My first R/C helicopter was a DuBro Tri-Star, back sometime around 1976 (the year I graduated from high school). I think it was purchased through Tower Hobbies. Come to think of it, just about every mail order purchase I have ever made has been through Tower Hobbies, but that's another story. The Tri-Star was named so because it could be built with three different ABS plastic body styles: standard non-scale, Hughes 500, or Enstrom. Mine never got past the standard body, which was styled after the Scorpion home-built helicopter. If anyone has one for sale, please let me know; I'd like to reacquire one for the sake of nostalgia.
I went into the U.S. Air Force in November of 1978, and brought the Tri-Star to my permanent duty station at Robins AFB, GA, where it hung for three years but never flew. After getting out of the USAF, it was sold to some guy in Annapolis, MD, for about $100 (including the engine).
Here is my DuBro Tri-Star helicopter. There must not be many Tri-Stars left in the world because they almost never show up for sale and even finding a picture of one is rare. Now, however, lots of good photos and a PDF instruction manual can be seen below.
My first R/C helicopter was a DuBro Tri-Star, back sometime around 1976 (the year I graduated from high school). I think it was purchased through Tower Hobbies. Come to think of it, just about every mail order purchase I have ever made has been through Tower Hobbies, but that's another story. The Tri-Star was named so because it could be built with three different ABS plastic body styles: standard non-scale, Hughes 500, or Enstrom. Mine never got past the standard body, which was styled after the Scorpion home-built helicopter.
In the late 1960s when I received a Cox Sky Copter for Christmas, there was very little in the way of commercially available flying model helicopters. 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 rotation 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.
For most people my age (born in 1958), the first experience with a 'real' flying model helicopter was this ElectroMic "Copter" by Stanzel. I finally acquired one via eBay for a fair price. The "Copter" uses two D-cell batteries in the plastic handle to power a motor, also in the handle, which in turn drives the center wire of a coaxial cable that connects to the helicopter rotor. Flying the Copter is a matter of pressing the power button and then manipulating the handle to direct the model in flight. With fully charged batteries, the helicopter generates a lot of lift and requires angling the control cable downward to prevent the thing from performing the equivalent of a wingover. Forward and reverse flight involve angling the controller left and right. After a few moments of practice, precise control is fairly easy.
My next venture into RC helicopters came about a decade later when I bought an Ikarus ECO 8 electric chopper from Hobby Lobby (c.1998). It was pretty lam in performance with the stock motor and a very heavy NiCad battery pack. At least there were no clutch problems to deal with. This time I had a heading hold gyro for the tail rotor and I was actually able to somewhat fly the thing. After losing patience with the lameness of the power plant, I sold it on an AOL bulletin board to some guy in Florida. It had not suffered any damage beyond a slight dent in the tail boom where one of the main blades slapped it on a less-than-soft landing.
This E-flite Blade CP helicopter is amazing! As advertised, I charged the NiMH battery pack, put 8 AA cells in the transmitter, and away it went. Since seven years have passed since flying (kind-of) the ECO 8, my initial couple attempts were pretty embarrassing. By about the 3rd charge, I could hover for about 30 seconds. I was continually trying different tail rotor gain and gyro settings to keep the tail under control. As it turned out, the secret to keeping the tail under control is to actually control the tail with the stick! Once I figured that out, hovering was a cinch! I found that