Website visitor Joshua H. wrote asking me
to scan and post this article on Bob Baron's "PA-6"
control line stunt design that
appeared in the July 1968 edition of American Aircraft Modeler magazine.
Per the airplane's designer, "Cleverly blended design factors - notably engine/prop
combination - make this a truly great stunt design." Great care in planning was
used to obtain a model that was lightweight and would fly relatively slowly on 70-foot,
0.015" diameter (low drag) steel lines. Its 56" wingspan and Super-Tigre .35 BB
engine with a 50-oz. flying weight on 70' lines reportedly results in a near-perfect
photograph take by Apollo 10 astronauts is probably the most iconic in NASA's
scrapbook. Another is Neil Armstrong's bootprint in the lunar surface. The first
launch of a Space Shuttle (Columbia) in 1981 and Viking II's image of the Martian
in 1976 (America's bicentennial year) surface are also included in this slideshow
Top NASA Photos of All Time. These are mostly 20th century images and do not
include some of the spectacular images obtained since 2000. We old guys remember
when all those photos in the slideshow were first shown to the public.
Here is yet another example of how hobbyists
laid the groundwork for technical innovations that were eventually adapted for use
and improved by professional organizations - the military, universities, corporations.
Radio control of model airplanes was first successfully achieved by a pair of brothers,
Dr. Bill Good and Dr. Walt Good (kind of like the Wrights), who experimented with
what were at the time rather crude engines and electronic and electromechanical
devices. The year was 1936, only eleven years before this article appeared in Radio−Craft
magazine reporting on the U.S. Army Air Force's and Navy's use of radio-controlled
drones, or as the title says, "Teleguided
Missiles." Some systems were designed from the ground up to be missiles while
others were systems installed in existing aircraft which had been decommissioned
for normal human-piloted use. They were sort of a Kamikaze craft without the expendable
has partnered with the climate and aerospace research project Airbus Perlan Mission
II, with plans to create the 'highest
ever Wi-Fi hotspot.' Airbus Perlan Mission II Through the partnership, Thales
will aim to fly its latest mobile satellite communications system, FlytLink, in
a zero-emission glider to more than twice the altitude of a commercial airline flight.
Based in Nevada, the Airbus Perlan Mission II team is planning for a possible return
to flight this year in the US and El Calafate, Argentina. The group has already
set aviation world altitude records in the Perlan 2 glider, which was designed,
built and deployed to fly to 90,000ft. Launched in 2015, the Perlan 2 achieved its
highest record-setting flight of above 76,000 in 2018. The organisation's mission
is to conduct climate, atmospheric and aeronautical research at extreme high altitudes.
Applications of its research include informing more accurate climate change models,
innovating zero-emission aviation and demonstrating feasibility of using energy-efficient
winged aircraft on Mars..."
Given the "Hydro Hints" title of this article
from the September 1949 issue of Air Trails magazine, I though it would be about
model hydroplanes, but it turned out to be about designing and building floats (pontoons)
for free flight and control line airplanes.
Off Water (ROW) has been a popular sport flying and contest event for about
as long as model airplanes have been around. Unlike with R/C water flying, these
floats needed only to function as launching devices since unless you are flying
off a large body of water, it is unlikely that the model would also be landing on
water. In fact, many ROW flights are initiated from a make-shift "puddle" consisting
of a child's plastic wading pool or a small area in the ground that has been filled
with water specifically for the event. Take-off run distances are extremely short
unless the model runs into trouble or the floats and/or airplane are poorly designed...
Canard airplanes - those with the horizontal
stabilizer forward of the wing - have been around for a long time. In fact, the
Wright Brothers' airplanes were canards. They tend to go in and out of style. It
seems all of a sudden articles will appear in all the model magazines for a couple
months, and then they disappear for a few years until something makes them popular
again. For full-size airplanes, it probably wasn't until Burt Rutan came on the
scene in the early 1970s with his Varieze (and later the Long-EZ). That started
another wave of canard models. Than, as usual, they faded from view. A decade later,
the Beechcraft Starship emerged as the first commercial jet canard. The Eurofighter
is now the most prominent canard. For a particular configuration to really rule
the model airplane scene, it needs to win big at national and international contests.
