders built the M.18 fuselage box upside down with the straight upper longeron held flat to the building board. Both modelers used tools to hold the side frames to the board and keep them square while cementing the fuselage crosspieces in place. While not specified on the plan, both modelers built the fuselage box with 1/16 sq balsa crosspieces installed along the top longeron. These crosspieces will be cut away for rubber motor clearance after fuselage formers, stringers and cockpit decking have been added. One builder used pins to hold the fuselage side frames to a conventional balsa building board, while the other used strong magnets to hold his side frames firmly to a flat metal desktop “building board”. Both used 90deg square blocks to check and maintain alignment as crosspieces were added top and bottom at the side frame upright positions to construct a square fuselage box. One used magnetic squares. while the other used heavy machinists blocks (see My Favorite Tools #2 video). Both modelers drew in the top and bottom longerons at the nose using Former 1 to provide rigidity and lock the box together at the nose. Former 1 was the first fuselage former to be installed after the fuselage box – with all crosspieces installed – was lifted from the building board.
Closing Build Update #1
This is a good place to close this first M.18 build update. The tail has been constructed and two modelers have the fuselage box completed and are adding formers, stringers and cockpit decking (more on that in Update #2). One modeler has the wing constructed and is moving into the fuselage build. More on the wing build will be provided in the next M.18 build update so stay tuned.
Until then, keep those balsa chips flying! Don’t forget to post your constructive comments or questions (none are too basic).
We’ll document this Build in a series of photo essay posts.
Share your questions, tips and techniques, in the comment stream
Join the Miles M.18 Build!
Join the start-to-finish Build of the Tom Nallen-designed Miles M.18 Mk2 rubber powered free flight scale model.
This relatively simple FAC Scale model will make a nice addition to your fleet. The model can also be flown in the FAC Low Wing Military Trainer event if finished in the appropriate color scheme.
We’ll document this Build in a series of photo essay style posts to the Aeromodelling blog on thegeebee.com. Why not build one along with the group and share your questions, tips and techniques, in the comment stream on the posts? We can all learn from each other.
A Vermont modeler’s experience flying free flight rubber models off the water
Check out the flight videos at the bottom of this post
By Mitch Kimble
I have always been interested in the many aspects of model airplane aviation. Last year I was talking to some modeling friends who were recalling days of flying rubber powered, Mylar covered planes off of water. My friends called it ROW/LOW (rise off water/ land on water), or ROLO for short. I realized this was something I would like to try.
The Good Tern
I began looking for a good subject for ROLO and found a set of plans for a model by Bill Noonan called The Good Tern. The Good Tern is a Flying Aces Club (FAC) Embryo Endurance design that Noonan put on floats and had success with. I built the model and floats according to the plans, covering the model with Mylar and the floats with Japanese tissue. The floats were finished with several coats of EZ Dope until I was satisfied that they would not leak on the water. I used Deluxe Materials Cover Grip, thinned 50% with water to attach the Mylar film to the balsa framework with a sealing iron.
The Good Tern was completed in January 2020. Initial test flights were made taking off and landing in snow. Floats also make good skis if you like to fly in the winter. My water flying site is a pond about 30 acres in size and I mainly use a canoe to wind, launch, and retrieve my model when flying off this pond. I’ve also been able to fly from a single person kayak, but find it very limited on space.
My initial attempts at flying The Good Tern from water taught me that the model was going to need more thrust than the rubber motor that I had been using for my initial test flights could provide to get off the water. It basically motored across the water until the winds in the rubber motor were depleted. After increasing the motor size, the plane stepped up and out of the water for a good thirty second flight.
Modified Float Design
The Noonan floats are very scale like in design and the plane looks beautiful on them. However, I wanted to make a float system that would require less power to rise off the water. I cut some simple floats from blue foam and set The Good Tern up in a tail dragger landing gear/ float configuration. It is important to cover the bottom of the blue foam floats with a smooth, lightweight packing tape to reduce their drag in the water. In this new configuration, take offs from the water required less power and more winds were made available for longer flights.
The Flying Aces Sportster
My second ROLO model was a modified Flying Aces Sportster design scaled to a 20 inch wingspan. Like The Good Tern, this model is covered with Mylar – 2um on the tail surfaces and 5 um on the rest.
The Sportster is also set up with the same tail dragging float configuration. I found that for stability on the water, the floats needed to be forward of the center of gravity and the height set such that the plane is as close to the water as practical while leaving adequate clearance for the propeller. Experimenting with different float positions and angles is a large part of the challenge of getting a good ROW/LOW flight.
