risk averse by nature, I have always shied away from 'serious' free
flight for fear of losing a model to a passing thermal or an unobserved
wind carrying a model into the hinterlands or into the tops of trees.
Having at least control of the rudder to make the ship turn around
as necessary always seems the prudent approach. Still, there are
thousands of daredevils who willingly risk all for the chance to
set a new personal record and/or practice for a competition, relying
on a dethermalizer and a lot of skill to stave off disaster. They
surely are a hardy bunch. This "No Strings Attached" column from
the May/June 1963 edition of American Modeler reports on "Lucky"
Bill Hartill, whose FF ship was whisked away by one of those aforementioned
thermals, deemed lost forever, and then a few hours later found
and returned by a farmer who saw it landing in his field 8 miles
away. That's just one of many instances, evidently, where "Lucky"
earned his nickname.
No Strings Attached
Free Flight Commentary by "Battling Bob" Hatschek
Gaul in the days of Julius Caesar, model aviation is divided into
three parts - free flight, radio control, and control line. All
too often, the devotees of these various phases don't know each
other, or give a hoot about the other two sides of the triangle.
This is one reason why LIAMAC is such a great thing.
That stands for Long Island Association of Model Airplane Clubs.
As this went to press, there were already eight clubs in the group.
Comprising free flight, radio, and ukie, they've banded together
for numerical support before the politicians in getting flying sites.
All kinds of flying sites.
Born only a few months
ago, LIAMAC has already located and obtained the use of two control
line fields, received permission to fly indoor models in a Category
I building, and has found and is negotiating for the right to fly
free flights on some county-owned property on Long Island. One of
its free flight clubs is even conducting a ukie contest - which
includes a hand-launch glider event to entertain the controliners
with at least one F/F event.
A/2. When out in Chicago recently I looked up Gerry Ritz,
1959 World Nordic Glider Champ. His newest towliner has a number
of interesting features. Very high aspect ratio wing spans about
8 ft. Has "V" dihedral, straight taper and sweep back. The moderate
sweep, says Gerry, is for better directional stability. Ship has
a tapered, rolled sheet, tubular tail boom, which GR reports is
nice and light, but lacks adequate strength. (Everybody learns something
from a new design - especially the champs.) The boom bayonets into
a lathe-turned aluminum front end. Very short nose, which improves
I didn't get to see the ship fly
- it had been 14 below that morning and snowing - but she has all
the makings of a great one.
Inter-American Champs. Since Ritz is also chairman
of the Free Flight International Competition Committee of the AMA,
I asked for the latest info on the Inter-American Championships.
This is scheduled for 1964 and every year thereafter in which a
World Championship free flight meet is not on the FAI calendar.
Events are FAI Gas, Wakefield rubber and Nordic A/2 towline glider.
Teams will be invited from all Western Hemisphere nations and the
first one, in '64, is to be hosted by the United States.
A free·flighter you ought to meet, declares Hatschek, is Bill
Hartill (above) seen adjusting fuse length before releasing
FAI plane, "I don't work for a living - they pay me for my hobby,"
says Southern California aerodynamicist and model flyer Hartill.
(Hatschek at top.)
Though final decision has not been made most likely site will
be Southern California, says Ritz. Organizations in several areas
of the U.S. volunteered to hold the finals, but the Westerners seem
to have come up with the best package of field, housing, contest
personnel, and other necessary facilities.
U.S. team selection
will be run this year. And it will be pretty much the same as last
year's selection of our World Championship teams. If anything, even
more open. I know that in the New York City area plans are being
made for three qualifying trials to be held in June, July and August.
Semi Final Meets in the East, Midwest and West are set for the Labor
This fills the gap left when the FAI decided
to hold free flight championships only every other year. The Canadians
are very enthusiastic about it. And two South American countries
have already said they'll join the fun. Give credit to Don Thompson,
Midlothian, Ill.; he's the man handling all the administrative details.
Stamp Collector? Mailman brought
a letter from Taiwan today. That's also known as Formosa. Y. K ..
Chien and his group of fellow modelers are beginning to work on
Wakefields, and they feel my "Sky-Scraper" is a good starting point.
Their problem is that they can't get the instrument bearings specified
in my plans. Could I please send some?
Well, I have now
sent precision bearings to every continent except Antarctica. My
source of supply is American Surplus Trading Co., 332 Canal St.,
New York 13, N. Y. I use type R2 bearings, which have an inside
diameter of 1/8", an out-side diameter of 3/8" and a face width
of 5/32". Seven 1/16" balls handle both thrust and radial loads.
