• Gee Bee Super Sportster From Virtavia

    Virtavia Gee Bee R-1 And R-2

    By Bill Beseler (22 April 2011)

    "The R model must be flown with silk gloves and likened to balancing a pencil at your fingers top."

    --General James H. Doolittle

    When Jimmy Doolittle said this quote he was one of the few pilots to have raced an R model Gee Bee and lived to tell about it. Up until him very few pilots had climbed into a Gee Bee and successfully completed their flights.

    Flying the Gee Bee R-1 in the 1932 Thompson Trophy Race, Doolittle flew a very wide track around the course, putting less strain on the aircraft and letting the stubby little airplanes speed give him an easy victory. In fact, Doolittle's qualifying time for the 1932 Thompson was over 15 miles per hour faster then his nearest competitor and in the race he lapped all but one competitor.

    The Granville Brothers only built 24 aircraft. Of these 24 probably the most famous were the Z Model Super Sportster and the R-1 and R-2 Models. The R-1 flew into history winning the 1932 Thompson Trophy Race and the the R-2 would go on to compete in the Bendix cross country races of the time with a best finish of 4th.

           

    Although almost identical there are differences between the R-1 and R-2. The R-1 has a different engine cowl and underneath that cowl houses a Pratt and Whitney Wasp that was capable of producing 770 horsepower. Another difference is that the R-1 has smaller fuel tanks than the R-2. The R-1 was built for closed circuit races, very much like what you would find if you attended the National Championship Air Races held every September in Reno, Nevada. The R-2 had the bigger fuel tanks to compete in cross country races like the Bendix Trophy races of the time. The R-2 also had a smaller Pratt and Whitney 535 horsepower engine for better economy.

    Unfortunately, none of the "R" model Gee Bee's survived their time as racers. All of them were wrecked and many times the pilot were not able to survive the accidents. Because of their accident history the myth that these airplanes were killers began and they took on an almost great white shark aura.

    Many people always wondered if the Gee Bee was really a man killer. Debate after debate would go on on whether or not it was the machine or the pilots that flew them were the fault. Luckily for us there was a pilot in the early 90's who wanted to find out.

    Pilot Delmar Benjamin and builder Steve Wolf in the early 1990's set out to build an exact replica of the Gee Bee R-2. They built their R-2 using original plans and with the mentallity of getting the R-2 to exact 1930's standards so there would be no "cheating" of their Gee Bee experience.

    On December 23rd, 1991 Delmar Benjamin put the throttle forward on the replica R-2 and took off from the Creswell, Oregon airport. The first flight took less than 30 minutes but within that 30 minutes Delmar Benjamin had shown the aviation world that an "R" model Gee Bee was in fact controllable. Knife edge flight, rolls, inverted flight and slow flight were all explored in those first 30 minutes and all the while Delmar managed to bring her down in one piece.

           

    Thereafter the Benjamin/Wolf Gee Bee R-2 replica hit the airshow circuit, flying airshows such as Oshkosh, Cleveland and even turning a few laps at the National Championship Air Races held every year in Reno, Nevada. You may think that performing an airshow routine with a Gee Bee is challenging but to Delmar Benjamin the hardest part of flying the R-2 was the landing due to the obstructed view out the front and the high approach speeds.

    The Benjamin/Wolf Gee Bee R-2 replica is now retired but thanks to Virtavia we can now jump into the infamous Gee Bee "R" models. In this review I hope I can give you some insight on this product and give you a fair opinion of this model.

    Installation

    There is one installation for the two separate models and the installations are very easy and there is no hair pulling involved thanks to an auto install program. Payware aircraft installations these days are getting so easy that issues during installations are almost unheard of and this is no exception.


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