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Doug’s Gee Bee R-1 Free Flight Model

A photo essay with commentary on the Gee Bee R-1 build, plus a test flight video.  This Gee Bee flies!


By Doug Beardsworth

Doug winds his Gee Bee R-1 model at Waywayanda, NY in July 2020
 Click to Enlarge Images  

 

Jimmy Doolittle and the Gee Bee R-1
Doolittle wins the Thompson at Cleveland in 1932

 

Model Photos by the Author
Cutting formers out
Impressive looking bones!

Royall Moore and his Gee Bee R-1 model. Durham, CT Sept. 1974
Knockoff landing gear mount
Fillets covered with Mt Fuji white tissue
Mask and spray the DMFS red color
Fitting the wing “skins”
Coming in after another successful flight!
Flight testing at Waywayanda NY July 2020, courtesy Tom Hallman

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.

 

Test Flight Video:

Two Model Airplanes: The Gee Bee & Kalinen at Wawa ; youtube

The Gee Bee “Floating” Bugaboo

“One problem which needed to be licked was the fact that both ships…would float when close to the ground” 

Robert H. Granville
Gee Bee in '33

Gee Bee R1 landing at Cleveland 1932 **click image to watch video**
 Click to Watch Video
Gee Bee C-8 Transport – Popular Aviation 1933
  Click Images to Enlarge
Gee Bee C-8 Transport General Arrangement 1933
Granville Double-Hinged Flap as depicted by Pete Miller, June 1982
(J.I. Granville, Farmers Take Flight)
Gee Bee R2 and Model E replicas at Westover AFB, Chicopee, MA in 1992
Vern Clements Full Scale Replica Gee Bee News 12/29/91
Gee Bee R-2 as flown in 1933 Bendix with enlarged wing and flaps
Zantford Granville’s Double-Hinged Flap

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.  

References:

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

Download:

 

Nallen Printed Plans On Hold

 

Nallen printed plans are temporarily unavailable due to rising printing costs.  

Download PDF plans are available.

Stay tuned for new printed plans alternatives


 

Nallen Printed Plans Update


Due to substantially rising large-format plans printing costs, Nallen printed plans are temporarily unavailable. 

Nallen plans are still available as PDF Download. 

Golden Age Reproductions Plans remain available in high-quality offset prints.

We are evaluating new alternatives for making large-format Nallen plan prints available at an attractive cost.  Stay tuned.

Browse Plans 

Browse Notecards 

 

My Favorite Tools – Little Giant Planer

 

Periodically, we’ll highlight some of our favorite tools & techniques.


 

Click Image to view  Demonstration Video 
Little Giant Razor Blade Planer disassembled to show blade

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.

Watch the video 

 

Around the Pylon First Issue Released

 

The first issue of the Around the Pylon online newsletter was sent on Thursday May, 28, 2020.  


 

J. Jenkins Model E Westover 1992
Jim Jenkins Model E replica dashboard

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.

New Plan Releases

Tom Nallen Plans:
Granville, Miller & deLackner Q.E.D. – 24in wingspan, Free Flight Scale Model
Golden Age Reproductions Plans:
Eight new additions to the GAR Plans portfolio have been made available for purchase.

Get Around the Pylon 

 

Re-Building the Q.E.D. Model Wing

“a short photo essay with brief commentary on the Q.E.D. wing rebuild… A short video of a test flight was also captured” 


Q.E.D. in Amesbury, MA
 Click to Enlarge Images  
Q.E.D. at Geneseo 2009

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!

Related Docs:

Gee Bee Q.E.D. rebuild test flight video; youtube

GMD R6H Q.E.D. -24in Wingspan, Flying Scale Model Plan, Tom Nallen2

Granville, Miller & deLackner Q.E.D. Art Card; Tom Nallen

The Last Inline Gee Bee Design (Almost)

“The International Sportster appealed to her (Cochran), but she specified that it be fitted with the Curtiss engine” 

Walt Boyne
Wings Magazine

GMD R6H Q.E.D. without Cowl
 Click to Enlarge Images  
Q.E.D. before 1934 Bendix Race

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.

