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- Welcome to the Airplanes & Rockets Website -
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." Lord Kelvin, 1895

"NASA Spinoff" Technology Transfer Program

NASA Technology Transfer Program - RF CafeEver since the manned space exploration programs began at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), controversy over both the financial costs and the cost in lost opportunity for other government funded programs has existed. Many people, myself included, have always championed the efforts and believe the axiom of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts applies to the efforts. Opponents say resources would be better spent here on Earth. In fact, we have always done both. To address the issue, NASA Spinoff was created to publicize the byproducts of the space program that benefit other areas of research, manufacturing, and society. Since at least the 1970s, NASA has published a monthly magazine entitled NASA Tech Briefs to inform the public on their activities, inviting readers to submit ideas and to request information on how to apply NASA research to commercial applications. I have been a regular reader since around 1980...

Lucile M. Wright Air Museum and Planetarium

Lucile M. Wright Air Museum and Planetarium, Jamestown, New York - Airplanes and RocketsJust before Christmas 2015, Melanie and I made a trip to Jamestown, New York, and visited Lucile M. Wright Air Museum (no relation to Wilbur and Orville). Is it located in downtown Jamestown at 300 North Main Street. There are plenty of areas with unmetered parking, so save yourself a couple quarters by driving a block or two to find it. Admission is free. "Lucile Miller Wright was a pioneer aviatrix. She was born in Beatrice, Nebraska and grew up in Billings, Montana. She discovered her love of flying as a young woman. In 1922 she went on her first flight with General Billy Mitchell, who was a personal friend of her father, Henry A. Miller. Mrs. Wright continually battled discrimination in pursuit of her passion...Throughout her career, Mrs. Wright logged 8,000 hours of flying time in the seven planes she owned and 5,000,000 miles in commercial aircraft. During World War II, she was the only woman courier plot in Western New York under the Civil Air Patrol Program..."

Rockets Carry the Mail

Rockets Carry the Mail, June 1948 Popular Science - Airplanes and RocketsIs that Vern Estes in that foxhole preparing to push the launch button? Probably not, but the materials and methods used here in this 1948 issue of Popular Science magazine by amateur rocketeers are a big part of the motivation Mr. Estes had for starting his eponymously named model rocket company in 1958. To wit: "Rocket is driven by 35 pounds of micro grain powder, mostly zinc dust and sulphur, which burns out in four seconds. It climbs to 4,000 feet and reaches speed of more than 400 m.p.h." Handling the explosive and sometimes unstable chemicals required for the rocket engines was extremely dangerous, and resulted in many instances of loss of fingers and eyes, severe burns, and even death. The safety record of Estes engines is borne out by more than sixty years of continuous production. If they were not nearly perfectly safe, lawyers would have put Estes out of business long ago. Even Olympic level stupid has not produced an event capable that anything other than the user's idiocy was responsible for an engine-related accident.

Dancer 1/2A Control Line Model Article & Plans

Dancer 1/2A Control Line Model Article & Plans, February 1971 American Aircraft Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsWebsite visitor Alan M. wrote to request that I scan this Dancer article from the February 1971 edition of American Aircraft Modeler magazine. The Dancer is a beginner's level control line trainer model for 1/2A power that is one of the many "For the Tenderfoot" series. Construction is all simple sheet balsa. Even back in the early 1970s millions of Cox .049 engines had already been produced, so they were readily available at a low price. The Dancer was designed and built by AMA Junior level modeler Dennis Haimerl. A unique feature of the Dancer is use of a leading edge slot to enhance lift and stall characteristics of the flat airfoil of the wing. Such devices are used on STOL (short take-off and landing) airplanes...

Norwegian Wind Energy Kitemill

Norwegian Wind Energy Kitemill - Airplanes and Rockets"Norwegian Wind Energy developer Kitemill has secured more than €2m of funding from Dutch investment entity Expanding Dreams. KiteMill secures E2m for wind energy 'Together with smaller investors and a tax relief grant, the combined package will cover the majority of planned activity for 2024,' according to the company. The company's technology generates power using a tethered glider, which initially launches itself using a small motor-driven propeller. When aloft, the glider pulls against its tether, unwinding it from a drum, whose rotation generates electrical power. Once at its furthest extent, the glider drops towards the drum, allowing the tether to be re-wound with little effort, after which the pull-rewind cycle repeats until the wind stops. Flying certain patterns allows the aircraft to maximize the energy generated during pulling, and the system spends 90% of its time generating power and 10% rewinding the tether, according to the company. 'With this influx of resources, we aim to expedite the development of our current model, KM1, and the forthcoming KM2. These models represent significant advancements in harnessing high-altitude wind..."

