Back in Circles!

May 23, 2014

Well, I finally did it…got back into my model airplane hobby after 40 years of lay-off. Now that I’m older and a bit more financially capable with spare time, I can afford the control-line hobby that I gave up years ago when “real life” stepped in.

A year ago I made the mistake of going to that online auction monster and found that the models I built (or drooled to have) when I was a teen could be had pretty readily. I was taken aback to find that the cost was going to be so high, however. Planes and engines that I used to desire at $2.00 dollars and $5.00 respectively were now considered collector’s items and *could* be had –  at exorbitant prices. But what the heck, the heart wants what the heart wants, right?

So, after some time collecting and little time building, I finally met some flyers here in New England that flew the old-style classic way; not radio control, but rather the venerable method of standing in the middle of a circle and letting the plane roar around 60 feet away, climbing, diving, looping, flying upside-down and (sometimes) playing lawn dart in a crunching crash; all at the flick of a wrist.

I completed four planes and was pretty pleased with the results; the last one being a new technology electric plane that I just “had” to have after watching one of the veterans put his through its very quiet and perfect routine. I found out that my passion for flying had been tempered by the caution of *maturity*, however and I was reluctant to actually “fly” my creations for over a year. Finally I was gently but firmly goaded by the senior pilots to get off my duff and put something in the air.

So, on a perfect afternoon in Saugus, MA, I met up with my friend Dick, a great flyer, and two others to get my wings dusted off. After an initial technical inspection to make sure the plane was safe, Dick took the plane up to make sure it was ready to hand off to me. We put a fresh battery in and I took the control handle with more than a little trepidation. Dick started the engine and off I went! The plane left the closely mown grass after only a few feet and didn’t disappoint me or surprise me with any bad habits. I felt as if I had never left the circle I remembered from the ’70’s.

I was back and severely hooked!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA ME109 Ringmaster_02 Shoestring02 Clown01 yak02

June 12th, 2014

I just completed the finishing touches to my Electric Super Ringmaster and I’m pretty happy happy with the way it turned out. The only problem I have right now is that I have gout in my right wrist so I will have to hold off flying for a bit. Here are a couple of shots of the effort.



My Dog Stretches…and all is well

March 28, 2010

That may seem like a pretty strange header, but if you knew what I’ve been through regarding Beth the Awesome, you’d understand.

A little background: Until this past December, I had been living alone here in New England in a small garret apartment and just before Thanksgiving I decided to alter the situation so I would not have to become quite as adept at channel surfing on the TV and Ebay-induced impulse buys. I needed something to occupy my time and what is left of my sanity. I was well on the way through the approved phases recommended for singles of “raise a goldfish, keep a plant as well as write in a journal and a dream diary”. I skipped the fish part since I have a bad history with fish rearing. My avocado plants are doing well, however and gave me courage to consider the next step; that is to take on a living, breathing, fur-bearing creature.

I put out the word that I was looking for an apartment size dog, older than a pup but not on its last good leg, preferably a terrier of sorts and that is exactly what I got, “Beth”. She was found beside a major roadway near my house and taken to the local shelter where, through networking, my search found the right person with the right contacts and, just before Christmas, Beth came into my life. Anyone who has ever had a dog, especially as a primary friend, can understand the life-transforming effect. The last two years in my life have been very difficult and now the aches and pains of those months have been almost completely washed away.

Beth is a Corgi/sumptin’ mix, almost made to order for what I had hoped for in temperateness and companionship. It was an instant bond when we met. She is always with me and has succeeded in training me quite well. “Accidents” are usually my fault and my daily schedule has been adjusted to be a bit more normal thanks to her internal clock as opposed to my “I’ll sleep when I’m tired and eat when I’m hungry” way of thinking.

