Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Gee Bee Hee Bees

This is one of the more fascinating aircraft at the San Diego Air and Space Museum. The Gee Bee R1 Super Sportster was a 1930's era racer, part of the so-called Golden Age of Aviation. Built by the Granville Brothers (hence the name Gee Bee), the R1 won the 1932 Thompson Trophy air race with legendary pilot Jimmy Doolittle at the controls. That was his last air race as Doolittle felt he had used up all of his luck, but apparently he had a reserve as the famous Tokyo Raid in 1942 proved.

This replica was built by the SDASM using the actual plans supplied by the Granville family under the proviso the plane would never be flown or sold. It is probably the most accurate reproduction of an R1 in existence today.

I have seen Delmar Benjamin fly his replica R2 Super Sportster (a longer version of the R1) and it looks really cool! A replica Gee Bee Z was used in the movie "The Rocketeer" and gave the movie a kick in the opening sequence.

While the original R1 and R2 had reputations as dangerous machines to all but the most skilled of pilots, the airplanes were hot fliers. The replicas are grand reminders of those glamorous years of aviation.

This photo was shot last month during our trip to Balboa Park. I love the moody shadows in this shot.

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