Hands-on preview: the Gee Bee R3 Special will put a big smile on your face

It was less than a couple of weeks ago that we first reported about the Gee Bee R3 Special, a new racing and aerobatic aircraft that will soon arrive to MSFS. Now, after having the chance to try an early version of the aircraft, we can confidently say that the Gee Bee R3 really is… Special!

You see, the small and light airplane category for MSFS is the fastest growing one yet, but it’s getting increasingly hard to find something that stands out amongst the growing numbers of small airplanes. They keep on coming, sometimes without much difference between each release. But this Gee Bee is no such thing! It’s a simple machine, yes, but it’s so much fun to throw around, painting the sky with a streak of smoking colors, that it easily earns its spot in your MSFS hangar.

The Gee Bee R3 Special is a collaborative project from Jonx, Got Gravel and 270 Inc, a talented trio that got together to form Got Friends and set out to create their first joint project: a concept airplane that never saw the light of day. At least, not as it was intended. The Gee Bee R3 only exists, for now, as an RC model of varying sizes. That didn’t stop Got Friends from attempting to recreate an accurate model of the aircraft, which they did up to an impressive standard, especially considering its price.

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The Gee Bee is a somewhat strange-looking plane, an amalgam of ideas seemingly put together to form something that looks like… a rocket with Spitfire wings? The cockpit sitting way back in the slimmest section of the fuselage, which gets chubbier at the front, in a kind of horizontal teardrop shape… It’s definitely an interesting-looking thing! But Got Friends took their time to recreate this model with appreciable aesthetic qualities. It’s very well modeled and textured, both on the exterior and in the cockpit as well.

The Gee Bee sports its most distinct look from the outside, which looks great on this virtual version from Got Friends. The textures are realistic and the included liveries are very cool. While not as peculiar as the exterior, the Gee Bee’s cockpit is arguably even better reproduced. The steam gauges sit in parallel with the standard Garmin 430/330 avionics, which you can swap for the excellent GTN 750 mod, and everything looks as we come to expect from a properly built airplane for MSFS: smooth 3D graphics with very nice textures.

The only visible flaw that we found on the visual model was related to the prop spinner in some of the liveries. The spinning motion isn’t perfectly smooth and seems to be on a weird loop, but other than that the prop animation is great.

When it comes to the sound environment, it’s all again quite good. The engine and its constant-speed propellers, in particular, sound great, and most knobs in the cockpit also reproduce the familiar clicking sound. Unfortunately, some of the switches are silent at this moment, but we’re sure this will be added in a subsequent update.

How about the flight characteristics? We obviously can’t vouch for the way it behaves (can anyone?), but the Gee Bee feels… authentic. The nuances of its performance, the way it reacts to your inputs, definitely feel real. More than that, it’s just an incredibly fun aircraft! We are used to some riveting flights with Got Gravel’s airplanes (the Vertigo and the Savage Carbon, in its way, are good examples of this), and the Gee Bee raises the fun levels even further. It’s fast and nimble, very responsive to the controls as a true aerobatic machine should be, and with the ability to give it even more power with an injection of Nitrous Oxide, you can give it some serious abuse and do some awesome stunts. And, with colored smoke trails that can be quickly switched on from the cockpit, the sky is a canvas where you can freely draw in a three-dimensional space, your aircraft as a brush plastering the thick white clouds. It’s truly a grin-inducing experience that makes this Gee Bee feel more expensive and nuanced than one could expect from its price tag.

Aerobatic maneuvers are what the Gee Bee does best. I’m not at all an expert, but performing a simple loop and meeting the line of smoke that was left behind is priceless. It should please VR simmers in particular, but you will have to choose a specific VR model from the livery selection screen. Got Friends say this was a necessary step in order to overcome some limitations, but should be a temporary fix until Asobo enables more control over the camera settings and World Scale values.

The Gee Bee R3 Special features 3 special features that really set it apart. The smoke was already mentioned before, as well as the possibility to boost the engine with a NOS injection, but the Gee Bee also sports large pneumatic speed brakes that dramatically affect its aerodynamics. For one, they can significantly slow the aircraft. They are often needed when landing (this is a slippery airplane!), but caution must be exercised, or you will find yourself in a falling rock in no time.

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Interestingly, these speed brakes are also automatically deployed during sharp rolls. In this instance, only the speed brake on the side of the roll will be deployed, and only halfway. A great help on those tighter turns.

Besides the exhilarating flight experience and three cool special features, don’t expect to see many extras. The aforementioned support for the GTN 750 mod is great, but other smaller things are not included. For instance, the canopy doesn’t open and there are no additional external elements like wheel chocks or anything like that. Not that you need them, because once airborne, you won’t care about any of those things.

The Gee Bee R3 Special from Got Friends excels on what matters, and more: it’s and a beautifully recreated thing that can easily put a big smile on your face. Totally recommended!

The Gee Bee R3 Special will be available very soon for just $15.00. The developers hope that it’s an affordable airplane that the community can easily enjoy. It’s coming to a new payware marketplace under development by our friends at flightsim.to, so expect to hear more news about that very soon too. And the icing on the cake is that the Xbox version has also been confirmed!

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