Imagine then that I may have had the most startling and frightening wakeup ever in my life today. Beth usually sleeps curled at my feet, but last night she came up nearer my end so I was able to pet her to sleep. That was just fine until I woke up to find her still there where she was when I fell asleep. However, she was on her side with all four legs sticking straight out stiff as chair legs. Looked like the stuffed dead dog from a bad comedy! You can imagine I was scared to b’jeezers! It took me a moment of near panic before I poked her to see if she was still with me on this earth.
She merely hurrumphed and got out of bed for her morning stretch and breakfast. All this was after doing research yesterday on whether dogs go to heaven so you can imagine I was pretty primed for the worst.
She’s fine, though and I’ve calmed down so have a great day and think well of me and Beth the awesome.

“DO” Get All Knotted Up!

February 17, 2010

Recent questions in a control line forum have revolved around the use of  a  type of mono-filament fishing line as control line leads for 1/2A planes. Known by names such as “Spiderwire” and others, the line was specifically designed for its high strength/diameter ratio and low stretch characteristics to “feel” the fish better. This makes it a perfect fit for our smaller planes and a vast improvement over .008 steel line right?

Well, maybe.

The truth is, as every fisherman knows, the total strength of a line is not only in the material itself, but in the knot that holds it to something, in the case of a fisherman, the hook and then (hopefully) a picture moment. In our case it may be the sudden shock of a plane gone slack at the top and then suddenly taking back that slack with a scary “pop”! Three bad things can happen if you try to use regular mono fishing line, the  last two involving the subject of this article:

  • “Boing-Blap” – the plane uses that stretch to play rubber band with the poor fellow at the handle and rendering the event to an accident involving “PIO” (Pilot Induced Oscillation)
  • “ZipThud” – the effect of an inappropriate knot for the line untying itself.
  • “Plink-Thump” – the plane separates and goes ballistic, in missile speak, “unguided” because the line broke at the knot.

The use of modern non-stretch lines take out these problems provided the right knot is used. If you have any doubts about the suitability of these lines for our use, consider that modern fishing tackle is among the most highly engineered areas of technology and the knots developed for “terminal tackle” are just as important as the motor on that $50,000 bass boat.

These should work out just fine. Obviously, replace your connector clips for the fish hook.

Another tip: Paint your connectors to match those of the “up” leadout on your plane. Sounds simple, but I’ve lost a couple to mismatched connections. This is particularly helpful when a “friend” is assisting you to ready for a flight.

Try these knots with a simple test. Drop a weight that is twice what your plane weighs from about 3 feet with the line and knot of your choice. That should boost your confidence factor.

The knots and instructions on this page are from Bill Herzog’s great book, Tying Strong Fishing Knots, published by Frank Amato Publications.

Improved clinch knot
Undoubtedly the most familiar and most often used knot by anglers. Being quick and easy to tie are the main reasons behind its popularity. When tied perfectly the clinch retains 85 to 90 percent of line strength. It can be used with lines testing from 2 to 60 pounds. When using monos heavier than 15 pound test, you only need 3 or 4 turns rather than the standard 6 to 7.
improved clinch knot step 1 Step 1: Insert 4 to 6 inches of line end through the hook eye, making 6 to 7 wraps around the standing part of the leader/line. Insert the line end through the small loop near the eye, then bring it back through larger loop.
improved clinch knot step 2 Step 2: Pull on both the swivel/hook/lure and standing line in even opposite directions until knot draws tightly against hook eye. Trim tag end.

Double loop clinch knot (Trilene knot)
Called Trilene knot because it was developed by the staff of Berkley Company for specific use with their Trilene brand of monofilament. The double loop clinch works just as well with other brands. It takes a bit longer to tie that the original clinch. When properly tied it retains 95 percent of line strength.
double loop clinch knot step 1 Step 1: Insert line end through hook/lure eye twice, leaving 4 to 5 inches of tag end to work with.
double loop clinch knot step 2 Step 2: Repeat steps for clinch knot.
double loop clinch knot step 3 Step 3: Pull evenly on standing line and hook/lure/swivel, being careful not to allow double line to cross over itself. Overlapping lines are self-cutting and severely weaken knots. Trim tag end.

