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About Airplanes & Rockets

Kirt Blattenberger, Webmaster - Airplanes and Rockets

Kirt Blattenberger


My Engineering Web: RF Cafe

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 ...

Airplanes And Rockets Copyright 1996 - 2026

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- Welcome to the Airplanes & Rockets Website -
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." Lord Kelvin, 1895


Model Aviation & Aerospace Headline News

Tech Industry Headlines - RF Cafe- Archives -

•  Laser-Powered Drone Can Stay Aloft "Forever"

• Flight Schools Consider Dropping FAA Knowledge Tests

• FCC Begins Rulemaking for Drone Spectrum Allocation

• Legendary High-Altitude Record-Setter Dies

• Pilot Ejects from F-35B Fighter After Hard Landing

• Pentagon to Restore U.S. Superiority in Hypersonics

• Model Airplanes Offer Arrowhead Students Valuable STEM Lessons • Airbus Launches DisruptiveLab to Improve Helicopter Performance

•  Mars Occulted by Moon December 7th at 10:20 pm EST

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World's 1st 3D-Printed Rocket

Relativity Space to Launch of World's 1st 3D-Printed Rocket - RF Cafe"The 3D-printed Terran 1 rocket from Relativity Space will fly from Florida's space coast, and will also mark the first natural liquid natural gas booster in space if all goes to plan. The world's first 3D-printed rocket may soar to space as soon as March. Relativity Space says it has launch licenses ready for its expendable, 3D-printed Terran 1 rocket to attempt its orbital debut on March 8, no earlier than 1 p.m. EST. Company officials confirmed on Twitter Wednesday that the launch will proceed from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Florida's space coast [March 23rd]. The mission is called GLHF (Good Luck, Have Fun) and will assure the readiness of the 110-foot Terran 1 before it flies customer payloads..."


Wisecrack-Ups, May 1934 Flying Aces - Airplanes and RocketsHumor in the 1930s was a bit different than it is today. Times were simpler and thought processes were not as complex as in today's world where information is attacking you every moment of the day. Public discourse and personal decorum were held to a higher level, so even stinging jokes and references usually didn't require lowering yourself into the cultural gutter to comprehend and appreciate. As you read through these "Wisecrack-Ups" from the May 1934 issue of Flying Aces magazine, some of the quips will seem corny or downright dumb. Most can be appreciated even by modern humor standards, and all will be repeatable to any audience regardless of age or gender. An occasional nod is given to Lt. Phineas Pinkham, of the the "turbulent and inimitable Ninth Pursuit Squadron," during World War I (known simply as "the World War" at the time since #II had not occurred yet.)...

Radio Control: How to Get an F.C.C. License

Radio Control How to Get F.C.C. License, from September 1962 American Modeler Magazine - Airplanes and RocketsIf you have only ever known a time in the R/C era when 2.4 GHz, spread spectrum radios were in use and not only were there no interference issues, but there were no licenses required, either, for legal operation, then it might be hard to imagine when this was not so. Most people in the R/C realm at least remember the 72 MHz frequency band where each system operated on a specific center frequency, where no two systems could be operated in the same vicinity. Before that there was the 27 MHz band, which is where I began, more specifically on 27.195 MHz. Only five frequencies were reserved by the FCC exclusively for radio control use. That meant never more than five planes in the air, or even being worked on with the radio on, at a time. The band was part of the original Citizens Band (CB) radio allocation. Commercial CB radios were notoriously lousy at controlling bandwidth and often overlapped the R/C bands with enough power to cause deadly (to a model) interference. My FCC operator's permits (Class C and Class D), obtained sometime around 1972, is long gone...

Walter Ashe Radio Company

Walter Ashe Radio Company, July 1955 Radio & Television News - RF CafeThe Walter Ashe Radio Company, featured in this 1955 issue of Radio & Television News magazine, was a British radio manufacturer that operated from the 1920s to the 1950s. The company was founded by Walter Ashe, who was an engineer and inventor. In the early days, the company produced crystal radios, which were simple radios that used a piece of crystal to detect radio waves. However, the company quickly expanded its product range to include valve radios, which were more advanced and offered better sound quality. During World War II, the company produced radios for the British armed forces, including the famous "Gibson Girl" portable radio, which was used by soldiers in the field. After the war, the company continued to produce radios for the civilian market, including the popular "Waverley" series of radios. In the 1950s, the company began to face increasing competition from foreign manufacturers, and it struggled to keep up with the rapidly changing technology in the radio industry...