For me, putting a stick built, rubber powered plane into water was a new experience. The uncertainty of what was about to happen when releasing the wound up propeller made it very exciting and I would recommend anyone to give it a try. And remember to use a waterproof glue!
Four of the top ten finishers in the 1930 Cirrus All American Derby were Great Lakes Trainers
Click Images to Enlarge
Great Lakes Trainer – Gee Bee Competitor Extraordinaire
In a recent post Mystery of the Gee Bee X, we told the story of the last flight of the Gee Bee X in September, 1931 in Brattleboro, VT. A year before, the Model X and its pilot Lowell Bayles won 2nd place among 18 entries in the 1930 All-America Derby, a coast-to-coast, city-to-city reliability tour of 6,553 miles for Cirrus engine powered aircraft. In a 1980’s conversation with Tom Nallen, Robert Granville reminisced that at each stop along the tour, Bayles would approach to land with the X inverted at 50 or 60 feet, snap roll and drop the airplane into a perfect 3-point landing. This aerobatic show by the top finishing production aircraft in the race helped put Granville Brothers Aircraft on the worldwide aviation map and solidified Bayles’ reputation as a rising star among American racing pilots.
Heady stuff. But there was another production lightplane that made a mark for itself in the 1930 All American Derby, and this one was a Trainer! Yes, four of the top ten finishers in the Derby were Great Lakes Sport Trainers – capturing the 3rd, 5th, 9th and 10th spots.
The Great Lakes Aircraft company opened on January 2, 1929 with the Great Lakes Trainer, 2T-1 – two place trainer model No. 1. The first airplane was built in 60 days and put into flight test by Charlie Meyers. The original straight-winged design (pic at left sidebar top) had spin and stability problems caused by a rearward center of gravity (CG). In an interview with Harvey Swank published in Skyways magazine, Robert Nightingale, a designer on the Great Lakes team describes how he put sweep back in the upper wing and increased vertical tail area to solve the problem. These changes gave the Great Lakes Trainer its classic look and the modified version (2T-1A) was a stable, maneuverable aircraft that would come out of a spin merely by letting go of the controls. Nightingale described how Charlie Meyers loved to perform outside loops with the Great Lakes Trainer. Despite the limited power of its 90hp Cirrus engine, the aircraft held “many records for the maximum number of outside loops”. In his own flight training, Nightingale recalled how his flight instructor said that the Great Lakes was too simple for him to learn to fly in, so he put him in another airplane that was less stable and more cumbersome.
Like the Granvilles, the Great Lakes Aircraft company saw national competition as a way to draw attention to the 2T-1A and prove its reliability and flying ability. Perhaps even generate some much needed cash flow in the process. Like Bayles and his Gee Bee X, Charlie Meyers began to modify his Great Lakes 2T-1A for increased speed and he campaigned the trim little biplane in the classic air races of Aviation’s Golden Age.
One of the first opportunities was the 1929 National Air Races to be held in Cleveland, Ohio August 24 through September 2. A number of regional cross-country events were staged to bring competitors to Cleveland as a lead up to the premier closed-course racing events such as the Aerol, Greve and Thompson Trophy races. The 1929 Miami to Cleveland Air Derby was one of these events and Meyers covered the front cockpit, fitted a more streamlined engine cowling and wheel pants, christening his 2T-1A as the Great Lakes “Speedster”.
For 1930 and the Cirrus All American Derby, Charlie Meyers further modified his Great Lakes Speedster X700K for increased speed. A more streamlined turtledeck over the front cockpit, lower wing fillets, new wheel pants and another new cowling over the now-inverted Cirrus engine promised yet more speed. A new paint scheme (colors unknown to this writer) completed the transformation.
At this point, Meyers’ Great Lakes Special Racer was not technically a 2T-1A as the A in this designation stood for the upright Cirrus or “Ace” installation. Perhaps his racer was the first of the 2T-1E or “Ensign” inverted Cirrus installations that many aviation buffs would come to recognize as the classic Great Lakes Trainer front end.
Meyers finished the 1930 All American Derby in 3rd place averaging 107 mph, just behind Lowell Bayles and his Gee Bee X. Both of them were bested by future Gee Bee R2 pilot Lee Gehlbach flying the low-wing, one-off Command-Aire “Little Rocket”. After the Derby, Command-Aire faded into obscurity, Great Lakes focused on production of its Sport Trainer for the private and commercial markets, while the Granvilles set their sights on world speed records with their big Gee Bee racers.
None of these firms survived the Great Depression. The Great Lakes Aircraft Company closed their doors in 1936, having built just 264 Great Lakes Sport Trainers. The firm built several prototype torpedo bombers and dive bombers for the US Navy, but none went into volume production. Great Lakes will always be known best for its sprightly two seat Sport Trainer.