So far, that has not happened...
"The most powerful space telescope ever built
completed a tricky two-week-long deployment phase Saturday, unfolding its final
golden mirror panel, as it readies to study every phase of cosmic history. Engineering
teams in the
James Webb Space Telescope's control room cheered as confirmation came back
that its final wing was deployed and latched into place. 'I'm emotional about it
- what an amazing milestone,' Thomas Zurbuchen, a senior NASA engineer, said during
the live video feed as stargazers worldwide celebrated. Because the telescope was
too large to fit into a rocket's nose cone in its operation configuration, it was
transported folded up..."
These plans for the
Fleetwon control line combat model was sort of crammed into the 1960 Annual
edition of Air Trails magazine. I say that because the article accompanying it is
rather terse, and there are no photos of the actual built model. Bob Peru designed
it for a .35 size engine, but says it can get along with a .19 if ultimate performance
is not required. Wingspan is about 38", so a .19 would definitely be on the low
side for power unless the model is built extremely light. Construction employs a
typical balsa main framework with plywood and hardwood used for engine and bellcrank
As with most careers in technology fields,
many of the most successful and imaginative people engaged in some lesser form of
the craft as a hobby in their younger years. Burt Rutan, famous for his canard airplane
designs and as founder of Scaled Composites with its SpaceShipOne suborbital craft,
is a very familiar example of that.
Roy Marquardt, a Caltech graduate who initially worked for Northrop Corporation,
is not quite as well-known; however, his aerospace company, Marquardt Aircraft Company,
was widely regarded for its founder's "outside-the-box" thinking with his unique
jet-powered designs. The Whirlijet shown in this 1949 issue of Air Trails magazine
was likely the motivation for the JETicopter Jetex engine powered model distribute
in the early 1950s by American Telasco. Marquardt's ramjets typically had no moving
parts except for the fuel pump, and could run on low octane gasoline...
"Joby Aviation, the developers of
eVTOL aircraft for commercial passenger service, has received FAA Special Airworthiness
Certification and US Air Force Airworthiness Approval for a second pre-production
prototype aircraft. The first pre-production prototype generated 65TB of test data
in 2021, flying over 5,300 miles, including what is believed to be the longest flight
of an eVTOL aircraft to date, at 154.6 miles on a single charge. Joby said the second
aircraft will ‘significantly accelerate' its capacity for flight testing in 2022,
further supporting company ambitions to certify its aircraft with the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) in time to launch commercial operations in 2024..."
Grogan" was one Flying Aces magazine's series of sagas of World War I and
post-World War I flying aces. Robert Burtt was the author. Other included "G−2"
secret agent Captain Philip Strange, by Donald Keyhoe, and Arch Whitehouse's Kerry
Keen (aka "the Griffon"). Battling Grogan tales took place in the run-up to America
entering officially into World War II, when many nation's fighter pilot hired
on to foreign air forces as what were essentially mercenaries. Some flew for China
to defend the country from Japan's brutal onslaught, while others signed on with
Japan. Political and patriotic emotions often had nothing to do with which side
a pilot was on; it was primarily a factor of pay and flying opportunity. Grogan
was of course on the good-guy side as he elected to assist China. He was not part
of the Flying Tigers (formally called the First American Volunteer Group), but instead
commanded the Dragon Squadron...
With the commercial airline industry and
military strategic and logistic air operations moving inexorably into the jet age,
demand was high for skilled
airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanics. The military took care of its own
training, but the civilian world also desperately needed technicians to maintain
their hardware. For that matter, even highly experienced veterans usually needed
to receive specialized training to qualify for working on the models of engines
and airframes sold for civilian use. As you probably know, many models of both airplanes
and engines had both military and civilian versions, so a lot of similarity existed,
but with the huge investment in equipment and human lives at stake, total familiarity
with complete systems was (and still is) essential. Model and full-size aviation
magazines published many articles like this one in a 1967 issue of American Modeler
in order to coax people into the field. Promises of good pay...