Estes Saturn V Rocket

Estes Saturn V Rocket - Airplanes and RocketsThe Estes Saturn V rocket is a model that I really wanted to have as a kid, but never could justify spending the money. In those days, I launched everything that I built, so I could not see spending a huge amount of my paper route money only to take the risk of destruction due to the parachutes not deploying properly or maybe an engine malfunction. I had launched enough rockets to know that the probability of something going wrong was directly proportional to the cost and time spent building. Instead, I stuck mostly with models that cost no more than about $3 (in 1960s-1970s dollars). The photo to the left is one of my favorites since it shows the Estes Saturn V...

Midget Radio-Controlled Auto

Midget Radio-Controlled Auto, October 1952 Radio & Television News - Airplanes and RocketsThis "Midget Radio-Controlled Auto" article from a 1952 issue of Radio & Television News magazine was a major feat of engineering by Mr. William Minor. He designed and built the car for his 6-year-old son. The amount of electronics and mechanics he crammed into such a small volume in that R/C car would have qualified him for an engineering position at a Japanese SLR (single lens reflex) camera company. Although not explicitly mentioned, operating the car by radio control back in those days required an amateur radio operator license. Interestingly, he mentions that when choosing a frequency, he opted for one above the television broadcast channels so as to avoid interference with nearby TV sets. I've mentioned before how turning on my 27.195 MHz R/C system I had as a kid in the early 1970's would cause the neighborhood women to scream at me for messing up their daytime soap operas. Even though nobody would deign to undertake such an extensive project nowadays, I thought the extreme effort by Mr. Minor was worth honoring with a posting of his article...

Honest John Rocket

Honest John Rocket, September 1968 American Aircraft Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsI never built an Honest John rocket model when I was a kid, and to this day still do not own one. The vintage kits on eBay are through-the-roof expensive. I always liked the unique design and the look of the nose cone where it bulges out a bit from the diameter of the main body tube. Both Estes and Centuri made versions of the Honest John. Intentionally or not, there was an advertisement for the Centuri Honest John model on the page opposite of the past part of the article in this September 1968 edition of American Aircraft Modeler magazine, from which this page was scanned. The Honest John M-31 artillery rocket was a surface-to-surface rocket that was developed by the United States Army during the Cold War era. It was named after President John F. Kennedy's campaign pledge to be an "honest" president...

AAM Commander RC System

AAM Commander RC System Article, Part 1, April 1972 AAM - Airplanes and RocketsBelieve it or not, there was a day when building your own electronics was a good way to save money if your budget was smaller than your appetite for R/C systems, radios, even TV sets. Heathkit comes to mind for all us old-timers as a source of pre-kitted products, but like most electronics companies of yore, they no longer offer kits; it is much cheaper to have complete systems built overseas. Besides, modern components - resistors, capacitors, ICs, etc., are far too small for most people to work with successfully. Here is a two-part article from the April and May 1972 editions of American Aircraft Modeler magazine showing how it was done with a custom 2-channel digital proportional radio control system dubbed the AAM Commander. It still makes a good read because of the theory of operation that is covered...

DARPA Liberty Lifter X-Plane Program

DARPA Liberty Lifter X-Plane Program - Airplanes and Rockets"Two teams - General Atomics working with Maritime Applied Physics Corporation and Aurora Flight Sciences working with Gibbs & Cox and ReconCraft - will develop designs for DARPA's Liberty Lifter Seaplane Wing-in-Ground Effect full-scale demonstrator. The Liberty Lifter program aims to demonstrate a leap-ahead in operational capability by designing, building, floating, and flying a long-range, low-cost X−Plane capable of seaborne strategic and tactical heavy lift. The planned Liberty Lifter demonstrator will be a large flying boat similar in size and capacity to the C−17 Globemaster III transport aircraft. Goals include takeoff and land in Sea State 4, sustained on−water operation up to Sea State 5, and extended flight close to the water in ground effect with the capability to fly out of ground effect at altitudes up to 10,000 feet above sea level..."