Wild Bill Netzeband's Control Line Capers

Wild Bill Netzeband's Control Line Capers (January/February 1963 American Modeler) - Airplanes and RocketsJust as originally intended, a lot of people have contacted me after seeing themselves, a friend, or a family member mentioned in one of these articles published in vintage American Modeler and American Aircraft Modeler magazines. Often, it came as the result of reporting on a modeling event, like the "Mid-America Stunt Championships" covered here in "Wild Bill Netzeband's Control Line Capers" column in the January / February 1963 issue of American Modeler magazine. Do a site-wide search of Airplanes and Rockets to see if your name appears somewhere. Also in the article is a report of Veco's new 35C and also on a game-changing monoline control handle for C/L racing. A comical "Things You Wouldn't Know" section is included to provide the "real" meaning of words used by modelers. Did you know that Bob Violett and Cliff Telford of R/C racing fame did C/L racing as well?

Whizzing on Fizz:- CO2−Powered Cars

Whizzing on Fizz: CO2-Powered Cars, February 1947 Popular Science - Airplanes and RocketsI don't know what aircraft engineers do during their lunch hour these days, but back in 1947 when this article appeared in Popular Science magazine, some of them raced CO2-powered model cars. They're a sort of Cub Scout Pinewood Derby cars on steroids. Split into light and heavy classes (7/8 ounce to 4-1/4 ounces), these aerodynamically shaped crates were carved from balsa blocks and rolled on metal or rubber wheels along a 240-foot string. It was the dawn of the jet age, so building competitive jet-powered models was a natural extension of the work many of them did as avocation / profession. I'm guessing there is more than one Ph.D. in that crowd, but there's a good chance the guy with the fastest car was a technician. BTW, although the venue at first glance appears to be a row of cubicles with their occupants leaning over the walls, cubicles were not a "thing" back in the day. Engineers and draftsmen at large firms typically sat in huge, open rooms filled with drafting tables and test equipment...

5th Annual R/C Soaring NATS

Fifth Annual R/C Soaring NATS (October 1974 American Aircraft Modeler) - Airplanes and RocketsIn 1974, I was flying some of my first R/C gliders - probably a Mark's Models Windward or maybe the Windfree (in that order). During that time, I tried hard to locate a group of sailplane flyers in my area around Mayo, Maryland, but to no avail. The nearest R/C flying field was about 30 miles away in Upper Marlboro, MD, where the PGRC club field used to be. My family's car was held together with chewing gum and bailing wire, so it wasn't often that I could talk my father into driving me out there, and the few times that he gave in to my whining, there were never any gliders present. When I would see articles like this one on the Fifth Annual R/C Soaring Nats in the October 1974 issue of American Aircraft Modeler magazine, my envy level would increase significantly both from the standpoint of way-cool models and R/C equipment (I had second-hand junk, purchased with newspaper route money), but also because of the people lucky enough to have access to such venues...

Ingenuity Blade Strike Ends Mars Mission

Ingenuity Blade Strike Ends Mars Mission - Airplanes and Rockets"The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter made its 72nd and final flight on 18 January. 'While the helicopter remains upright and in communication with ground controllers,' NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab said in a press release this afternoon, 'imagery of its Jan. 18 flight sent to Earth this week indicates one or more of its rotor blades sustained damage during landing, and it is no longer capable of flight.' That's what you're seeing in the picture above: the shadow of a broken tip of one of the helicopter's four two-foot long carbon fiber rotor blades. NASA is assuming that at least one blade struck the Martian surface during a 'rough landing,' and this is not the kind of damage that will allow the helicopter to get back into the air. Ingenuity's mission is over. NASA held a press conference earlier this evening to give as much information as they can about exactly what happened to Ingenuity, and what comes next. First, here's a summary from the press release: Ingenuity's team planned for the helicopter to make a short vertical flight..."

Ducted Fan Saab Draken 210 Free Flight Plane

Ducted Fan Saab Draken 210 Free Flight Scale Plane, Model Annual 1956 Air Trails - Airplanes and RocketsS.C. Smith's cover drawing for this 1956 issue of Air Trails magazine is an enhanced version of Wayne Schindler's ducted fan Saab Draken 210 free flight [semi] scale model airplane. Back in the day, there were no commercially available ducted fan units, so they needed to be designed and fabricated by the builder of the model. The computer optimized ducted fan units we have today are matched to the powerplant, which much more often that not is a brushless motor. I don't know if anyone makes a ducted fan for glow fuel engines anymore. This Saab Draken 210 used a Cox .049 Thermal Hopper glow engine, which was capable of turning 10,000 rpm. 1956 is the year Cox introduced the Babe Bee .049 was introduced, but might not have been available at the time. It could do 13,500 rpm on 15% nitro fuel, so could have added significant thrust to the ducted fan unit. The six-blade, three-inch diameter fan was not enclosed in a tightly fitting duct like modern fans are...