Double improved clinch (Rivers Inlet knot)
I was first exposed to this knot during a trip to British Columbia’s famed Rivers Inlet, home each summer to some of the largest, most powerful Chinook salmon. Guides explained that they needed a knot to turn 70 pound fish without fear of line failure. The Rivers Inlet knot is one of the strongest and is fairly easy to tie. When tied properly it retains 100 percent of original line strength and may be a hair stronger than the standing line itself. It is an excellent light line knot, but may be used with lines testing up to 40 pounds.
double improved clinch rivers inlet knot step 1 Step 1: Take 8 to 10 inches of leader/standing line and double it back, creating a double line. Pass the loop through the hook eye/swivel/lure 4 to 5 inches.
double improved clinch rivers inlet knot step 2 Step 2: Make 4 wraps back up the leader/standing line. Three wraps is plenty when using over 20 pound test, however, making less than 4 wraps will not securely hold the knot and more than 4 wraps causes the wraps to bunch up and overlap themselves.
double improved clinch rivers inlet knot step 3 Step 3: Pull evenly and firmly on the loop, tag end and standing line simultaneously, being careful not to let wraps or the double line bunch up or cross over themselves.
double improved clinch rivers inlet knot step 4 Step 4: Trim all three ends.

Palomar knot
Almost as simple to tie as the clinch knot, the Palomar is one of the basics. When tied well it retains 95 percent of line strength. While not popular for parger lures with multiple trebles (due to having to pass the lure through a loop when tying), the Palomar is easily tied with small lures, flies, and swivels.
palomar knot step 1 Step 1: Double 6 to 8 inches of standing line and run it through the hook eye/swivel/lure.
palomar knot step 2 Step 2: Bring the loop back and make one overhand knot around the standing line and the tag end. Make sure you leave a large enough loop for the lure/swivel and hook to pass through.
palomar knot step 3 Step 3: After hook/lure/swivel has cleared loop, hold onto the tag end and standing line in one hand and pull slowly until loop passes. Continue steady pulling until loop closes tightly and trim. The Palomar is one of the most versatile monofilament knots.

This plane will be in the air in just a few weeks with the line and knots as described here.

Almost There!

Please Leave your comments!

Knock the dust off!

February 15, 2010

In keeping with the last few nostalgia posts, I want to put these advertisements from 1955 out there for appreciation before I turn my own writing along a slightly different line. (My brother is not going to be pleased) so check out the category Buster and Bo later while I revisit the days of our youth. Don’t fret, there will be much more here in the future, especially with your help.

Combatants! Gird your Loins…er…your “Lines”

February 12, 2010

As mentioned elsewhere in these modeling posts I enjoy control line flying and F/F scale, but two areas I haven’t tried are U/C combat and speed. In truth, there are pretty good reasons for this lack of involvement on my part in either area. On the one hand, I just never was exposed to folks that participated and the other issue and related to the first is the sheer technical nature and scale of the hobby.

Since I know nothing about speed, I’ll just talk about what I know of combat and let the rest of you, dear readers enlighten me and those who come here after.

When I started building U/C planes I worked with the simple things:; 1/2 profiles like the Baby Ringmaster, Li’l Jumping Bean and then working my way upscale to sport profiles and stunt (Top Flight Tutor). The fanciest plane I ever flew was a foam wing stunt Mustang by Sig. The building was simple as were the engines and, since I did not compete, there was no real pressure. It was definitely fun flying with friends and the occasional fun fly. Since I wasn’t a competitor of any merit, I concentrated on building and finishing, figuring that if the plane looked good and I stayed away from inverted grass cutting pullouts I’d be fine.

Combat was a whole ‘nuther beast! Snarling, loud and full-on contact between pilots (never mind the planes) it was the polar opposite to the relatively calm business of getting a single plane up and around the circle doing a few whoop-de-doos before usually executing a perfect landing two feet above the grass followed by a bouncing rodeo impression ending up with the nose down and the tail up (or over). These guys (the ones I saw occasionally) were, as a general rule pretty “amped up” as we say today.

