Remember when when there were no computers or 24/7 TV broadcasts on hundreds of cable channels to take up all your free time, and you would search for a meaningful hobby to keep you occupied? No, probably not for most people who are reading this. Beginning in the late 1990s, local hobby shops (LHSs) were disappearing as interest in activities involving the hands-on wares they sold - model kits, craft kits, et al - was being replaced by activities involving sitting in front of a video display of some sort. Hands-on was coming to mean hands on a video game controller or a keyboard and mouse. Nowadays, hands-on more likely describes activity on a smartphone. Alas, you can't stop progress, as the saying goes, and ultimately that's a good thing. Old timers like me came into the model building world when ready-built flying models primarily meant a molded-plastic Cox .049-powered control line airplane or maybe a .020-powered helicopter...
The FAA UAS Symposium – Remotely Piloted Edition brings together industry professionals and regulators to promote learning and growth within the UAS community. "It's an exclusive opportunity to talk face-to-face with stakeholders from all sectors, where you can help define the rules and concepts that govern the future of drone operations." Episode I is July 8-9, and Episode II runs August 18-19. Presented by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
If you have been visiting the Airplanes and Rockets website for any length of time, you know I put a lot of effort into delivering a historical perspective on aviation and aerospace. The June 2020 issue of Air & Space magazine contains a great article entitled, "The History of Aviation in Posters, Brochures, Badges and Ticket Stubs." It begins: "Slipped between the pages of diaries and journals, glued into scrapbooks, and stuffed into envelopes, we've found things that were never meant to last. Most people hang on to bits of paper that they didn't mean to save forever: a ticket stub from a concert, a greeting card, a tour brochure. Within the 20,000 cubic feet of archival materials at the National Air and Space Museum Archives are personal and professional papers, corporate and organizational records, 20,000 motion pictures, two million technical drawings, and three million photographic images. But the Archives is also home to ephemera -banquet menus, airline baggage labels, company brochures..."
The Douglas Aircraft Company's DC−4 conducted its maiden flight on June 7, 1938. It was a hugely successful four-engined aircraft used for civilian and military passenger and cargo transportation. Military versions of the plane were designated C−54 and R5D. The DC−4 was designed to be the airline industry's "dream" airplane - "a Grand Hotel with wings", capable of cruise speeds of more than two hundred miles per hour and a range of 3,300 miles, making it capable of non-stop coast-to-coast flight. Although the DC−4 was the brainchild of United Airlines, a consortium of five companies - United, TWA, American, Eastern and Pan American - financed the endeavor to ensure success would not be hampered due to cost and competition concerns. The airplane's control systems were so complex that a new crew member position called "flight engineer" was created to monitor and tend to all the meters, dials, knobs, switches, and panel lights, while allowing the pilots to worry mostly about flying...
The Dog Days of Summer, contrary to what many people believe, is named not to describe the hottest, most humid, most oppressive period of the year, but marks the astronomical point in time following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius, aka the Dog Star in the constellation Canis Major. 40 days later, on August 11th, the Dog Days end. That also happens to be middle of summer (not midsummer), which is on or about August 6th. Never having been a proponent of summer, the end of the Dog Days has always meant we're closer to the end of summer than to the beginning, and autumn is on the way.
Here are a few more helpful model building tips from the May 1961 issue of the Academy of Model Aeronautics' American Modeler magazine. Many are not so useful anymore because inexpensive and commercially made versions of the gadgets and tools presented are readily available. Of course you can still do it yourself for any of them, and if time and/or money is an issue, you might need to. The first one requires a product that is scarce these days - photographic negatives. Nearly every household used to have old negatives laying around, but not anymore. Maybe your parents or grandparents have some they could spare if you really want to give it a try. The painted-on water-transfer decal seems like a pretty slick idea, and could still be a useful trick. I wonder how well it works...
The Great de Havilland Mosquito Bomber
On the eve of World War II, the Brits built an amazingly successful twin-engined bomber called the D.H.98 Mosquito. It proved to be the bane of German cities, bridges, and dams. More than a decade after the aeronautics industry had switched from wooden to metal airframes, de Havilland engineers decided to design the craft using materials and techniques familiar to model airplane hobbyists - balsa, plywood, spruce, silk, and dope. The April/May 2020 issue of Air & Space magazine has a great article entitled "World War II's Strangest Bombing Mission" containing a quote from Hermann Göring which is like music to the ears (double entendre intended) of our English brethren. To wit: "Famously, the RAF's speedy wooden workhorses left a lasting impression on Göring. According to a 1973 history of the Luftwaffe, he later blustered, 'The British, who can afford aluminum better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building... They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops. After the war is over I'm going to buy a British radio set - then at least I'll own something that has always worked.'" Key up "God Save the King/Queen."