International Miniature Racing

International Miniature Racing, August 1962 American Modeler Magazine - Airplanes and RocketsAh, the simpler times when enjoyment, competition, and industry could be found on a slot car race track in a musty basement. Pre-fab models were rare in the day, and those that could be bought couldn't hold a candle to those hand crafted by young men like the ones in these photos. It was not a pastime only for the younger set, though. Older guys with metal lathes and fine crafting tools created museum quality masterpieces. This "International Miniature Racing" article from the August 1962 issue of American Modeler magazine reports on worldwide interest in slot car racing. I'm always amazed at how many men and boys wore sport coats and ties while participating not just in formal events, but even during everyday activities...

Missy DARA QM Article & Plans

Missy DARA QM Article & Plans, April 1974 American Aircraft Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsAirplanes and Rockets visitor Dave J. wrote to ask that I post this article on the Missy DARA (Dayton Air Racing Association ) quarter midget racer that appeared in the April 1974 edition of American Aircraft Modeler magazine. It is a scale knockoff of the full-scale Miss Dara Formula racer. I offer to do this for people at no charge as time permits. Also, I usually post a scan of the plans, but if you are going to build the model, I highly recommend buying a set from the AMA Plans Service if they are still available. Missy Dara plans do not appear to be available at this time. The AMA will scale the plans to any size you need, so you're not locked into the original wingspan. House of Balsa manufactured a Miss Dara kit back in the 1980s...

Low-Drag Rocket Design

Low-Drag Rocket Design, May 1968 American Aircraft Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsG. Harry Stine was (and in some places still is) a household word (ok, a letter and two words) amongst people who engage in model rocketry. As a degreed physicist, he spent his professional years working in both civilian and government aerospace projects. In his spare time, Mr. Stine contributed mightily to the science, industry, and sport of model rocketry. His monthly columns in American Aircraft Modeler magazine were read and appreciated by enthusiasts hungry for a regular helping of the technical side of the craft, served in layman's terms. A typical article written by him reports on some happenings in the trade show and contest realms, while including a lesson in model rocket design and flight...

Race Car Clinic: Mercedes Benz G.P.

Race Car Clinic: Mercedes Benz G.P., October 1961 American Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsNow here's a term I had never heard before: "desmodromic valve." I thought it was something that Cox made up by borrowing the "drom" part of Thimble Drome. Not so. According to Wikipedia, "In general mechanical terms, the word desmodromic is used to refer to mechanisms that have different controls for their actuation in different directions." It describes the type of valve used in the full-scale Mercedes-Benz W196 Racer. The Cox model uses their famous .049 glow fuel engine. There is an ocean of information available on Cox engines, cars, helicopters, boats, and airplanes. The Cox Mercedes-Benz W196 was a scale model of the real Formula One car that ran in many European Grand Prix races. The mechanical features were quite sophisticated, including a flywheel with integrates fan for cooling the engine, spring-loaded suspension, and an adjustable muffler for desired quietness/power tradeoff, and careful engineering to assure compatibility of hot metal parts against molded plastic. The Cox Mercedes-Benz Racer on occasionally shows up on eBay, but be prepared for a shock price tag compared to the original $20 back in 1961 when this article appeared in American Modeler magazine...

Rocket Trails: Boost Gliders: Winged "Birds"

Rocket Trails: Boost Gliders: Winged "Birds" (July/August 1963 American Modeler) - Airplanes and RocketsRocket-boosted gliders grew in popularity in the early 1960s and then seemed to ebb by the end of the decade. I'm not sure why. Maybe the rocketry purists drove a more timid Boost Glider (B/G) bunch into the background. I remember getting some pretty nice flight out of my Estes Falcon glider. This article from the 1963 March/April edition of American Modeler magazine mentions Vern Estes' efforts to foster the boost glider craze by modifying what I knew as the Gyroc to perform as a glider once the engine cartridge was ejected, rather than recover in its original form by creating a high drag profile via a rapid spin. Rockets, like free flight model airplanes, need a lot of open space if altitudes of more than a few hundred feet are planned. Sure, you can estimate the angle for the launch pad tin hopes of firing upwind enough to allow the rocket to be blown back near the launch location, but I can tell you from personal experience that just a model airplanes can be unexpectedly snatched by a passing thermal and carried away to the hinterlands, so too can a model rocket hanging on a parachute. In fact, since I grew up on the East Coast near Annapolis, Maryland, where large, open spaces are rare, I always configured my parachutes (small diameter or larger with hole in the middle) to bring the rocket back down ASAP. The problem with that is then you don't get to enjoy watching the rocket float down for very long...

