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
extensive article introducing non-modelers to aircraft modeling
appeared in the Annual Edition of the 1962 American Modeler magazine.
15 pages were devoted to describing just about every aspect of model
building and flying - free flight gas and rubber; control line stunt,
combat, scale, and speed; helicopters and ornithopters; indoor gliders,
stick and tissue, and microfilm; even some early radio control.
In order to keep page length here reasonable (because of all
the images), the article is broken into a few pages.
What do you do when the sun goes down at the National meet.
Just build yourself a towline glider like 10-year-old Charles
Man chasing model? No, member of official U. S. Air Force team
in annual American championships hand-launches combat class
control line fighting plane. Note paper streamer.
All-plastic ready-to-fly beginners gal model, an OK Cadet. Comes
with motor, line, flying pole.
PLASTIC SCALE - Assembling and decorating plastic
scale model kits is usually the first activity of the young newcomer
to the modeling hobby. He has hundreds of models to choose from.
Indeed, the whole history of aviation is spanned in an array of
plastic models from the Wright Flyer to the latest jet transport.
Minimum handicraft skills are required to put together plastics
and most modelers soon build up quite a collection (sometimes to
the despair of the lady of the house, who says dusting them can
be a problem). Practically all plastic kits provide decals for insignia
and other markings. However, the modeler with an artistic bent can
make a real hobby out of painting-in these details with enamels
especially designed for use on plastics.
The wealth of minute
detail on today's plastic scale models turns old-timers green with
envy. Solid scale exhibition (non-flying) models have always been
a part of the modeling picture. Its beginnings were crude compared
to today's plastics. A kit used to consist of a rather crudely drawn
3-view, with perhaps a few cross-sections. Wood blocks of pine (early)
or balsa (later) were cut to approximate size and thickness. The
modeler had to cut or saw these blocks to profile and plan outlines
then carve and sand to required cross-section. Eventually manufacturers
produced kits with the wood machine cut to near-finished outlines
and cross-sections. This was a major advance and took the labor
out of the whittling process. But if a modeler wished to crowd on
the detail he had to improvise with pins, wire and thread and a
smooth paint job was not easily achieved.
The modern plastic
model takes all these trials and tribulations out of this type of
modeling. The very smallest detail such as rivet heads are cast
right in the plastic, finish is smooth and results that formerly
took hours to achieve now are accomplished in minutes.
plastic scales are a most important first step into model aviation.
For the beginner' they serve as a valuable educational function
by familiarizing him with the shapes and names of the parts of an
airplane. Their decorative value is unsurpassed.
READY-TO-FLY - The model types in this category
range from the simplest "chuck gliders" and windup rubber powered
R.O.G.s (Rise-off-ground) to the electric motor powered and the
small gas engine powered plastic flyers. Any and all of them enable
the new modeler to progress quickly from the static to the flying
The simplest balsa slip-together chuck glider such
as the A-J "74 Fighter" can provide hours of flying fun and at the
same time demonstrate the rudiments of flying trim and balance.
Though simple looking, these gliders have sheet balsa wings curved
to airfoil shape and dihedral giving a high degree of stability
and performance. The thick sheet balsa profile fuselage is slotted
for the wing and tails providing a knock-apart feature to minimize
rough landing damage. By sliding wing forward or back in the fuselage
slot the glider can be made to climb and stall, dive or glide smoothly.
Tails and wingtips can be bent slightly to give rudder and aileron
action changing steepness of bank and turn.
balsa gliders can also be launched with a rubber band sling-shot
and some have folding wings permitting launch to high altitude with
prolonged glide resulting.
Progressing from "arm power"
to the simplest mechanical power the modeler finds the rubber-powered
R.O.G. There are numerous versions manufactured. All are similar
to the slip-together chuck glider having formed sheet balsa wing
and tails, a sticklike fuselage, a plastic propeller, rubber strand
motor, wire landing gear and wheels. Some "wind-up" models have
a free-wheeling arrangement on the propeller so that when rubber
power is used up the propeller will turn by itself creating less
drag thus giving a better glide.
The simple R.O.G. provides
excellent training in the handling of power in a model. The modeler
becomes aware of the importance of taking off into the wind. He
becomes aware of the forces exerted by the rotating propeller on
the model's flight. The simple turn and glide adjustments to tail
and wing require more careful handling when coupled with propeller
In addition to the stick fuselage R.O.G.'s other
ready-to-fly models have more realistic profile or rotted-sheet
There are also rubber-powered helicopters which
will climb straight up and then descend slowly without damage. The
catapult or slingshot folding wing glider idea has also been applied
to the helicopter. This model is provided with folding rotor blades
that open at top of launch and revolve letting the whirly bird float
of the chuck gliders, R.O.G.'s and copters have one feature in common.
They are flown in free flight, that is, once launched or released
they are "on their own." The course of the flight is determined
by the adjustment made to the model before launching. In this the
modeler has been greatly aided by the manufacturers. Most trim adjustments
are built-in at the factory, giving the modeler a minimum of fussing
and a maximum of flying fun.
A recent novel innovation in
tethered or controlled flight type of model is the electric motor
powered Stanzel "Electronic jet." This prop-driven model combines
plastic and balsa construction and comes completely assembled, ready
to fly. A battery powered electric motor is contained in a hand
held power unit. The model propeller is turned by a length of flexible
cable extending from the power unit to the model. The motor (and
propeller) can be turned on and off by a switch. The model can be
flown in a 15' diameter circle with the flyer standing in the center.
With power turned on model will take-off and can be landed by turning
power off. Circular flight can be aided by leading the model with
the cable and by "beeping" the switch to vary amount of power. Twisting
the plastic tubing housing the cable gives moderate up and down
control of the model.
This simply controlled and powered
model is a fine example of a well-engineered product that provides
the young modeler with an excellent stepping-stone to more advanced
controlled model flying.
The lure of gas engine power is
inescapable for the beginner. Fortunately he can achieve early flying
success with the many engine-powered plastic control line models
available. He will find semi-scale and scale versions of many big
aircraft types from antique biplanes to guided missiles. There are
also simplified tethered trainer types that require a minimum of
flying skill yet still provide good training in engine starting