When looking at the Gee Bee:

enter image description here

I wonder what the pilot is actually able to see, when rolling on the runway, when flying level, or trying to locate a possible emergency landing place. It seems this aircraft puts the pilot and the people on the ground at risk.

Wouldn't a mirror improve safety, or is there a hole in the bottom of the fuselage?

How could such an aircraft be allowed to fly at the time? Did flying it only require to hold a recreational private pilot license or additional qualifications? Would it be allowed today in Europe, or in the US, based on existing regulation?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not aware of any law that requires a specific amount of forward visibility, just that flight can be made with visual reference to the ground, and for this plane, a tailwheel endorsement. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 17:38
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    $\begingroup$ The cockpit seems small in proportion to the fuselage, but I don't see why you would expect the visibility to be any worse than it is for many other cockpit-over-fuselage arrangements. $\endgroup$
    – Octopus
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ Take a look at the Vought F4U - it had an even longer nose. $\endgroup$
    – tj1000
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 4:14

3 Answers 3


At least it has a forward looking windshield.

enter image description here
(Source) Spirit of St. Louis that was flown solo by Charles Lindbergh on May 20–21, 1927, on the first solo non-stop transatlantic flight from Long Island, New York, to Paris, France.

enter image description here

enter image description here
(Source) A 777-300 needs a camera too to make cornering easier.

Like all tail-draggers, the pilot can be guided by a wing-sitter, or by taxiing in an S-shape.

For landing, a little cross-control to crab will allow a side view of what's ahead.

Above methods were/are very common for WWII-era planes with huge noses and a tail-dragger undercarriage.

enter image description here enter image description here
(Left, right) Taxiing with wing-sitter assistance.

Landing on big grass-fields makes it easier too.

Would the Gee Bee be allowed to fly today?

The Gee Bee was still flying airshows until 2002, so the answer is yes.

enter image description here
(Source) Gee Bee R2 flown by Delmar Benjamin at Oshkosh 2001. Benjamin flew an aerobatic routine in this aircraft at numerous airshows until he retired the aircraft in 2002.

  • 51
    $\begingroup$ Ah, so the answer is "To locate the runway, simply invert the plane." $\endgroup$
    – TonyK
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 23:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 777 does not need a camera. It simply has one. But without it it wouldn't be any worse than, say, 747. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 13:36

The reasons such aircraft (including Spirit of St.Louis as pointed out by @ymb) were allowed to fly are explained in another answer. Quoting from it:

You don't need a panoramic view to land, ... Navigation is easy enough through side windows ... and you can just yaw the plane left and right for the times you do want to line up with something.

Even today, tail draggers have basically zero forward visibility on the ground so they taxi by watching the edge of the pavement with the occasional sharp s-turn to check ahead.

As for certification requirements, you can get an experimental certificate and fly it. FAA issues experimental certificates for racing aircraft:

§21.191 Experimental certificates.

Experimental certificates are issued for the following purposes:

(e) Air racing. Participating in air races, including (for such participants) practicing for such air races and flying to and from racing events.

GeeBee R2 was flying as recently as 2001 (not that recent, i know), so I'm pretty sure someone can fly it if they are upto it. FAA requires special pilot authorization for this kind of aircraft:

What type of experimental aircraft requires an FAA issued authorization?

This information applies to pilots of aircraft to which the FAA has issued Special Airworthiness Certificates for the purpose of Experimental under Title 14 CFR section 21.191 and are one of the following:

  • "Large" aircraft (more than 12,500 pounds),

  • Turbojet powered, or

  • Airplanes that have a VNE (never exceed speed) in excess of 250 KIAS and more than 800 HP.

  • $\begingroup$ What would be the requirements to meet today to obtain the airworthiness certificate for this aircraft, e.g. what level of visibility, and what would be the limitation for use? e.g. limited to exhibition or racing. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 6:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @mins The replica was tested according to FAA AC 20-27G Certification and Operation of Amateur-Built Aircraft. It underwent 25 hours flight testing. You can go through that. As for visibility requirements, I'm not able to find anything specific. though I suspect that requirements for other aircraft will apply here too. $\endgroup$
    – aeroalias
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 2:11

This YouTube video shows the view from an RC model of the plane.

In case the video is lost: It demonstrates very good visibility, well in excess of FAA regulations. Only a small sector of forward view is blocked.

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    $\begingroup$ While the nitpickers might say this is not an answer to the question, I think it is a great contribution to the issue. +1 $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ While the nitpickers would argue the question is one of FAA regulation, the nitpicker's nitpickers would argue that the question is based on the assumption that forward visibility is almost zero, whereas the video demonstrates otherwise... :-) $\endgroup$
    – AndyS
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 7:04
  • $\begingroup$ As an extra contribution, other videos showing the GeeBee taxiing demonstrate that the tail lifts relatively very quickly, enabling the pilot to have a more level view of the runway ahead. $\endgroup$
    – AndyS
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 7:12
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    $\begingroup$ Another nitpicker could argue that if the linked video is ever deleted or becomes unavailable, then this answer becomes meaningless. A description in text, or one or two well-chosen still images from the video uploaded to imgur, could easily rectify that. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 11:35

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