Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, New Jersey, was the venue for the
1953 aeromodeling "Nationals." Lakehurst was still fresh in the
minds at the time of everyone there because of the
Hindenburg Zeppelin airship disaster that occurred a mere 16
years earlier (1937). All events, including indoor, were flown at
the same location thanks to the immense size of the field and hangar.
Those of us who have been in the the realm for a few decades will
recognize some of the names of folks in attendance. It's kind of
sad to think that many of the people captured in the photos here
are gone from this Earth by now. Hopefully, a family member or friend
will find mention of them here and be given a chance to enjoy seeing
a picture that most likely have never been seen before.
By Frank Zaic, Photos by Schoenfield
is only fitting and proper that the Nationals should begin with
the indoor event. This event has been with us since the Nationals
began, and it is the only one in which the models are not handicapped
in fulfilling their basic function: defying gravity for maximum
The event at the Lakehurst hangar seemed like a reunion of the
indoor alumni responsible for the development of indoor models as
we know them. Some came as flyers, others as spectators and officials.
Among the flyers we found Bill Tyler who used to represent Boston;
John Zaic, New York Aeronuts; and Pete Andrews and Tony Becker,
Philadelphia. Jesse Bieberman had his old job as contest director
with assist from Mayhew Webster, Erv Leshner and others. If one
could forget war years, wrinkles and grey hairs, the event seemed
more like one of the pre-war record trials at which the records
were pushed higher and higher from the reach of beginners.
"Tennie" and the Nordic. Mrs. George Perryman
launches husband's Nordic glider which after meet went to Yugoslavia
along with George to compete in international event. His trip sponsored
Attending or competing in an indoor meet is an experience not easily
forgotten. Time seems stretched out, and the day never ends. It's
almost like living in a fish bowl. All motions are slow. Men on
the bottom, or floor, move with a snail-like pace, while the models
just drift around and around. At this particular meet, Dick Querman
heightened the effect by flying his slowly moving helicopter.
Don't think excitement is lacking. As a model gradually spirals
toward the treacherous roof, one begins to anticipate the troubles
it may encounter before it completes its flight. Will it go up and
down without touching the ceiling or sides? Or will it be snagged
when it is just about to break a record or beat the previous best
time? There are times when the model drifts toward the sides with
each succeeding circle bringing it closer to disaster. If you want
suspense, watch an indoor model working gradually to the sides.
You can see it pass the girder with twelve inches to spare. Then
you have to wait 30 seconds before it gets around in its deliberate
circle... Somehow, an indoor model gets your sympathy, and it is
not uncommon to have spectators shout warnings to the model to "keep
Tom Henebry (see "From the Reader" last issue)
launches his elliptical dihedral Half-A free flight. Tom is all-round
builder, a CPO in the Navy from Chula Vista, Calif. His designs
were all finished beautifully.
Pete Andrew's Class D, 300 sq. in. "stick" was the prima donna.
Pete played safe and started his official flights with 1400 turns,
and got around 25 min. The ship looked so good that he threatened
to put it away for future record trials, but the rest of the boys
were pushing, the time up, and he had to try again, with more turns.
Somehow he managed to keep his model below the rafters and side
girders during his three official flights. But on the very next
flight, which was intended for record, his luck ran out and the
model drifted to the sides.
Two-time flying scale champ Thomas Dean of Corpus
Christi (lt.) dries off his Aeronca "duster" model. Power was Cameron
.19. Everything works on model including prop on duster bin, tiny
seat belts, shock absorbers.
Before the microfilm models started to fly at 11 a.m., the hand-launch
gliders filled the air. (Incidentally, the first official flight
of the meet was made by Fred Salmon of Keesler AFB at 9:35 in the
glider event). While Carl Rambo from California was working up toward
his 1 min. 7 sec., Ed Luca of Brooklyn was exhorting his fellow
Skyscrapers to try their best to keep the honors in the East. When
the morning session ended Rambo led with 1 min. 7 sec., but when
glider flying resumed after 5 p.m. William Dunwoody of the Skyscrapers
pulled a "Dodger" with 1 min. 9 sec.
