I’m a sucker for the golden age of aviation. There is something about the big round engines and rounded airframes. The open cockpits and big wheel pants. Perhaps it’s because it could be considered the youthful time of aviation when we were still figuring out this marvel of flight. One of the iconic airplanes of this time was the Gee Bee R1 and R2 racers.
Back in the early 1930’s air racing was a hot sport. Records for speed were broken every year. Howell “Pete” Miller and Zantford “Granny” Granville worked on the Gee Bee R design. They theorized that a teardrop shape would induce less drag then the typical standard taper. So they spent 3 days in a wind tunnel testing the design. They also moved the cockpit as far back as they could to maximize the pilots viewing area in tight pylon turns. What they did not count on but were pleased to find out is that the teardrop body acts as a large airfoil so in a tight knife edge turn the plane would hardly loose any lift.
The R1 won the Thompson Trophy race in 1932 being flown by Jimmy Doolittle. He loved the airplane and spoke very highly of it. However in 1933 pilot Russell Boardman was killed During the 1933 Bendix Trophy race. The airplane quickly became known as a killer in the hands of an inexperienced pilot.
Non-flying replicas of the R-1 have been built using original plans for the aircraft. A flying replica of the R-2 was built by Steve Wolf and Delmar Benjamin that first flew in 1991. Benjamin flew an aerobatic routine in this aircraft at numerous air shows until he retired the aircraft in 2002. This aircraft was put on display the Fantasy of Flight in Polk City Florida in 2004. I had the chance to see this replica fly at an air show once and it was a sight to see.
As I said earlier I love golden age aircraft and the Gee Bee is up near the top of my favorites from this time. I was very excited to hear the Great Planes – Electrifly were releasing a receiver ready electric version that’s suitable for park flying. They have replicated the scale lines quite well even including the flying wires on the wing and break away wheel pants. There is a large hatch to access the battery and radio gear area that is held on with magnets. The wing bolts on with one screw making transport easy. All you need to complete this plane is your radio with a 4 channel receiver and a 3s 2200mah lipo battery. Everything else is installed and ready to go.
The price looks to be around $159 which is not bad for a RxR airplane. I will be keeping a close eye on this one for sure. Hopefully we’ll see a few of these racing around at WATTS over Owatonna 2012.
For more information you can check out the product page here: http://www.electrifly.com/largeelectrics/gpma6020.html