"Full Contact Combat"

My memories were all about pen bladders, the benefits of one prop over another, how best to get another 1/2 RPM out of an engine that was already going hypersonic as far as the DB level was concerned.

The "Screamers"

I have to admit though, most of the behaviors I just mentioned were brought forward by the “new kids on the block” as it were. The “old hands” were just as helpful and giving of experience as the stunt guys and those who saw scale planes as perfection never quite realized but always ready to pass a good word along.

As a builder, I sincerely appreciated the craftsmanship of most of these planes. Before the days of foam, carbon fiber and clear film came along, there were some real beauties. It didn’t matter if it was a Voodoo or whatever, the building was great. The framework was simple:balsa and ply with a minimum of excess. Light was right. Doped silk was a primary covering material as much for it’s inherent strength as for its beauty.

New Meaning to the Phrase "Purpose Built"

These were not the slickly finished planes of stunt, but the practical tools for one-on-one bouts. They had to be for the rigors of turns so tight it seemed they could be pulled inside a barrel. A thump into the turf at full speed (100mph+) and the ability to fly again was indeed a marvel. On the other hand, mid-air collisions were spectacular and did, in fact, fulfill the craving for carnage.

Several recent posts have turned up in one of my favorite forums about building the “Golden Age” combat planes and I have to admit to the one comment I read that “It would be a shame to fly this in combat”. Personally, I’d like to see them built and flown just for the sheer joy of the building and flying. Combat flyers today have as many as a dozen planes in their stables, but I’d like to see the older planes finished as if they were pylon racers of the Full Scale days. Maybe a new class for fun fly ins?

Where is This in the Grand Scheme?

Link to Link

February 8, 2010

These are a few aviation modeling links that I use quite often and I’ll add to them as I revisit this post. Bear in mind that My interests in model aviation are primarily based around Control-Line and some Free Flight scale. I am purely into the sport side and I’m a firm believer in fun flys and the weekends when the guys get together at the local schoolyard or empty parking lot/airplane eater.

Part of getting back into the hobby is trying to reconnect with former flying friends or make new ones. So here goes:

  • Who knows anything of the group that meets (met) in Rolling Meadows, Il, off Golf road in the Ned Brown Preserve? They called themselves “The Circle Burners” but I can find no reference to them. One of those fine fellows even sold me a war-weary Ringmaster minus engine (I had a Fox 35) for $5. New Silkspan, a little dope, an open cockpit with headrest and the “Sheriff Woody” head from a McDonalds toy for a pilot had me back in the circle again. Woody did NOT like inverted landings.
  • I have a great flying site picked out at the former Ft Devens in Ayer, MA on the rail line between Boston and Fitchburg. If I could get some interest, I’m sure we’d be able to use it anytime we like. There is no traffic, the adjacent ball fields are hardly used and there are no residential houses within “bothersome noise” distance. If there are any circle-turners out there, or you know some, get in touch.
  • Finally, there were three of us in the mid’70 when gas cost 27 cents a gallon who met in Euless, Texas. If you are out there, write.

I believe in networking, so I’m sure that something will come of this post.

Now for the “other” links. I know that you probably have seen these, but I believe in mutual exchange, so check them out and comment and if it fits this blog, I’ll add it here!

A few general notes about “forums” that I hope the moderators will appreciate:

  • Read and abide by the forum bylaws/rules
  • Leave the egos at home, I’m one of the worst offenders of this. On the other hand, post your latest hit/miss. We all enjoy the pleasures and feel the pain.
  • Pictures, pictures, pictures! We all want to see the projects that are depriving you of a family life, income and time otherwise spent profitably. Make sure you get those photos of you, the project in it’s construction and your friends before you launch the pride of your efforts. If you can, post them here as well as in the forums. Get your friends in them too, just let me know in the captions who the guy is giving you rabbit ears behind your back or the one helping you wrap a greasy rag around the finger that the .35 Fox bit when it snapped back on ya!
  • Try to stay on topic, but do not be afraid to start a new one or ask where your post could be better addressed. (Again, this is one of the places where I don’t always follow my own advice.)

