I have received many requests for the scanned
plans file for the Comet Sparky free flight model. Along with the plans, I provide
three files that contain the
Printwood patterns, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, are the ink pattern
that were printed directly onto the balsa so that the model builder could cut the
pieces out. This was the el cheapo way of producing a kit where the expense of die
cutting was not incurred by the manufacturer. Truth be told, the die cutting was
usually so lousy that you were better off cutting the parts yourself. Well, it would
be if companies like Comet didn't make a habit of using balsa with about the same
density and hardness as oak. Cutting 1/16" square longerons in fuselage bulkheads
or wing spar notches in wing ribs was a real challenge - especially if you were
a kid whose only form of razor sharp tool was a used blade from your father's razor.
By the way, the printwood patterns are necessary because most plans from kits do
not include templates for all of the sheet balsa parts. That is as true today as
it was 50 years ago...
Dog Fighting - Is a Pursuit Pilot's Business
If you think you can imagine, without having
ever done so, what it would be like to be in the cockpit of a fighter plane battling
with an adversary for dear life, you are fooling yourself. The same goes for going
tanque to tanque or mano a mano on the battlefield with opposing
forces. The complex, synergistic combination of fear, adrenalin, honor, patriotism,
self-preservation, revenge, egotism, hatred, rage, camaraderie, esprit de corps,
and other emotions can only be experienced in−person, and nobody knows for certain
how he will react to the circumstance - especially for the first time. Intense training
can help prepare you, but you just don't know until you're there. Although nowhere
as consequential, look at how people freeze with stage fright when facing a large
audience in a big venue for the first time. Aerial combat fighters, aka
dog fighters or pursuit fighters (which is where the "P" comes from in P-51,
P-40, etc.), are the cream of the crop of airmen, going back to the first air-to-air
conflicts of World War I. Yes, ground fighting requires courage and wit, but
adding that third dimension to the equation does not add merely another 50% to the
mix; it multiplies that difficulty by a much larger factor...
Pfalz D.III 3-view & Article
Airplanes and Rockets website visitor Peter
C., of the UK, contacted me about scanning information from a vintage copy of American
Aircraft Modeler magazine. Peter requested the 3-view drawing of the
Pfalz D.III biplane (by Mr.
Björn Karlström) that appeared in the July 1973 edition. I did him one better by
also scanning and OCRing the text of the accompanying article as well. Author Patricia
Groves did a very thorough job of researching the history of the Pfalz D.III biplane,
and included some rarely seen photos of the various versions. Enjoy...
Biceps Article & Plans
Airplanes and Rockets website visitor Ray
L. wrote to say he has a
Biceps control line model
that appeared in the April 1969 edition of American Aircraft Modeler magazine,
and that he would like to have the article posted. Per Roy, "I bought this model
from one of our club members who is a team race flier and built it on a whim, he
fitted it with electric and had it test flown by one of our aerobatic pilots and
after that he lost interest it and I was happy to give it a good home, the quality
of build and finish is to pro standards." Power in the original was a Fox .59, wingspan
is 48". AMA Plans Service still prints the Biceps plans.
USAF Seeks Help From Public in Finding Missing F-35
have truly fallen as a great country. This weekend, a U.S.
Air Force F-35 stealth jet went missing in South Carolina after its pilot ejected.
Officials claim it just disappeared. A call went out to the public for assistance
in finding it. Yes, you read that right. As with many stories like this on, the
reader comments are the best part. Examples include "It's stealth so you'll never
find it," Look for it in Iran parked next to the supersecret
drone we let
them commandeer in 2011," "It's now flying over Ukraine," "Parked in Joe's garage
next to his 1967 Corvette," "The Mexican aliens snatched it," "It now identifies
as a bird and just flew away," "The official list of Jeffery Epstein Pedo Island
clients was aboard - you'll never find it." Fortunately, the pilot got out safely,
but bailing and saving your own hide out while your aircraft is left to go its own
way and potentially wreak massive damage and death to unwitting targets on the ground
After the Long Voyage Home
Andromeda Strain" movie came out in 1971, just two years after Michael Crichton's
book of the same name was published. The plot centered around a military satellite
which had returned to earth harboring a deadly microorganism that killed the entire
town of people where it landed. 1969, the year of the book, coincided with when
the first humans, via Apollo 11, were exposed to the environment of another
heavenly body - the moon. "The Andromeda Strain" owed its public intrigue to decades
of stories telling of and wondering about what kinds of deadly living and nonliving
entities might permeate outer space and potentially cause a plague which might end
life on Earth. Although NASA had, by July of 1969, a lot of experience with vehicles
and humans going into space and returning with detectable traces of harmful organisms
or chemicals, it had never dealt with anything that had been exposed to the surface
of another solid body (the moon). Any type of biomass that might have accompanied
a meteorite would have been rendered lifeless as its host projectile burned during
passage through Earth's atmosphere. Apollo 11 astronauts might bring with them
entities protected by the same life-preserving capsule that would keep them alive
during their trip home...
