A couple years ago I posted an article about the Victor Stanzel ElectroMic "Copter" Tethered Helicopter that I had bought on eBay. It was just like the one I had as a pre-teen in the 1960's. If memory serves me correctly, I also had one of the ElectroMic Flash Tethered Airplanes as well. Someday I'll probably buy one of those on eBay. The webpage hyperlinked above has a video embedded that tells the story of the Stanzel Brothers' Model Airplane Museum. You will be amazed at all the types of models they produced - powered airplanes, gliders, helicopters, flying saucers. They were a couple of the earliest pioneers in manufacturing ready-to-fly model airplanes. This feature article in American Modeler magazine tells a little more of their story.
The Stanzels of Schulenburg
Joe Stanzel (left) and his brother Victor with early G-Line "Shark" and latest ground-effect machine which rides on cushion of air. Joe handles production of Stanzel line.
Behind the Scenes in the Model Industry...
One of the few old time model builders who didn't start his model building with an indoor Baby ROG plane is Victor Stanzel, long time head man in the Texas model building concern which bears his name. Vic was inoculated with the model plane virus through construction of a rubber powered A-frame twin pusher; plans for this craft came from "The Boy Mechanic." Necessary materials were obtained by mail order from a famed old-time model plane supplier - Peru Model Airplane Co., in Peru, Indiana. Vic's interest in planes had been awakened by the Lindbergh New York-to-Paris flight.
Vic built model planes of many types, but one big interest was solid scale craft. He became so proficient at this that in 1930 he started selling them to Cadets at the government flight training fields around San Antonio. Planes such as the Curtiss Hawk and Falcon appealed to these budding pilots. Ads were placed in "Aero Digest" magazine, the line considerably expanded and named "True-Scale".
The Stanzels lived then, as they have ever since, at Schulenburg, which is about halfway between San Antonio and Houston. Working on the family farm, Vic's model plane production was a part-time endeavor for quite a few years. However, in 1935 the first Stanzel "plant" was built. This original structure is still in use. Though overshadowed by newer and much larger ones, it is currently the balsa-cutting shop.
Stanzel experiments on the first line-controlled flying craft that operated in a circle with the modeler in the center doing the controlling resulted in G-Line Flying. Their first plane marketed was the Tiger Shark, a sleek low winger of 36" span, 31" length, intended for the "1/5 hp" engines popular in that day - the Browns, Ohlsson 60, Bunch Tiger Aero, Herkimer. Ready to fly (and this included spark ignition batteries, coil) the plane weighed 1-3/4 lb.
The Tiger Shark was followed by the 24" span "Baby Shark", the most popular G-Line model. It was designed for the Ohlsson 23 and other small engines of the period. For the control system the flier held a stick or pole several feet long, to its tip was attached a single line running to the plane. This line was fastened to the plane structure forward of the center of lift so that by moving the pole's outer end up and down the model was made to climb and dive.
While no efforts were made to officially clock the planes, they were very clean and traveled fast; Vic Stanzel feels they might well have been the forerunners of present speed jobs. In any case, the claimed speeds of 90 to 120 mph seem entirely reasonable.
While the name of Stanzel is usually connected with various types of guided-line flying, several popular free-flight planes were produced in kit form. One was the Interceptor, a clean 52" span pylon affair with 350 sq. in. area. The 45" Texas Ranger high-wing cabin design, intended for either free flight or G-Line control took the smaller class A and B engines; a look at its price and the list of what you got in the kit can bring on a bad attack of nostalgia! Besides all the necessary wood and covering, there were rubber-tired airwheels, and you even got ample cement and dope (these were called "wet kits" for that reason) - all this for only $4.95!
Another interesting pre-war combination design was the Shark P-60; it was sold in two sizes - a 36" version for G-Line flying with Class C engines, and a 24" free-flight rubber-powered copy. This design followed the Tiger Shark concept of low-wing, semi-scale appearance. By then the company was also in the general model supply business; it offered a line of engines, wheels, dope in many colors, lots of other model supplies.
When the war came along, Vic worked at Kelly field as an Instructor in Aircraft Drafting; the company kept going on a limited basis as long as raw materials could be obtained. Balsa for kits was mainly scrap left from the manufacture of life-rafts! During the war period when many male telegraph operators were replaced by girls, Vic recalls the consternation of the local girl operator as she received telegram after telegram directed to the Stanzel plant for dozens of this or that kind of "shark"!
At war's end the most popular of the models were put back into full production including two variations of "V Sharks" for smaller engines. The "V", planes were controlled by two wires and a "Roller control" unit mounted outboard of the fuselage. Two cords ran from this unit to the elevators. A T-handle was held by the flyer ... to the ends of the latter were attached the two lines running to the plane. You pointed the entire stick in the direction vertically that you wanted the model to go and the connection to the elevators moved them up when you pointed the stick up and vice versa.
Several other methods were also used to link the wires to the elevator. In one early experimental model we examined the wire ran around, a pulley fastened inside the fuselage, and was linked to the tail surfaces. Loops, and many other maneuvers were possible with this setup.