Now then, on to the links. The first batch are generally non-commercial and provide a huge wealth of experience and knowledge. Be sure to follow the links included there and bookmark those that are important to you. My biggest mistake is forgetting to mark them, thinking I’ll just backtrack later. It’s much easier to tag them on the spot than it is to resort to memory. Especially if your memory is as fragile as mine; just about the same as fresh wet silkspan in the claws of the cat.

Mostly Commercial (but always useful) Links:

But First…

My own personal viewpoint regarding commercially available kits.

I am unabashedly “Old School” when it comes to the hobby. Granted, we can no longer expect to purchase a Cox .049 BabyBee for $3.50 and the associated Baby Ringmaster for $2.50 so I can’t grouse about what the market is willing to bear in that respect. But I do take exception to the idea of paying more than $3.00 for a simple rubber/stick/sheet wing toy when, even at inflated hobby /craft shop balsa prices I can launch the same thing from my own hand for half that. Heck, I might even find a youngster to teach the skill to. Imagine where that might lead!

I remember when I was about ten years old not being able to afford even the ten cent chuck glider (the ice cream cone won out on that decision) but I “did” know how to trace the profile of an airplane on cardboard that my grandmother kept for me from her days at the department store where she worked. I’d cut slots for the wings and tail surfaces and tape a couple of nails for nose weight.

Scale it up, use sheet balsa and hang an Ebay .049 on it and you have a plane that serves well as a trainer for 1/3 the cost of a dealer-supplied kit. Folks…it’s just that simple.

Also, if you *do* have to have that out-of-production $70.00 “RingMaster”, at least get paper copies of the important parts (ribs, wingtips, fuselage bulkheads, etc) made and give them away… that’s right make them a present to anyone willing to pay copy and postage fees. Don’t gouge – this is a hobby, remember. We’re friends here. (Fast Combat guys excepted). You’ll never get rich trying to go commercial, never mind breaking copyright rules in some cases.

This is a great time for control line and all the other relatively inexpensive modeling types to be brought back. The real masters of our craft are still around and the satisfaction of building and flying in the “old school” way is very fulfilling.

OK, I’m off the soapbox now. Remember, comments and criticisms are welcome! Back to the links…

  • National Balsa There are several balsa suppliers and judging which is for you is personal preference. Some folks want to pick each hardness, weight and grain themselves while I take the notion that there will always be good runs of material for the non-competitor with scrap left over for other projects. National Balsa is located right here in my own state so I can place an order and talk to someone on the phone if I have specific needs.
  • Brodak Manufacturing Over ten years supplying control-line flyers with more goodies each years has put this company, based out of Charmichaels Pennsylvania, at the top of nearly every link-list around so it’s no wonder that it is here along with:
  • Sig Manufacturing Along with Brodak above, Sig provides both kits, parts and accessories for control line and free flight activities.
  • Guillows You might be hard-pressed to find anyone who has not had a Guillow’s product at one time or another. As I mentioned, I had the chuck glider and the 15 and 25 cent rubber-powered Piggly-Wiggly toy rack specials. My first full-fuselage plane was their 500 series F6F Hellcat. Not knowing anything about “dope”, I used about twenty of the wee small bottles of Pactra model car enamel. Sure looked war weary in dark blue metal flake! The company has made great strides in recent times with new product lines, including spare parts. I have an FW-190 ready for a build and I’m impressed with the quality of the die-cutting and the obvious changes in the plastic parts. Check out the history page!
  • Dumas Products In with excellent scale rubber planes in a variety of scales, some convertible to electric, this company has also been around quite awhile. The good looks come at a hefty price, though. Laser cut parts make the build relatively easier, but remember my thoughts above on “Old School” modeling.
  • Windy Utinoski A great modeler and a wonderful site. Read and learn. This is way beyond my capability for now, but it’s purely inspirational. There is also a section on electric flight which I have not had the chance to look at yet.

