Glory Days of Aviation - The Gee Bee
From Time Magazine June 7, 1939
Francisco ("Pancho") Sarabia is a small Mexican with a white-toothed smile and surprising blue eyes. One morning last week, at Mexico City's airport, he put a rabbit's foot and a holy medal into his wallet, climbed into a five-year-old racing plane, took off in the direction of New York City. Pancho bucked strong head winds, got up at times to 16,000 ft. He had started with 525 gallons, but after passing Philadelphia he began to worry about his gas. When he sighted his destination, Floyd Bennett Field, he decided he was just about dry. So, instead of circling to come in upwind, he streaked in downwind for a "hot" landing. His wife, watching from the ground, put her hand to her mouth. But Pancho got down neatly and smoothly at about 115 m.p.h.
His admirers, including the Mexican Ambassador to the U. S. and a posse of his own relatives, rushed out to shake his hand, kiss him, slap his back. For Fran cisco Sarabia had set a new record of 10 hrs. 48 min. for the Mexico City-New York flight, beating the old record (set by the late Amelia Earhart) by 3 hrs. 31 min.
Even before the dangerous downwind landing, Sarabia's friends had their fingers crossed. His plane, the Q.E.D., had an unlucky history. In 1934 in the Granville Brothers' factory (Springfield, Mass.) it was built for Jacqueline Cochran to fly in a London-Melbourne race. Miss Cochran was forced down at Bucharest. Later the Q.E.D. was entered in four important U. S. races, never finished one. Last year Sarabia bought it from Dealer Charles Babb of Los Angeles.
Up to last week Francisco Sarabia was almost unheard of in the U. S., but in Mexico he is considered not only the nation's Lindbergh and Roscoe Turner but its Juan Trippe. He is president and co-founder (with his three brothers) of one of Mexico's most important native-owned airlines, the Compania Transportes Aéreos de Chiapas. Last year it carried approximately 17,000 passengers, 18,000 Ibs. of mail, 3,000,000 Ibs. of freight, made enough money to double its equipment. It now has 28 ships of a half-dozen makes, 14 pilots. Sarabia considers his airline worth about a million dollars.
"Pancho" Sarabia likes good, quiet clothes and Scotch whiskey, speaks good English, displays the nerveless sang-froid of a proper flier. Born 39 years ago in the little town of Lerdo, he attended Mexican schools, crossed the U. S. border to get a degree at New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, went to an automobile school in Kansas City, worked at the Buick plant in Michigan. In 1926 he took a $3 ride with a barnstormer. Next day Pancho started flying lessons and he has never been out of flying for more than three months since. He ran a flying school in Mexico, became President Cárdenas' personal pilotand Cárdenas has never since flown with anyone else.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,761446,00.html#ixzz113IAR9OI-------------------------------------BayPointMike wrote:With the exception of Jimmy Doolittle, most Gee Bee pilots died in accidents, most during take off. A smaller scale replica was build and its pilot told me, during a Salinas Air Show that he found the problem of the plane was "flow separation" over the wing. Whichever wing lost lift also produced a tendency to pitch the plane up, which led to total loss of lift. In his plane, a scaled down version, the effect was less severe and he thought it "lucky" that he survived one incident. He continued flying by always exceeding the take off speed prior to trying to climb up from the runway -very gradually. Uncle Francisco was not so lucky, neither all the other Gee Bee pilots. One exception was Jimmy Doolittle later became the head of NACA (National Advisory Committee in Aeronautics) that became NASA that gave me my first job after college.Note: Gee Bee stands for Greenville Brothers, the name of the builders c. 1932.