Finally, we’ve said before that scale modelling is one of the best ways to make aviation history come alive, and we’d like to thank John Koptonak for sharing a few photos of his excellent Great Lakes 2T-1A model. John is a full-sized sailplane pilot, an expert modeler and heads up the long-running Glastonbury Aeromodellers club in Connecticut, USA. Compare the pics of John’s model to those of the real thing to appreciate the realism. No flight reports as of yet, but we’re betting it’ll be a stable flier like its full-sized counterpart.
Great Lakes Press Release Photos, C.W. Meyers from the Len Wieczorek collection
Gehlbach Hold Cirrus Derby Lead, Aviation Week, August 2, 1930
Great Lakes Sport Trainer History, Skyways, July 2008
A photo essay with commentary on the Gee Bee R-1 build, plus a test flight video. This Gee Bee flies!
By Doug Beardsworth
Click to Enlarge Images
The R-1 has been on my Free-Flight (FF) build list for years. It is such an icon for aviation buffs- with its winning history and dramatic color scheme. As this ship moved up my build list, I began to reacquaint myself with the airplane and its history.
As a FF modeler, I’m always interested in knowing how stable the real airplane was. In many cases, a real airplane with good stability can be made to be a good FF model. I have seen Delmar Benjamin flying his R-2 firsthand at Oshkosh as well as videos seen on the web. I noted that Delmar did no aerobatics that would involve stalls, hammerheads, snap rolls, or other low speed/stalling maneuvers. Loops and axial rolls look to be very much in the sweet spot of the R-2, and by extension the R-1’s performance envelope.
Having recently watched the available period newsreel footage at the Cleveland Thompson Trophy races in 1932, The R-1 appears to be quite stable on takeoff, landing and in the air – and it was clearly the fastest airplane flying. Of course, having Jimmy Doolittle on the stick had a lot to do with it. He came to the Gee Bee R-1 from flying the Laird Super Solution the year before, and that airplane’s evolution to the Shell Lightning Solution just weeks before. Clearly, Mr. Doolittle was in fine, well-practiced form for handling the hottest racing ships of the day. I presume he was quite accustomed to seeing not much more than a big cowled radial in front of him on takeoff and landing with these ships. If one were to transition to flying an R-1 for the first time, Jimmy Doolittle’s logbook would show one how it might best be done.
I noted that the Granville Brothers design team were very careful in creating a very robust landing gear system. The gear was equipped with shock absorbing struts, a strong fork supporting the axle on either side of the wheels and the best tires and brakes available in that era. They all clearly understood that this would be a hot ship, with a touchdown somewhere in the region of 100 MPH on moderately prepared grass fields which were the standard of the day. It speaks very highly of the skills of the Granville Brothers and Pete Miller to design an airplane that stood up to this and won its first time out.
The Free Flight Model
Despite having several different R1/R2 Kits and plans pass through my hands over time, I never found a plan that I felt truly comfortable in building for one reason or another.
In April of 2019, I found the Andrew Hewitt R-1 Plan, which was published in Aeromodeller from the May 1991 issue. The fuselage shapes he drew appeared to be quite accurate to my eye, and his finished ship pictured in that article is/was truly a gem. However his model had much of the fuselage between the stringers filled in with balsa, which while giving a superb shape, that fill obviously added significant weight. Andrew’s ship came in with a finished weight of 156 grams spread over a 21″ span, so I knew it would be quite a challenge to fly reliably at that weight. And he indicated it was a “hot”, fast-flying ship for a rubber powered model.
I felt that I could use Andrew’s fuselage former shapes, and then edit the planking and other structure in order to make my ship considerably lighter. I would be building my ship to the more relaxed scale judging rules of the Flying Aces Club (FAC). The FAC puts a greater emphasis on flying duration over absolute scale fidelity. Combining this structural editing with my enlarging Andrew’s plan from 21″ span to 24″, I finally felt comfortable enough to begin building.
I started cutting wood in June of 2019, beginning with the fuselage. I shortly had the fuselage partially framed and the wings together to the point I could dry fit them to the fuselage.
Andrew’s outline of the wing planform was very accurate, so I used that outline, but built it using the Dave Rees construction method. The Rees wing uses a traditional LE and TE from stripwood, but with a front and back spar cut from sheet. Ribs are made from 1/16 square on the bottom, and sliced ribs on the top. I decided to make the wing a one-piece structure which is integrated into the fuselage structure. This was a change from the tongue and box “knock-off” wing panels used by Andrew. So within a week of starting I had a structure that started to look like a Gee Bee.
