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  • Granville Gee Bee (Series) High Performance Racing Aircraft

    The Granville Gee Bee series was the quintessential air racer of the 1930s - though she proved to be quite dangerous to her own pilots.

     Updated: 4/5/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The Gee Bee (deriving its name from a shortened form of "Granville Brothers") racers became the unofficial symbol of the "Golden Age" of flight during the interwar years. Its unique design and high-speed performance allowed it to take part in many of the air races that treated fans to something more than what was to be found in the Great Depression. The collapse of world markets all but killed the sport plane business, forcing many smaller aircraft firms to take a turn in designing and producing new implements suitable for air racing - and the prize money inherent in such competition. The Granville line of racers proved quite the success for the little Granville company.

    Granville Brothers Aircraft was a relatively small aircraft repair business based out of Springfield, Massachusetts. It was led by five brothers - known collectively as "The Granville Brothers" hence "GB" or "Gee Bee" - consisting of Zantford (of Boston and founder of the company), Thomas, Robert, Mark and Edward. The firm came into existence in 1929 and actively operated until 1934 to which the company was forced to file for bankruptcy. Despite their collapse, Granville racers were still airborne into the latter half of the 1930's with their most memorable models becoming the Gee Bee Z, R-1 and R-2 racers. Granville's aircraft designs operated from Springfield Airport in Massachusetts.

    The Granville firm produced just 24 total aircraft during their time aloft. Sadly, many of these designs proved quite lethal in many trained hands and led to multiple crashes and a near multiple number of fatalities for her pilots. Their first production aircraft became a biplane design in the "Model A". Nine examples were ultimately produced with only one known to be surviving today - this at the New England Air Museum.

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    Granville Gee Bee Super Sportster R-1 Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1931
    Type: High Performance Racing Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Granville Brothers Aircraft - USA
    Production Total: 15

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 17.65 feet (5.38 meters)
    Width: 25.00 feet (7.62 meters)
    Height: 8.14 feet (2.48 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 1,839 lb (834 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 3,073 lb (1,394 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Pratt & Whitney Wasp TD3-1 air-cooled 9-cylinder radial piston engine developing 800 horsepower.

    Maximum Speed: 294 mph (473 kph; 255 knots)
    Maximum Range: 925 miles (1,488 km)
    Service Ceiling: 15,000 feet (4,572 meters; 2.84 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 6,100 feet-per-minute (1,859 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload


    Global Operators / Customers

    United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    Model X "Sportster" - Single-Seat Racer; appearing in 1930; lost to accident in September 1931.

    Model B "Sportster" - Fitted with Warner radial engine; single example produced; status unknown.

    Model C "Sportster" - Fitted with Menasco inline piston engine; single example produced; lost to accident.

    Model D "Sportster" - Fitted with Menasco inline piston engine; single example produced; lost to accident in July of 1936.

    Model E "Sportster" - Fitted with Warner radial piston engines; four examples produced; all lost to accidents.

    Model Y "Senior Sportster" - Two-Seater developed from the Model X; two examples produced, both lost to accident; first example fitted Warner radial engine; second example fitted Lycoming engine then Wright Whirlwind engine; second model lost to accident in 1933 race.

    Model Z "Super Sportster"- Dedicated Racer; fitted with 1 x Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior radial engine of 535 horsepower; enclosed cockpit; lost to accident in December of 1931.

    Model R-1 "Super Sportster" - Fitted with Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engine of 800 horsepower; first flight August 1932; later fitted with 1 x Pratt & Whitney Hornet radial engine of 900 horsepower; single example produced; lost to accident on July 1st, 1933.

    Model R-2 "Super Sportster" - Fitted with Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior radial engine of 550 horsepower; single example produced; lost to accident in 1933.

    Model R-1/R-2 "Super Sportster" - "Mutt" Design utilizing remains of R-1 and R-2 models; fitting a Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engine; single example produced; lost to accident in 1935.

    Gee Bee QED - Fitting a Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engine; single production example; crashed on June 7th, 1939; later rebuilt and set as a museum piece in Mexico.