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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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!

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.

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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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My Favorite Tools – Little Giant Planer

For shaping balsa or other softwood leading and trailing edges, the Little Giant 3 Way Curve Razor Blade Planer is the proper tool.

Little Giant Razor Blade Planer disassembled to show blade

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.

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Around the Pylon First Issue Released

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

Jim Jenkins Model E replica dashboard

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.

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

A short photo essay with commentary on the Q.E.D. wing rebuild

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. 

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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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Announcing The Gee!

Subscribe to Around the Pylon newsletter and get a 20% discount


I’m excited to let you know about our new site .  Tom1 and I talked about doing this for a number of years, but with work & kids it never happened.  Now it has. 

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Get FREE shipping on Printed Plans


Buy 2 printed plans and a Gee Bee Notecard Set on the same order and get free shipping on the plans. 


Save on Shipping

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. 

Browse Plans 

Browse Notecards 


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


    Browse Plans Now 

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 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 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  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 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.


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