I find myself conflicted when contemplating the situation I discovered. While looking on eBay for a vintage Morse code straight key, on a whim I decided to try just the phrase "Made in the USA" to see what kinds of products would be returned. To my shock, the entire page was filled with nothing but cloth face masks! Who would have guessed that a virus coming from Wuhan China would spark the first big wave of domestically made products - to protect us from the virus! Well, there is another product type suddenly being manufactured in large quantities in the USA - ventilators, to treat critically sick patients with the Wuhan Flu (aka COVID−19). As our economy and national spirit suffers profoundly, do most people even remember where this all started and how it got here? I'm guessing not, because the news media does not mention it.
We old-timers miss the days when flyer-built models and glow fuel power were the norm for model airplane flying. Companies like Tower Hobbies were the mainstay of the distributor side of model aviation. Those of not without a nearby hobby shop depended on Tower Hobbies, Hobby Lobby, Hobby People, et al, for our supplies. Most of the old companies are long gone. Tower Hobbies is barely surviving as a vestige of Horizon Hobby. If you are nostalgic for how those familiar websites used to appear, fret not. Fortunately, the "Wayback Machine," provided by Archive.org, has been capturing and storing copies of websites since the mid 1990s, at the birth of the World Wide Web. Look up your favorite erstwhile model supply website and chances are you will find it there. Happy memories!
The Stuka Stunt control line aerobatics model was designed and flown by Don Still. Don was top placing (2066.6 points) member of the winning USA team, with his new version Stuka Stunt, at the 1960 World Stunt Championships in Budapest, Hungary. The model sports a 42" wingspan with a wing area of 391 sq. in., weight is 28-30 ounces. Construction is standard balsa, plywood, and spruce. Plans for the original version Stuka Stunt were featured in the April 1952 issue of Air Trails. The model won the 1952 and 1954 Nationals (Nats), the 1953 Internationals, and the 1951 Tangerine Internationals. It took second place in the 1951 and 1960 Nationals. These plans for Don's new Stuka Stunt appeared in the July 1961 issue of American Modeler magazine.
ThereCraft's Lifting Body Drone Delivers Packages
"A unique drone design promises aircraft payload with helicopter precision. The delivery drone space is getting more and more crowded, but we tend to see slightly different flavors of the same basic designs and modes of operation. There are point-to-point multirotors, hybrid point-to-point systems (like tailsitters), and fixed-wing drones that require launch and landing infrastructure. One thing that all of these drone platforms have in common is scale - the current generation of autonomous commercial delivery drones are optimized for payloads of a few kilograms, delivering high value, time sensitive payloads in low infrastructure areas. There are plenty of use cases where small drones work just fine, but once you need more than a handful..."
This Nufnut free flight model airplane article and plans came to being in response to laments from would-be model airplane builders who tried and failed at their first (and sometimes more) attempts to make and fly something even as simple as a rubber powered model. The author decided to present detailed instructions on building and covering an open frame stick and tissue model, being sure to detail areas that generally cause the most trouble. The most difficult task for most beginners is covering the airframe with tissue and then obtaining a warp-free structure after application of dope. If you are new to the hobby and either have experienced such disappointments or are considering getting into the fine hobby of model airplane building and flying and seek sage advice on how to avoid discouraging pitfalls, then you have come to the right place. Tufnut is a somewhat unique design with its solid balsa fuselage that has a slot cut in it for containing the rubber band, rather than just using a stick with the rubber hanging underneath...
"A new sunshade, or visor, designed to reduce the brightness of SpaceX's Starlink broadband Internet satellites will debut on the company's next launch, a measure intended to alleviate astronomers' concerns about impacts on observations through ground-based telescopes, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said Monday. Beginning with the next launch of Starlink satellites - scheduled as soon as May 7 from Cape Canaveral - SpaceX will try out a new light-blocking panel to make the spacecraft less visible to skywatchers and astronomers. 'We have a radio-transparent foam that will deploy nearly upon the satellite being released (from the rocket),' Musk said Monday in a virtual meeting of the National Academies' Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 panel, a committee charged with setting the top priorities for U.S. astronomy for the next decade..."
