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Gee Bee Archeology

June 2024
1min read

I thoroughly enjoy your magazine, but you left yourself somewhat exposed in the December issue regarding Artzybasheff’s painting of the Gee Bee R-I racer in the 1932 Cleveland Air Races ("The Winter Art Show"). In your caption, you call the Gee Bee airplane “dangerous” (which it was), and the painting “utterly accurate.” However, Artzybasheff has mistakenly rendered the aircraft with a curved windshield frontpiece, when in fact the R-I was actually fitted with an angled plate of flat, high-strength glass in front of the cockpit to protect the pilot from oncoming debris or disintegrating engine parts. The modification was performed by the Granville Brothers Aircraft Company following the death nine months earlier of superpilot Lowell Bayles, who was driven into the ground at Michigan’s Wayne County Airport when the gas cap from his Gee Bee “Z” racer rattled loose and shattered the regularstreneth. curved windshield.

Also, the Artzybasheff rendering shows a small teardrop-shaped flying light on the aircraft’s fin, when in fact only the Gee Bee R-2, the cross-country twin of Doolittle’s R-I, had such a feature. Since we are seeking an “utterly accurate rendering” (your words) here, I thought you’d appreciate the clarification. In spite of these minor flaws, I’d love to have a print of the painting, a breathtaking snapshot of one of the most famous air races in history.

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