October 3, 2013 - During many of his 82 years on this earth, Jim Moss crafted some striking reproduction airplanes first made famous during aviation's golden age. But none are as special as the reproduction 1934 Gee Bee Q.E.D. - the final design of the Granville brothers of Springfield, Massachusetts, that took flight for the first time last Thursday, September 26, at Olympia Regional Airport in Washington.
But Jim was not there to see it; he passed away on September 1 after a lengthy illness and never saw his vision take flight. Some people might think that's a shame, but his widow Judy said it really didn't matter to him.
"Sure, it was bittersweet, but Jim did get to see the end result. He saw it taxi," she said, referring to the completed cruiser's initial taxi runs on the grass strip at their home airfield, Cawley's South Prairie Airport in Buckley.
Jim had a dedicated team of volunteers helping him build the airplane, and those people saw to it that it was finished after Jim stopped working on it due to his failing health this past year. Rich Alldredge, of Moses Lake, headed the project team to complete the Q.E.D.
"I may have been the one who took a leadership role, but there's been a fantastic team of people working on it since day one," Alldredge explained. "We were fortunate to get it in the final configuration as Jim envisioned it before he passed."
Other people working on the airplane were Ron Robertson, who was there as much or more than anyone; Bill Moss, Jim's brother; neighbors Fritz Bright and Ken Brynstad; and, of course, Judy.
"The first flight was wonderful," she said. "I would have felt anxious had Jim been in that little beast, but it felt great to see it fly." Test pilot was Carter Teeters, of Tacoma.
About a week before the flight, the airplane's wings were removed at Cawley's South Prairie before it was transported about 50 miles to Olympia, the airport selected for Phase I flight testing. After reattaching the wings, they had to wait out a nasty stretch of weather.
"We had the aircraft ready for about a week, but you know how the weather can be here in the Northwest," Alldredge explained. "About an hour and a half after we did a final taxi test last Thursday, the weather looked like it had cleared enough. Then Carter says, 'Well, we've run out of excuses.'" It was go time.
"The aircraft handled absolutely flawlessly," Alldredge continued. The weather window was closing, so he stayed in the pattern.
"He didn't do much other than the power and control stick," Alldredge described. "He got it up to 120 kts, but it was pretty clear it wants to fly a lot faster." The Q.E.D. took off at about 85-90 kts. There were no surprises, and just one minor squawk that's already been addressed, he said.
It's considered a reproduction but there are some significant differences to the original 1934 airplane. For one, it's powered by a Wright R-1820 Cyclone engine, not the Pratt and Whitney R-1690 Hornet. In a June 2011 story in Sport Aviation, Jim explained the reason:
The Q.E.D. was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet. Due to its mission as a long-distance racer, this 675-hp powerplant was fed by a prodigious 480 gallons of fuel. Jim didn't feel his replica needed that much fuel for even the most ambitious cross-country flying. He also wasn't excited about trying to find and maintain a Hornet - an engine both rare and cantankerous relative to other radials.
"I had bought a Pratt 1340 when I realized that the Wright 1820 had the same diameter as the 1690 with twice the horsepower," Jim said. So, in a move that the Granvilles and their golden age racing compatriots would surely have approved, Jim put aside the "little" R-1340 and purchased a 1,425-hp R-1820 Cyclone that had been used on a North American T-28. The dry weight of the Cyclone is only about 200 pounds more than that of the Hornet, a deficit Jim easily made up by cutting the fuel capacity of his Q.E.D. to "only" 240 gallons.
With several hundred extra horsepower on tap, Jim decided on one major deviation from the Q.E.D.'s original aerodynamics. "I knew I'd be wanting a bit more vertical area, so I scaled up the rudder and ?n until they had the same area as on the T-28," Jim said. "I figured that ought to be enough." Read the complete story.
Once the hours are flown off, what's the plan for Jim's Gee Bee Q.E.D.?
"We're dealing with a piece of history here, so we are being very deliberate," Alldredge said. "We want to do it right." Plans are to fine-tune the airplane over the winter months and then maybe bring it to some air shows.
"We definitely have Oshkosh in our sights, and maybe get some of Jim's other planes out there," Alldredge said. Two other well known Jim Moss projects are the 1938 MG-2 biplane restoration and his 1931 Laird Super Solution reproduction.
"Jim really loved coming to Oshkosh."