Winner of the Hiller Model Helicopter competition
was Parnell Schoenky of Kirkland, Missouri., who works for McDonnell
Aircraft. His 121.41 points put him for out in front. Dave Call,
the meet official at left, handled event.
The opening day can be taken as good indication of how the rest
of the week shaped up organization-wise. It was a pleasant surprise
to see the timers and tents ready ,to operate. at 9 a.m. There was
no time-consuming opening ceremony which usually distracts everyone
from his job. As quickly as the flight lines formed, the timers
chopped them up. Processing during the previous evening eliminated
all but weight and stamp mark checking. At no time during the entire
meet did one see a bottleneck. If you were ready, a timer was just
a few minutes away - ready, willing and able.
Dick Querman of Long Island City attempted to
better the existing record for indoor helicopters but missed the
mark by a narrow margin. At right is Jesse Bieberman of old Phila.
Gas Model Assoc., who directed indoors.
Unfortunately, the opening day also showed how limited the field
was for retrieving. A fair drift would take your model beyond the
fenced boundary. You may have clocked six minutes maximum, but your
model was gone, D/T'ing over brush or residential area. The Navy
helicopter and cooperative phone calls plus prompt pick-up service
brought many models back for another try, but many were lost or
retrieved too late for that day's flying. The Easterners are used
to such conditions, and the Westerners were good sports about it.
The Navy did its best and no one could ask for more.
For carrier flying John Albertson (left) of Arlington,
Va., entered this F7F which used two K&B '32's. One engine cuts
for low speed run and deck landing. David Domizi, Rocky River" O.,
won with 391.5 points.
Since it would take a long article to describe individual events,
max by max, crash by crash, and day by day, it seems best to give
our personal impression of events so that those of you who were
too busy in your own private corner might get an idea of what went
on in general, while the stay-at-homers can realize they missed
a good thing.
Airman 3/C Stuart Savage of Wright-Patterson
AFB who shared senior champ honors with Ron Plotzke of Detroit demonstrates
the proper technique in indoor H/L glider flying. He did 52.8; winner
turned in 69.6.
After all these, years of 100-foot tow lines and tight-turning
gliders, the Nordics presented a different picture as they were
towed up to the peak of 320 feet (about 30% made it) and then glided
in rather large meandering circles. Since most of them had sharp
tip dihedral, we could not help but compare them with the Balinese
dancers with their outstretched arms and upward-pointing fingertips.
And the Nordics looked just about as graceful, if you go for that
sort of dancing, in contrast to the gull-like wheeling of the old-type
gliders we used to watch spiral upward. Since the day was not exactly
thermal, we can't say how the Nordics would react to real thermal
Dance of Victory... National champ Bill White
gets his Exchange championship plaque from contest director Matt
Sullivan (right) while AMA president Keith Storey looks as if he's
cutting in for the next number.
Near the Nordic take-off site the Wakefield boys had their day.
As many of you may know, this is the last year in which there is
no limit to the amount of rubber that can be used in the model.
(Next year, only 2.8 oz. can be used.) And so, the ratio of rubber
to total weight was carried to the extreme by many. A 3 oz. model
with 5 oz. of rubber was nothing special. In effect, it's like having
a 1000 hp engine in a Piper Cub.
Young Mister Wright
The official Wakefield event was held during the day, but the
unofficial Wakefield Team event was flown during dawn; it was won
by the Detroit team.
Berni Schoenfield, the noted photographer and
ex-modeler who "covered" the Nats for "AT," was impressed by the
minute size of the Half-A speed entries. This one by USAF flyer
Tommy Baker was among neatest.
A bit further down the line. the gas-powered flyers had their
fun. This type of flying can be likened to a thunderstorm cloud.
Looking at it from a distance you see occasional lightning in it
and hear a bit of thunder - on the whole it seems harmless enough.
But if you had to fly through such a cloud your impression would
be quickly changed by the violence inside. And so it is when you
walk into free flight during the Nationals when every timer is on
the firing line. It makes no difference what class of engines is
gobbling up the gas, the excitement and high tension edge your nerves.
