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Author Topic: 1965, bitten by the model airplane bug.  (Read 796 times)

Offline Ed Rafferty

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1965, bitten by the model airplane bug.
« on: April 20, 2017, 09:07:40 AM »
I heard a  weird sound in the neighborhood distance one afternoon in 1967 of my 8th grade year, hopping on my bicycle to investigate, I found one of the neighborhood kids was flying a Veco Chief around in their back yard!  The flying lines however, caused the plane to  fly over the roadway!  It was audacious to say the least, but I had never seen a huge model plane like that before, so, I asked  the pilot where his airplane came from. and learned where in Lafayette La, the 2 sources for model aircraft  supplies were  to be found. 

My running pal, at the time, said he had a Swordsman 18, but hadn't tried to fly it  much; So, he and I  both thought we should  find an empty field where we could get started. There was a huge empty lot directly across my street. So I grabbed our lawn mower and  made a feeble attempt to cut waist high tall grass  to a manageable level, at least to lay down lines. ( this was way before there were any Crop Circles discovered); of course, my dad was wondering why I would take the mower across the street to try and mow an empty field rather than mow our own yard first, among his immediate concerns of burning up our only yard mower as I recall. (We didn't own a bush hog either , apparently)

Thus began my mission

Another friend, who gave me their old Cox Stuka airplane, said they could never get it to run and it leaked fuel horribly. I managed to fix a leaky tank, and got the airplane to running.  Well, it could not launch in the mowed grass, so we tried in vain to hand launch it; and it did finally fly, but it was all I could do to basically maintain a level sort of  flight with occasional roller coaster changes in altitude.  That thing was a brick as far as performance goes. While the scale Elevator worked in some capacity,  In contrast, the Balsa Swordsman, was a quick an nimble flyer.  So, off to the hobby shop I went in search of something more suitable to the field.

I found in the Stack of Sterling and Goldberg kits,  one called a " Lil Satan".  That was my first control line balsa effort. It looked fast!

  A. it had no landing gear. (groovy because the grass field was tall and nothing could  "land" anyway.)

  B the Price was within my budget at $1.98.  and a 4 oz bottle of yellow dope @ $0.59  ,

  C. it needed an 0.49 engine.   Another friend  sold me  his used Baby Bee .049 for 2.00

Hand launching  these balsa planes and coordinating with a helper is an interesting thing to learn in a field of tall grass. Wipe outs were very forgiving. Though holing silkspan was a fairly regular occurrence, I think cleaning the grass seeds and clippings off the wings stuck on with castor oil blow by was simply part of the equation for learning to fly.

 with dizzying level flights that lasted maybe 4 minutes ,  we  attempted  Wing overs,  and  Loops that at first were wipe outs in the tall grass,  the " hard deck"  was a comfortable 3 feet above the earth beneath our feet.   One day, I boldly went for the inverted flight, for about  two laps or until the fuel Drained from the Baby Bee tank!  off to the shop for a "golden Bee" Tank .  and no more draining while inverted. I think I recovered the Lil Satan 3 or 4 times from holes punched by the tall grass;  I experimented with it by moving the tail booms out to the next rib section, and lengthening the elevator accordingly to find that  it would turn much sharper corners and  the size of the loop was likewise much tighter. Then I changed to a 5 inch prop and went for speed,  it would literally scream as it flew; I have no idea what sort of rpm the motor was spinning, being dizzy afterwards was hilarious usually.

My next kit build endeavor was the much larger Goldberg Shoestring Stunter.  and the engine was the K&B Stallion 35. 
In February of 1968, I bought a magazine issue called American Aircraft Modeler.  On page 19 was an article by Dennis Schauer called  "The Gladiator".   I sent  $0.50  off for the plan of the month and from those Gladiator plans became my first scratchbuilt aircraft some 15 years later.
Meanwhile, I  received a Veco "Thunderbird" from my Dad for Christmas one year, (a holy Grail Christmas wish) and  my airplane squadron has come and gone and returned over the years;   all of it influenced by those first years spent in Lafayette La, around the  LJ Alleman school where I learned about aerodynamics and the advantages of  building & flying  Balsa model airplanes with my pals.

Offline Fredvon4

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Re: 1965, bitten by the model airplane bug.
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2017, 11:29:29 AM »
Hey Ed I am a 1955 baby also but my start was a bit earlier as my dad when I was 4ish had me help him build and fly a Ringmaster McCoy monster

Later in the mid 60s like you I have near same experiences and mostly for same reasons.. Balsa flew...plastic crashed

As I write this, my current Hobby shop has a bigger inventory than the 5 n dime stores where I got most of my child hood airplane stuff

Any way thanks for the story...made a good read as I wait glue on one and paint on another to dry

another thread about Lil Satan reminds me I have one of the Hawaii gents hand cut kits to add into the que to build
"A good scare teaches more than good advice"

Fred von Gortler IV

Offline Bootlegger

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Re: 1965, bitten by the model airplane bug.
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2017, 03:08:36 PM »

  Mr Rafferty I sent you a P/M..Bootlegger
8th Air Force Veteran
Gil Causey
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Offline john e. holliday

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Re: 1965, bitten by the model airplane bug.
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2017, 11:16:12 AM »
Ed, great story.  Reminisent of how most of us got going.
I was always taught to respect my elders, but it keeps getting harder to find one.
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Offline RknRusty

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Re: 1965, bitten by the model airplane bug.
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2017, 06:53:51 PM »
Yep, Stukas, Swordsman, and Li'l Satans all sound like my early days. I did stay with plastic and rubber bands till I learned to fly out the whole tank of my PT-19, but we're all so much alike. You had me smiling at the images your story conjured. Thanks.
Rusty Knowlton
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while you're doing it!

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