The Beautiful Grumman Widgeon

Grumman Widgeon, March 1967 American Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsJust like with the old commercial jingle that went, "Everybody doesn't like something, but nobody doesn't like Sara Lee," I can pretty confidently substitute "seaplanes" for "Sara Lee." The Grumman Widgeon was one of many iterations of their twin engined amphibious airplanes that is immediately recognizable to most people over the age of 40. In fact, the Widgeon was the seaplane that appeared each week on the 1970s television show "Fantasy Island." It was "Ze plane! Ze plane!" that Tattoo would call out at the beginning of each episode. The Marh 1967 issue of American Aircraft Modeler magazine carried a nice article on the Grumman Widgeon's history, along with a fine set of 3-view drawings by Paul R. Matt...

Designing RC Helicopters

Designing RC Helicopters, March 1971 American Aircraft Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsJohn Burkam was one of the few true pioneers in free flight and particularly radio controlled model helicopters. His experiments date back into the 1940s. His rubber-powered Penni Helicopter appeared in the January 1970 issue of American Aircraft Modeler. Also, he covered the 1972 and 1974 helicopter Nationals competitions in American Aircraft Modeler. John was an engineer with the Boeing Company. His attention to detail and lack of fear in tackling design issue with numbers, graphs, and formulas is apparent in his work, although any type of design in previously unexplored or little explored areas of technology requires some degree of seat-of-the-pants guestimates. Both philosophies are present in this article. The "Super Susie" is powered by a Cox .049 Tee Dee engine, has four channels, and weighs in at around 2 pounds. That is pretty remarkable for early 1970s equipment. It's too bad someone doesn't produce an .049-powered R/C copter today...

1955 National Model Race Car Championships

1955 National Model Race Car Championships!, Model Annual 1956 Air Trails - Airplanes and RocketsIs that a way-cool-looking collection of fuel-powered model cars or what? They are fashioned after what full-size Indy (Indianapolis 500) race cars of the era looked like. To be a national champion in the model race race world back in the day (and to some extent today) required skill as a machinist with an excellent knowledge of mechanics, internal combustion engines, and metallurgy. A scan of photos of the winning cars makes that evident. There were no CNC (computer numerical control) milling machines or lathes; the operator made every cut but hand-cranking feeds and measuring lengths and diameters with calipers and dial indicators. Interest, too, is that the engines were started by pushing them with a stick that had the battery contacts for the glow plug at the end so the plug was lit by the stick. Note that these model race cars ran in a circle on a tether (wire or string), so the aerodynamics needed to keep the cars stable while constantly fighting the struggle between centripetal (center-seeking) and centrifugal (center fleeing) forces...

Dumas Pay'N Pak R/C Hydroplane

Dumas Pay'N Pak R/C Hydroplane - Airplanes and RocketsAround 1978, before entering the U.S. Air Force, I built a Dumas Pay'N Pak radio controlled hydroplane (modeled after the Pride of Pay'n Pak unlimited hydroplane). Sadly, this is the only known existing photograph of my Pay'N Pak unlimited hydroplane. As shown in the photo to the right, it is hanging in my room in the barracks at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia (c.1980). The cowling & rear airfoil assembly is not attached for some reason, so you can see the water-cooled engine, flywheel, part of the drive shaft, rudder assembly on the transom, and the plywood hatch over the radio compartment. Like most of my other R/C models, it sported a Futaba radio. Construction was not simple, as I remember it. Interlocking plywood bulkhead members formed the basic inner structure, and the plywood sheeting was epoxied on the bottom, sides, and top. Forming and holding all the compound curves while the epoxy cured without allowing a twist to be built in was a real challenge. The transom is the only totally flat piece on the entire craft. I coated the entire thing with fiberglass resin and managed to get a very smooth and shiny finish using an automotive lacquer paint (sprayed by my friend, Jerry Flynn). I cannot recall which engine I used, but it was a marine type with the water-cooled head. To start the beast, I used a piece of string about 1/8" in diameter, threaded it under the grooved flywheel, and gave it a tug...

Self-Eating Rocket Takes Big Bite of Space Industry

Self-Eating Rocket Takes Big Bite of Space Industry - Airplanes and Rockets"New developments on a nearly century-old concept for a 'self-eating' rocket engine capable of flight beyond the Earth's atmosphere could help the UK take a bigger bite of the space industry. University of Glasgow engineers have built and fired the first unsupported 'autophage' rocket engine which consumes parts of its own body for fuel. The design of the autophage engine - the name comes from the Latin word for 'self-eating' - has several potential advantages over conventional rocket designs. The engine works by using waste heat from combustion to sequentially melt its own plastic fuselage as it fires. The molten plastic is fed into the engine's combustion chamber as additional fuel to burn alongside its regular liquid propellants. This means that an autophage vehicle would require less propellant in onboard tanks, and the mass freed up could be allocated to payload instead. The consumption of the fuselage could also help avoid adding to the problem of space debris - discarded waste that orbits the Earth and could hamper future missions. Overall, the greater efficiency could help autophage rockets take a greater payload into space compared to a conventional rocket..."