If It Looks Right…

February 7, 2010

…It must fly right… right?

I’m betting on it with this plane, Coquette. In a previous post, I mentioned that I had purchased a copy of a model magazine (American Aircraft Modeler) from Ebay for the month I was born, September, 1955. I had no idea that I was going to find a true treasure inside since I had in fact bought the thing based on its cover alone (popular wisdom notwithstanding).

I don’t have a large vehicle to transport some of the larger models; in fact I don’t have a vehicle at all yet (that’s a later post). In keeping with budgets and practicality, I have decided to downsize my ambitions while keeping enough benefit of scale to be buildable, flyable and, just in case my piloting capabilities are a bit rusty, durable. Originally, I considered the range of .19 to .29 as a maximum powerplant spread, but then I dropped back to my first “big” engine, the Fox .15 hauling a Midwest ME-109 around the circle with enthusiasm! That plane served me quite well until I literally took a “pylon cut” during the balloon bust competition at a local contest near Dallas, tearing the outboard wing to shreds. (As a side note — my spirits were dashed looking at the wreckage and I considered giving up U/C until Al Rabe showed up at that same contest to show off his gorgeous Sea Fury and restored my faith in the hobby. Thanks Al!)

As you can see, I still love that plane and I went on a buying spree for .15’s with the idea of designing and building that scale because of its portablity and good performance on lines of a decent length. I learned to fly the pattern with that plane/engine combination. And that’s why I have a new one ready for a build.

Two New .15's (there are three more used ones)

I think I can go better, though and go even smaller, so when I had a chance at an Enya 0.10, I took it; the intended airframe was a Sig Spitfire. Once I saw the Spit kit, however, I realized that it would likely be underpowered so I contemplated a full design effort from scratch,something with a built up fuselage and stunt-capable.

Then the magazine showed up. This is where I’m going to let the attached pictures sell the plane for itself. As far as I can tell, this would be a great first plane for someone who wants:

  • engine larger than 1/2A
  • built up fuselage
  • traditional building process and simplicity
  • good “eye candy” appeal
  • performance and practicality

Take a look at this one and hit the building boards. I don’t expect to be the first one to get this in the air, but I bet you I may be the first to have full size plans copied. This design just begs to be modified with possible linked flaps and fuselage profile changes, but I think you’ll agree that overall, It Just Looks Right!

Pretty Li'l Thing, Yes?

(click on the images a couple of times to bring them full size)

Kinda' Catches the Eye...

1955 was a "Sterling" Year!

As a final thought, those of you looking to convert fuel to electric might find this a good project! Have fun and comment!

Write me:

Looks Good to Me, Wilbur

February 3, 2010

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.

Barber Barter

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.

Finally! Flight!

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.

How to spend more money on Ebay – A purely personal approach.

February 3, 2010

The First

Today in one of my bi-polar impulse moves, I decided to see if I could find a model airplane magazine from the month I was born, September, 1955. I was lucky and found the only copy which, of course, I had to have, even though my budget is tighter than an over strung ukulele. For a normal person, that would have been enough; mission accomplished, right? Not likely in my case. So I opened the search to anything from that month in 1955 in Ebay. Oh goody! More stuff!

Now this is where blogging comes in handy. I can channel my desire to buy all those markers of my birthday into writing about my finds and just showing you a mere smattering of what I discovered. I did put a few on the “watch list” however.

Obviously most of these are geared toward the male side of readership, but there are a few for the ladies as well. I challenge you to hit Ebay and search for your birth month and year and see what pops up. Just stay out of your PayPal account!

"Do these jeans make..."

Jeans in the classroom were pretty risqué in ’55. Even the more so when you don’t know if it’s the teacher or a student at the board!

Only the Names are Different

Jackie Robinson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, FrankSinatra and Gloria all made the tabloid in the same day with the rest of the current crop. of the mid ‘50’s.

The Title Tells All

I swear I just might have to buy these.