I changed the nose of the fuselage where it locates the noseblock and prop by necking down the fuselage shape directly to a ring to support the noseblock.
This allowed me to make a lighter cowl, since it was not supporting any of the rubber loads. The cowl also could then be made with a slightly flexible mounting and also removable for repairs and access inside the fuselage.
The build went on hold as I prepared for and competed at the FAC Non-Nats at Geneseo in Mid-July of 2019. While at this contest, Tom II and I plus several others were sitting in the dormitory common area one evening scouting through a pile of FF plans. An early Megow plan of the R-1 came up and we gave it a careful look. I had shown Tom several photos of what I was doing with my R-1 based on the editing of Andrew Hewett’s plan. Tom II told me the story that the R-1 could indeed be a good flyer, and told me that a man in CT had made one and had flown competitively with it. We both agreed that keeping it light would be the key.
I had assumed all along that this FF ship would need a somewhat speedy “committed” glide in order to fly well. Consequently I created the landing gear structure with a “knock-off” feature at a convenient place near the root of the wing.. The tongues I used are retained by monofilament fishing line pins which allow some lateral flex and yet don’t impede the knock off of the wheel spat assembly to the rear.
I chose to use Easybuilt Models Mt. Fuji white, which has a more saturated white color compared to the now disappearing supply of esaki tissue. The fuselage was covered wet, starting with the fillets. I prefer to create fillets from sheet balsa pieces, which are then sanded and shaped to suit. When built this way, the fillets tend to tie the wing and fuselage into one larger shape and simply looks a bit more consistent and convincing to me. Those fillets were covered with tissue as a first step in covering.
Once covered the fuselage was then doped with two coats of thinned nitrate. The clear nitrate seals the tissue and provides a nice base for spraying the red color. Two thinned coats nearly eliminates the bleeding of the red under the tape. Design Master Floral Spray (DMFS) Carnation Red was used for the brilliant red used on the Gee Bee. I masked off the white of the fuselage and the uncovered wing structure and then shot the red on a nice day with low relative humidity. The DMFS Carnation red acts more like a dye than paint. it doesn’t take much to cover and i can still maintain the translucent look that is appealing to my eye. Using a fresh roll of 3M blue tape has given me the best results.
Wing skins were created from a large sheet of white tissue applied to an artist’s frame, steam shrunk, doped, masked with the scallop patterns and sprayed with the same DMFS Red in the same manner as the fuselage. I was able to make the four wing skins from one sheet. A second smaller sheet was made and sprayed entirely red at the same time. That smaller sheet provided tissue from which I could cut out the wing registration, race numbers and the dice, and have material for repairs.
Careful indexing of the color separation line of the wing skins at the fuselage was reasonably straightforward to do. The wing skins were applied dry, then steam shrunk once in place. I added about 1/16 washout in each wingtip while steaming the tissue.
After adding a few details, I began glide testing to establish CG, decalage and other basic settings. I was surprised at its relative buoyancy when test gliding without a motor. I believe that the fuselage shape may contribute something to the effective wing area that I did not expect.
My finished empty weight is at 65 grams, but with rigging and a few panel lines yet to add. Early powered flights with 200 turns are looking favorable, but with dutch roll appearing in the glide portion. I’ve been flying it in very tall grass, but the meadows have just been mowed, so I will wait a few more weeks for the grass to grow taller before flying it again.
Did you know Zantford Granville was among the first, if not the first in the U.S. to patent a flap system to control aircraft airspeed and increase lift, especially while landing? And Zantford, or Grannie as he was called, didn’t even have a formal high school education.
It’s well-documented by the folks who were there, that despite their high wing loading and high landing speeds – the big Gee Bee racers of the early 30’s did tend to “float” in ground effect. This is a main reason why the original R-1 and R-2 racers, like the Model Z before them, would takeoff from the 2,000 ft runway at Springfield Airport and land at the longer airstrip at Bowles Airport across the Connecticut River in Agawam, MA.
Even Jimmy Doolittle, ace pilot of the iconic Gee Bee R-1 that set a world landplane speed record at Cleveland in 1932, had some difficulty getting the big Gee Bee back on the ground. In this short Movietone video clip (left sidebar also), the announcer states that Jimmy has to “go-around” due to congestion on the landing strip. Looking closely at the video, there is also evidence of the “floating bugaboo” that Bob Granville later recounted in his Gee Bee’s in ’33 article for Sport Aviation. The R-1 must have been a handful to land, but clearly the airplane is stable all the way, exhibiting none of the instability often attributed to the R-1. Neither the R-1 or R-2 had flaps installed for the National Air Races in 1932.
