- Welcome to the Airplanes & Rockets Website - "Heavier-than-air
flying machines are impossible." Lord Kelvin, 1895
Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) Mechanic Sample Test
This "Test Your Knowledge" feature appeared
in the March 1967 issue of American Modeler magazine, immediately following
A & P Mechanics - Part II" article (I do not yet have Part I).
Way back in my younger day during the time I was taking flying lessons and thought
a career in flying was the only reasonable path for me, I planned to earn a Airframe &
Powerplant (A&P) license. Destiny had other plans, since when I signed up for
the Delayed Enlistment program with the U.S. Air Force, no aircraft engine mechanic
positions were open, and I ended up in electronics, working on air traffic control
radar maintenance (fixing and aligning, not as an air traffic controller). As you
can see from the test, a masterful grasp on the theory of engine operation and maintenance
was (and still is) required. Back in those days, only the most qualified people
were selected to do the job - lives and fortunes depended on it. Today, one of the
biggest advantages you can have for getting an aircraft mechanic job is not being
a white male of European descent...
Pouring and Covering with Microfilm
Even though I have never attempted to build
model covered with microfilm, it is easy to appreciate what a delicate task
properly preparing the solution, covering the frame, and handling the delicate airframe
is, along with the precision handling required to obtain the correct film thickness
and coverage. There have probably been improvements in microfilm solutions and airframe
materials and gluing techniques, but ultimately you need to form the film on the
wing, tail, and propeller surfaces. This 1971 American Aircraft Modeler magazine
article should still be useful for contemporary indoor flyers...
"NASA Spinoff" Technology Transfer Program
Ever since the manned space exploration
programs began at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), controversy
over both the financial costs and the cost in lost opportunity for other government
funded programs has existed. Many people, myself included, have always championed
the efforts and believe the axiom of the whole being greater than the sum of the
parts applies to the efforts. Opponents say resources would be better spent here
on Earth. In fact, we have always done both. To address the issue,
was created to publicize the byproducts of the space program that benefit other
areas of research, manufacturing, and society. Since at least the 1970s, NASA has
published a monthly magazine entitled NASA Tech Briefs
to inform the public on their activities, inviting readers to submit ideas and to
request information on how to apply NASA research to commercial applications. I
have been a regular reader since around 1980...
Lucile M. Wright Air Museum and Planetarium
Just before Christmas 2015, Melanie and
I made a trip to Jamestown, New York, and visited
M. Wright Air Museum (no relation to Wilbur and Orville). Is it located in downtown
Jamestown at 300 North Main Street. There are plenty of areas with unmetered parking,
so save yourself a couple quarters by driving a block or two to find it. Admission
is free. "Lucile Miller Wright was a pioneer aviatrix. She was born in Beatrice,
Nebraska and grew up in Billings, Montana. She discovered her love of flying as
a young woman. In 1922 she went on her first flight with General Billy Mitchell,
who was a personal friend of her father, Henry A. Miller. Mrs. Wright continually
battled discrimination in pursuit of her passion...Throughout her career, Mrs. Wright
logged 8,000 hours of flying time in the seven planes she owned and 5,000,000 miles
in commercial aircraft. During World War II, she was the only woman courier plot
in Western New York under the Civil Air Patrol Program..."
Rockets Carry the Mail
Is that Vern Estes in that foxhole preparing
to push the launch button? Probably not, but the materials and methods used here
in this 1948 issue of Popular Science magazine by amateur rocketeers are a big part
of the motivation Mr. Estes had for starting his eponymously named model rocket
company in 1958. To wit: "Rocket is driven by 35 pounds of micro grain powder, mostly
zinc dust and sulphur, which burns out in four seconds. It climbs to 4,000 feet
and reaches speed of more than 400 m.p.h." Handling the explosive and sometimes
unstable chemicals required for the rocket engines was extremely dangerous, and
resulted in many instances of loss of fingers and eyes, severe burns, and even death.
The safety record of Estes engines is borne out by more than sixty years of continuous
production. If they were not nearly perfectly safe, lawyers would have put Estes
out of business long ago. Even Olympic level stupid has not produced an event capable
that anything other than the user's idiocy was responsible for an engine-related
Dancer 1/2A Control Line Model Article & Plans
Website visitor Alan M. wrote to request
that I scan this Dancer article from the February 1971 edition of American Aircraft
Modeler magazine. The
is a beginner's level control line trainer model for 1/2A power that is one of the
many "For the Tenderfoot" series. Construction is all simple sheet balsa. Even back
in the early 1970s millions of Cox .049 engines had already been produced, so they
were readily available at a low price. The Dancer was designed and built by AMA
Junior level modeler Dennis Haimerl. A unique feature of the Dancer is use of a
leading edge slot to enhance lift and stall characteristics of the flat airfoil
of the wing. Such devices are used on STOL (short take-off and landing) airplanes...
