I’ve been building model airplanes since I was about four years old (see my post “Dustin’ Loose”) and I show no sign of letting up even in my mid ‘50’s. Actually it’s probably because I am in my “middle awakening” years. I don’t have the distractions of a family and there is no limit to the time I can spend building, flying, or at least daydreaming about things that fly. I have plenty of projects to work on during our New England winters and will enjoy putting them into the air and some in the re-kitted form) during the warmer months.
I’ll devote this section of my blog to those things avian, so have fun reading and in some cases learning I hope. I won’t reinvent the wheel, but will try to provide viable links to information and sites of associated interest. I’ll keep it pretty focused on aspects of aviation from my own experience or knowledge, but I certainly appreciate your additions and comments and I’ll incorporate them to make this a good “go to site”. So send me those stories and please be sure to include pictures if you can.
Here’s a great example: from Dennis Leonhardi of New Prague, MN (AMA 343)
“Winter here in the frozen tundra of Minnesota has been cruel this year – blizzards, white-outs, freezing rain and sleet, day after day of wind chills 10 below zero or colder. Not at all our kind of flying weather! Then again, we were once a lot younger and more foolish … This photo was taken in the winter of ’58-’59; flying buddies John, Tom and John kneel behind our control line combat planes of the day.
We weren’t about to let a little snow and cold ruin our flying – although we learned quickly to whip the airplanes around for several laps after the engine quit (or, better yet, do some wind flying) – because a hot engine landing in cold snow makes an awful sound!
(That’s my Riley Wooten “Quicker” in the middle with an OS Max .35 Combat engine up front).”
The Hardy Boyz
About a dozen years ago, I lived in a huge three-story Victorian that my wife and I were restoring to be a bed and breakfast inn between the two most famous casinos in New England. It was the perfect setup. It was a great location and I had a wonderful workshop complete with all the tools to pursue my hobbies and do the restoration for the house. As fortune and my poor judgment would have it, I suffered a personal setback and had to give it all up.
Now I’m in a small garret apartment which I share with “Beth, the Amazing Corgi/sumptin'”and have only just managed to get the basement cleaned out to become a workspace. In those past years, though, and before I got a grip on my impulsive spending behaviors, I managed to collect most of the model kits, books and tools that I have had ever since my very young days. In fact, I have twice what I had then in the way of engines, books and models so I’m going to be “very” busy for some time to come. I suppose I better start looking for a bigger place to live or a place to display my models.
Just a glimpse...
Flying Models Are in the Basement
Speaking of which…Before my local barber retired, he operated a one chair shop in our small town which was the hometown of Ft Devens. Before the base closed in 1996, he was the prime source for those “high and tight” cuts favored by the Army. Since its closure, Ft Devens has been an Army reserve center, so the shop was still doing well with its regulars, mostly made up of reservists and veterans, myself included. With all the military as clientele you can imagine the decor was more like an Army-Navy shop than anything else with 1940’s recruiting posters, models of armor and shell and mortar casings of all kinds. At one point I was pretty shy of haircut cash but I told George, that I could supply a couple of aircraft models for display with the rest of the forty-plus years of military memorabilia. He took me up on the offer since many of his regulars were former Army Air Corps. As a result, I was even commissioned to build a couple more.
When I was old enough to work (mowing lawns and cleaning pools) I saved up enough to buy a Cox BabyBee .049 and commenced to build my first control liner. I didn’t have enough money for a kit, so I decided to try my hands at building a “Cardboard Cutie” from scaled up plans I found in the 1970 November edition of American Aircraft Modeler. (Yes, I recently went back and got another copy of the magazine).
My first "Cutie"! (click to open full)
The plane itself was not that difficult to build as far as laying it out and cutting goes, however I’ll make a few changes the next time; and there ‘will” be a next time:
- Use lightweight cardboard, not the super strong and heavy stuff that I got from an empty refrigerator box
- Use fuel-proof glue instead of Elmer’s best white glue. (Who would have thought such a little thing would make such a difference. I mean, I let it dry almost four hours for heaven’s sake!)
- Airplanes are supposed to look good. Again, who would think that it would take three cans of paint to get a decent gloss?
- Finally, 1970’s monofilament fishing line is really stretchy. The whole control system would be redesigned to use a bellcrank and horn system with spiderwire fishing line or .008 steel lines.
My father, always the patient and pragmatic fellow accompanied me to the schoolyard for the solo flight. He helped me fuel up and we did get the engine screaming full screech as only that .049 can do and and I walked to the center of the circle hands shaking, knees about to fold and heart pounding like mad. On my signal, Dad let the plane go and stood back, cigarette in one hand and Lone Star in the other.
The plane made a valiant effort to get airborne, but it was pretty much the same as the wonderful old films of early flight attempts. It waddled around almost three laps before the tail lifted and the poor creature finally gathered enough speed for the engine/prop to get their teeth into the dry Texas air.
Or maybe not. Halfway down the backstretch (downwind) leg, the combination of engine vibration*, the oil-soaked cardboard, and defective glue caused the engine, firewall and attached landing gear to part company with the patriotic red, white and blue fuselage (carcass). The longest recorded flight of that day then, was the equipment section forward of and including the firewall: estimated at 120 feet and lasting about twelve seconds. Sound familiar?
I would finally break into the fun part of control line flying in the venerable Cox PT-19, below.
"Put me in that circle!"
That story and more will follow this post. Tell your friends and let’s pass along our favorite stories! Also remember one of the cardinal rules: take pictures before the first flight!
*Note –The engine was only held by two screws spaced diametrically apart, cuz they were the only ones I could find small enough to fit through the tiny lug holes of the Cox. I took them from the bottom of my mother’s curler/steamer thing.