I think there is a good market for old fashioned pulp romance and I just might re-kindle that spark to bring to full flame the burning heart of the heaving blog bosom …

OK, it needs work, but I have plenty of time to git’er done!

Need to Know

All I want to know is what “kind” of wolf is being tamed here. Is this telling a woman how to cook her man’s steak? Or is it a cautionary article for the fellow who really wants to tame a wild wolf (you know, the fur bearing meat eating critters) and not get turned “into” STEAK*.

*You will notice I almost always put STEAK in caps. I hold it in high esteem.

One way or Another

This may be one of the funniest covers I’ve ever seen. It would lead you to believe that if your “bed habits” as a woman aren’t up to par (either for you or your partner) then you might have to resort to the other option?

And we think we are tough on ourselves in the 21’st century!

Makes ya say..."Whut?"

I’m not exactly sure that I’d want to call this a “good” body shot. Looks to me like a badly healed shark attack wound.

More "Whut?"

OK, Last one of these for the ladies. If you want more, you are going to have to comment on this blog and ask for ’em.

I will say that teens in general were in a lot better shape than they are today. Not as buff as this character, but you know he didn’t spend money gettin’ hisself ripped on McNuggets.

Tricky Dick" the Early Days

Did you recognize the face on this cover as simple as it is drawn?

Nixon did succeed; just not in some of the ways imagined in 1955.

We all go through our cycles, don’t we?

I found it!

Yes, I found a copy. No I did not buy it…yet.

I swear if I did it would only be to read the same articles that my father was reading while he was awaiting the moment of my arrival into this world. I know he never looked at the pictures. He said so!

Besides, Marilyn Monroe was in it.

Bullets of all Kinds

Even then they had bullet trains, bullets in the hands of teens and cars that looked much like. Not much has changed except They may have been a bit safer then.

Before the Swimsuit Issue

I was born among the greats! The name “Bud” Wilkinson is familiar even to those who are not sports buffs.

One More Time

“She looked over her shoulder (the wrong one) with hopes that her feeble attempts to cross the creek would attract the virile, muscular ranch hand so she might reward him with …”

(to be continued)

And Finally...

Yes, I am a “Friday’s Child”…

“Loving and Giving”

Dustin’ Loose

February 1, 2010

Hopefully if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ve figured out that I was raised in Texas, mostly in the central area, but we did move around quite a bit, though not very much so in the far fringes. Considering that those fringes are pretty far from each other, we covered a lot of ground in the middle because of our Dad’s work as a heavy equipment operator.

My brother and I spent a good part of our early years in the small town of Littlefield where our mother had grown up. Bo’s favorite thing to do was torment the livestock that my grandmother kept and mine was to watch the crop dusters spray the neighbor’s fields. That instilled a passion that has me in its clutches to this day. I have the aviation bug so bad that one of the first things I do when I’m passing through a new town or moving in is to find the local airport so I can just hang out like some adolescent kid looking to cage rides by washing a guy’s plane.

My mother taught me to read at the age of four so I was ripe to be enthralled by adventures I found in books and comics. Bo was the cowboys and Indians type and there are not too many bounding mains for me to be fancy myself as a pirate near Lubbock. So that was just about the time my interest turned to those bellowing brightly colored planes that would swoop hardly as high as a telephone pole loosing the insecticide to combat cotton boll weevils. Somehow I managed to equate those low passes as strafing runs against the enemy before they overran our position. I was running desperately low on ammunition (dried dirt clods, if you know what those are) so air support was essential to our survival and the cotton’s survival as well.

The first plane I remember was the Stearman; a big (to me) biplane with a round engine.

The Stearman “Kaydet” was developed in 1934 by the Stearman Aircraft Corporation (later acquired by Boeing) to provide the U.S. Army Air Corps and the U.S. Navy with a primary trainer in order to train future military pilots in both services. Even though by some standards an obsolescent design with wire-braced fabric covered wings and fuselage, the plane was remarkably strong and stood up well to the rigors of rough landings and the not-so-gentle handling of future fighter, bomber and transport pilots who would thank the simple plane for the lessons learned. Power was supplied by an air cooled 225 horsepower Lycoming radial engine. As a side note, that same aircraft engine powered the M-1 Sherman tank in WW-II!