Russ Boadman’s landing mishap in the R-2 while preparing for the 1933 National Air Races, gave Zantford Granville an opportunity to build a new larger wing for #7 with his new double hinged flap system. Grannie had designed the flaps for the new C-Series commercial transport aircraft that the Granville Bros were building at the time. Bob Granville recalled that the new flaps worked well, reducing the R-2’s landing speed from 100 to 65mph and it wasn’t long before Boardman was landing the racer on the short airstrip at Springfield Airport.
Still, some pilots, even good ones, clung to their old ways. On returning the R-2 to Springfield from Indianapolis after its aborted bid for the 1933 Bendix race, top racing pilot (but new to Gee Bee) Jimmy Haizlip, while practicing landings in the R-2, opted to sideslip #7 into Bowles Agawam Airport instead of using the flaps. He lost control, wrecked the airplane, and fortunately walked away. Vern Clements’ Full Scale Replica Gee Bee News dated 12/29/91 at the time of Delmar Benjamin’s first flights in the Wolf/Benjamin Gee Bee R-2 replica, cites Pete Miller, Granville Brothers Chief Engineer in 1932-33, as knowing that “only a couple of pilots were possibly qualified to fly the fast “R” Gee Bees with their heavy wing-loading figures for that day. Later those figures were acceptable…. Gee Bee R-2 replica builder Steve Wolf commented “The wing-loading is comparable to flying a P-51 without flaps.” Mr Clements states in his newsletter: “The Granville/Miller design was ahead of the times!”
Vern Clements, an aeromodeller of note, spent 6 years of drafting board work, drawing Gee Bee model plans which would become a primary reference for the Wolf/Benjamin R-2 replica. In his 12/29/91 newsletter, Clements shared that “slight washout was built into the Replica R-2 wings for improved lateral control management.”
Which brings us full-circle to our most recent Aeromodelling post, where Doug Beardsworth, having built slight washout into his Gee Bee R-1 free flight model, states his surprise at his R-1 model’s buoyancy when test gliding – and his thinking that the rotund fuselage shape may be contributing to this “floating” effect.
Flying scale models often exhibit some of the unique flight characteristics of their full-sized counterparts and sure enough, that seems to be the case with Doug’s Gee Bee.
In closing, we’d like to note again the creative genius of Zantford Granville. While the wing flap was not new in 1933, having been employed in aircraft of the First World War (Breguet 14) and developed in the U.K. (Handley Page), Grannie invented a unique double-hinged flap for fast airplanes that foretold of future designs. His Double-Hinged Flap System was awarded what appears to be the first U.S. Airplane Flap Patent #2,006,391 in July 1935 after his untimely death. Subsequent Wing Flap System patents were granted to United Aircraft, Charles Hampson Grant (another aeromodeller), and Boeing in the post-WW2 years.
Gee Bee in ’33, Sport Aviation, Robert H. Granville 2/1977
Farmers Take Flight, J. I. Dakin, 2000
Full Scale Replica Gee Bee News, Vern Clements 12/29/91
Periodically, we’ll highlight some of our favorite tools & techniques.
Little Giant Razor Blade Planer
NOTE: this tool is not a toy and should not be used unsupervised by children.
Hi Gang. Every now and then, we’d like to highlight some of the little tricks of the trade that we use to design, develop, build and fly scale models of aircraft of the Golden Age of Aviation.
As with any task, there’s typically a proper tool for the job. Modelers are great improvisers, but there is no substitute for the proper tool.
For shaping balsa or other softwood leading and trailing edges (wing, horizontal, vertical stabilizers, etc.), the Little Giant 3 Way Curve Razor Blade Planer is one of those tools. Use this plane “with” the grain to remove a uniform amount of material over the length of the strip of wood and prepare the piece for final finishing with sandpaper.
The short video at left demonstrates the Little Giant 3 Way Curve Plane in action. A 1/16 square balsa stab leading edge is pretty small to be planed and most often in this case I’d simply round the edges with a sanding stick before tissue covering. But you get the idea. The tool really shines when planing larger strip wood over greater lengths where the sanding stick would remove material more slowly and in an uneven manner.
First introduced in the mid-1950’s the Little Giant was released in Flat and Curved Plane versions. This article and the accompanying video discusses only the 3 Way Curved Plane.
The Little Giant measures approximately 2 inches wide, by 2 in. long and 1.25 in. deep. Cast in metal, it weighs just over 100 grams and is shaped to fit the hand well with the thumb and forefingers falling naturally to the sides of the plane.
