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Gee Bee R1 "Super Sportster" ~ Free Shipping

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Print Size 8½” x 11” ----- Unlimited print edition
The 1932 R-1 and its sister ship, the R-2, were the successors of the previous year's Thompson Trophy-winning Model Z. It was suspected by a few that the Model Z's crash during a speed run in December 1931 was due to an unexpected failure of the gasoline tank cap, which may have been ripped off of the fuel tank filler tube by the aerodynamic boundary layer of air immediately over the surface of the airplane's fuselage, resulting in the now-airborne gas cap smashing into the pilot's face. A bullet-proof windscreen and internal fuel caps were part of the new design. Chief engineer Howell 'Pete' Miller and Zantford 'Granny' Granville spent three days of wind tunnel testing at NYU with aeronautical engineering professor Alexander Klemin. The aircraft had a very peculiar design. Granny reasoned that a teardrop-shaped fuselage would have lower drag than a straight-tapered one, so the fuselage was wider than the engine at its widest point (at the wing attachment point). The cockpit was located very far aft, just in front of the vertical stabilizer, in order to give the racing pilot better vision while making crowded pylon turns. In addition, it turned out that the fuselage acted as an airfoil, just like the 'lifting-body' designs of the 1960s. This allowed the plane to make tight 'knife-edge' turns without losing altitude. It was, in effect, a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine with wings and a tail on it. The R-1 won the 1932 Thompson Trophy cross-country speed race, piloted by Jimmy Doolittle. He also set a new world landplane speed record of 476 kph (296 mph) in the Shell Speed Dash. The distinction of a landplane record was noteworthy because, at that time, specialized speed seaplanes outran landplanes (see Schneider Trophy). The Springfield Union of September 6, 1932 quoted Doolittle as saying, "She is the sweetest ship I've ever flown. She is perfect in every respect and the motor is just as good as it was a week ago. It never missed a beat and has lots of stuff in it yet. I think this proves that the Granville brothers up in Springfield build the very best speed ships in America today." But the R-1 rapidly earned a reputation as, potentially, a very dangerous machine. The small wings, very low polar moment of inertia, and tiny control surfaces made for an aircraft that could rapidly get away from all but the most skilled pilots. Unfortunately, this shortcoming was common to most air racers of the day. During the 1933 Thompson Trophy race, racing pilot Russell Boardman was killed, flying Number 11. After taking off from a refueling stop in Indianapolis, Indiana, the R-1 stalled, caught a wingtip and crashed. The R-1 was later repaired with parts from the crashed R-2, creating the "Long Tail Racer." Unfortunately, this plane also crashed soon after it was built but, luckily, Roy Minor, the pilot, was not severely injured. After another rebuild, the Long Tail Racer was sold to Cecil Allen. Allen, against the advice of the Granvilles, modified it by installing larger gas tanks aft of center, which apparently made the craft unstable in pitch. Allen took off with a full fuel tank, crashed, and was killed. After this final crash, the plane was never rebuilt.

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