Norwegian Wind Energy Kitemill
"Norwegian Wind Energy developer Kitemill
has secured more than €2m of funding from Dutch investment entity Expanding Dreams.
KiteMill secures E2m for wind energy 'Together with smaller investors and a tax
relief grant, the combined package will cover the majority of planned activity for
2024,' according to the company. The company's technology
generates power using a tethered glider, which initially launches itself using
a small motor-driven propeller. When aloft, the glider pulls against its tether,
unwinding it from a drum, whose rotation generates electrical power. Once at its
furthest extent, the glider drops towards the drum, allowing the tether to be re-wound
with little effort, after which the pull-rewind cycle repeats until the wind stops.
Flying certain patterns allows the aircraft to maximize the energy generated during
pulling, and the system spends 90% of its time generating power and 10% rewinding
the tether, according to the company. 'With this influx of resources, we aim to
expedite the development of our current model, KM1, and the forthcoming KM2. These
models represent significant advancements in harnessing high-altitude wind..."
Wild Bill Netzeband's Control Line Capers
Just as originally intended, a lot of people
have contacted me after seeing themselves, a friend, or a family member mentioned
in one of these articles published in vintage American Modeler and
American Aircraft Modeler magazines. Often, it came as the result of reporting
on a modeling event, like the "Mid-America Stunt Championships"
covered here in "Wild Bill Netzeband's Control Line Capers" column in the January
/ February 1963 issue of American Modeler magazine. Do a site-wide search of Airplanes
and Rockets to see if your name appears somewhere. Also in the article is a report
of Veco's new 35C and also on a game-changing monoline control handle for C/L racing.
A comical "Things You Wouldn't Know" section is included to provide the "real" meaning
of words used by modelers. Did you know that Bob Violett and Cliff Telford of R/C
racing fame did C/L racing as well?
Whizzing on Fizz:- CO2−Powered Cars
I don't know what aircraft engineers do
during their lunch hour these days, but back in 1947 when this article appeared
in Popular Science magazine, some of them raced
CO2-powered model cars. They're a sort of Cub Scout Pinewood Derby
cars on steroids. Split into light and heavy classes (7/8 ounce to 4-1/4 ounces),
these aerodynamically shaped crates were carved from balsa blocks and rolled on
metal or rubber wheels along a 240-foot string. It was the dawn of the jet age,
so building competitive jet-powered models was a natural extension of the work many
of them did as avocation / profession. I'm guessing there is more than one Ph.D.
in that crowd, but there's a good chance the guy with the fastest car was a technician.
BTW, although the venue at first glance appears to be a row of cubicles with their
occupants leaning over the walls, cubicles were not a "thing" back in the day. Engineers
and draftsmen at large firms typically sat in huge, open rooms filled with drafting
tables and test equipment...
5th Annual R/C Soaring NATS
In 1974, I was flying some of my first R/C
gliders - probably a Mark's Models Windward or maybe the Windfree (in that order).
During that time, I tried hard to locate a group of sailplane flyers in my area
around Mayo, Maryland, but to no avail. The nearest R/C flying field was about 30
miles away in Upper Marlboro, MD, where the PGRC club field used to be. My family's
car was held together with chewing gum and bailing wire, so it wasn't often that
I could talk my father into driving me out there, and the few times that he gave
in to my whining, there were never any gliders present. When I would see articles
like this one on the
Fifth Annual R/C Soaring Nats in the October 1974 issue of American Aircraft
Modeler magazine, my envy level would increase significantly both from the
standpoint of way-cool models and R/C equipment (I had second-hand junk, purchased
with newspaper route money), but also because of the people lucky enough to have
access to such venues...
Ingenuity Blade Strike Ends Mars Mission
Mars Helicopter made its 72nd and final flight on 18 January. 'While the helicopter
remains upright and in communication with ground controllers,' NASA's Jet Propulsion
Lab said in a press release this afternoon, 'imagery of its Jan. 18 flight sent
to Earth this week indicates one or more of its rotor blades sustained damage during
landing, and it is no longer capable of flight.' That's what you're seeing in the
picture above: the shadow of a broken tip of one of the helicopter's four two-foot
long carbon fiber rotor blades. NASA is assuming that at least one blade struck
the Martian surface during a 'rough landing,' and this is not the kind of damage
that will allow the helicopter to get back into the air. Ingenuity's mission is
over. NASA held a press conference earlier this evening to give as much information
as they can about exactly what happened to Ingenuity, and what comes next. First,
here's a summary from the press release: Ingenuity's team planned for the helicopter
to make a short vertical flight..."