Every nose block takes a pair. And they can handle all the Pirelli
you can pack into a Wakefield or an Unlimited class rubber job.
FFYOTM. It's been my pleasure to
know "Lucky" Bill Hartill for the past ten years or so. He's one
of the outstanding model airplane designers, builders and flyers.
But the thing that sticks in my mind every time I think about Bill
is the phenomenal luck he has had over the years in retrieving errant
free flight models. You ought to met him.
A. At an FAI elimination a few years back his Number One
gas job went out of sight on the second or third round. L-o-n-g
fuse. A short while later I happened to have a long, hot chase,
too. So, on the way back, I stopped at the airport's flight shack
for a "Coke". Fellow at the desk asked me if I knew a Bill Hartill.
Seems Bill's wife had called. A farmer chanced to see Bill's ship
come down in his field (8 miles from the contest site), picked it
up, saw the phone number, and called Bill's home. By pure chance,
I had happened by the airport office just after the call came in.
Bill called his wife for the farmer's address, then went to pick
up the ship. He missed only one round with it.
B. This time it was an FAI semi final. Bill had four maxes,
but someone else already had five. So Bill needed all he could get
on the last flight - and he had creamed his spare ship, so he had
to have this one back for a flyoff if he was lucky. If he was lucky
- HAH! Another fellow and I volunteered to sit out on a hilltop
about three quarters of a mile downwind to pick up the ship. "Cut
the fuse short, Bill," I said. Fat chancel After Bill's gas job
did the 3 minute max it hit a really booming thermal and went way
over us on that far out hilltop. We stayed there to get a good line
on it - as it crossed the river and finally dethermalized into the
woods. The other retriever and I dashed for our car and raced for
the bridge. We drove as far into the woods as we could, then we
hoofed. Searching was just hopeless in that jungle. So we decided
to go out to the edge of the woods and wait for Bill. On the way
out, there it was in the top of a tree at the edge of a little clearing.
By the time Bill drove out there, we had it down.
Exhibit C. Now we shift the scene to a Chicago
Nats. Bill had a long flight in class A gas (he wound up that event
with three maxes) and was wandering along looking for his ship.
He saw it in the tippy top of a tall tree right by the road. Only
you just couldn't climb that tree. Bill's guardian angel was true
to him, though. Along came a power company trouble-shooting truck.
You know, one of those jobs with the extensible ladders. Well, they
were nice guys and gave Bill a hand. Had the ship down in no time.
I don't mean to run down Bill's ability. He's really one of the
most skillful free flighters in this favorite game of ours. But
his luck is enough to discourage any competitor. Here's how he came
by that luck. Back in World War II, Bill was flight engineer aboard
a C-46 in a combat cargo group. One of those jobs that used to fly
the "hump" over the mountains from Burma into China. Some of the
cargos Bill's ship hauled were gasoline, Bailey bridge sections,
tank engines, Army shoes, paratroopers, even mules.
one day near the end of the war, and after 400 hours of combat flying,
Bill joined the Caterpillar Club. All you have to do to qualify
is have your neck saved by a parachute. They were flying from Kunming
to Shanghai on a dark, cloudy night. No extra gas, of course - it
weighed too much. And when they came down through the cloud layer
there wasn't any land - just the East China Sea. So they turned
west, almost out of gas, and as soon as they got back over land
the four of them bailed out.
Bill said the landing was real
soft. Landed in a pile of fertilizer. That's where the legend of
the Hartill luck began.
A modeler for 23 years, Bill, 38,
is past president and was one of the founders of the famous SCAT
Club - the Southern California Aero Team, a bunch of real gone international
class flyers in the Los Angeles area. Bill's made three U.S. world
championship teams - power twice and Nordic glider once. His most
recent big win was in Nordic glider at the 1962 Nats.
Bill steps out of his workshop and into his job, he goes from a
few miles per hour to some really fast airflows. He's a senior research
engineer at The Marquardt Corp. working in a project group developing
hypersonic ramjet engines to operate at several times the speed
of sound. His specialty is the design, analysis and testing of inlets.
It involves a combination of aerodynamics and thermodynamics. His
degree from Rutgers is in mechanical engineering.
hobbies and pastimes include camping, cabinet making and sports
cars - he's restoring an MG-TF these days. He plans to take up full
scale soaring. Bill and wife Inza have three sons, Russell 7, Billy
5, and Brian 2.
Posted November 24, 2012