About Graham Lee
1942 - 2005
Birthplace: Winnipeg Manitoba
Graham Lee was born in 1942 to Parents LR "Bobby" and Molly Lee. His father served overseas with the 12th Manitoba Dragoons ; and participated in the Liberation of the Netherlands in 1945.
On his return from the War, Bobby built a family home with Molly on Valour Road**
In Winnipeg. **as a coincidence ; the street of Graham's childhood home has symbolic connection to WW1 (link)
In his youth , Graham developed an aptitude for motorcycle mechanics and racing. Having won a Manitoba Championship in the 350cc and under class in 1963 with his Honda 305, He became popular with fellow motorcyclists as the “go to” for advice on Motorcycle performance
May 1964: Graham’s Honda 305
May ’64: Graham participating in local TT “Scrambles” near Winnipeg.
As a Journeyman Machinist , Graham moved to Edmonton in ~ 1972. He discovered the Experimental Aircraft Association and became a member of the very active Chapter 30. Graham served for several years as the editor of “Propwash” the chapter’s monthly newsletter.
He also studiously devoured all of the great educational materials the EAA made available, such as the “Flying and Glider” publications, as well as texts on aircraft and propeller design .
Graham rented a small heated garage workshop next door to an EAA co-member and began construction of a Powell Racer biplane project, as well as participating in several other projects with fellow Chapter 30 members.
1972: A Benson Gyrocopter
1975: Graham’s rented garage workshop in Edmonton.
KR 2 project with a fellow EAA chapter 30 member
in 1975 , Graham attained his private pilot’s licence, having trained and soloed in a Citabria at Aero Flying Academy at the Edmonton municipal airport.
In 1978, while viewing powered hang gliders soaring from a Local river valley hill; he met Terry “Birdman” Jones, the local manufacturer.
1975 First Solo: Citabria C-GWGH
Early Fibreglass props - prone to shattering
Terry told him about a “shrapnel” incident with a fibreglass propeller shattering in flight, injuring the pilot. Graham determined that he could produce a safer wooden propellor.
He built his first propeller duplicating machine; and started a business relationship with Birdman; producing wood props for the “Altair “ hang glider power system.
Graham's first Propeller design; for the 10HP Altair hang glider power pack
In 1980, Terry Jones expanded Birdman Enterprises into the Ultralight aircraft kit business. He contracted Graham as the production manager of the “Atlas” a tail dragger, weight shift “quicksilver” type ultralight. Graham set up the kit manufacturing processes; wrote the construction manuals; and provided design improvements to the Atlas. Graham also operated the propeller shop at Birdman; prototyping for power plant evaluation of the many 2 stroke engines emerging at that time.
Birdman production line stations ; cutting and drilling spars and other tube members for the Atlas kit.
Graham continued his propeller designs and maintained a wood shop for prototyping and small run production of propellers at Birdman.
In 83 , the Atlas and its variants were in full production, and design of the new Chinook was nearing completion. Graham's Ultralight Nieuport design was already in mind and he wanted to pursue new design ideas on his own.
He struck an agreement with Jones, to take over the lease of the original (2000 square foot shop ;used as storage space ), down the street from the main Birdman Facility.
Graham was first contracted to build a 2 place ultralight training aircraft for a Birdman Dealer in ValleyView Alberta , and built an example of the “Petite Breezy” in a period of 3 months.
Graham subsequently developed a set of drawings for a single place Ultralight monoplane (ONW ) with options to construct it as a high, mid and low wing; as well as a biplane version (TNW) on basis of his work building this aircraft .
1983 : The first Project at Grahams "new" shop
1984 the “Lee” Petite Breezy completed.
(inspiration for his ONW and TNW designs)
With the 2 place trainer complete; Graham could now focus on the Nieuport 11.
With nothing more than a balsa wood Nieuport 11 model - and a set of 1:72 scale drawings of the aircraft - he set upon the design; construction; and drawing of plans for the 7/8ths Nieuport 11 prototype. Drawing from the sum of his prior experiences, he employed his Aluminum tube/ pop-rivet gusset construction technique, completing the N11 in a period of 4 Months.