Race Cars in Your Living Room

Race Cars in Your Living Room, January 1962, American Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsSurprisingly (or maybe not), electric slot car racing is still fairly popular amongst kids. I say surprisingly because with radio control electric cars being under $10 in some cases, it is a wonder that anyone these days wants anything that confines a car to a specific course or has to plug into the wall to work. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, slot car racing was very popular. I can remember even into the 1970s that some of the bigger hobby shops still had slot car tracks set up where you could rent time on the track for a buck or so an hour. If you didn't have your own car, you could rent one there. My good friend, Jerry Flynn, was a slot car aficionado and would lend me one of his spares. I think the hobby shop we went to was in either Bethesda or Rockville, Maryland. It was quite a drive from our neighborhood around Annapolis. While typing out these words I can remember the smell of the electrical arcing of the motor brushes heating the oil we put on the axels and motor bushings. Ah, those were the days...

Thrills of the Navy Test Pilots

Thrills of the Navy Test Pilots, August 1937 Popular Mechanics - Airplanes and RocketsWhen I think of a Navy (or Air Force, or Army, or Marine, or Coast Guard) test pilot, what comes to mind is a high powered fighter airplane, a bomber, or even maybe a helicopter, but the guys in this 1937 Popular Mechanics magazine article are proving cargo and personnel type seaplanes. Doing so might not be as glorious as the aforementioned types, but it is still no job for the weak of heart or slow of mind. The average lifetime of a test pilot is less than that of "regular" pilots because not only are new, untried concepts tested, but part of the wringing out procedure involves pushing the craft to its limits to determine whether the design goals were met, and to know what the placarded "never exceed" numbers should be. Many a test pilot perished during the final "10-G" stress tests of airplanes during World War I, which is quite a demand from what were usually stick and tissue (spruce and silk, actually) airframes...

C/L F4F-3 Grumman Wildcat Article & Plans

Control Liner F4F-3 Grumman Wildcat Article & Plans, May/June 1963 American Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsIn 1963, when this article was published in American Modeler magazine, it had only been 18 years since the end of World War II, where the Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat earned its place in the history books as the only fighter in the U.S. armed forces' inventory capable of taking on Japan's Zero fighter. None other than the inestimable Walter A. Musciano designed this 38" wingspan control line model fashioned after ace fighter pilot Joe Foss' Wildcat. It used a .29 size engine, but could easily be converted to electric power. Construction is very typical of the day: rugged and heavy, but durable. Some lightening effort is advised if using electric power...

NASA and Lockheed Martin Quiet Supersonic Aircraft

NASA and Lockheed Martin Quiet Supersonic Aircraft - Airplanes andRockets"NASA has unveiled an experimental quiet supersonic aircraft that it claims could pave the way for a new generation of commercial aircraft that can travel faster than the speed of sound. Developed in partnership with Lockheed Martin, the X-59 is the centerpiece of NASA's Quesst mission, which focuses on providing data to help regulators reconsider rules that prohibit commercial supersonic flight over land. For 50 years, the U.S. and other nations have prohibited such flights because of the disturbance caused by loud, startling sonic booms on the communities below. The X-59 is expected to fly at 1.4 times the speed of sound, or 925 mph while generating a quieter sonic thump. At 99.7 feet long and 29.5 feet wide, the aircraft's shape and the technological advancements it houses will make quiet supersonic flight possible. The X-59's thin, tapered nose accounts for almost a third of its length and will break up the shock waves that would ordinarily result in a supersonic aircraft causing a sonic boom...."

Fizz-Wizz CO2-Powered Model Airplane Article & Plans

Fizz-Wizz CO2-Powered Model Airplane Article & Plans, March 1962 American Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsCO2 power for model airplanes gained a lot of popularity in the 1950s and throughout the 1960s and then waned for some reason in the 1970s. The same trend was exhibited in Jetex type engines. CO2 engines run off a cylinder of compressed carbon dioxide gas, which were and still are readily available due to their use in air rifles and pistols. A metal tube feeds the top of the engine cylinder where a metal ball under pressure from the gas seals off the cylinder until the piston pushes up on it. When the port opens, gas pressure forces the piston down to the point where the gas is ejected at the exhaust port. Momentum from the propeller mass swings the piston back to the top of the cylinder where it once again opens the ball valve to start the cycle all over again. CO2 engines are very reliable and easy to start since no ignition is required; however, the power−to−weight ratio is fairly low. This 1962 American modeler magazine article presents plans, and building and flying instructions for the "Fizz−Wizz..."