Lew McFarland's Shark "45"

National Champion Lew McFarland's Shark "45", October 1961 American Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsThe Jetco Shark 15 was my very first built up control line airplane. Before that they had all been plastic Cox models. As did many kids in the 1960's and 1970's I learned to fly on a Cox PT−19 Trainer (summer of 1969, about the time Apollo 11 landed on the moon). Before building the Shark 15, my experience with built-up models was with rubber-powered free flight. Mustering enough money for a Shark 15, a Fox 15 C/L engine, and covering materials was not easy in those days. The Shark 15 flew very nicely when I could get the Fox 15 started and running properly. Loops, wingovers, and inverted flight were much more satisfying than with the Cox models, whose .049 engines had a nasty habit of quitting during inverted flight. I resolved to someday step up to a Shark 45 once I had enough spare cash, but to this day I still have never owned one. The largest engine I've ever had on a C/L model was a Fox 35 (equally temperamental and frustrating) on a Sterling Ringmaster...

DARPA Concludes Review of HTV-2 Test Flight

DARPA Engineering Review Board Concludes Review of HTV-2 Second Test Flight - Airplanes and RocketsFollowing an extensive seven-month analysis of data collected from the Aug. 11, 2011, second flight of DARPA's Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2), an independent engineering review board (ERB) investigating the cause of a flight anomaly completed its report. The findings of the ERB validated the vehicle's aerodynamic design and uncovered new information regarding the thermal material properties of the vehicle. "The greatest achievement from Flight Two, which the ERB's findings underscored, was that we successfully incorporated aerodynamic knowledge gained from the first flight into the second flight," said Air Force Maj. Chris Schulz, DARPA program manager, who holds a doctorate in aerospace engineering. A technology demonstration and data-gathering platform, the HTV-2's second test flight was conducted to validate current models and increase technical understanding of the hypersonic regime...

R/C Reliability

R/C Reliability, March 1955 Popular Electronics - Airplanes and RocketsThe topic of R/C system reliability rarely is mentioned in model airplane magazines these days. Many of the high-end, big dollar planes like jets (turbines), giant scale and giant 3D, do use redundant receivers and batteries because the pilots have thousands of dollars worth of equipment and hundreds of hours of personal time invested in them. Operating at 2.4 GHz with spread spectrum modulation, there is little to no chance of radio interference, which was a huge problem back when this article appeared in a 1955 issue of Popular Electronics magazine. William ("Bill") Winter, who would later serve as president of the Academy of Model aeronautics (AMA), was editor of Model Airplane News magazine at the time. Vacuum tube receivers and electromechanical escapements and relays were being used in model airplanes. The very nature of construction of those components made them extremely vulnerable to vibration and shock induced intermittent or total failures. The models themselves were necessarily large and often underpowered for carrying such heavy loads aloft. We owe the R/C pioneers a lot for taking the arrows of trial and error to ultimately give us the carefree systems we enjoy today...

Auto Design Competition

Auto Design Competition, from August 1954 Air Trails - Airplanes and RocketsStraight out of Happy Days and American Graffiti are these reader-submitted car designs from Air Trails - Hobbies for Young Men magazine in the year 1954. In 2023 dollars, the $50, $25, and $10 monthly prizes are worth $556, $278, and $111, respectively (per the BLS Inflation Calculator). That was a lot of dough. About the only requirement placed on designs was that the auto designs be realistic based on current technology - no anti-gravity floaters or rocket powered roadsters. All classifications were allowed - military vehicles, hot rods, family sedans, station wagons, etc., etc...

DARPA X-Plane Maneuvers with Air Bursts

DARPA X-Plane Maneuvers with Air Bursts - Airplanes and Rockets"The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has taken a major step forward toward creating an experimental airplane that can be maneuvered without traditional ailerons or other mechanical devices, instead using short bursts of air. DARPA announced Tuesday it had selected Aurora Flight Sciences to start detailed design of an aircraft that uses a technology called active flow control to direct it, as part of the Control of Revolutionary Aircraft with Novel Effectors, or CRANE, program. Aurora is a subsidiary of Boeing headquartered in Manassas, Virginia, that specializes in developing advanced innovative designs for aircraft and uncrewed systems. 'Over the past several decades, the active flow control community has made significant advancements that enable the integration of active flow control technologies into advanced aircraft..."