Clodhopper Article & Plans
Website visitor Kenneth E. wrote to say
that he is working to build a complete collection of the "For the Tenderfoot" models that
were published in American Aircraft Modeler magazine. The Tenderfoot series
was an attempt to provide motivation to young newcomers to the hobby. They were
a mix of free flight rubber, gliders, and 1/4A & 1/2A control line designs that
built simply and cheaply. Kenneth requested reprints of the following three models:
Saucerer, Ray Malmström: C/L 1/2A, January 1970 Bonanza and Mustang, David Thornburg:
FF HLG, January 1971 Clodhopper, Paul Denson: FF Rubber February 1973...
Silkspan & Dope Covering Tutorial Videos
If you do a Google search on
Silkspan and dope covering
methods, a lot of good written instructions can be found. In fact, I suggest
you read one or two of them if you have never done a Silkspan and dope covering
job before, or if it has been a while and you want a refresher course, or if you
have tried and never been able to get an acceptable result. There is no special
skill required to obtain a really nice looking Silkspan and dope finish, there are
a couple "gotcha" scenarios that can ruin an otherwise simple process. I believe
the two worst mistakes you can make are painting dope in air that is too humid,
and using a thinner that is not entirely compatible with the dope (nitrate or butyrate).
I decided it might be a good idea to make a video of how I have been successfully
achieving decent Silkspan and dope finishes for lo these 40 or more years. My finishes
have never won any prizes, but the tissue (Silkspan) has always been nice and taught
and the brushed dope has gone on evenly, with nice, sharp trim lines. The subject
of this tutorial / demonstration is a Sopwith Camel biplane from a Manzano Laser
Works kit. Since I had originally planned to build it for control line...
September 11, 2001 - Never Forget
22 years have passed since the extremist Islamic attack on American soil on the
September 11, 2001. Nearly 3,000 citizens died that day. World
leaders have embarked on a path of colonizing our homelands with groups of people
that are known to harbor sympathies for the terrorists.
They dwell among us now and mean to do us harm when opportunity presents itself
- which it has on numerous occasions in the past many years. Never forget the people
who died in the burning towers, the Pentagon, and the airplanes, and those left
behind to grieve and get on with life. Never forget the police and military members
who fought - and some died - to keep us safe and free. Never forget the rotten politicians
who imperil our existence with their selfish agendas.
New Extension Shaft Reduces Engine Repairs
propeller extension shaft featured in a 1941 issue of Flying Aces magazine
is an example of a concept that seemed like a good idea on paper, but probably proved
to be a disaster in practice. If you have ever had an R/C helicopter with an even
slightly bent main rotor shaft, then you know how the situation causes vibrations
whose severity varies with the amount of bending and the rotation rate of the shaft.
Helicopter main rotors turn at a fairly low rate compared to an aircraft propeller,
although the mass and diameter of the propeller is much less than a rotor. Even
so, I imagine the vibration caused by even a slightly bent propeller shaft extension
when the engine is running at peak RPM is very high - enough to cause the situation
to quickly get worse. It is a runaway situation where the bend increases, causing
worse vibration, which causes more bending, causing greater vibration, etc., etc.,
etc. An additional problem would be caused by the longer moment arm causing additional
wear on the crankshaft bearings and/or bushings, particularly during abrupt change
in the airplane's pitch angle. The proof that propeller extension shafts were not...
Skiddin' II R/C Hydroplane
Model boat plans are more difficult to come
by than model airplane plans, so seeing this article in the August 1954 issue of
Air Trails magazine for a small, free-running hydroplane was a nice find.
Its simple, inexpensive construction makes it a quick build for those rare modelers
that still build their own models out of wood. The Skiddin' II can easily accommodate
a modern miniature radio control system and a brushless motor setup. The original
model was designed for a transom-mounted glow fuel outboard engine, but those things
make model boat plans look plentiful. If you really want an outboard, try eBay,
and be prepared to pay a couple hundred bucks for it...
