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.


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


R6H SuperSportser General Arrangement Drawing