The Little Giant uses a standard double-edged shaving razor blade, which means this tool is not a toy and should not be used unsupervised by children. Change the blade and use the plane with care.
Used properly, this tool will deliver excellent results. The Little Giant plane can be found for sale periodically on ebay.
The first issue of the Around the Pylon online newsletter was sent on Thursday May, 28, 2020.
Around the Pylon Issue #1 Released
The first issue of the Around the Pylon online newsletter was sent on Thursday May, 28, 2020.
In each issue of Around the Pylon, we’ll bring you new Aviation History and Aeromodelling posts along with new plan releases into the Nallen and Golden Age Reproductions Plans portfolios.
We’re still settling into the cockpit and getting familiar with the instruments here, so bear with us as we get up to speed.
Speaking of instruments, isn’t that a neat photo of the dashboard of Jim Jenkins’ beautiful Model E replica at the top of this post? It was taken by Henry Haffke at an airshow in 1992 at Westover AFB in MA, where both the Benjamin R2 and Jenkins Model E replicas were flying. Wow! Perhaps we’ll share additional pics taken at this show in future posts.
Back to Around the Pylon (AtP) – if you’re not receiving it yet, sign up at the link below. It’s free and you’ll get a 20% discount coupon code to use on The Gee Bee.com.
If you’re already subscribed, first thanks! And second, if the AtP email lands in your Spam or Promotions folder, you’ll need to mark it as not Spam – and enable image display while you’re at it. Copies of AtP will not be retained on The Gee Bee.com, but the featured content of course will be – check out the Blog page for an archive of all posts shared through Around the Pylon.
“a short photo essay with brief commentary on the Q.E.D. wing rebuild… A short video of a test flight was also captured”
Click to Enlarge Images
I recall the anticipation of the first test glides of my Gee Bee Q.E.D. model more than 20yrs ago in the back yard of our first house. In the time between then and now, this model – I know, it’s not really a Gee Bee (see post) – has been flown hard in fair weather and poor, placing in its share of contests and even winning a few. And I must admit to a crash or two along the way.
The last crash was flying in an FAC Thompson Trophy mass launch event at the Rocky Hill sod farm in CT. Unfortunately the sod had recently been harvested and the summer sun had baked the bald surface to hardpack. Launching into the breeze, the Q.E.D. hesitated a bit and lost airspeed. Many times before, the knock-off landing gear had prevented damage, but not this time. She came in on a wingtip and crunched spars, ribs, the whole bit.
Fast-forward to last month. In preparing the Q.E.D. plan for publication and examining the model for reference, I decided to re-build the wing and get her back into the air. Following is a short photo essay with brief commentary on the Q.E.D. wing rebuild which took place over several days. A short video of a test flight was captured and the link follows this post.
Pic 1 – The Initial Lay-Down. Wing ribs are cut out using the templates on the plan, followed by lay-down of the Trailing Edge and bottom Wing Spars. Inboard ribs W1-W3 are fitted to the spars and trimmed at the aft end to join tightly against the T.E., and then cemented in place. Next, the Leading Edge and top spar are cemented in place – except at the center rib, which is Cyanoacrylate-glued (CYA’d) together later when the dihedral is added.
Pic 2 – Install wingtips and build in washout. Laminate the balsa wingtips with thinned aliphatic glue (Titebond). Trim the wing tips to join tightly with the L.E., T.E. and lower wing spars. Note: don’t trim the spars to exact length during the Initial Lay-Down – trim them to fit snugly as the wing tips are fitted to the L.E. and T.E. The wingtip should be raised 5/32in off the building board at the front wing spars, which are “cracked” at rib W5 to angle up or down to join with the wingtip. Also note that the lower rear spar is shimmed up off the building board ~ 1/16in such that the rear spar rises to join the wingtip. The rear spar slot for ribs W4 and W5 is deepened to allow the aft end of the rib to join with the wingtip. This approach provides built-in washout at the wingtips which should be gently enhanced when dihedral is added and the tissue wing covering is shrunk. Washout is important to flight stability with this model.
Pic 3 – Install the Landing Gear Mounts. This is an important step as any time spent here will be saved many times over in repairs later. Plus the knock-off L.G. is actually easier to make and much lighter than any fixed music wire gear could be. Install the L.G. mount balsa sheet fill areas before you block up the wing panels and CYA the dihedral in place at the root rib L.E., spar and T.E. joints. Remember to block up the T.E. slightly more than the L.E. to add in a bit more washout. The forward and rear Dihedral Braces are cemented in place after the wing is lifted from the building board. Now, carefully locate and countersink holes in the underside of rib W1 to receive the earring clutch main L.G. mounts. The stiff nylon pins embedded into the top edge of the L.G. legs will plug into these clutches and the rear of the leg will be held in place by a small Velcro patch CYA’d to the underside of rib W1 and the sheet fill after the wing is covered with tissue.