Ducted Fan Saab Draken 210 Free Flight Plane
S.C. Smith's cover drawing for this
1956 issue of Air Trails magazine is an enhanced version of Wayne Schindler's
Saab Draken 210 free flight [semi] scale model airplane. Back in the day, there
were no commercially available ducted fan units, so they needed to be designed and
fabricated by the builder of the model. The computer optimized ducted fan units
we have today are matched to the powerplant, which much more often that not is a
brushless motor. I don't know if anyone makes a ducted fan for glow fuel engines
anymore. This Saab Draken 210 used a Cox .049 Thermal Hopper glow engine, which
was capable of turning 10,000 rpm. 1956 is the year Cox introduced the Babe
Bee .049 was introduced, but might not have been available at the time. It could
do 13,500 rpm on 15% nitro fuel, so could have added significant thrust to
the ducted fan unit. The six-blade, three-inch diameter fan was not enclosed in
a tightly fitting duct like modern fans are...
International Miniature Racing
Ah, the simpler times when enjoyment, competition,
and industry could be found on a
car race track in a musty basement. Pre-fab models were rare in the day, and
those that could be bought couldn't hold a candle to those hand crafted by young
men like the ones in these photos. It was not a pastime only for the younger set,
though. Older guys with metal lathes and fine crafting tools created museum quality
masterpieces. This "International Miniature Racing" article from the August 1962
issue of American Modeler magazine reports on worldwide interest in slot
car racing. I'm always amazed at how many men and boys wore sport coats and ties
while participating not just in formal events, but even during everyday activities...
Missy DARA QM Article & Plans
Airplanes and Rockets visitor Dave J. wrote
to ask that I post this article on the
Missy DARA (Dayton Air Racing
Association ) quarter midget racer that appeared in the April 1974 edition of American
Aircraft Modeler magazine. It is a scale knockoff of the full-scale Miss Dara Formula
racer. I offer to do this for people at no charge as time permits. Also, I usually
post a scan of the plans, but if you are going to build the model, I highly recommend
buying a set from the AMA Plans Service if they are still available. Missy Dara
plans do not appear to be available at this time. The AMA will scale the plans to
any size you need, so you're not locked into the original wingspan. House of Balsa
manufactured a Miss Dara kit back in the 1980s...
Low-Drag Rocket Design
G. Harry Stine was (and in some places
still is) a household word (ok, a letter and two words) amongst people who engage
in model rocketry. As a degreed physicist, he spent his professional years working
in both civilian and government aerospace projects. In his spare time, Mr. Stine
contributed mightily to the science, industry, and sport of model rocketry. His
monthly columns in American Aircraft Modeler magazine were read and appreciated
by enthusiasts hungry for a regular helping of the technical side of the craft,
served in layman's terms. A typical article written by him reports on some happenings
in the trade show and contest realms, while including a lesson in
design and flight...
Race Car Clinic: Mercedes Benz G.P.
Now here's a term I had never heard before:
"desmodromic valve." I thought it was something that Cox made up by borrowing the
"drom" part of Thimble Drome. Not so. According to Wikipedia, "In general mechanical
terms, the word desmodromic is used to refer to mechanisms that have different controls
for their actuation in different directions." It describes the type of valve used
in the full-scale Mercedes-Benz W196 Racer. The Cox model uses their famous .049
glow fuel engine. There is an ocean of information available on Cox engines, cars,
helicopters, boats, and airplanes. The
W196 was a scale model of the real Formula One car that ran in many European
Grand Prix races. The mechanical features were quite sophisticated, including a
flywheel with integrates fan for cooling the engine, spring-loaded suspension, and
an adjustable muffler for desired quietness/power tradeoff, and careful engineering
to assure compatibility of hot metal parts against molded plastic. The Cox Mercedes-Benz
Racer on occasionally shows up on eBay, but be prepared for a shock price tag compared
to the original $20 back in 1961 when this article appeared in American Modeler
Rocket Trails: Boost Gliders: Winged "Birds"
Rocket-boosted gliders grew in popularity
in the early 1960s and then seemed to ebb by the end of the decade. I'm not sure
why. Maybe the rocketry purists drove a more timid Boost Glider (B/G) bunch into
the background. I remember getting some pretty nice flight out of my Estes Falcon
glider. This article from the 1963 March/April edition of American Modeler
magazine mentions Vern Estes' efforts to foster the boost glider craze by modifying
what I knew as the Gyroc to perform as a glider once the engine cartridge was ejected,
rather than recover in its original form by creating a high drag profile via a rapid
spin. Rockets, like free flight model airplanes, need a lot of open space if altitudes
of more than a few hundred feet are planned. Sure, you can estimate the angle for
the launch pad tin hopes of firing upwind enough to allow the rocket to be blown
back near the launch location, but I can tell you from personal experience that
just a model airplanes can be unexpectedly snatched by a passing thermal and carried
away to the hinterlands, so too can a model rocket hanging on a parachute. In fact,
since I grew up on the East Coast near Annapolis, Maryland, where large, open spaces
are rare, I always configured my parachutes (small diameter or larger with hole
in the middle) to bring the rocket back down ASAP. The problem with that is then
you don't get to enjoy watching the rocket float down for very long...