More than 8600 Kaydets in all versions were built plus enough spares to build 2000 more. Some have been upgraded for more than twice the horsepower they were designed for; respectfully known as the “Bull” Stearman. You can still see them at air shows these days and I promise you will not forget them.


Airshow "Bull"

After the military had exhausted its need for the Stearman, most of the remaining lanes made it into the private sector, just as their forefathers the Curtiss “Jenny” had after WW-I. Because of its ruggedness and dependability, plus the capability to lift a substantial payload, it was easily converted to an aerial dump truck. With the front cockpit replaced by a chemical hopper, the Stearman could effectively apply the chemicals necessary to foil the insects and disease which ravaged the crops of a post-war nation.

The other plane that dusted the crops and caught my eye was the much more modern and purpose built Piper Pawnee. Designed in 1957 (I was all of two years old!) by Fred Weick, one of the most notable light aircraft designers and pilots of the time. All the Pawnees were built for one thing only, to put chemicals on crops and to ensure the safety of the pilot as much as possible. The cockpit was placed high for visibility and the fuselage was built to collapse in such a fashion as to protect the flyer, much as today’s crumple-body cars. The strut-braced wing was placed under the pilot and carried the spray bar extending a swath of chemical to nearly thirty-six feet, the full span of the wing. Variants were powered by an air-cooled engine, ranging from 150 horsepower to 260HP.

OK, so far I’ve talked a bit of technical stuff, but that’s not really what this post is about. Simply put, watching those fellows in their fabric-covered planes with snarling engines and swooping low-level runs made up a huge part of my early years that extended right into my middle age (no, better said, “middle awakening”) years.

I drew airplanes in the dirt, on scrap paper and anything else I could find; which of course did not look all that pleasing to my folks when done on the dusty windshield of our cars and trucks. Our car did double duty for me as either a fighter or bomber and I’d move the RC cola bottle between my knees as a joystick and press my feet to the floor mat as rudders for each turn, pulling back on the upslope of the hills and nosing down the other side for the dive-bomb run into the target. (West Texas roadkill)

My father taught me how to make paper airplanes and mom taught me kite-building with the Sunday comics, string, cane sticks and egg-white glue. My grandfather let me use his tools and scrap wood to make rough model planes to run around the yard with, held high overhead and making “vroooom” noises. Bo would have his cowboys and Indians all set up in the bare dirt yard and playing quietly when I’d divebomb them with the dirt clods from above. (Yes, I made my brother cry tears through dust covered cheeks even then.) My grandmother even contributed to what would become an obsession, if not a full-blown addiction to all things that fly. She gave me my very first model airplane kit and helped me put it together, teaching me how to read the instructions, keep from getting glue globs on the furniture and how to get the decals on straight. Over the years, I have built no fewer than five Monogram “Helldiver” dive bombers. In short, my entire family contributed to my fantasies.

I went on to build hundreds of models, read countless magazines and books and even learned how to fly that Stearman. When I suffered a personal setback some years ago, I started recovering with my first love, aviation. The days of hanging out at the local airport with an anxious “Hey mister, wash for a ride” look are past, but I still look up to see the plane that goes with the engine, particularly if it’s the throaty rumble of a big round radial.

Most of the other planes are, for the most part, just a means of transportation for those who can afford them and certainly not just for fun anymore. It’s a pity, but flying simply isn’t what it used to be. Or is it? On my travels back west maybe I’ll see a duster and pull over. That kind of flying is more important than ever, but the methods are still the same…low, dangerous and a hell of a lot of fun for a young kid of fifty-four to watch.

Times "Are" Hard!

Check out the links below and come back for some more from time to time. See you!

Dustin for Dollars!

More information about crop dusting…