Branching out into another sort of model in 1947 the Stanzel firm, unveiled several flown via what they called "Bee-Line." These miniatures had fuselages just large enough to hold a standard CO2 cartridge; they were "flown" on a fine steel wire strung tight between two supports. At first a 400' length of music wire was supplied with these kits, but customers got all tangled trying to unroll this wire, which was .012 dia., so the length was cut to 100'. Since the models traveled along the wire at speeds well over 100 mph it was standard practice to put some soft pillows at the far end to bring them safely to a stop. These models were in production until 1950.
In the late forties came the first use by Stanzel of plastic kit parts, The model, a glider flown on a single guide line, used a molded plastic fuselage with balsa wings. Called the "Glideo Plane", it came with a length of cord and a control stick. This craft turned out to be a very nice free flight glider, so it was marketed in this form under the name of "Aeromic Streak." Though these planes have been on the market for over 10 years, they are both still top sellers. They are almost identical, except the F/F glider has a lighter nose weight and doesn't need a metal wing eyelet for cord attachment.
A major change in the Stanzel control system came in 1948 when the control stick was superseded by the two-wire "Thumb-It," The latter was a hand-held unit with a knurled wheel by means of which you could control the plane by thumb action. The "Control-It," in the plane end of the system, had a linkage to the elevators. Most of the models in the line were modified for the new system, although the old single G-Line Tiger Shark was still produced. Due to the TI/CI type of control action, it made little difference whether the wires were twisted or not - in fact they were often purposely wrapped several turns for speed flying.
Around 1950 came the change to what is known around the model world as the Stanzel control system - Mono-Line. As the name implies, control action is ·had by use of a single wire. This wire is twisted to obtain control action, therefore it is not necessary for the wire to be kept taut during flight. The first plane sold by Stanzel for use with this system was "Tuffy", a simple design with balsa pod-hardwood boom fuselage and balsa wings. It had a 24" span, was intended for 1/2 A and A engines. To transform the twisting action of the single line to push-pull movement to work the elevators, a gadget with a spiral wire cam was used in the plane. Various kits were brought out to go with this control system.
Around 1954 the original single turn wire cam was modified to two turns to give more precise control action, shortly thereafter came the brass "worm" type cam found in present-day Mono-Line units. Due to the single wire it seemed to the Stanzels that Mono-Line would be ideal for speed flying (even though the single wire would have to be larger in diameter than each of the lines used for 2-line U-control). Thus the brass-cam units were made up in various sizes as the "Speedmaster" units, with stunt versions coming later. It took a time for the speed boys to get onto the superiority of the Mono-Line system, but they finally did - just take a look at the 1960 National speed winners and their data listing in the new American Modeler Annual.
Some of the first fliers to get onto this system for speed were Jim Clem, Jimmie Dugger, the Franke brothers and Dale Kirn. At the time Dale was still in the Air Force; he had a gull-wing jet speed plane with conventional two-line control. Dale advised the Stanzels that if they could prove their Mono-Line unit would do the same job and do it faster he would be happy to use it. Tests were made which showed that the Mono-Line system gave about 9 mph more speed. Kirn was sold on it. Not long after, Sam Beasley, Jimmy Summersett, and Leo Holliday all took up Mono-Line and did very well with it in the speed circles. When Kirn got out of service, Stanzel hired him as a traveling demonstrator of the various Mono-Line units. Dale covered the country to the tune of 80,000 miles in two years!
In 1958 another form of "Mono-Line" flying was introduced by the Stanzel concern; they brought out a ready-to-fly electrically-driven plane called the Electromic Flash - note that is spelled with an "m" (Seems some buyers thought it was "electronic" and expected to get radio control for their $2.98!) In this job the line which controls the plane also transmits power to it; the operator holds a case similar to a flashlight in his hand. In it are two flashlight cells to power an electric motor mounted in the nose of the case. The motor drives the plane's prop via a flexible metal cable running through an outer plastic casing. This little plane was so successful that one called the Electromic Jet is now part of the line. Both have 14" wing spans.
With this unique and very successful type of power drive available, it was only natural to apply it to other types of models. The Electromic Dart is a little speed boat of very high performance, while the latest is an "Air Car" that rides on a cushion of air just like the big ones and will even skim over the surface of water!
While we have talked mainly about Vic Stanzel in this story, his brother Joe has been a most important part of the business since the first plant was set up in 1935. Vic, the designer and flier of the combination, still sneaks out for a flight or two when business problems are not too pressing. Joe has always been in charge of production ... he often puts Vic to work in the shop when they are rushed! Joe has done lots of model building but not much flying. There are now about 15,000 sq. ft. of floor space in three buildings and a warehouse. An average of 35 people are always at work; in rush season as many as 140 are employed.
What will come next from the busy Schulenburg plant we couldn't guess, but judging from the slick planes Vic has designed in the past, and Joe has put through the shop, we think it will be something mighty interesting. So keep an eye on Victor Stanzel & Co.!
Posted April 8, 2019