The Beautiful Grumman Widgeon
Just like with the old commercial jingle
that went, "Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like Sara Lee,"
I can pretty confidently substitute "seaplanes" for "Sara Lee." The
was one of many iterations of their twin engined amphibious airplanes that is immediately
recognizable to most people over the age of 40. In fact, the Widgeon was the seaplane
that appeared each week on the 1970s television show "Fantasy Island." It was "Ze
plane! Ze plane!" that Tattoo would call out at the beginning of each episode. The
Marh 1967 issue of American Aircraft Modeler magazine carried a nice article on
the Grumman Widgeon's history, along with a fine set of 3-view drawings by Paul R.
Designing RC Helicopters
John Burkam was one of the few true pioneers
in free flight and particularly
radio controlled model helicopters. His experiments date back into the 1940s.
His rubber-powered Penni Helicopter appeared in the January 1970 issue of American
Aircraft Modeler. Also, he covered the 1972 and 1974 helicopter Nationals competitions
in American Aircraft Modeler. John was an engineer with the Boeing Company. His
attention to detail and lack of fear in tackling design issue with numbers, graphs,
and formulas is apparent in his work, although any type of design in previously
unexplored or little explored areas of technology requires some degree of seat-of-the-pants
guestimates. Both philosophies are present in this article. The "Super Susie" is
powered by a Cox .049 Tee Dee engine, has four channels, and weighs in at around
2 pounds. That is pretty remarkable for early 1970s equipment. It's too bad someone
doesn't produce an .049-powered R/C copter today...
1955 National Model Race Car Championships
Is that a way-cool-looking collection of
model cars or what? They are fashioned after what full-size Indy (Indianapolis 500)
race cars of the era looked like. To be a national champion in the model race race
world back in the day (and to some extent today) required skill as a machinist with
an excellent knowledge of mechanics, internal combustion engines, and metallurgy.
A scan of photos of the winning cars makes that evident. There were no CNC (computer
numerical control) milling machines or lathes; the operator made every cut but hand-cranking
feeds and measuring lengths and diameters with calipers and dial indicators. Interest,
too, is that the engines were started by pushing them with a stick that had the
battery contacts for the glow plug at the end so the plug was lit by the stick.
Note that these model race cars ran in a circle on a tether (wire or string), so
the aerodynamics needed to keep the cars stable while constantly fighting the struggle
between centripetal (center-seeking) and centrifugal (center fleeing) forces...
Dumas Pay'N Pak R/C Hydroplane
Around 1978, before entering the U.S. Air
Force, I built a Dumas Pay'N Pak radio controlled
hydroplane (modeled after the Pride of Pay'n Pak unlimited hydroplane). Sadly, this
is the only known existing photograph of my Pay'N Pak unlimited hydroplane. As shown
in the photo to the right, it is hanging in my room in the barracks at Robins Air
Force Base, Georgia (c.1980). The cowling & rear airfoil assembly is not attached
for some reason, so you can see the water-cooled engine, flywheel, part of the drive
shaft, rudder assembly on the transom, and the plywood hatch over the radio compartment.
Like most of my other R/C models, it sported a Futaba radio. Construction was not
simple, as I remember it. Interlocking plywood bulkhead members formed the basic
inner structure, and the plywood sheeting was epoxied on the bottom, sides, and
top. Forming and holding all the compound curves while the epoxy cured without allowing
a twist to be built in was a real challenge. The transom is the only totally flat
piece on the entire craft. I coated the entire thing with fiberglass resin and managed
to get a very smooth and shiny finish using an automotive lacquer paint (sprayed
by my friend, Jerry Flynn). I cannot recall which engine I used, but it was a marine
type with the water-cooled head. To start the beast, I used a piece of string about
1/8" in diameter, threaded it under the grooved flywheel, and gave it a tug...