Cox Sky Copter Free Flight Helicopter
In the late 1960s when I received a Cox
Sky Copter free flight helicopter for Christmas, there was very little in the way
of commercially available flying model helicopters. It was modeled after the Bell
47−G, which was later made famous by the M.A.S.H. television series. Victor Stanzel
sold its tethered ElectroMic "Copter" that was powered by a pair of "D" cell batteries.
As far as I know, Cox made the only nitro fuel powered free flight helicopter, named
"Sky Copter." It was powered by a Cox .020 engine mounted to the top-center of the
main rotor shaft, and caused the rotors to turn due to the counter torque cause
by the propeller on the .020. It worked very well. After getting the engine started,
you would give the rotors a spin in the clockwise direction (looking down from the
top), and the gently push the model straight up. My guess is that most of the lift
was provided by the engine's propeller pushing air down, and that the spinning rotors
served primarily to stabilize the model during powered flight. Once the engine quit,
the spinning rotors essentially went into a counter-rotation mode to gently bring
the Sky Copter back to terra firma...
Craftsman 7-Drawer Machinist's Toolbox
Early in 1982, fresh out of the USAF as
an Air Traffic Control Radar Repairman, I was fortunate to land a job as an electronics
technician at the Oceanic Division of Westinghouse in Annapolis, MD. It turned out
being more of a high level electronics assembly job building printed circuit boards,
chassis, wire harnesses, sonar transducers, and integrated systems, mostly for the
U.S. Navy. A fairly extensive collection of high quality hand tools were required
in order to get results which would pass rigorous Navy inspection standards. Snap-On
was the supplier of choice because at the time they made extremely high quality
(and expensive) small pliers, wire cutters, screwdrivers, wrenches, nuts drivers,
etc. I don't know whether there are still roaming Snap-On tool trucks visiting businesses
anymore, but at the time we got a weekly visit. Onboard was a tool refiguring workbench
for sharpening cutters, repairing screwdriver tips, and other things. Restored components
of the c1976 Craftsman
7−Drawer Machinist's Tool Chest. Craftsman 7−Drawer Machinist's Toolbox - top
open. Cleaned and groomed felt surfaces...
Lithium Ion Polymer (Li-Po or Li-Poly) Battery Characteristics
ion polymer (Li-Poly) batteries have made a huge impact on the performance,
and subsequently the acceptance of electric systems as a replacement for the traditional
nitromethane (nitro) and gasoline power systems in model airplanes and helicopters.
Their energy density (Wh/kg is the most common unit of measure), combined with the
relatively new and extremely powerful brushless motors, electric power systems are
rivaling the internal combustion systems in terms of both energy and duration. Development
of both the brushless motors and the advanced battery technologies has been, both
officially and unofficially, a joint venture between government and civilian research
and development efforts. If you keep up with the news headlines for NASA, defense
contractors, green energy researchers, and similar organizations, you have witnessed
the plethora of new vehicles that have been built tested, and in may cased deployed
in the field. These range from micro air vehicles that carry surveillance equipment
for the military, to hybrid and fully electric passenger vehicles, vastly improved...
How to Select the Proper Glow Plug
As with most aspects of every type of hobby,
there is a plethora of different types of
plugs available for your selection. The same goes for engines in which to use
them. The quandary that haunts many modelers is which glow plug is the best for
a certain engine, fuel, ambient temperature, altitude, etc. In the April 2012 edition
of Model Aviation magazine, Bob Aberle addressed just that topic and provided
a website for an extensive treatise on glow plug specifications and usages. In it
James McCarty, Brian Cooper, and Brian Gardner list the major glow plug manufacturers
and present voltages, heat ranges, applications, intended fuel nitro content, short
versus long, idle bar, etc. Fifty years earlier, William Netzeband published an
extensive article in the 1963 Annual Edition of American Modeler magazine
that employs a very methodical and scientific approach that resulted in extensive
graphs and tables that are still largely applicable to today's equipment...