Triplex: Three Channels on One Channel" article that appeared in a 1956 issue
of Popular Electronics magazine was written by a fellow who was well known in the
aeromodeling world at the time - Claude McCullough. Claude won many titles in precision
scale for both control line (C/L) and radio control (R/C). As was the case with
many R/C modelers of the era, he did a lot of experimentation with transmitters,
receivers, and electromechanical devices used to move control surfaces. Rubber-band-powered
escapements dominated the field, but some servomechanisms were being developed to
provide a means for proportional control and/or a more powerful means of multiposition
control. As can be seen in the video I produced showing how a typical escapement
worked, the output drove the airplane's rudder to either neutral, full left, or
full right deflections, with no position in-between. To actuate the control, the
R/C pilot pushed a button on the transmitter the number of times required to affect
the desired control movement. That made for somewhat jerky flights...
professional and amateur astronomers have warned of the severe negative impact the
thousands (or tens of thousands) of Earth-orbiting satellites will have on optical
astrophotography. Bright streaks running through the field of view are an impediment
to obtaining quality long time exposure images. An occasional airplane or single
satellite is bad enough, but a matrix of regular lines can be debilitating. While
Starlink is the first of the companies deploying a constellation of birds for implementing
global Internet coverage, others are beginning to launch and many more are in the
planning and manufacturing stages. This news item reports on a quantitative study
conducted by Caltech's Palomar Observatory, using the
Facility (ZTF), of current and projected future interference...
While credit is not explicitly given to a
particular author for this "Starting
Free Flight" article in the 1960 Annual issue of Air Trails magazine, Cal Smith's
name is on the drawing, so it might be him. It was an era when many modelers were
transitioning from gasoline-fueled ignition engines to the newer glow fuel type.
Smaller and lighter engines and proportionally smaller and lighter models quickly
became popular both because smaller fields could be used and the costs were lower,
thereby providing greater affordability to no more people. The same change was true
for other forms of modeling - control line and radio control airplanes, boats, and
cars. An evolution in configurations of engine, fuselage, wing, and empennage was
occurring as well based on decades of experimentation by the hobby's pioneers...
Airplanes and Rockets visitor Kevin B. requested
that I scan and post this article on the
"Big Twin" R/C outboard motorboat model. It appeared in the May 1957 edition
of American Modeler magazine. American Modeler was one of the
forerunners of today's Model Aviation (the official AMA publication), and was more
all-encompassing in regards to modeling as it included model boats, cars, rockets,
and trains. It also was known to occasionally have articles on full-size aircraft.
Anyway, the Big Twin is 32" long and is built of traditional model boating materials
like mahogany plywood and spruce. This model's claim to fame is the use of balsa
planking on the hull - which is much easier to form than spruce - and then a layer
of fiberglass is laid over it for strength and waterproofing. An Allyn Twin outboard
motor is specified for power...
"SpaceX arrived in Boca Chica, TX, in 2014.
Seven years later, thousands of company employees and contractors are working nearly
around the clock to build and launch the most powerful rocket in history, called
Starship. The first launch to Earth orbit could happen within the next few months.
The ultimate destination is Mars. Outside the gates of
as the rapidly expanding facility is called, a mini-press corps of amateur and professional
photographers watches every move. Enough cameras are pointed at Starship at any
given moment that SpaceX founder Elon Musk jokes about going online whenever he
wants to see how work on his new rocket is coming. NASASpaceflight.com runs
a 24/7 YouTube channel called 'Starbase Live.' Most times all you see is a distant
tableau of rocket parts, storage tanks, and gantries..."