Pic 4 – Making the Tissue Markings. My original Q.E.D. carried the incorrect colors (shame, shame!) for the registration and racing numbers and this was fixed as part of this re-build. The de Lackner/Galletti 3v indicates Orange with Black pinstripe for the Registration and Racing markings. To make the Orange tissue markings pop better on the green tissue base, I printed the markings “Orange on Orange” with a black pinstripe using my Epson durabrite printer. This worked nicely and to deepen the contrast,I chalked the back side of the printed tissue with Orange Pan Pastel chalk and went over the printed black pinstripe with a Sharpie and straightedge. The letters and numbers were cut out using a new Xacto #11 blade and attached to the base green tissue “skins” with a spray adhesive using the wing plan underneath as a location/alignment guide. The vertical tail registration was simply printed on a small patch of green tissue and fixed in place with spray adhesive. It all seemed to work well.
I also rebuilt the horizontal stabilizer on the Q.E.D. which was a bit droopy with age. So now, the model should be good for another 20 years. We’ll see!
“The International Sportster appealed to her (Cochran), but she specified that it be fitted with the Curtiss engine”
Click to Enlarge Images
The Gee Bee International Sportster and GMD Q.E.D.
Our last story told of the final flight of the Gee Bee Model X in 1931. Today, we fast-forward beyond the turbulent years of 1932 and 1933 where the Granvilles reach the pinnacle of glory only to fall into an abyss of misfortune culminating in the liquidation of the Granville Brothers Aircraft Company in September 1933.
Following this, Zantford Granville and chief engineer Howell Miller, the creative design team behind the Gee Bee R1 and R2 Super Sportsters, join with aeronautical engineer Don deLackner to form an aviation consulting company in New York City. Known by the acronym GMD, the firm pins its hopes on three projects; the R5 International SuperSportster for the MacRobertson race, the Gee Bee Atlanta Indy Car, and the Ascender Roadable Aircraft.
On February 11, 1934, tragedy strikes again when Grannie Granville is killed landing his Gee Bee Model E in bad weather while avoiding construction workers on an airstrip in South Carolina. The three designs in his briefcase that day never get built.
On their own now, Miller and deLackner press on with the International SuperSportster. Enter Jackie Cochran noted aviatrix and up-and-coming air racer. She visits GMD’s New York offices, expresses interest in the racer and helps make a connection to financial backing with her future husband Floyd Odlum. But there’s a catch, the racer must be fitted with an inline liquid-cooled Curtiss Conqueror engine – just like her Northrop Gamma which is her first-choice entry in the 1934 MacRobertson race.
Jackie helps Pete Miller modify the R5 International SuperSportster into the R6C, the Conqueror-powered design which is destined to become the Q.E.D. (See general arrangement drawing).
In a turn of fate, Curtiss-Wright cannot deliver the Conqueror engine in time for the MacRobertson race scheduled to run on October 23, 1934. So, with some relief (he prefers Pratt & Whitney radial engines) Pete Miller and Don deLackner rapidly rework the design to fit the P&W Hornet, calculating an improved top speed in the process.
The second International SuperSportster 3v at left is very rough, a blueprint copy of the original marked up copy, but it does seem to convey the urgency at which this redesign was made. The detailed engineering work that the design was founded on is evident as well.
Looking at the documents and reading the first-person accounts of this period, one gains insight into how these small teams worked to rapidly develop and deliver some of the fastest aircraft in the world. The R6H (Hornet) Q.E.D. in the hands of Jacqueline Cochran and copilot Wesley Smith was a top challenger to DeHavilland’s Comet racers in the 1934 MacRobertson.
Personally, I am intrigued by the additional fin area that is sketched onto the redesigned Hornet-powered R6 general arrangement drawing. Was this a lesson-learned from the R1/R2 Hybrid racer that Roy Minor ran into a ditch in 1933? I find it interesting because my free flight scale model of the R6H Q.E.D. needed a similar fin area increase to track well in flight. It wasn’t until recently that I noticed this fin area addition on the marked up three view of the R6C International SuperSportster. I like to think this is one more example of how scale modeling can help make aviation history come alive.