Sonic Thump Not Sonic Boom: NASA's X-59
"NASA's X-59 aircraft, capable of supersonic
flight while reducing sonic booms to quieter 'thumps,' has been moved for testing
in California. The collected data on human reactions to supersonic noise will potentially
assist in enabling commercial supersonic flight over land. The following series
of images shows NASA’s X-59 as it sits on the flight line - the space between the
hangar and the runway - at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, CA, on June
19, 2023. The move from its construction site to the flight line is one of many
milestones that prepare the X-59 for its first and subsequent flights. Next up,
the team will conduct significant ground tests to ensure the aircraft is safe to
fly. The X-59 aircraft - the centerpiece of NASA’s Quesst mission - is designed
to demonstrate the ability to fly supersonic, or faster than Mach 1, while reducing
the loud sonic boom to a quiet sonic thump. NASA will then fly the X-59 over several
communities to gather data on human responses to the sound generated during supersonic
"The Better to See With..." Plexiglas Machine
Of course the allusion in this title, "'The
Better to See With...'
Plexiglas Machine Gun Turrets" is to "Little Red Riding Hood." Do you remember
the scene in "It's a Wonderful Life" where Sam Wainright's new factory has a busy
production line turning our Plexiglas canopies? "I have a big deal coming up
that's going to make us all rich. George, you remember that night in Martini's bar
when you told me you read someplace about making plastics out of soybeans?" George
passed it up and Sam got rich. Plastics were rarely found in products prior to World
War II. A shortage of metal, glass, and rubber (recall the surplus materials
collections) gave birth to a thriving plastics industry that included aircraft canopies.
Prior to that, you will note the flat glass window panes used in windshields and
canopies built in segments using metal frames. The one photo of the line worker
applying a coat of Simoniz to the Plexiglas canopy reminds me of the company's slogan
"Motorists wise, Simoniz," which was made famous again in the original story version
of "A Christmas Story," by Gene Shepherd, entitled "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder
Nails the Cleveland Street Kid."
Maxey's Marvelous P-63 Kingcobra
Those of us fortunate (or unfortunate, depending
on your point of view) to have been in the model airplane realm back in the 1960s
and 1970s (and earlier) are very familiar with Maxey Hester and his award-winning
models. Mr. Hester designed many of the fine scale models sold (some still) by Sig
Manufacturing of Montezuma, Iowa. In fact, if you don't know, Maxey later married
Hazel Sigafoose after her first husband and company co-founder (Glen) died (during
an aerobatic performance). This
was designed for "multi" radio (what we refer today as 4 or 5 channels) and a K&B
.45 engine. The wingspan is about 64".
FAA Approves Electric Flying Car for Testing
"A California-based company, Alef Aeronautics,
is building a
flying electric car that now has approval for testing. The company said the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted it certification to begin testing
the car on the road and in the air, Fox Business reported Saturday. Although it
remains in the experimental phase, the company is taking preorders, according to
USA Today. The outlet also shared an image of the sleek, black vehicle called 'Model
A'. The low-speed fully electric car can be driven up to 200 miles on roadways and
also launch vertically into the air and boasts a flying range of 110 miles, the
Fox report said..."
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Douglas DC-3 Control Line Model Maiden Flight
Breaking News!!! - My
control line DC−3 model completed its maiden flight on August 2, 2023. It flew
beautifully! The lines kept nice and tight even with slight wind gusts. I was unsure
whether the motors and propellers would provide sufficient thrust, but 4−cell LiPo
battery, it will climb nearly straight up. In fact, though, the maiden flight only
used a 3-cell LiPo and it flew fine. The propellers are counter-rotating jobs meant
for a drone. They are the only 3−bladed props I could find that were small enough
in diameter with wide blades and high pitch. Allegheny Airlines livery was chosen
because of a photo I have of one sitting on the tarmac at Erie International Airport
sometime in the 1970s. A video will be posted soon...
4-Level Wooden Bleachers Plans - Update
These 4-level wooden bleacher plans are
the latest version. I was going to write up a hardware parts list, but never got
around to it. Both sections of the bleachers shown in the photo (built in fall of
2011) are still in service and are in excellent condition. Pressure treated lumber
was used for everything, and all the nuts, bolts, and washers are galvanized. Screws
for the planks are outdoor deck grade. Pressure treated landscaping timbers are
sitting on the ground between the soil and bleachers. My daughter sold the property
a couple years ago, so I don’t have access to it to take any other photos. My son-in-law
and I built both sections of bleachers in one weekend. Since many of the parts are
duplicates, we cut out and drilled the first of each type, then used them as templates
for the rest. If you have half a dozen people available to cut and drill, that will
speed the process considerably. We also built up the first seat/step frame, then
built the others on top of it to assure all were identical (using screws temporarily
so the bolts didn’t get in the way). Get the first one as perfect as possible. Prior
to erecting the entire assemblies, the ground area was leveled and the landscaping
timbers laid into position. We used long deck screws to hold them together to prevent
shifting during assembly. The completed bleachers will be as level as the foundation.