R/C Codes and Escapements

R/C Codes and Escapements, December 1954 Popular Electronics - Airplanes and RocketsThe evolution of radio control (R/C, or RC) systems has occurred at about the pace of most other electromechanical systems from the early part of the last century up through today. As with other technologies, credit for advancement is shared between professionals and amateurs. Of course the first transmitters and receivers used vacuum tubes for amplification and signal generation/detection; it wasn't until the 1960s that transistorized versions became available for public purchase. Integrated circuits for modulators and demodulators were introduced in the 1970s, synthesized oscillators hit the scene in the 1980s, and then spread spectrum changed the landscape in the mid 2000s. Actuators used to move control surfaces started out as rubber band-powered escapements and servomotors. Both were all or nothing displacement in neutral, left, or right. Galloping ghost actuators used constantly flapping control surfaces that would dwell longer in the left or right, up or down position to effect control. All were rather crude, but did the job. Proportional systems with feedback servos permitted control displacement in synchronization with transmitter gimbal stick position. Digital control eventually replaced analog, providing fine enough increments that it responded

Amateur Radio Astronomy Articles in QST

Amateur Radio Astronomy Articles in QST - Airplanes and RocketsQST is the official publication of the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), the world's oldest and largest organization for Ham radio enthusiasts. Many amateur radio operators also have an interest in astronomy and as such, occasionally articles appear covering topics on amateur radio astronomy. There are also quite a few articles dealing indirectly with aspects of astronomy such as Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) communications where signals are bounced off the moon's surface in order to facilitate transmission (although it is really more of a hobby achievement). The October 2012 edition of QST had an article entitled, "Those Mysterious Signals," which discusses galactic noise in the 10-meter band. Arch Doty (W7ACD) writes about the low-level background noise that is persistent in the high frequency (HF) bands. At HF, Cygnus A and Cassiopeia A are major sources of cosmic noise, for example. Low level signals come from pulsars, quasars, black holes, and other remote objects that were created during the early formation of our universe. However, the strongest background noise emanates from the center of the Milky Way galaxy with a source that is a mere 27,000 years old...

Zlin Akrobat: For the Tenderfoot Article & Plans

Zlin Akrobat: For the Tenderfoot Article & Plans, September 1971 American Aircraft Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsWebsite visitor Adrian C., of Moncton NB, Canada, wrote to ask that I scan and post the article for a catapult-launched free flight glider model of the Zlin Akrobat. It appeared in the September 1971 edition of American Aircraft Modeler. Written by well known and frequent contributor to the "For the Tenderfoot" series in AAM, this version of contest-winning full-size Akrobat has an 11" wingspan and the plans provide a high level of detail and realism for such a small model. Its bright scale-like red and white covering scheme is particularly attractive. I took the liberty of adding color to the plans...

Radio Control News, May 1954 MAN

Radio Control News, May 1954 Model Airplane News - Airplanes and Rockets1954 was just a decade after World War II, during which time the Army Signal Corps introduced a method of printing - or etching - metallic circuit conductors on an insulator substrate, and thus was born the printed circuit board (PCB). The first boards used a phenolic-paper laminate, which is the shiny brown substrate material that is still found in some industrial applications like motors and control panels. Ferric chloride was used to etch away the copper foil not masked off with photoresist chemicals. I made many crude PCBs using a resist ink pen to draw circuit traces and component mounting pads, then etched away the exposed copper with ferric chloride purchased at Radio Shack. This line from the article is reminiscent of people who remarked similarly about the first televisions and computers: "One of the first questions that arises is: 'What good is it and what do I gain by using it?'" Printed inductors were already being used, as the photo shows. Back in the mid 1980s, I programmed an HP 85 computer, using HP BASIC (aka Rocky Mountain BASIC), to draw printed inductor patters in the engineering development lab where I worked for Westinghouse. A built-in thermal printer spit out the image on paper, and then the image was transferred onto clear acetate in a copying machine for use in the photoresist exposure process. Anyone else remember using one?

Ever Hear of a "Submarine Library?"

Ever Hear of a "Submarine Library?", May 1956 Young Men • Hobbies • Aviation • Careers - Airplanes and RocketsAmazingly, the General Dynamics Corporation's Groton, Connecticut, Electric Boat Division is still in operation after all the years passed since this article appeared in Young Men magazine. According to the company website, "Established in 1899, Electric Boat has established standards of excellence in the design, construction and lifecycle support of submarines for the U.S. Navy. Primary operations are the shipyard in Groton, CT, the automated hull-fabrication and outfitting facility in Quonset Point, RI, and an engineering building in New London, CT. The current workforce is more than 14,000 employees." Why "electric boat?," you might ask? Submarines, whilst submersed, are typically driven by electric motors powered by storage batteries. When on or near the ocean surface, a diesel engine powers the craft while recharging the batteries. Nuclear powered subs can run underwater nearly indefinitely since they do not require air for combustion. Shown here are some of the many models of the world's submarines throughout their relatively short history. The library's more than 1,200 books record of Alexander the Great having had himself sealed in a glass barrel and lowered into the water in order to observe submarine phenomena. For some reason the library's employees are not named. The man building the models is in a business suit, but then it was still fairly common at the time for men to wear a suit and tie even at home whilst performing domestic chores or participating in a hobby...