Let’s conclude with “The Rest of the Story” as Paul Harvey would say. It turns out that Jackie Cochran was right to have the Q.E.D. readied as a backup for her Conqueror-powered Gamma as it washed out and was not ready for the 1934 MacRobertson. She and Wesley Smith did fly the Q.E.D. in the race, but they didn’t have much flight time in the airplane and their unfamiliarity with it showed. They also chose a dangerous over-mountain route to Rumania which ended with a landing mishap in Bucharest due to trouble – again likely unfamiliarity – with the innovative but tricky Granville double flap system first installed on the transcontinental Gee Bee R2 racer (another story for another time). The Q.E.D.’s stabilizer was damaged on landing and Cochran and Smith retired from the race which C. W. A. Scott and Tom Campbell Black went on to win in their DH Comet “Grosvernors House”.
A terrific video of the 1934 MacRobertson race, including in-flight footage of the Granville, Miller & deLackner R6H Q.E.D. can be found on youtube here.
Build your own flying scale model of the R6H Q.E.D. and re-enact a bit of this exciting period in aviation history where a small team with big ideas, but little time and money built some of the fastest airplanes in the world.
Built for Speed, The Story of Race Plane Designer, Howell Miller, An American Aviation Genius; Wings 1978, Walter Boyne
The Final Gee Gee Designs; Sport Aviation, Dec. 1977, Robert H. Granville
Gee Bee in ’33; Sport Aviation, Robert H. Granville
R6-C SuperSportster and GMD Q.E.D. general arrangement drawings; Howell Miller/Premo Galletti
I’m excited to let you know about our new site www.thegeebee.com . Tom1 and I talked about doing this for a number of years, but with work & kids it never happened. Now it has.
I’d like to do my part to help keep the Granville and Gee Bee story alive. I’ve talked with June Granville (Dakin) and she’s fully supportive. We’d like to tie in aeromodeling/scale modeling as a rewarding activity that can make aviation history come alive. We’ll use thegeebee.com as a platform to release the many model airplane plans we’ve drawn over the last 50yrs or so. Many of these are large-format and not suitable for newsletter publication…and we all know what’s happened to the model mags that used to run our sort of stuff. We’ll see what happens.
Oh, and through an agreement with Jim Fiorello, Golden Age Reproductions Plans are being made available through The Gee Bee.com as well. These are the original, high-quality Joe Fitzgibbon offset prints, not copies. We’ll start with ~30 plans with another 200 or so to come over time if there is interest.
There are no illusions of profit-making, but stuff on The Gee Bee.com is not free either. This may wind up as a non-profit org and we have some ideas there, but first things first.
Anyway, check out the site and I hope you sign up for the free bi-monthly Around The Pylon newsletter – we’ve lost some of these lately too. Around The Pylon will be brief and online-only. We plan to share interesting bits from the Len Wieczorek, Bert Pond and other collections as well as new plan releases, freebie downloads and FF modeling stuff. Subscribers get 20% discounts. Contributors to the newsletter are welcome so let me know if you or someone you know is interested.
Please help spread the word by sharing this Announcement.
Hopefully society will reopen soon and we can return to our lives.
We (Tom Nallen’s) have been designing model airplane plans for nearly 50 years. From early years drawing on paper with an Engineer’s rule and No. 2 pencil, to later years with a computer and CAD software, model aircraft design has been a constant. It continues today, and while Tom Sr. has sadly passed, Tom2 will carry forward.
For us, aviation history, scale modeling, and design are equal parts in a creative process. By making our work available, we hope to help others discover this rewarding form of creative expression and consider designing plans of their own.
A little about the plans on The Gee Bee.com website. You may notice that some of them are available elsewhere on the Internet free. This is true – those plans were originally published in various newsletters and then posted to the Internet. We’ve included some of these plans to offer a complete design series – Gee Bee and related aircraft, for example. We will not offer any Nallen designs that are currently for sale by other vendors.
We hope to continue to publish construction plans in modeling newsletters and magazines, although few magazines today publish traditional “stick and tissue” designs (topic of a future post). Many of the plans offered on thegeebee.com are large format and not easily published in newsletters which prefer to include full-sized printed plans in 11 x 17 inch format.
Digital Plan Downloads
We are particularly excited about the PDF plan download option for Nallen plans on thegeebee.com. With a lower price, no shipping charges and immediate delivery anywhere in the world, we’re figuring many customers will choose this option. In addition, PDF plan files are much more efficiently stored and the digital plan can be scaled up or down at the time of printing to meet specific needs – smaller versions to be flown indoors or on smaller fields, for example. Adjustments may be required for structural components specified on the plan, but this usually manageable. As the digital plan download option is reasonably priced, we ask customers NOT to share the file with others. Please refer them to www.thegeebee.com so they can purchase their own download. More information can be found in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on the website.