References:

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

Download:

R6H SuperSportser General Arrangement Drawing

 

Announcing The Gee Bee.com!

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                  Tom Nallen’s 2017

 

Tom & Bob Hall, Gee Bee Z designer

Free Flight Scale Gee Bee Model X

 

Announcing The Gee Bee.com!


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.

Thanks  and see you on the flightline,

Tom Nallen2
www.thegeebee.com

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Digital plan downloads are great, but there’s still nothing like looking over a full-sized plan. 

Order at least 2 printed plans (Nallen and/or GAR) and a Gee Bee Notecard Set on the same order and you’ll get free shipping on the plans. 

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About Those Nallen Plans..

From early years drawing on paper with an Engineer’s rule and No. 2 pencil, to later years with a computer and CAD software


 

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Model Aircraft Design


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.

Mystery of the Gee Bee X

“He struggled with one hand behind his back to free the parachute.  It finally opened at 500 feet.” 

J.I. Granville
Farmers Take Flight

 

  Springfield Union News Article    Click to enlarge 

The End of the Gee Bee X


On or about September 12, 1931 Roscoe Brinton, a friend of Lowell Bayles and fellow flyer at the Springfield (MA) Airport, took Bayles’ Gee Bee Model X to the new Brattleboro, VT airport to participate in the dedication festivities.

The Model X’s Cirrus engine had recently been replaced with a six cylinder Fairchild motor which proved to be hard starting in cold weather.  As a precaution, a hand crank booster had been placed loose on the cockpit floor of the X.  According to a Vermont newspaper covering the airport opening, the booster cables had become entangled in the Gee Bee’s joystick as Brinton performed his aerobatic routine and the little airplane flipped on its back unexpectedly.  Normally not a problem, but Brinton hadn’t planned on flying the X inverted, so he hadn’t turned on the gasoline jet required for inverted flight.   Others speculated that Brinton had simply forgotten to  flip the switch before his performance.  In any case, the engine stalled, sending the Gee Bee X into an inverted spin.

In her book Farmers Take Flight, June Granville recounts  that Brinton bailed out of the Model X at 1,000 feet altitude, but his chute failed to open.  After struggling to free the parachute, Brinton finally got it to open at 5oo feet and he landed unhurt on a farm two miles from the airfield.  Upon returning to the airport, he went to the microphone and joked to the crowd: “If you were at the National Air Races, you would have had to pay a big price to see a stunt like that.” 

A reporter’s errant match sparked a fire at the crash site and the Gee Bee X burned to a shell.  It’s said that the Brinton family still has a propeller blade from the hulk, but nothing else remains. 

Aviation enthusiasts in the Brattleboro area periodically search the site of the old airport for clues to other remnants of the Model X, but the trail is clouded by the near century-long span of time since that final flight.   

By all accounts, the  Gee Bee X was a fine flying airplane that fell victim to fate – and perhaps a bit of the carefree exuberance of aviation’s golden age.

References:

Farmers Take Flight,  J. I. Dakin, 2000
Gee Bee – The REAL Story of the Granville Brothers and Their Marvelous Airplanes, Henry A. Haffke, 1989
The Golden Age of Air Racing, S. H. Schmid and Truman C. Weaver, 1991

 

Write More!

When we write to someone, especially in longhand, we say we care


 

Get a Little Closer


When was the last time you wrote a note to a friend, colleague, or family member?  And no, email doesn’t count. 
It’s probably been awhile.

When was the last time you received a handwritten note…one that wasn’t a Birthday or Holiday Greeting Card? 
How did it make you feel? 

We communicate a lot in today’s world – but are we really saying anything?  When we write to someone, especially in longhand, we say we care enough to take some time to connect one-on-one. 
We get a little closer.

We should write more.

Do you love an inspirational story of achievement?  Do you or someone you know love airplanes?   Gee Bee notecards are an elegant way to connect with friends, colleagues and family. 

Learn More