De Havilland’s record-setting D.H. 80A Puss Moth

While the Gee Bee’s were setting speed records around the pylons, the Puss Moth was setting transcontinental long-distance records

Jim Mollison’s “The Heart’s Content” completed the first East-West transatlantic crossing in August 1932

Featuring Press Release photos from the Len Wieczorek collection


The Great Depression started in the U.S. with the market crash in October, 1929 and the economic impact was felt around the world.  Despite this, aviation technology advanced by leaps and bounds.  The D.H. 80A Puss Moth was part of that revolution in the sky.

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The Great Lakes Trainer: Gee Bee Competitor Extraordinaire

Four of the top ten finishers in the 1930 Cirrus All American Derby were Great Lakes Trainers

C.W. Meyers and the Great Lakes Special Racer he flew in the 1930 Cirrus All American Derby
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.

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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” 

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.

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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

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. 

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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