Adjustments can be made, if needed, with shims cut from the pressure treated wood.
Note that if the ground is wet/moist, the landscaping timbers will quickly begin
to bow upward as the wetter bottom expands...
It Takes a Rocket Scientist...
For nearly two decades, a collaborative
effort between amateur and professional astronomers has been scanning the night
sky for massive bodies whose trajectories cross the Earth's orbital path, thereby
creating a potential collision someday. Software compares images of the entire sky
(acquired in small areas) to look for newly appearing and/or moving points of light.
As with amateur radio, which has contributed mightily to the knowledge of wireless
communications, so too have amateur astronomers significantly pioneered the field
(pun intended) of primarily visual wavelength astronomy. Indeed, they routinely
discover asteroids, planet and moon impacts by asteroids and meteorites, and even
novae missed by professionals. Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System
(Pan-STARRS) does the heavy
lifting for finding near-earth objects (NEO), but NASA has a dedicated program called
Near-Earth Object Observations
(NEOO) Program. It includes devising methods to divert the trajectory of a massive
body capable of potentially devastating damage on impact. To do so, an explosion
is used to jolt the object enough to alter its orbit. It requires detection while
far enough away that a small nudge will create an acceptable margin of safety. NASA
recently tested its method on asteroid Dimorphos. Control room operators cheered
when the onboard camera show it making a direct hit. Score one for science.
It did alter the orbit, while also blowing off hundreds of smaller chunks, some
of which are now themselves NEO's, Oops. Q: Of all the asteroids out there,
why would they select one whose trajectory crosses Earth orbit, not knowing what
might happen if something went wrong? It took a rocket scientist to do that.
Smaller, Lighter Cessna 327 Mini Skymaster
was Cessna's solution to a downsizing opportunity. Then it ended up in a NASA
wind tunnel. Once upon a time, GA aircraft manufacturers pursued market niches with
the ferocity of wild dingos. When marketing teams identified a potentially underserved
customer segment, they wasted no time introducing minor variations to existing models
to accommodate it. Compared to today's offerings, the resulting variety of aircraft
was spectacularly broad and varied. When Cessna determined some customers would
be willing to pay a bit more for a slightly more powerful 172, for example, the
company introduced the 175 Skylark. This was little more than a 172 with a different
engine, but the company was in pursuit of new market segments and opted to advertise
it as an entirely different model. Similarly, Beechcraft identified markets for
both full-sized and smaller light twins in the forms of the Baron and Travel Air.
With four seats instead of five or six, thriftier 4-cylinder engines, and significantly
Short-Wave Radio Lands Army Plane
was considered in 1937 to be a breakthrough feat for a full-size airplane is today
accomplished regularly in model airplanes. What took hundreds of pounds of generators,
radio gear, sensors, and actuators to perform the first-ever
fully automatic landing is now done with a few ounces of microminiaturized GPS
receiver, processor, MEMS sensors, servos, and a LiPo battery. The HobbyZone Sportsman
S+RTF (see video at bottom) is an example. Most modern commercial aircraft are capable
of landing themselves in an emergency situation. Just today there was a news report
of an American Airlines pilot that died in flight and the copilot took over to land
the airplane; however, that Airbus A320 could have handled the job if necessary...
Lazy Susan Salt, Pepper & Napkin Holder
Many moons ago I designed and built a combined
salt & pepper
and napkin holder for use on a round oak table we had when first married (1983).
It had a Lazy Susan turntable for the base to facilitate easy access by anyone sitting
at the table. At some point during our many household moves, we sold both the table
and the turntable at a yard sale. For a long time I have been planning to build
another to replace it. Finally, I used some leftover hickory wood from my Grandmother
clock project and built what you see here. It is about 11½" in diameter; the size
was kept as small as practical so as not to take up too much room on the table.
One improvement over the first iteration was only placing vertical supports near
the four corners, which keeps the back open for inserting napkins without needing
to remove the salt and pepper shakers...
Even during the busiest times of my life I have endeavored to maintain some form
of model building activity. This site has been created to help me chronicle my journey
through a lifelong involvement in model aviation, which
all began in Mayo, MD
Copyright 1996 - 2026
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and text used on the Airplanes and Rockets website are hereby acknowledged.