Fast Start Set Uses The AAM Glowdriver

Fast Start Set Uses The AAM Glowdriver (July 1974 American Aircraft Modeler) - Airplanes and RocketsDanny M., a website visitor from The Land Down Under, wrote to ask that I scan and post this article for what today we would call a "smart" glow plug driver. There is also an accompanying article in the same July 1974 edition of American Aircraft Modeler magazine titled "The AAM Glowdriver." Danny said, "I built one in 1978, it is still working fine. When a friend saw how it would light a plug under water and clear a flooded engine instantly he begged me to build him one. Unfortunately the original article is long gone, so I found your website and noticed that you list the magazine in question." Well, thanks to our resourceful mate, now the plans and article are available again in case you are experiencing a bit of nostalgia...

Airplanes and Rockets' Official Observatory Construction

Airplanes and Rockets' Official Observatory ConstructionThe official Airplanes and Rockets website observatory is complete! First light for the entire setup was May 19, 2012. An alignment of the equatorial was performed, and then a GoTo alignment was done. The result was pretty good, but it's been better. I will need to take time to do a really precise alignment of both. It was a clear night in Erie, with a few high, wispy clouds. There was a lot of atmospheric unsteadiness, so image quality varied considerably. The JMI electric focuser is extremely nice; not having to touch the telescope during focusing makes a world of difference in how well the NexImage camera can be focused, especially under conditions where the image is being randomly distorted by the unsteady air. Maneuvering inside the shed is a bit tricky, but it is possible to get a comfortable viewing position for everything so far - with some position more comfortable than others. Total investment including telescope, building, and accessories (not including computer) is around $2,500 - it ain't cheap, and that is with fairly low-end equipment and buying used (eBay) where possible...

1968 NAR Nats Caps a Decade of Progress

1968 NAR Nats Caps a Decade of Progress, January 1969 American Aircraft Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsNational Association of Rocketry Aeromodeling Meet No. 10 (NAMRAM-10) was held August 19th through the 23rd at NASA's Wallop's Island, Virginia station. Growing up outside of Annapolis, Maryland, (about 50 miles as the crow flies) I recall seeing the southern sky turn various colors when atmospheric research was being conducted there. It was a very appropriate location for model rocketry contesting given Wallop's Island's significant role in full-scale rocketry. Being at the height of the manned space program, the country was filled with boys (and some girls) who were excited to be part of the action. Model rocket clubs could be found in every major city and many small towns. Farm boys and guys like me in the suburbs launched model rockets from our back yards - and often had to retrieve them from rooftops and tree branches. Most trees in my neighborhood were of the genus/species of rocketus/eatumupus, and usually of the subspecies kantclimbit. My friends and I literally risked our lives reaching for model rockets and airplanes stuck in trees we would never consider climbing if not for our treasured models suspended within their branches. Open, accessible spaces are very difficult to find these days unless you live in the plains areas. Property owners these days rarely allow you onto their land, primarily due to legal concerns, and I don't fault them...

Celestron NexImage Astrophotography Camera Teardown

Celestron NexImage Camera Teardown - Airplanes and RocketsCelestron released the NexImage astrophotography camera sometime 2008. I bought it in 2012 for around $100 ($133 in 2023 - a 33% increase due to inflation!).  As with most things, if you read online reviews for the NexImage, most people either love it or hate it. My own experience is that the frustration I had initially was due to inexperience in setting up the software and with getting a good focus on the telescope. Once those two obstacles were overcome, I began getting some really good images of the moon and planets. Printed Circuit Assembly Front Side Front Side of Both NexImage Printed Circuit Assemblies Back Side of Both NexImage Printed Circuit Assemblies Celestron now has a 10 Mpixel version of the camera out called the NexImage 10. It costs $309. I have learned a bit more about imaging CCDs and will do a bit of shopping around first. I really do not want to get a DSLR because they are big and heavy. What would be nice is to buy a medium quality telescope camera for doing deep space imaging and another for planetary work. The investment would be around $1,000, which is what an acceptable DSLR would cost. However, the DSLR will not come with software and, especially for the deep space work...