"Israel's Ministry of Defense has procured the FireFly, a lightweight loitering munition designed for infantry and special forces. Jointly developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the MoD, FireFly's canister-deployed design with multiple rotors enables it to hover around buildings and attack concealed enemies that may be beyond line of sight or hiding in urban environments. FireFly is designed to fulfill a need that platoons and smaller units have on the modern battlefield for an unmanned system that is rugged and lightweight. Mini-UAVs are increasingly in demand for infantry use, and the ability to combine them with loitering munitions that can conduct surveillance and attack..."
Blue Origin Wins NASA Funding for Human Lunar Lander
"NASA has selected Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX to move forward with development of human-rated lunar landers, committing nearly $1B in funding for a range of moonship concepts that include a variant of SpaceX's next-generation Starship vehicle, officials announced Thursday. 'These are three companies that we believe have a lot of capability that are going to enable us to get to the moon,' said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. 'Each one of them is very different. They have all proposed something very different and unique, which has a lot of value to us.' NASA said Blue Origin's contract is valued at $579 million, and Dynetics will receive $253 million for the 10-month contract base period..."
"Dope Can" was a monthly roundup of aeromodeler news and views which ran in American Modeler magazine (which was re-named American Aircraft Modeler in 1968). This March 1961 edition covered a lot of ground, as did all Dope Can columns. A "Hummin' Boid" towline-launch R/C glider with a 9-foot wingspan took the "My Favorite Model" photo prize for the month. Well known in control line circles (pun intended) Hi Johnson has a new stunter design he dubbed "Stunt Supreme." Then, there's the 0.006 cubic inch displacement Hummingbird diesel engine - claims to be the world's smallest, and I believe it. The Jacksonville "Prop Kickers," incredibly still in existence today, was endowed with the "Club of the Month" honor. A big deal is made of the action photo on the magazine cover. Remember that back in the day, there were no microprocessor-controlled, auto-focusing, light-level-setting lenses and irises that could make a rank amateur's photos look like a seasoned professional's, so a lot of planning and test runs were required...
"Skyports has been accepted into the UK Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) Regulatory Sandbox programme to trial beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) UAV flights in non-segregated airspace. The CAA's Regulatory Sandbox was established in 2019 to create an environment where innovation in aviation can be explored in line with its core principles of safety, security and consumer protection. Alex Brown, Head of Operations at Skyports, explained that BVLOS UAV deliveries are already happening globally through trials and in dedicated corridors that keep UAVs away from other airspace users. 'To achieve commercial operations at scale, particularly in more congested environments, delivery UAVs will need to be able to safely share the skies with other..."
There is currently a big shift from internal combustion engines to electric motors for powering model vehicles of all sorts - airplanes, helicopters, boats, and cars - and of all control modes - autonomous (free flight), radio control, and control-line. The state of motor and battery technology has passed the point where the weight and thrust available with electric power meets or exceeds that of engines for most applications. Costs are pretty much at parity as well when you compare engine vs. motor and fuel vs. battery acquisition and cost of ownership over the life of the power system. All sorts of useful electronic peripheral equipment has been developed for use with electric motor power: programmable electronic speed controllers, motor cutoffs based on altitude and/or elapsed time for free flight, motor timer/speed controls for control line, and even engine noise generators to give life-like sound to otherwise eerily quiet war birds and commercial transports, to name a few. These devices had made the switch to electric power nearly seamless for most flyers...
Douglas Rolfe, who provided many detailed and line drawings of full-scale aircraft for American Modeler magazine, here summarizes the history of Chance Vought Aircraft Company. While the name appears to be the joint venture of two separate people, one by the name of Chance and the other by the name of Vought, it is in fact the namesake of Mr. Chance Milton Vought. Another such instructional name of the same sort is Johns Hopkins University, which is named after Mr. Johns Hopkins. Probably the most well-known airplane models are the F4U Corsair and OS2U Kingfisher of World War II and Pappy Boyington's Black Sheep Squadron (VMA-214) fame, and the F8U Crusader of Korean War fame. Chance Vought obviously was really fond of the "Corsair" name since he name three separate models with it: the 1926 O2U Corsair, the 1931 V50 Corsair, and the 1940 F4U Corsair...
For a long time I have been kicking around the concept of tethered R/C, where the airplane would be completely under remote control, with its inboard wing being attached to a tether that is in turn anchored to a pivot point in the center of the circle. My first effort was to convert an electric-powered control line stunt model to have R/C control of the elevator and motor speed. After doing the conversion, I decided that it would be safer to start out with a slow-flying, inherently stable model, so since I was in the process of building an electric-powered, three channel Carl Goldberg ½A Skylane, it was used as the Guiney pig. The steerable nose gear was pegged in the center, and the rudder pushrod was secured with a screw in the servo mount so that it has permanent right rudder. A tether attachment point was epoxied into the left wingtip. It weights 25.3 ounces ready to fly. The wing chord was increased by about 0.5" over the plans outline in order to get a little more area and decrease the wing loading a tab bit.
