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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.


A great orientation to Granville brothers history and aviation activities can be found in J.I. Granville's 2000 book entitled, "Farmers Take Flight", Copy Cat Print Shop, Springfield, MA, ISBN 0-9702493-1-4.

To see another image of Granville, please follow this link to the Klein Archive of Aviation Photographs.


The Granville brothers designed and build more than racing aircraft. This link takes you to a video of a canard- design "flivver" that flew in 1931. The pilot is Zantford Granville. The B&W film has sound, so you can hear his voice.

Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register
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Zantford Delbert “Granny” Granville visited the Davis-Monthan Airfield on Monday August 24, 1931 (photo from p. 114 of second reference at left).

He was flying the GeeBee E Model Sportster. His airplane featured a 110 HP Warner Scarab radial engine. It was Sportster number 6, registration number NC46V. It was previously owned by William Sloan and Lowell Bayles, then by Zantford Granville and Russell Boardman. Bayles and Boardman raced the machine at different times. The airplane was based in Springfield, MA.

But what was Granny doing in Tucson? His daughter, Dr. Norma Granville (cited, right sidebar), and her niece June Granville Dakin, shared with me the pages from his pilot logbook that record his visit to Tucson and beyond (his original log lives in the Springfield Science Museum).

He arrived from Phoenix. He was enroute to Douglas, AZ competing in the 1931 Transcontinental Handicap Air Derby, which ran from Santa Monica to Cleveland (the Cleveland Air Races were held August 29th – September 7th that year). According to the Aircraft Yearbook for 1932, he did not place in the top five.

Here is one of the pages from his pilot log that places him in Tucson. As my transient register states, and his pilot log corroborates, he was on his way from Phoenix to Douglas, AZ. Although the Register doesn’t indicate it, this page from his pilot log suggests he remained in Tucson overnight and flew to Douglas on the 25th.

He was flying this airplane. The Granville Brothers Aircraft Company of Springfield became famous for their radically designed racing aircraft, all named GeeBees. Nine Sportsters, similar to this one, were built. Depending upon which book you read, this airplane was either red and white, or green and white with black pinstripes.

One history of Granville aircraft cites Granny as dropping out of the derby with abdominal pain that was ultimately diagnosed as kidney stones. However, the previous and following pages of his pilot log shows no significant gaps in his travel to Cleveland! He may very well have been flying while ill.

This is his itinerary derived from his pilot log for August 14-30, 1931. It’s an out and back route from Detroit to Los Angeles and return to Cleveland, with Amarillo being a common stop going and returning. The northernmost route is his travel to the beginning of the derby in Los Angeles. The southernmost track is his route east from LA to Cleveland for the handicap event in association with the 1931 National Air Races. "KDMA" on the chart designates his landing at Tucson.

This 3,861-mile round-trip was quite a 16-day voyage for the 30 year-old pilot, with barely 700 hours flying experience (note total hours at bottom of his log page, above), over mountains and late summer thunderstorms, with compass only, and no radios! And perhaps kidney stones!

Interestingly, we have another piece of this itinerary, below, in the form of his entry in the Santa Monica, CA (Clover Field) Register for August 18, 1931, six days before he came to Tucson. You can see Granville's signature on the second line down. He had arrived from Kingman, AZ at 3:45 in the afternoon. We know from his pilot log book that it took him two hours and 35 minutes to fly from Kingman to Santa Monica. You can see that leg of his travel on the chart above (KIGM to KLAX).

Santa Monica, CA, Clover Field Register, August 18, 1931 (Source: Underwood)
Santa Monica, CA, Clover Field Register, August 18, 1931


Two Gee Bee aircraft landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield. The second was NR2101. It landed on August 5, 1934 piloted by Joe Lafayette Thomas. What Thomas was doing in Tucson with the airplane may be devined from the following unabridged excerpt (relevant phrases in bold) from

"R-1, R-2 1932 = 1pClwM; 730hp P&W Wasp T3D1; span: 25'0" length: 17'9" loads: (R-1) 1235#, (R-2) 2087# v (R-1): 294/260/90. POP: 2 famous record-breakers: R-1 #11 [NR2100] c/n R-1, and R-2 #7 [NR2101] c/n R-2. In 1933 R-1 had rerated 900hp P&W Hornet. Winner of 1932 Thompson Trophy (p: James Doolittle, 253mph). Both 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, marking an end to the original barrel-bodies."

This information is further corroborated by a letter sent to me by his great niece, June Granville Dakin. She wrote,

"As to your inquiry about Joe Lafayette Thomas signing in at Tucson with a GeeBee NR2101 on 8/5/34, that had to be the 1933 combination #7 and #11 (often referred to as the 'Hybrid 7'). It came about after the 7 and 11 mishaps. The #7's wings were used on this longer aircraft. It had to be this plane (model R1/R2) which was once owned by SARA (Springfield Air Racing Association). Their pilot, Ray Minor, had slid off a wet runway while preparing for the 1933 National Air Races. There was no money nor time to make the necessary minor repairs, so SARA sought a buyer. Perhaps Mr. Thomas was the new owner."

Or, perhaps, he was flying it for Mr. Voelker, cited above by aerofiles. Regardless, see this page of the register for Thomas' landing information. Why he listed two passengers is also interesting, since the airplane is single-place. An image of the airplane can be seen at the bottom of the page at this link.


Below, from left, your webmaster, Dr. Norma Granville and Delmar Benjamin. Dr. Granville and I are pointing to the Davis-Monthan register entry made by her father, Zantford Granville, 70 years earlier on August 24, 1931. Mr. Benjamin’s airplane, in the background, is a replica of Gee Bee NR2101, the R-2 model that he flew at air shows between 1992 and 2001.

This photograph was taken July 27, 2001 at Oshkosh, WI.


Dossier 2.1.3

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 05/05 REVISED: 11/28/06, 09/30/07, 06/24/08, 07/05/09

This page is Google rank #1 as of 07/20/10 if you search for "Zantford Granville."

The Register

On many occasions, with the pilot network being so tight, it is relatively easy to find a first-level relationship (one degree of separation) from a signer of the Register.

Such is the case with Zantford Granville. I was talking in 2001 with Delmar Benjamin (see below, left) at Oshkosh and showing him where the ancestor of his airplane had landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield in 1934. He guided me to Dr. Norma Granville, who was coincidentally at the airshow. See the photograph below.

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