These tips for building lighter, more effective
model airplanes were submitted by Air Trails magazine readers in time for the 1960
Annual edition. They are all as valid and useful today as they were six decades
ago. Free flight in all forms - gliders, rubber power, and gas power - are still
very popular, so if you are involved in the sport, you might pick up a good idea
here. Even the suggestion for using a popsicle stick for a Jetex engine mounting
pad might still come in handy since they can be found on eBay (although with ever-increasing
difficulty). Believe it or not Pliobond is still sold, although by the Ruscoe Company
and not Goodyear. I added a touch of color to the original B&W make everything
a bit more interesting...
three and a half decades had passed since the Wright Brothers made the first flight
of an aeroplane taking off under its own power when this "Landing
Blind" article appeared in a 1938 issue of Radio News magazine. By
then, an entire World War had been fought with air power having been determined
to be a primary strategic force, and a commercial airline industry was thriving
as travelers everywhere entrusted pilots and air traffic controllers with their
very lives. The main impediment to further progress from an navigational and scheduling
perspective was inclement weather. Pilots had long ago learned to fly by instruments,
and taking off into nearly zero visibility was not a problem, but landing confidently
and safely under the same conditions was still impossible. Aviation researchers
were hard at work...
For some reason I was never big into building
although my teenage years best friend, Jerry Flynn, was. Jerry and I flew lots of
model airplanes and rockets together, but he was the car modeler. Jerry had a bit
of an artist's touch with models and would build top fuel dragster models from scratch
using plastic sheet stock. He won a couple contests back in the 1970s at the big
hot rod show held in the Washington, D.C., Armory. As a body-fender repair shop
technician and eventually body shop owner, he could repair dents so perfectly that
you couldn't tell the repair from the original. The models shown in this 1963 American
Modeler magazine are not too far removed from the kinds of car models on the store
shelves when I was a kid. A lot of the models can probably be bought today on eBay...
There is a very nice suite of software apps
for performing electric flight calculations your PC called "eCalc." Separate performance and setup programs are
provided for airplanes, helicopters, multirotors (drones), ducted fan jets, weight &
balance, center of gravity, a propeller finder, and battery charging. The demo versions
are free, but for full functionality a subscription ($12.95/year) is required. eCalc
simulations have appeared in many modeling magazines since it first appeared more
than a decade ago. Per the eCalc website: "Since 2004 eCalc provides web-based quality
services to simulate, calculate, evaluate and design electric brushless motor drives
for RC pilots of airplane, multi rotor, UAV, helicopter and EDF jets. eCalc's motor
database is the most comprehensive on the web."
From what I can remember, this October 1972
edition of American Aircraft Modeler magazine is the first I received after
joining the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). I was thrilled to be having a monthly
modeling magazine delivered to my rural home because it was rare that a copy of
Flying Models or Model Airplane News would appear on the rack
in our local convenience store. Unlike today's age of instant and ubiquitous information,
getting ahold of desired reading material was not nearly as easy before the Internet.
Somehow, I managed to retain possession of that issue for nearly 40 years now. With
few exceptions, everything else from my childhood has vanished. I remember being
particularly interested in the
Charybdis because it satisfied the desire for a lot of different modeling interests
- helicopters, airplanes, and nitro-powered engines. In 1972 I was 14 years old
and didn't have a lot of walking around money - only what I scraped as profit from
my paper delivery route...
By 1960 when this "And
Aweigh They Go!" article appeared in the Annual edition of Air Trails magazine,
radio control systems had advanced to where they were providing a semblance of proportional
control, were smaller in volume and weight (thanks to semiconductors rather than
vacuum tubes), and were more affordable and reliable. Model engines, too, were more
convenient and easier to operate thank to the advent of glow fuel and glow plugs
rather than gasoline and spark ignition systems. Some modelers still employed the
older equipment or a mix of old and new, but the serious contenders did then as
they do now by tending to go with the latest and greatest engines, electronics,
hardware, and construction techniques. The model boats featured here are examples
of the latter...