Self-Eating Rocket Takes Big Bite of Space Industry
"New developments on a nearly century-old
concept for a
'self-eating' rocket engine capable of flight beyond the Earth's atmosphere
could help the UK take a bigger bite of the space industry. University of Glasgow
engineers have built and fired the first unsupported 'autophage' rocket engine which
consumes parts of its own body for fuel. The design of the autophage engine - the
name comes from the Latin word for 'self-eating' - has several potential advantages
over conventional rocket designs. The engine works by using waste heat from combustion
to sequentially melt its own plastic fuselage as it fires. The molten plastic is
fed into the engine's combustion chamber as additional fuel to burn alongside its
regular liquid propellants. This means that an autophage vehicle would require less
propellant in onboard tanks, and the mass freed up could be allocated to payload
instead. The consumption of the fuselage could also help avoid adding to the problem
of space debris - discarded waste that orbits the Earth and could hamper future
missions. Overall, the greater efficiency could help autophage rockets take a greater
payload into space compared to a conventional rocket..."
Race Cars in Your Living Room
Surprisingly (or maybe not),
slot car racing is still fairly popular amongst kids. I say surprisingly because
with radio control electric cars being under $10 in some cases, it is a wonder that
anyone these days wants anything that confines a car to a specific course or has
to plug into the wall to work. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, slot car racing was
very popular. I can remember even into the 1970s that some of the bigger hobby shops
still had slot car tracks set up where you could rent time on the track for a buck
or so an hour. If you didn't have your own car, you could rent one there. My good
friend, Jerry Flynn, was a slot car aficionado and would lend me one of his spares.
I think the hobby shop we went to was in either Bethesda or Rockville, Maryland.
It was quite a drive from our neighborhood around Annapolis. While typing out these
words I can remember the smell of the electrical arcing of the motor brushes heating
the oil we put on the axels and motor bushings. Ah, those were the days...
Thrills of the Navy Test Pilots
When I think of a Navy (or Air Force, or
Army, or Marine, or Coast Guard) test pilot, what comes to mind is a high powered
fighter airplane, a bomber, or even maybe a helicopter, but the guys in this 1937
Popular Mechanics magazine article are proving cargo and personnel type seaplanes.
Doing so might not be as glorious as the aforementioned types, but it is still no
job for the weak of heart or slow of mind. The average lifetime of a test pilot
is less than that of "regular" pilots because not only are new, untried concepts
tested, but part of the wringing out procedure involves pushing the craft to its
limits to determine whether the design goals were met, and to know what the placarded
"never exceed" numbers should be. Many a test pilot perished during the final "10-G"
stress tests of airplanes during World War I, which is quite a demand from
what were usually stick and tissue (spruce and silk, actually) airframes...
C/L F4F-3 Grumman Wildcat Article & Plans
In 1963, when this article was published
in American Modeler magazine, it had only been 18 years since the end of
World War II, where the
Wildcat earned its place in the history books as the only fighter in the U.S.
armed forces' inventory capable of taking on Japan's Zero fighter. None other than
the inestimable Walter A. Musciano designed this 38" wingspan control line model
fashioned after ace fighter pilot Joe Foss' Wildcat. It used a .29 size engine,
but could easily be converted to electric power. Construction is very typical of
the day: rugged and heavy, but durable. Some lightening effort is advised if using
NASA and Lockheed Martin Quiet Supersonic Aircraft
"NASA has unveiled an experimental
quiet supersonic aircraft that it claims could pave the way for a new generation
of commercial aircraft that can travel faster than the speed of sound. Developed
in partnership with Lockheed Martin, the X-59 is the centerpiece of NASA's Quesst
mission, which focuses on providing data to help regulators reconsider rules that
prohibit commercial supersonic flight over land. For 50 years, the U.S. and other
nations have prohibited such flights because of the disturbance caused by loud,
startling sonic booms on the communities below. The X-59 is expected to fly at 1.4
times the speed of sound, or 925 mph while generating a quieter sonic thump. At
99.7 feet long and 29.5 feet wide, the aircraft's shape and the technological advancements
it houses will make quiet supersonic flight possible. The X-59's thin, tapered nose
accounts for almost a third of its length and will break up the shock waves that
would ordinarily result in a supersonic aircraft causing a sonic boom...."
Fizz-Wizz CO2-Powered Model Airplane Article &
CO2 power for model airplanes
gained a lot of popularity in the 1950s and throughout the 1960s and then waned
for some reason in the 1970s. The same trend was exhibited in Jetex type engines.
CO2 engines run off a cylinder of compressed carbon dioxide gas, which
were and still are readily available due to their use in air rifles and pistols.