You have no chance to have a quiet talk or even think. Your faculties
are tuned to nothing but self-preservation. One has to keep his
eyes on dozens of take-offs and make split-second decisions which
way to duck. In fact, the action is much too fast to feel sorry
for the sad cases. After a while one gets a peculiar sadistic feeling
in waiting for a real honey of a splash.
Busiest man in free flight was the much beloved
builder from Topeka, Kan., C. O. Wright. Everybody wanted to talk
to him (as did Ed Al Lewis, left); then C.O. is shown with his Half-A
"Spacer" ("built it just as Sal directed"); next PAA ("this is a
design by Herb Kothe"); finally his Super Cruiser for the Half-A
flying scale event. His battery box has homemade voltage regulator.
The mortality of the free flight models seems to average about
50% or more. If the splashes were not absolute, the engine just
cut out in time. (Can't vouch for the rumor that the timers were
giving themselves "Ace" rating after timing five "splashes.") There
were a lot of screaming, almost straight-up flights to show the
boys that it could be done.
The "National" atmosphere is very catching. It gives the contestant
a feeling that by merely being at the big meet, his models acquire
unique properties they did not have at home.
She went thataway - the wing, we mean. "Thataway"
being backwards! This sad episode was staged by Robert A. Jones
of Norfolk, Va. Rubber band which was holding wing at launch time
is blurred streak.
With thunder and lightning diminishing in the free flight area,
we drifted to the "country club set" where the radio control flyers
were going through their tasks. From the outward appearance, the
R/C event is ideal. Only one or two models can be in the air at
the same time, and no testing is allowed. This sort of a thing gives
the boys a lot of time to gossip and visit, which after all is one
of the most important things to do at the Nationals - digging up
secret information with which to "kill" the boys back home.
Scale director Vic Fritz (lt.) and Ann Houze
of Philadelphia. MAA check over Thomas Dean's first place Aeronca
crop duster. Al Rubin (rt.), one of busiest officials, and Pete
(Indoor Champ) Andrews also admire it.
Sol (Spacer Chaser) Taibi, once of Brooklyn,
now proud of his adopted California, demonstrates proper rise-off-water
technique. Mrs. T. keeps her fingers crossed (lt.). Sol racked up
top time in this category - 13:00.5.
No, this is not the ROW tank! Just a rainy runway
scene last day of contest. Air Force's Al St. Clair of Williams
AFB readies his "Neptune" free flight. He couldn't have picked a
better name considering weather.
Hal Roth of Richmond, California, who walked
off with PAA Clipper Cargo (lifting 23.25 oz. for 42 seconds with
a Half-A engine) discusses the finer points of his Wakefielder with
Frank Zaic (it.), Nats "AT" reporter.
Neat carrier take-off by Vincent Calano's AD-2
(from "AT" plans). Used Fox .35 with intake butterfly choke for
engine control. Hez from Hartford, Conn. Event drew crowd. Nat.
champ White won junior ABC carrier.
One of the nation's top model designers, Lawrence
Conover from Iowa City, Iowa, goes after the ornithopter record.
Special attempts at records were permitted throughout meet; the
modeler really was king.
Merrick S. "Pete" Andrews of New York City with
his big Class D 30:15.5 microfilm-covered stick model, high timer
of indoor events. "AT's" Bill Tyler readies his Class B job (rt.).
Andrews is world's finest "mike" man.
Half-A flying scale champ Edward Stoll of Detroit
testing his Fairchild 24, a modified Berkeley design. Ed's 290.22
points were more than 100 ahead of next contender. Wasp .049; event
was flown ROG in drizzle.
Henri Dore adjusts dethermalizer of his Nordic
glider. After contest model was shipped to Yugoslavia to be flown
by proxy in international A/2 contest. Jasco's John Zaic (rt.) helps
while brudder Frank holds line.
Grumman Avenger entered in flying scale event
by Robert Fritsch, Camden, N. J. Number of entries in this event
was less than in '52 despite change in rules which eliminated stunt
and required only 10 laps by each man.
And away she goes - or, look, Ma, no hands! Bill
Fletcher shows how to get a Wakefield off accordin' to the rules.
Fletcher left Nats for England where he served as captain for U.
S. group, which won team honors.
Posted May 2, 2015