Quiz: Models and Manufacturers

Quiz #1: Models and Manufacturers - Airplanes and RocketsYour knowledge of model aircraft kits, engines, and equipment will need to stretch back a couple decades to score 10 out of 10 on this model-aircraft-themed quiz. 1) Which company manufactured the "Antic" series of open frame R/C models? 4) What is the full last name of Sig Manufacturing's co-founder Hazel Sig? 7) What type of models did Estes first produce? 10) What type of airplane model construction was Cox Manufacturing famous for? Winners get a free 1-year subscription to the Airplanes and Rockets website ;-)   Good luck!

Message from Apollo 8, Christmas Eve, 1968

Earthrise Commemorative Stamp - Airplanes and RocketsWhile orbiting the Moon on Christmas Eve, 1968, NASA astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders made a live broadcast from from the Apollo 8 command module, in which they showed video of the lunar surface and the Earth as seen from one of the spacecraft's portals. That flight produced the famous "Earthrise" photograph which is featured on a U.S. commemorative stamp issued in May of 1969 - just three months before Apollo 11 landed on the moon. On the ninth orbit, toward the end of the transmission, the three astronauts each took a turn reading from the book of Genesis, chapter 1, verses 1 through 10. They finished with, "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

From Melanie and me here at AirplanesAndRockets.com, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year!

Gilbert Erector Set from 1969 Sears Christmas Wish Book

Gilbert Erector Set from the 1969 Sears Christmas Wish Book - Airplanes and RocketsOn page 511 of the Sears 1969 Christmas Wish Book are a few Erector Sets. This was probably the year (±a couple) that I got my first Erector Set. This was a step up from the Tinkertoy sets I previously owned. While not the largest set made, it had quite a lot of parts, including a motor. Although I already had a natural interest in assembling and - to my parents' dismay - disassembling stuff, it was gifts like this that really helped nurture what would become a life-long pursuit of things mechanical and electrical, eventually leading to my earning an electrical engineering degree. I remember getting a pretty good finger pinch by one of the motorize contraptions I built. Show above is Erector Set #3, similar to the one I received for Christmas in 1969. This one I bought on eBay since, as with most things I owned, the original did not survive my handling...

Sketchbook - Hints and Kinks by the Readers

Sketchbook, October 1961 American Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsThe "Sketchbook" feature in American Modeler magazine presented "hints and kinks" furnished by readers came up with good ideas to help make building and operating model airplanes (primarily), car, and boats a little easier. Some of them are pretty good, and I have applied the principles in my own efforts over the years. October 1961, the date of this set of ideas, was a couple years before my time of building models. Being born in 1958, it would probably have been around 1966 or 1967 before I was building and flying Estes rockets and rubber powered airplanes. By 1969 I was flying Cox control line models, and it was maybe 1971 or 1972 before building my first control line model. When reading over these vintage Sketchbook ideas, I always pay attention to the names of the submitters to see whether any are recognizable as someone who would later become renowned in the modeling world. There is a good chance that the "E. R. Violett, Jr." with the control line fabric hinge technique is none other than Bob Violett...

Ramblin' Wreck Article & Plans

Ramblin' Wreck Article & Plans, December 1959 American Modeler - Airplanes and RocketsRadio control Combat flight is a huge sport these days. You might be tempted to think that it is a late-comer to the model airplane sport realm, but if so, you'd be wrong. Here is an article from the December 1959 American Modeler magazine that describes the successful effort of modelers half a century ago pioneering R/C combat. Those were the days of heavy, tube-based airborne receivers and servos, escapements, or reeds (crude though they were). Per author H. Donald Brown, "With us, mid-air crashes have out-numbered cut steamers but the damage minor in most eases." The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Model Boat Record Breakers

Model Boat Record Breakers, July 1957 American Modeler Magazines - Airplanes and RocketsWhen most people think about control line (CL) models, airplanes are what comes to mind. However, prior to the advent of miniature, reliable radio control (RC) systems, model boats and model cars also ran on control lines, as reported in a 1957 issue of American Modeler magazine. Most of the time they went in circles, just like model airplanes do; however, some hobbyists stretched out long sections of straight line in order to get maximum speeds from their craft. Unlike with model airplanes where an operator in the center of the circle exerted control of the elevator (and sometimes throttle), the control line boats and cars generally ran with no form of control. In fact, usually the models were tethered with a single line in the center of the circle and the operator handled the boat or car from the outside...

About Airplanes & Rockets 

Kirt Blattenberger, Webmaster - Airplanes and RocketsKirt Blattenberger

Carpe Diem! (Seize the Day!)

Even during the busiest times of my
life I have endeavored to maintain
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This site has been created to help me chronicle my journey through a lifelong involvement in model aviation, which all began in Mayo, MD ...

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