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Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.


These images come to us courtesy of the Klein Archive of Aviation Photographs available for view on this website.

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GeeBee NR2101
GeeBee NR2101

At right and below are two images of GeeBee NR2101 as photographed by Gordon S. Williams. The location and dates are unknown, but according to the photos are, "of the 1933 R-1/R-2 "longtail" that used the repaired fuselage of Boardman's R-1, lengthened by about 18" behind the cockpit, and the old 1932 R-2 wings, which had been replaced in the 1933 R-2. Powered by a 1,000 hp P&W Hornet, it had a tighter cowl with bumps for the rocker covers." The bumps are clearly visible in these images. An access panel is open just over the wing root. Compare these photos with the one at the Gerow Collection.

According to aerofiles, "Both [the R1 & R2] planes were destroyed in crashes, but fuselage parts and landing gears from their remains were used by E. Morgan Voelker of Tucson, AZ to make a 1934 hybrid replica that bore the original R-2 numbers—it, too, was destroyed in a 1935 crash [see below], marking an end to the original barrel-bodies." Follow the aerofiles link for more information.

The annotation on the right-hand image, above, states, "Granville 'Gee Bee 1', Hornet 1000 HP, Cecil Allen’s ill fated ship, Photo by Gordon S. Williams". Cecil Allen, a Register pilot, was killed flying this airplane in 1935.

GeeBee NR2101
GeeBee NR2101

The annotation on the image at left states, " Hall 'Gee Bee' 7-11, P&W R-1690 “Hornet” 800-900 HP, NR2101 crashed on takeoff 31 August 1935 at Burbank, During Bendix Race. Cecil Allen killed." Allen's name can be seen painted just under the cockpit on the original photograph.

Although this is Allen's airplane, the annotation seems to be in error regarding the difference in HP specifics as described by Mr. Underwood, below.

Follow that aerofiles link to see another image of this airplane. You'll note that our image has severe oil streaking on the forward fuselage, and the lettering, "Spirit of Flight," is not on the aerofiles image. Another image of the airplane is on Allen's page. That image was taken very close in time to the one above. Compare the oil streaks behind the engine and the building on the right in the photos.

That leaves us with the Tucson visit of NR2101. According to the Register, Joe Lafayette Thomas brought the airplane to the Airfield on August 5, 1934. His entry in the Register is suspect, because he lists two passengers (the airplane has a single cockpit), he identifies his destination as the Tucson, AZ Transfer Co., and in the Remarks column he notes, "Lafayette we are here". Regardless, to complicate things a bit more, this might be a test flight of the airplane while it was under E. Morgan Voelker's restoration program. Please refer to Zantford Granville's page for further interpretation of this confusing puzzle.

On March 16, 2011 our friend John Underwood clarifies things a little regarding the visit of NR2101. He says, "The Voelker rebuild was the last and Allen tried to sell it, because he did not have the experience to fly it.   Vance Breese flew it and acted as broker in the sales effort.

"To my knowledge there was no pilot by the name of Joe Lafayette Thomas and my feeling is that the [Register] entry makes ref to its arrival by truck, probably with two helpers.   Breese may have flown it to what is now LAX, thence to BUR for the Bendix lineup.  I knew Breese but never had an opportunity to inquire about his Gee Bee experience.   Incidentally, Arrigo Balboni, the celebrated 'flying junkman' salvaged the remains which were later dispersed as souvenirs, which is what happened to a lot of the fatal accident remains in his junkyard.   A large part of the Gee Bee's fuselage, including the cockpit, fell off its shelf and nearly killed a bystander."

Further, Mr. Underwood states, "I retrieved my files on the subject, which shed some light on Joe Lafayette Thomas et al.    Thomas acquired the aircraft from Voelker on 7/31/34 and sold it to Allen on 6/6/35, less engine and with an encumbrance in the amount of $625 to Russell Cooper.   It was fitted with a 425-hp Wasp (SN 5594) and inspected by Scroggie (well known CAA inspector), who issued new license for racing only as redesigned Gee Bee Granville Bros. R-2, with new and larger wing.   Hornet replaced by Wasp.   JLT [Thomas], A&E 5722, was the person who rebuilt the Gee Bee for its ill-fated bid for the Bendix Trophy.  He also did the stress analysis, which implies that he had an engineering background.  He built an entirely new wing, using fragmentary information.   That is, he did it without the benefit of a full set of factory blueprints, according the FAA documents I had access to at the time.  There is no record of JLT holding a pilots certificate of any kind at that time up to Jan. 1, 1940.   That picture you used of the airplane with a large amount of oil on the fuselage [the second image, above, as well as the one at Allen's link] was taken at Burbank, almost certainly a day or so before Allen's attempted takeoff."

Thus, this elegant airplane probably arrived at Tucson by truck. A year later it was demolished for good. Please direct your browser to Allen's link for more details about the final flight of NR2101 and Allen's passing.


UPLOADED: 09/29/07 REVISED: 11/07/07, 02/06/08, 03/16/11, 04/07/12, 07/16/12

The Register
I'm looking for information and photographs of this airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.

---o0o--- Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.


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