Springfield History in Windsor Locks
“It’s an icon, it’s just so important for this area,” says Mike Speciale, executive director of the New England Air Museum. “It really symbolizes, I think, the technological and industrial achievements here in the Pioneer Valley and the Connecticut River Valley.”
It’s the Gee Bee Supersportster R-1, built by the Granville Brothers in 1932. None of the originals exist because they all crashed and burned while racing, but this replica is a perfect copy — built using blueprints given to the museum by the Granville family.
“The original was actually the fastest land plane in the world in 1932 and it won the big trophy race,” says Speciale. “It was piloted by Jimmy Doolittle, who was a very famous American aviator.”
He adds, “During the Depression, very few people could afford to buy sport airplanes, money was tight, but there was a lot of money in racing if you won the trophy.”
The Gee Bee became a symbol of hope in an area that was working tirelessly toward prosperity.
“Springfield, of course, was a powerhouse of industrial activity and all kinds of things went on here,” says Speciale. “Great things happened in the Greater Springfield area and this is just one example.”
You can check out the Gee Bee Supersportster R-1 and climb inside a dozen other planes next Sunday when the New England Air Museum host its Open Cockpit Event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit NEAM.org.