Hot Engines!

Hot Engines! (January/February1963 American Modeler) - Airplanes and RocketsRe-timing, cleaning up (air and fuel flow passages), freeing up (sliding friction), lightening and balancing (removing unnecessary material), and breaking in (initial running with rich fuel mixture while interfacing metal parts fit themselves to each other) are all part of the effort necessary to create winning engines for model racing events. This 1962 American Modeler magazine article predates Schnuerle porting (in model engines), ABC (aluminum, brass, chromium) cylinder liners, and modern metal alloys, but still the concepts are applicable to today's engines. It purpose is to instruct on proper engine break-in so that it will have a long lifespan. Wankel lovers will appreciate the homemade engine shown...

Secrets of "Winning" Airfoils

Secrets of "Winning" Airfoils - 1961 American Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsThis article was scanned from the 1961 American Modeler Annual edition. The magazine has been out of print for decades, and is difficult to access unless you are fortunate enough to buy one off of e-Bay. Hopefully the original authors won't mind my reprinting "Secrets of 'Winning' Airfoils" here, but if they do, I will remove it. Airfoil plotting goes back to the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) days of white shirts, neck ties, thick−rimmed glasses, and slide rules. Drawing boards, straight edges, and French curves which were in use since the days of the Wright Brothers eventually got replaced by software, but all the pioneering work was done by engineers with shirt cuffs smudged with pencil lead. Consider this a window for a look back in history...

Feathered Robotic Wing for Flapping Drones

Feathered Robotic Wing for Flapping Drones - Airplanes and Rockets"Birds fly more efficiently by folding their wings during the upstroke, according to a recent study led by Lund University in Sweden. The results could mean that wing−folding is the next step in increasing the propulsive and aerodynamic efficiency of flapping drones. Even the precursors to birds - extinct bird-like dinosaurs - benefited from folding their wings during the upstroke, as they developed active flight. Among flying animals alive today, birds are the largest and most efficient. This makes them particularly interesting as inspiration for the development of drones. However, determining which flapping strategy is best requires aerodynamic studies of various ways of flapping the wings. Therefore, a Swedish-Swiss research team has constructed a robotic wing that can achieve just that - flapping like a bird, and beyond. 'We have built a robot wing that can flap..."

Bristol Monoplane Scout Article & Plans

Bristol Monoplane Scout Article & Plans, June 1960 Aero Modeller - Airplanes and RocketsAlthough originally designed and built for free flight, this fairly large scale mode of the Bristol Scout monoplane could easily be adapted for control line or radio control flying. With a wingspan of 46 inches and a robust airframe, it can withstand the rigors of aerobatic flight. Replacing the glow fuel engine with a modern brushless motor and LiPo batteries helps keep the vibration and therefore wear and tear to a minimum, and also avoids getting messy fuel all over your nice airplane. It would also allow you to lighten the airframe a bit to reduce the wing loading. Seeing the younger boy looking in awe at the airplane reminds me of how I would have regarded it at that age if given the opportunity even to hold it. Since these plans are no longer available, you can click the one presented below to get the full resolution version. It was only one page wide, so it is a bit fuzzy...

Vintage Electromechanical Dachshund Toy 240-B

Vintage Electromechanical Dachshund Toy 240-B (Supermodel Melanie) - Airplanes and RocketsMelanie and I have been trying to recall toys and games we had as kids and then searching for them on eBay to see what is available. If the price isn't too outrageous, we go ahead and by them. Melanie remembered having a battery-powered electromechanical toy dachshund that had a hand-held controller (not much in the way of radio control back in the 1960s). She finally managed to find one, so we bid on it and got it for a decent price (I don't recall exactly how much, but around $30 + shipping). It was advertised as not working, but I figured how hard can it be to fix something that simple? The dog, controller, and box looked to be be in excellent condition for its age (manufactured in the later 1950's from what I can find). The problem ended up being that a wire had broken off the motor. A little solder fixed that, and now it works as good as new. While apart for repair, I saw that the front and rear body halves are connected with a large spring, and the wheels and motor a on a freely rotating...

Please see the Airplanes and Rockets Homepage Archives for previous items of interest...

Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) Plans Service - Airplanes and Rockets