One-Man Air Force
March 1970 American Aircraft Modeler
In 1970, when this article was written about USAF TSgt. Gordon Ford's
incredible collection of giant control line scale, multi-engined flying models, the KC-135 Stratotanker
was still a decade from being replaced by the KC-10, the C-5A Galaxy was just coming online as the world's
largest cargo aircraft, and the C-133 Cargomaster was about to be mothballed. C-124 Globemasters were
on their last legs, the XB-70 Valkyrie was a bygone dream, and the Convair T-29 (C-131) only had a few
good years left in her. These are just a few of the aircraft in SSgt. Ford's hangar.
How he was able to transport all these humongous models from base-to-base is hard to imagine. I know
from my short tenure in the USAF (4 years) that the allowance given
for transporting personal effects is not very large, and that you have to pay for anything over the
basic amount. My guess is that the good sergeant's job as an aircraft mechanic might have provided for
a little horse trading of favors with a few loadmasters around the world, who would have been able to
make a little extra room in one of those cargo planes for his plywood crates. Does anyone out there
know what has become of TSgt. Ford or his fine models (see insert to the left)?
is a rare treat. MSgt. Gordon Ford's daughter contacted me after seeing this article on her father's
models! She told me he is now living in Minnesota and still has most of the models that he so expertly
built over the years. Come to find out, American Aircraft Modeler was not the only publication
that featured his handiwork. Click on the thumbnail images to see where the C-133 and the KC-135 are
now. I can't imagine being able to preserve any model that was actually flown often for that long. Many
thanks to MSgt. Ford for his service to the country and for his service to the aeromodeling sport. Thanks
also to his daughter for checking in with an update.
Technical Sergeant Gordon E. Ford, United States Air Force, just loves these scratch-built
giant scale birds.
Technical Sergeant Gordon E. Ford, 95th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Goose Air Base,
Canada, is a reciprocal engine mechanic. Off duty, he maintains his own private "Air Force."
Putting his Convair T-29 through its paces with real-life sistership
in background is Tech. Sgt. Ford. Convair spans 4 ft., has two 19's.
Sergeant Ford's air force is not the dime-store variety, nor quite large enough to move an army.
It is a large collection of model aircraft that he built to scale using military tech orders and converting
feet to inches and centimeters.
Those who have assembled a model from a kit can imagine the
many difficulties encountered when constructing massive scale-model airplanes from scratch. Sergeant
Ford's production has outgrown the "hobby" stage. He hand-makes all the wooden parts, including most
of the propellers.
He has built many such models, and presently has 17 planes in flying shape.
The most impressive at the moment is the KC-135 refueling aircraft. It won him second place in a model
aircraft competition last July at Lackland AFB, Texas. The aircraft carries two quarts of fuel, has
an operable boom that off-loads fuel in flight. It can stay aloft for one hour, or nearly 50 miles.
Boeing KC-135 jet-tanker
is authentic, even to markings on the fin.
Tanker spans 5 1/2 ft., power unknown.
Sergeant Ford's entry was defeated at the Lackland competition by a Fokker, owned by TSgt. Burt
Dugan whose home base was Lackland. Ford feels that, for competition purposes of that type, the older
the aircraft and the more details, the better the chance of winning.
Transporting his fleet during
station changes is a big problem in logistics.
Here, the family puzzles crating a 7 ft. 3 in. Globemaster.
It has two 35's, two 19's.
Ford's flight line and hangars are his back yard and basement, as well as nearly every room in the
house. Models hang from ceilings in the living room, dining room and bedrooms. From Mrs. Ford's viewpoint,
it makes an interesting topic of conversation at parties. It must take a lot of patience, pride and
humor to contend with such a hobby, and Mrs. Ford deserves a medal for it, according to her husband.
When Mrs. Ford married her "Air Force" man, he had built only one airplane, but after watching
him at work many nights she decided, "If you can't fight them, join them," and join them she did. To
date, Mrs. Ford has built and flown three airplanes and enjoys helping him with the big ones.
She said, "It's really an exciting experience and I think I am more excited than he is when a new
model lifts off."
10 1/2 ft. Lockheed C-5A seems
to grow as tall as the trees. Following Ford's standard 1/24th scale, it will have two Max 58's and
two SuperTigre 56's. The 12-lb. B-70 has two pusher 60's.
At present, Sergeant Ford is building a C5-A Galaxie. This model will be 10 1/2' long, 9 1/2' wide,
32 1/2" high, and will have its landing gear raised and lowered by radio control. The giant model will
be powered by two Supertigre 56 and two Max 58 engines with throttles. It will have four-bladed propellers
on each engine, and throttles will be controlled from one main point. The motors put out approximately
His future projects include a Ford Tri-motor - a three-engine cargo aircraft,
originally built around 1925 and dubbed the "Tin Goose." Also planned is an eventual in-flight refueling
between two model aircraft.
Ford has been building model aircraft for 23 years. He has had a
lot of fun with them, met lots of interesting folks and exchanged correspondence with people all over
the world. Getting some of the letters translated was a problem. He has even sent some to the embassies
concerned whenever someone on base could not be located to translate them for him. In many cases, servicemen
with wives from Germany, France, Japan, and Holland have assisted him.
A major problem that
must be considered when building models of this sort is their transportation from base to base. He built
his planes with detachable wings. The bigger models even divide in the middle for easier packing.
The first Wright Brothers' airplane had 12 horsepower, carried one gallon of fuel and flew just
a little over 100 feet. Sergeant Ford's C5-A will have five horsepower, carry two gallons of fuel and
will be able to fly approximately 50 mph, and stay airborne more than an hour.
Ford prepares to start an
outboard 19. Inboard engines are 35's.
Above: Pride of his fleet is
this 7 1/2 lb. C-133 with
throttles, flaps, brakes, blinkers, cargo-loading,
Right: With two helpers, Ford has one of the 19's
the other. He built the impressive
craft when in Thailand.
Posted October 21, 2012
Even during the busiest times of my life I have endeavored to maintain
some form of model building activity. This site has been created to help me chronicle my journey
through a lifelong involvement in model aviation, which
all began in Mayo, MD. There
is a lot of good information and there are lot
of pictures throughout the website that you will probably find useful, and might
even bring back some old memories from your own days of yore. The website began life around
1996 as an EarthLink screen name of ModelAirplanes, and quickly grew to where more server
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