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Summer 2011 Issue

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Macon Aero Modelers Nostalgia News
Looking Back!

From the Commodore!

We've come a long way.... Reflections from the Past!

            "This may not bring back any memories for you newbies to RC but when I started doing RC, things were pretty much rudimentary. I seem to recall starting RC in 1959 and the first Receiver I had was one that I built, called a Lorenz Receiver and I had to build it from plans in one of the magazines. It used, if my memory serves me right, an XFG1 Superheterodyne Tube. And, by golly, it worked. Don't remember the Transmitter I used but I probably built that too.

            Controls consisted of using one or two pulses on a push button on the Tx, one gave right rudder and two gave left rudder. We eventually advanced to the point that we actually had a throttle of sorts. The power to operate the rudder came from what we called an Escapement and this was powered by, believe it our not, a rubber band the length of the fuselage. When the Rx received a pulse this caused a relay to click shut and this in turn powered the Escapement which gave one of two control movements.

            I won't bore you with details about our progress but eventually, we had what we referred to as a reed system and it was a system of reeds in the Rx that responded to tones, each reed being a different control such as up elevator or down elevator. We were flying high with this new system but as is usual with technology, it was eventually replaced by what we have now.

            I have in my hand a Flying Models magazine dated January 1960. I always enjoyed this magazine and even today it is full of information about some unique models and construction articles. Lots of free flight and electric.

            Some 47 years ago, this copy of Flying Models shows some really interesting stuff and you can bet your sweet bippy it was state of the art for 1960. The Cox company had an ad for a 1/2 A Space Hopper engine that sold for the princely sum of $6.98. The Grish Brothers company were advertising nylon propellors at prices as low as .25 cents. These were the props that had to be boiled before use in order to make them strong enough.

Ad's from 1960 Flying Models Magazine

            U-Control was dominant in those days and there are numerous ads for U-Control models as for intance Hal DeBolt (Dmeco) sold a combat Ukie for $3.95 for the kit and was for a .19 to .35 size engine. It featured a low drag NACA airfoil. There is an article written by a then famous free flighter Paul Del Gatto and featured a twin boom rubber powered model using each boom to string out the rubber for the propellors. Another prominent free flighter, Stuart B. Savage, did an article on airfoils and discussed Flow Seperation on Super Critical airfoils for balsa hand launched gliders. WOW!

            Sterling Models was advertising a 54" span J-3 Cub for $7.95 and it featured a hand carved prefabricated balsa nose block. That was the state of the art in 1960 for ARF's. In the same ad they were selling a model of a 63' Chris Craft Motor Yacht which sold for $20.95. Now, that same kit would sell for about $300.00.

            ITC put out a plastic kit of the Savannah. Any of you remember the Savannah? It was nuclear powered and along with cargo, it carried 60 passengers in deluxe accomodations. The kit sold for $2.50 with an electric motor.

            In those days, except for some licensed ham operators, everyone flew on the Citizens Band and by 1960 interference was really getting bad. CB'ers were mounting their CB antennae on the roof of their house and extending the range which was creating havovc for us flyers. There is a short narrative about how bad things were and the fact that our very own AMA and Walt Good were working continually with the FCC to expand our frequencies into areas that offered less, or no, interference. Eventually, AMA managed to get us some 6 or 7 new frequencies in the higher range and of course later we were able to get about 50 or more channels.

            The U.S. Navy sponsored a U-Control Carrier event and in order to get plans for suitable models, you simply wrote to the Naval Air Station in Glenview, Illinois and they would send you a set of plans for free. The trick to winning a contest was to land your U-Control model on the deck of a simulated aircraft carrier and although I never did it, it sure looked like it was fun. I think you had to have a third line to the model to control the throttle in order to make a carrier landing.

More Ad's from 1960 Flying Models Magazine

            Vern McNabb, one of the pioneers in radio control, advertised their new "Citizen-Ship" super small reciever called the UR. For those of you in the know, it sported a printed circuit board and an all transistorized super-regen Rx to operate on unmodulated 27 mc. It was the size of a pack of matches and sold for the huge sum of $27.95.

            Some of you may remember the Forster line of engines and they ran an ad where you could turn in your "White elephant" engine and get $5.00 off on one of their new engines such as their 2 stroke .29's that sold for $14.95. Ambroid glue was sold through one of their ads for the sum of .25 cents. Now they are more like $3.00 for a tube.

            Cleveland Models offered kits and plans for literally hundreds of aircraft and one that they advertised in this issue was a gorgeous 100" span Albatross Glider that sold for the nominal sum of $7.50. Love to have the plans for that now. Stits Aircraft ran an ad for plans to their home built full scale aircraft and for $1.00 they would send you a listing of plans. Available plans included the Stits Playboy and the Flutr Bug.

More Ad's from 1960 Flying Models Magazine

            Enterprise Models ran a full page ad on the inside back cover for their lines of models, all of which were U-Control and variously priced at between $3.49 and $2.50. OS Engines had not yet to begin exporting their engines to the U.S. The outside back cover has a color ad by Herkimer Tool and Model Works displaying their "OK" Cub .074 engine for $5.45.

            There were a lot of pioneers in those days and they made our sport what it is today. Phil Kraft brought out the first reasonably priced mass produced digital proportional system and others soon followed. Harry Sampey brought out a single stick proportional system but since it was analog instead of digital, the circuitry drifted and you were often out of trim on just one flight.

            Names like Gerry Nelson, Hal DeBolt, Bob Novak, Paul Runge, Howard MCEntee, Bill and Walt Good, Phil Kraft, Doug Spreng, all of these and more were the folks who lead our sport into the future. They saw the future and had the vision to make it happen. I know for most of you, these names don't mean anything at all. The future is here already and you are used to having the best equipment and the best models but keep in mind that it wasn't always that way and we owe a debt of gratitude to those who made it happen. If nothing else, understand that flying RC in 1960 was only for a few brave souls and that most of which was flown in those days was U-Control, Free Flight and Gliders. Eventually, RC rose to a dominant position in the world along with ARF Models built in China and Viet Nam. Understand also that some of the prices you see in this story were pretty expensve for some of us in those days.

More Ad's from 1960 Flying Models Magazine

            I'm sure that some of you out there have some "old timer" stories to tell and this is an invitation for you to submit something for the rest of us to read about. For me, there were no "good old days" and I like the way things are right here and now but it is always interesting to go back and reflect on the way things were then."

            Bob 'Commodore' Wilson


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