Gee Bee

YouTube – Gee Bee


Primary Function:
Weight Empty:
Max. Weight:
Cruise Speed:
Max. Speed:
Initial Climb:
Year Deployed:
P & W Wasp
800 h.p.
1,840 lbs.
2,400 lbs.
17 ft. 8 in.
25 ft.
260 mph
294 mph
6,100 fpm
18,000 feet
925 miles

Gee Bee - Delmar Benjamin
 Gee Bee (replica with Delmar Benjamin pilot)

Gee Bee is the name given to the airplanes produced by Granville Brothers Aircraft, Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Gee Bee stands for Granville Brothers. From 1929 through 1933 the company produced 22 aircraft, several of which were racing aircraft. The most famous of these was their model R-1 Super Sportster.

The Gee Bee model R-1 Super Sportster was built to win the Thompson Trophy Race of 1932. It was built around the Pratt & Whitney 800 h.p., nine cylinder, supercharged, Wasp Senior radial engine, the most powerful for its size at the time. Wind tunnel tests and engineering analysis showed that the most efficient fuselage design employing a radial engine was the tear drop taper from its wide nose to the aircraft’s tail.

Wing area of the Gee Bee was just 100 sq. ft. and control surfaces reduced to their minimums in order to keep drag down. The results was an aircraft with a heavy wing loading producing a smooth ride, but needing long runways to achieve sufficient speed for take off and sufficient length for safe landings. The minimal control surfaces also made for a less maneuverable aircraft, particularly at lower speeds. Its nose and wings prevented airflow from reaching the aircraft’s tail and rudder during takeoffs, landings and turns.

Major James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle, U.S. Army Air Corps, retired won the Thompson Trophy Race of 1932 in the Gee Bee. His impression of the Gee Bee R-1 after flying it was, “all engine with minuscule wings and a bomb-like fuselage.” Publicly Doolittle described the Gee Bee model R-1 as: “She’s got plenty of stuff. I gave her the gun for just a few seconds and she hit 260 like a bullet without any change for momentum and without diving for speed, and she had plenty of reserve miles in her when I shut her down.” However, Doolittle confided privately: “I didn’t trust this little monster. It was fast, but it was like balancing a pencil or an ice cream cone on the tip of your finger. You couldn’t let your hand off the stick for an instant.”

During qualifications for the Thompson Trophy race, the Gee Bee with Doolittle flying it, set a world record average speed of 296.287 mph. around the Cleveland Municipal airport ten mile triangle course.

Eight aircraft qualified to take place in the Thompson Trophy race. At the start of the race, which took place at around 5 pm on Sept. 5, 1932, the Gee Bee backfired and flames came out of the plane’s carburetor. They were quickly extinguished with no harm being done to the aircraft. The start of the race had the aircraft staggered, with Doolittle and the Gee Bee taking off in second place.

Doolittle reasoned that his Gee Bee had sufficient power to overtake any aircraft in the race while flying in a straight line. However, he had to limit the amount of bank around the 50 foot high pylons due to the lack of the Gee Bee aircraft’s maneuverability. This meant that he would be flying a wider path around the pylons than the other aircraft.

As the race progressed, spectators noticed smoke coming from the Gee Bee engine. Some thought the aircraft was on fire and were expecting it to need to make an emergency landing. Yet Doolittle found the engine running fine and making plenty of power. The smoke was the results of a rich fuel mixture.

Going into the final lap of the race, Doolittle and the Gee Bee had lapped all but one aircraft. As they crossed the finish line, both aircraft appeared to be side to side. However, in fact the Gee Bee had finished the race some ten miles ahead of the second place finisher.

In the ensuing months after the race. the Gee Bee had a number of rough landings after which the aircraft was repaired. A final modification was made to the Gee Bee, installing larger fuel tanks behind the aircraft’s center of gravity. This resulted in the aircraft being tail heavy with a loss of control during take off in which the pilot perished. The Gee Bee never flew again after the crash.

RC Gee Bee

RC Gee Bee

The RC Gee Bee kit from CARF Models has a 93 in. wingspan with a 77 in. length.  It has carbon fiber reinforced, full composite construction, a vacuum sandwich fuselage and rudder, plus stress skin wings.  To power it you will need from an 80 to 150 cc gas engine.  Dry weight is approximately 35 lbs.

The RC Gee Bee from E-flite comes as BNF.  It has a 20 in. wingspan, 14 in. length and is powered by a 180, 3600 Kv motor.  It features auto self-leveling, is made from foam, and weighs about 4 oz.

G & L Hobbies has a RC Gee Bee kit.  Its wingspan is 81 in. and length is 58 in.  The fuselage is fiberglass and you will get foam wing cores in the kit.  Engines can be from 50 to 60 cc gas.  Weight is approximately 23 1/2 lbs.

Page Aviation has a RC Gee Bee all wood kit.  Wingspan is 57 in. and length is 34 in.  Power can come from a .60 two cycle or .91 four cycle engine.  Weight should be around 6 1/2 lbs.

HobbyKing’s RC Gee Bee has a 73 in. wingspan and is 46 in. long. The ARF is made from glass fibre and can be powered by a 30 cc engine or equal power electric motor. Weight is about 11 lbs.

RC Gee Bee - Hosteteler

RC Gee Bee

Wendel Hostetler has plans for the RC Gee Bee. It has a 100 in. wingspan and a 71 in. length. To power it you will need an engine from 6.0 to 8.0 c.i.d. Upon completion it will weigh around 35 lbs.

Don Smith Plans has the RC Gee Bee. It has a wingspan of 75 in. For power you will need a .91 or larger engine. All up weight is about 12 lbs.

The RC Gee Bee by Jack Devine has a wingspan of 90 in. and is 63 in. long. You will need from 35 to 45 cc engine power. Weight is around 19 lbs.

The RC Gee Bee from Pacific Aeromodels is an ARF.  It has a wingspan of 82 in. and a length of 62 1/2 in. Balsa and plywood are used in its construction. For power you can use a 1.08 to 1.60 two cycle or 1.20 to 1.80 four cycle engine. It weighs approximately 15 lbs.

The RC Gee Bee from Great Planes has a wingspan of 68 in. and length of 45 in. Great Planes recommends .91 to 1.08 two cycle or 1.20 four cycle engines. It should weigh about 12 lbs. upon completion.

Will Hobby has a RC Gee Bee. It has a wingspan of 71 in. and a length of 47 in. You can power it with either a .91 two cycle or 1.20 four cycle engine. It has a fiberglass fuselage and balsa and ply built up wings. All up weight is about 9 lbs.

Cleveland Model & Supply has plans of the RC Gee Bee. Wingspans are 25 1/2 in., 38 in., 51 in., and 76 1/2 in.

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