Gee Bee

Written by Tom Sandor Great for FF or RC Construction As seen in the Fall 2017 issue of Park Pilot.

Download free plans

Click here for full-size plans (23.01" x 15.64") Click here for tiled plans 8.5" x 11"


Type: Semiscale FF model Wingspan: 15 inches Length: 9.75 inches Wing Area: 42 square inches Flying Weight: 1 ounce Power: Miniature electric experimental system Material:Depron foam


The Rocketeer, a 1991 Walt Disney film, was neither a space story nor a Buck Rogers tale. The time and setting is the 1930s in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was the home of the Granville brothers, creators of the famous Gee Bee race airplanes.

The main actor plays a young test pilot for a small rural airport. As the action begins, he is test-flying a gleaming, new, yellow-and-black-trimmed Gee Bee Z Super Sportster. Down below he spots two automobiles, one in mad pursuit of the other. The rear car holds some gangsters with Tommy guns blasting away at the car a short distance ahead. The test pilot in the Gee Bee makes the mistake of dropping altitude for a better look and takes a hit from the gangsters’ guns. The hit to the airplane’s oil tank begins to spew oil over the cockpit windshield. The pilot punches a hole in it, gets his face covered with oil, and barely retreats to make a landing. The car in the lead was carrying a special Howard Hughes creation, a rocket pack made to carry anyone who wears it. The test pilot and his mechanic/engineer come in contact with it. The rest is nearly two hours of heroics and finishes with the entrance of Howard presenting the hero pilot with a new Gee Bee Z.

The first Granville Brothers Aircraft Gee Bee was an R-1. It was a squattier version of the Z model but with the same large wheel pants. Both were striking in appearance and were great-flying racers during the 1930s. The Gee Bee Model Z Super Sportster can be seen on display at the Museum of Flight in Tukwila, Washington. The movie inspired me to make my next model using 3mm Depron foam sheet for construction. Building the aircraft, as seen on the plans, is self-explanatory. Most of the Gee Bee is made using Depron sheet foam. I left the choice of power to the discretion of the builder. Although this model was designed for FF (Free Flight), it could be modified for RC. Let’s begin with the photo showing the two sides of the fuselage cut from a sheet of 3mm Depron foam. After the parts were cut out, I used a red Sharpie to create the famous Gee Bee color scheme (Photo 1). The number 4 on each side was made by sandwiching two black tissue sheets between a folded paper sheet that was taped firmly on a cutting board. The shape was carefully cut out with a sharp X-Acto blade.

The line detail around the 4 was made with a fine, black Sharpie. I used a blue pen to detail the cockpit area. Using the same carbon paper method, I cut out all of the parts. I should mention about the character of the 3mm Depron sheets. Like most pressed-out material, there is a slight grain to it. The Depron’s grain appears to run through the narrow 10-inch section. You can test it by carefully bending the sheet. Trace all of the wing and tail sections (A, C, and D), as well as the gear and bottom (B and E) along this firm-grain section for added strength. Strengthen the back of the gear with 1/32 x 1/4 plywood. (This is not shown on the plans.)

The fuselage tops (detail F) are cut from thin card stock finished with a white coating. Using Elmer’s rubber cement, coat the edges of two fuselage parts (B), along with areas inside of both (A) parts where the (Bs) are to be joined. Allow both to dry. Carefully join them as shown in Photo 2 and on the lower left section of the plans drawing. Complete the Gee Bee’s construction by using Elmer’s rubber cement. Remember to let the parts dry before joining them. I also added rubberized treading to strengthen the wings and wheel gear.

The greater part of my modeling experience has been with FF aircraft using rubber motors for power. This might be possible, providing that the rubber motor peg is not placed too far back, causing the Gee Bee to become unbalanced. A better choice would be a readily available miniature electric power system. -Tom Sandor

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I am interested in building the Gee Bee, but would like to more about the landing gear is made. Can you describe how you built the landing gear in more detail. Thanks.

Getting picky: The Gee Bee model Z was yellow with black trim.

The Gee Bee R-1 Super Sportster was not the first Gee Bee.
It was preceded by the Model Z.
The R-1 had a similar sister ship, the R-2.
The R-1 was powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine, and was intended for closed course racing.
The R-2 was powered by the smaller Wasp Jr. engine and was intended primarily for cross country racing.
The R-1 and R-2 both eventually crashed, and the parts were commingled to build the hybrid aircraft that followed.
None of the Gee Bee Super Sportsters survive. Any Gee Bee that you see is a reproduction.

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