"It is one of the most bizarre looking aircraft
ever to reach production. Its conception occurred in Australia, its gestation in
New Zealand, and its growth and maturation back in Australia. This geography, and
unfettered thinking about the
TransAvia AirTruk's mission, drove the airplane's unusual appearance. In the
mid-1950s, the largely agricultural country of New Zealand found itself in need
of new aircraft for 'topdressing' - spreading soil enhancers and fertilizers by
air - what we on this side of the world call 'cropdusting.' The old airplanes they
had inherited from the British Commonwealth, mostly converted de Havilland Tiger
Moths and Piper Cub-like Austers, were wearing out. A few new American designs were
imported, but currency restrictions of the day made them very expensive. New Zealanders
needed a locally built airplane specifically designed..."
has been in Melanie's family for a couple generations. We don't know whether it
belonged to a family member who used it for as a cobbling tradesman. It was in pretty
rough shape when it was given to us a couple decades ago. It is constructed of pine
wood, with the main surface being about 2 inches thick. I chose to sand the
finish off rather than use chemical stripper because it was fairly brittle and came
off easily, and also because the wood is somewhat soft, so I did not want to risk
gouging it with a scraper. One of the legs had been broken and needed repair, and
some drawer joints needed re−gluing. All of the square strips on the work surface
were removed for sanding to avoid dark residual finish in the corners...
The July 2013 edition of IEEE's Spectrum
magazine had a really good article on a high tech study that is being done on the
manner in which an albatross
manages to fly great distances and for long periods of time while rarely needing
to flap its wings. As shown in the thumbnail (and in the article), an albatross
performs a series of rapid climbs into very strong wind, turns, and dives leeward
nearly to the water's surface, then repeats the process over and over as it makes
its way to its destination. The process is called dynamic soaring. R/C soaring pilots
have been doing the same sort of thing for a few years now. Obviously the albatross
figured out how to fly like that long before mankind was able to mimic it, but the
researchers in the article seem to not have knowledge of the R/C soaring technique.
They are capturing albatrosses in their nests and attaching GPS-based sensors with
data recorders to the birds' back feathers and retrieving the units when the birds
return to their nests...
Phantom Motors, out of Los Angeles, California,
was one of the early manufacturers of ignition motors for model airplanes, boats,
and cars. This full-page advertisement appeared in the November 1946 issue of Air
Trails magazine. This particular ad had a Christmas theme, as did many of the other
ads in that edition. If you do a search on eBay for vintage Phantom Motors ignition
engines, not much shows up, so that probably means there were either not too many
of them made, or they were not sturdy enough to survive hard landings and frequent
usage so that the engines were trashed. Oh well. The $14.95 price tag in 1946 is
the equivalent of $288.31 in 2021 per the BLS inflation calculator...
Prior to the advent of commonplace high-speed
digital computers, designing advanced aircraft structures required a lot of effort
building scale models and testing them in wind tunnels and, when possible, in
actual flight. The process was both expensive and time-consuming. As computer simulations
have been fine tuned, the need to build models have been nearly entirely eliminated.
Modern aircraft can go from computer monitor to production with the full-size prototype
being the first actual version of the plane to be built. This article from a 1957
issue of American Modeler magazine reports on some of the very labor-intensive
experimental and scale models built for testing and concept verification. Many of
the technicians who did the planning and building were hobbyists who were fortunate
enough to gets jobs to get paid for engaging in their passion...
particular article from a 1940 issue of Radio News magazine touches on
two of my hobbies - airplanes and Amateur radio. Whereas most of my flying experience
is with all forms of models, here is a group of Hams who provided logistical radio
communications during the
3rd Open American Soaring Contest, held in Lockport, Illinois. W9USB was the
call sign granted by the FCC especially for the event. Such a contest requires administration
and coordination of air and ground aircraft movement, tow winch operation, pilot
status, event scheduling, and emergency services if required (fortunately, none
were). Being an all volunteer effort, the "Prairie Dogs" subdivision of the "Hamfesters
Club" of Chicago. As pointed out in the article, the highly successful operation
was a great public service demonstrating the capability and utility of Amateur radio.
Many major Ham equipment manufacturers...