A metal tube feeds the top of the engine cylinder where a metal ball under pressure
from the gas seals off the cylinder until the piston pushes up on it. When the port
opens, gas pressure forces the piston down to the point where the gas is ejected
at the exhaust port. Momentum from the propeller mass swings the piston back to
the top of the cylinder where it once again opens the ball valve to start the cycle
all over again. CO2 engines are very reliable and easy to start since
no ignition is required; however, the power−to−weight ratio is fairly low. This
1962 American modeler magazine article presents plans, and building and flying instructions
for the "Fizz−Wizz..."
R/C Codes and Escapements
evolution of radio control (R/C, or RC) systems has occurred at about the pace
of most other electromechanical systems from the early part of the last century
up through today. As with other technologies, credit for advancement is shared between
professionals and amateurs. Of course the first transmitters and receivers used
vacuum tubes for amplification and signal generation/detection; it wasn't until
the 1960s that transistorized versions became available for public purchase. Integrated
circuits for modulators and demodulators were introduced in the 1970s, synthesized
oscillators hit the scene in the 1980s, and then spread spectrum changed the landscape
in the mid 2000s. Actuators used to move control surfaces started out as rubber
band-powered escapements and servomotors. Both were all or nothing displacement
in neutral, left, or right. Galloping ghost actuators used constantly flapping control
surfaces that would dwell longer in the left or right, up or down position to effect
control. All were rather crude, but did the job. Proportional systems with feedback
servos permitted control displacement in synchronization with transmitter gimbal
stick position. Digital control eventually replaced analog, providing fine enough
increments that it responded
Amateur Radio Astronomy Articles in QST
QST is the official publication
of the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), the world's oldest and largest organization
for Ham radio enthusiasts. Many amateur radio operators also have an interest in
astronomy and as such, occasionally articles appear covering topics on amateur radio
astronomy. There are also quite a few articles dealing indirectly with aspects of
astronomy such as Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) communications where signals are bounced
off the moon's surface in order to facilitate transmission (although it is really
more of a hobby achievement). The October 2012 edition of QST had an article
entitled, "Those Mysterious
Signals," which discusses galactic noise in the 10-meter band. Arch Doty (W7ACD)
writes about the low-level background noise that is persistent in the high frequency
(HF) bands. At HF, Cygnus A and Cassiopeia A are major sources of cosmic
noise, for example. Low level signals come from pulsars, quasars, black holes, and
other remote objects that were created during the early formation of our universe.
However, the strongest background noise emanates from the center of the Milky Way
galaxy with a source that is a mere 27,000 years old...
Zlin Akrobat: For the Tenderfoot Article & Plans
Website visitor Adrian C., of Moncton NB,
Canada, wrote to ask that I scan and post the article for a catapult-launched free
flight glider model of the Zlin
Akrobat. It appeared in the September 1971 edition of American Aircraft Modeler.
Written by well known and frequent contributor to the "For the Tenderfoot" series
in AAM, this version of contest-winning full-size Akrobat has an 11" wingspan and
the plans provide a high level of detail and realism for such a small model. Its
bright scale-like red and white covering scheme is particularly attractive. I took
the liberty of adding color to the plans...
Radio Control News, May 1954 MAN
1954 was just a decade after World War II,
during which time the Army Signal Corps introduced a method of printing - or etching
- metallic circuit conductors on an insulator substrate, and thus was born the printed
circuit board (PCB). The first boards used a phenolic-paper laminate, which is the
shiny brown substrate material that is still found in some industrial applications
like motors and control panels. Ferric chloride was used to etch away the copper
foil not masked off with photoresist chemicals. I made many crude PCBs using a resist
ink pen to draw circuit traces and component mounting pads, then etched away the
exposed copper with ferric chloride purchased at Radio Shack. This line from the
article is reminiscent of people who remarked similarly about the first televisions
and computers: "One of the first questions that arises is: 'What good is it and
what do I gain by using it?'" Printed inductors were already being used, as the
photo shows. Back in the mid 1980s, I programmed an
HP 85 computer,
using HP BASIC (aka Rocky Mountain BASIC), to draw printed inductor patters in the
engineering development lab where I worked for Westinghouse. A built-in thermal
printer spit out the image on paper, and then the image was transferred onto clear
acetate in a copying machine for use in the photoresist exposure process. Anyone
else remember using one?
Ever Hear of a "Submarine Library?"