A story about the restoration of America's first Air Force One, the president's airplane, appears in the June 2020 issue of Air & Space magazine. Dubbed Columbine II, the four-engined Constellation ferried President Dwight D. Eisenhower around. "When Dwight Eisenhower was president, he traveled in style. Now a team is restoring his airplane to presidential perfection. On a sunny day last November, Air Force One was parked inside a hangar 140 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. The large, four-engine transport had logged thousands of miles. Countless VIPs had flown aboard it. Speeches on the peaceful purpose of atomic power had been crafted inside its cabin, and presidential naps taken in its comfy berths. But this Air Force One was not waiting for the president. No, this airplane, a 72-year-old Lockheed VC-121 Constellation - the first presidential aircraft officially designated as Air Force One - was waiting for resurrection..."
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Skyroads Newspaper Comics Archive
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Apollo 11 on Washington Monument
How it was done
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"The motor uses a novel ignition system that breaks water down into oxygen and hydrogen and burns them. Los Alamos researchers developed the first restartable motor for solid rockets. A motor built according to the patented design was restarted at least six times in succession. All other solid rocket motors in use provide a 'one-and-done' firing for maneuvering in space. This new technology will help solve the increasing problem of space traffic, as more small satellites (CubeSats) are sent into orbit. The restartable motor will let satellites maneuver around other orbiting objects on short notice, preventing costly space crashes. A second high-priority defense application of this invention is missile maneuvering..."
"The upcoming Perseverance mission will attempt the first powered flight on another planet. If ever there was life on Mars, NASA's Perseverance rover should be able to find signs of it. The rover, scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center, in FL, is designed to drill through rocks in an ancient lake bed and examine them for bio signatures, extract oxygen from the atmosphere, and collect soil samples that might someday be returned to Earth. But to succeed at a Mars mission, you always need a little ingenuity; that's literally what Perseverance is carrying. Bolted to the rover's undercarriage is a small autonomous helicopter called Ingenuity. If all goes as planned, it will become the first aircraft to make a powered flight on another planet..."
"China's 2020 HX−1 Mars mission will draw on previous lunar explorations and human spaceflights. China aims to become only the second country to land and operate a spacecraft on the surface of Mars (NASA was first with a pair of Viking landers in 1976). With just a few months before launch, China is still keeping key mission details quiet. But we can discern a few points about where and how it will attempt a landing on the Red Planet from recent presentations and interviews. Celestial mechanics dictate that China, along with NASA's Perseverance rover and the Hope orbiter from the United Arab Emirates, will launch around late July during a Hohmann transfer window, which comes around only once every 26 months and allows a trip to Mars using as little propellant as possible. A huge Long March 5 rocket will send the Chinese spacecraft on a journey for about seven months..."
"A flock of swifts and a ballbot mobile manipulator are the newest robots from the German company. Every year or two, Festo shows off some really quite spectacular bio-inspired creations, including robotic ants and butterflies, hopping kangaroos, rolling spiderbots, flying penguins and flying jellyfish, and much more. The BionicSwifts are not the first birds that Festo has developed, but those flexible, feathered wings are particularly lovely. To execute flight maneuvers as true to life as possible, the wings are modeled on the plumage of real birds. The individual lamellae are made of an ultralight, flexible but very robust foam and lie on top of each other like shingles. Connected to a carbon quill, they are attached to the actual hand and arm wings as in the natural model. During the wing upstroke, the individual lamellae fan out so that air can flow through the wing. This means that the birds need less force to pull the wing up..."
"On a cold March night last year in Portsmouth, England, an entirely new type of aircraft flew for the first time, along a dimly lit 120-meter corridor in a cavernous building once used to build minesweepers for the Royal Navy. This is the Phoenix, an uncrewed blimp that has no engines but propels itself forward by varying its buoyancy and its orientation. The prototype measures 15 meters in length, 10.5 meters in wingspan, and when fully loaded weighs 150 kilograms (330 pounds). It flew over the full length of the building, each flight requiring it to undulate up and down about five times. Flying in this strange way has advantages. For one, it demands very little energy, allowing the craft to be used for long-duration missions. Also, it dispenses with whirring rotors and compressor blades and violent..."