1.15: The Killer Plane and The American Hero That Tamed It - Jimmy Doolittle and the 300mph Gee Bee R1
This was the fastest machine in the world in 1932. It had 45-mph on Sir Malcom Campbell’s land based monster, it had 172-mph on Gar Wood’s boat that packed four massive Packard airplane engines and let’s not even waste our time on locomotives of the day. It was piloted by a talented, daring man who a decade later would become one of America’s greatest war heroes and it was constructed by a group of brothers during a 90-day thrash in an abandoned dance hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The plane was a hot rod of the highest order before the phrase was coined. The machine was called the Gee Bee R1 and it was destined to become a race winner, a widow maker, and one of the most celebrated planes of the great era of air racing in America.
Its pilot was Jimmy Doolittle, a man destined to become one of the greatest war heroes America has ever known in the 1940s for leading the daring and near suicidal Tokyo Raid. He was among the best pilots in the world in 1932 and that was good because had he not been, this airplane would have killed him dead at the first chance and it tried.
This is a story written in horsepower, risk, and blood.