Amazingly, the General Dynamics Corporation's
Groton, Connecticut, Electric Boat Division is still in operation after all the
years passed since this article appeared in Young Men magazine. According to the
company website, "Established in 1899, Electric Boat has established standards of
excellence in the design, construction and lifecycle support of submarines for the
U.S. Navy. Primary operations are the shipyard in Groton, CT, the automated hull-fabrication
and outfitting facility in Quonset Point, RI, and an engineering building in New
London, CT. The current workforce is more than 14,000 employees." Why "electric
boat?," you might ask? Submarines, whilst submersed, are typically driven by electric
motors powered by storage batteries. When on or near the ocean surface, a diesel
engine powers the craft while recharging the batteries. Nuclear powered subs can
run underwater nearly indefinitely since they do not require air for combustion.
Shown here are some of the many
the world's submarines throughout their relatively short history. The library's
more than 1,200 books record of Alexander the Great having had himself sealed in
a glass barrel and lowered into the water in order to observe submarine phenomena.
For some reason the library's employees are not named. The man building the models
is in a business suit, but then it was still fairly common at the time for men to
wear a suit and tie even at home whilst performing domestic chores or participating
in a hobby...
Fast Start Set Uses The AAM Glowdriver
Danny M., a website visitor from The
Land Down Under, wrote to ask that I scan and post this article for what today we
would call a "smart" glow plug driver. There is also an accompanying article in
the same July 1974 edition of American Aircraft Modeler magazine titled "The AAM
Glowdriver." Danny said, "I built one in 1978, it is still working fine. When a
friend saw how it would light a plug under water and clear a flooded engine instantly
he begged me to build him one. Unfortunately the original article is long gone,
so I found your website and noticed that you list the magazine in question." Well,
thanks to our resourceful mate, now the plans and article are available again in
case you are experiencing a bit of nostalgia...
Airplanes and Rockets' Official Observatory Construction
Airplanes and Rockets website observatory is complete! First light for the entire
setup was May 19, 2012. An alignment of the equatorial was performed, and then a
GoTo alignment was done. The result was pretty good, but it's been better. I will
need to take time to do a really precise alignment of both. It was a clear night
in Erie, with a few high, wispy clouds. There was a lot of atmospheric unsteadiness,
so image quality varied considerably. The JMI electric focuser is extremely nice;
not having to touch the telescope during focusing makes a world of difference in
how well the NexImage camera can be focused, especially under conditions where the
image is being randomly distorted by the unsteady air. Maneuvering inside the shed
is a bit tricky, but it is possible to get a comfortable viewing position for everything
so far - with some position more comfortable than others. Total investment including
telescope, building, and accessories (not including computer) is around $2,500 -
it ain't cheap, and that is with fairly low-end equipment and buying used (eBay)
1968 NAR Nats Caps a Decade of Progress
National Association of Rocketry Aeromodeling
Meet No. 10 (NAMRAM-10) was held August 19th through the 23rd at NASA's Wallop's
Island, Virginia station. Growing up outside of Annapolis, Maryland, (about 50 miles
as the crow flies) I recall seeing the southern sky turn various colors when atmospheric
research was being conducted there. It was a very appropriate location for model
rocketry contesting given Wallop's Island's significant role in full-scale rocketry.
Being at the height of the manned space program, the country was filled with boys
(and some girls) who were excited to be part of the action. Model rocket clubs could
be found in every major city and many small towns. Farm boys and guys like me in
the suburbs launched model rockets from our back yards - and often had to retrieve
them from rooftops and tree branches. Most trees in my neighborhood were of the
genus/species of rocketus/eatumupus, and usually of the subspecies kantclimbit.
My friends and I literally risked our lives reaching for model rockets and airplanes
stuck in trees we would never consider climbing if not for our treasured models
suspended within their branches. Open, accessible spaces are very difficult to find
these days unless you live in the plains areas. Property owners these days rarely
allow you onto their land, primarily due to legal concerns, and I don't fault them...
Celestron NexImage Astrophotography Camera Teardown
Celestron released the
astrophotography camera sometime 2008. I bought it in 2012 for around $100 ($133
in 2023 - a 33% increase due to inflation!). As with most things, if you read
online reviews for the NexImage, most people either love it or hate it. My own experience
is that the frustration I had initially was due to inexperience in setting up the
software and with getting a good focus on the telescope. Once those two obstacles
were overcome, I began getting some really good images of the moon and planets.
Printed Circuit Assembly Front Side Front Side of Both NexImage Printed Circuit
Assemblies Back Side of Both NexImage Printed Circuit Assemblies Celestron now has
a 10 Mpixel version of the camera out called the NexImage 10. It costs $309.
I have learned a bit more about imaging CCDs and will do a bit of shopping around
first. I really do not want to get a DSLR because they are big and heavy. What would
be nice is to buy a medium quality telescope camera for doing deep space imaging
and another for planetary work. The investment would be around $1,000, which is
what an acceptable DSLR would cost. However, the DSLR will not come with software
and, especially for the deep space work...
Quiz: Models and Manufacturers
Your knowledge of model aircraft kits, engines,
and equipment will need to stretch back a couple decades to score 10 out of 10 on
this model-aircraft-themed quiz. 1) Which company manufactured the "Antic" series
of open frame R/C models? 4) What is the full last name of Sig Manufacturing's co-founder
Hazel Sig? 7) What type of models did Estes first produce? 10) What type of
airplane model construction was Cox Manufacturing famous for? Winners get a free
1-year subscription to the Airplanes and Rockets website ;-) Good luck!
Message from Apollo 8, Christmas Eve, 1968
While orbiting the Moon on Christmas Eve, 1968,
NASA astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders made a live broadcast
from from the Apollo 8 command module, in which they showed video
of the lunar surface and the Earth as seen from one of the spacecraft's portals.
That flight produced the famous "Earthrise" photograph which is featured on a U.S.
commemorative stamp issued in May of 1969 - just three months before Apollo 11
landed on the moon. On the ninth orbit, toward the end of the transmission, the
three astronauts each took a turn reading from the book of
Genesis, chapter 1, verses 1 through 10. They finished with,
"And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas
– and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."
From Melanie and
me here at AirplanesAndRockets.com, we wish you all a very
Merry Christmas and a
happy and prosperous New Year!
Gilbert Erector Set from 1969 Sears Christmas Wish Book
On page 511 of the Sears 1969 Christmas
Wish Book are a few
This was probably the year (±a couple) that I got my first Erector Set. This was
a step up from the Tinkertoy sets I previously owned. While not the largest set
made, it had quite a lot of parts, including a motor. Although I already had a natural
interest in assembling and - to my parents' dismay - disassembling stuff, it was
gifts like this that really helped nurture what would become a life-long pursuit
of things mechanical and electrical, eventually leading to my earning an electrical
engineering degree. I remember getting a pretty good finger pinch by one of the
motorize contraptions I built. Show above is Erector Set #3, similar to the one
I received for Christmas in 1969. This one I bought on eBay since, as with most
things I owned, the original did not survive my handling...
Sketchbook - Hints and Kinks by the Readers
feature in American Modeler magazine presented "hints and kinks" furnished
by readers came up with good ideas to help make building and operating model airplanes
(primarily), car, and boats a little easier. Some of them are pretty good, and I
have applied the principles in my own efforts over the years. October 1961, the
date of this set of ideas, was a couple years before my time of building models.
Being born in 1958, it would probably have been around 1966 or 1967 before I was
building and flying Estes rockets and rubber powered airplanes. By 1969 I was flying
Cox control line models, and it was maybe 1971 or 1972 before building my first
control line model. When reading over these vintage Sketchbook ideas, I always pay
attention to the names of the submitters to see whether any are recognizable as
someone who would later become renowned in the modeling world. There is a good chance
that the "E. R. Violett, Jr." with the control line fabric hinge technique is none
other than Bob Violett...
Ramblin' Wreck Article & Plans
Radio control Combat flight is a huge sport
these days. You might be tempted to think that it is a late-comer to the model airplane
sport realm, but if so, you'd be wrong. Here is an article from the December 1959
American Modeler magazine that describes the successful effort of modelers
half a century ago pioneering R/C combat. Those were the days of heavy, tube-based
airborne receivers and servos, escapements, or reeds (crude though they were). Per
author H. Donald Brown, "With us, mid-air crashes have out-numbered cut steamers
but the damage minor in most eases." The more things change, the more they stay
Model Boat Record Breakers
When most people think about control line
(CL) models, airplanes are what comes to mind. However, prior to the advent of miniature,
reliable radio control (RC) systems, model boats and model cars also ran on control
lines, as reported in a 1957 issue of American Modeler magazine. Most of
the time they went in circles, just like model airplanes do; however, some hobbyists
stretched out long sections of straight line in order to get maximum speeds from
their craft. Unlike with model airplanes where an operator in the center of the
circle exerted control of the elevator (and sometimes throttle), the
control line boats
and cars generally ran with no form of control. In fact, usually the models
were tethered with a single line in the center of the circle and the operator handled
the boat or car from the outside...
About Airplanes & Rockets
Carpe Diem! (Seize the Day!)
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 - 2030
All trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other rights of ownership to images
and text used on the Airplanes and Rockets website are hereby acknowledged.