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Melanie and I visited the Udvar-Hazy annex
of the Smithsonian Air & Space
Museum for the first time. We visited the main building in Washington, D.C.,
a time or two a couple decades ago. A major renovation of that facility is underway
now, but with the rewriting of history going on these days, their claim of "reimagining"
the displays is worrisome. It is amazing to me when looking at the airplanes represented
in this story from the November 1969 American Aircraft Modeler that most of them
have been restored by now and are on display in one location or the other. It appears
maybe the authors' pleas were heeded after all...
"An Airbus research and technology programme
dubbed Wing of Tomorrow has reached a key milestone with the assembly of its first
full-size wing prototype. According to Airbus, the
Wing of Tomorrow programme will test the latest composite materials and new
technologies in aerodynamics and wing architecture whilst simultaneously appraising
how wing manufacturing and industrialisation can be improved to meet future demand
as the sector emerges from the pandemic. Three full-size prototype wings will be
manufactured: one will be used to understand systems integration; a second will
be structurally tested to compare against computer modelling, while a third will
be assembled to test..."
Back when Melanie had more time (around 1984),
she made a lot of counted cross stitch pictures. This one remains her most ambitious
project ever - a large nautical map of the ancient world, fashioned after the works
of famed cartographer Gerard Mercator and titled with "Orbis Terrae
Compendiosa Descriptio," which is, loosely translated, Latin for "A Comprehensive
Description of the World." Melanie's work was done on 22-count fabric, and measures
approximately 13" by 8" (not including white border). Such a fine effort needed
a special frame, so I set about making a custom 23" by 17" frame out of teak wood
bought at World of Hardwoods in Baltimore. The fancy fluting was done on my Craftsman
radial arm saw with the molding head. It was a scary operation with the sharp teeth
flying while feeding that teak through it. Teak, as you might know, is used extensively
on boats because it weathers well. It is an oily type wood that starts out life
with a shiny golden patina, but turns to the familiar gray if left unprotected in
aviation comics appeared in the May 1957 issue of the Academy of Model Aeronautics'
American Modeler magazine. The one on page 8 might need some explanation in order
"get it." Back in the era, aviation of all sorts - both model and full-size - was
still a novelty for most people. When either type of aircraft was seen close to
the ground where people could get up-close looks, a crowd would often gather. In
this comic, a huge group of people stopped to watch the model airplane fly, so the
modeler decided it was his civic duty to provide a show for the onlookers. Many
decades ago, comic strips had a very broad appeal with people. Daily newspapers
and magazines often carried a large variety of single pane comics and strip comics...
Here are a couple videos of pulse jet engines
being run. The top one is a home-made pulse jet engine mounted on an R/C Long EZ.
The bottom video presents a short tutorial on how the
Dyna-Jet is built, how it is made, and
how to start it. Back in the 1950s, a company named Curtis Automotive Devices manufactured
the now-converted Dyna-Jet engine (they typically sell for >$400 on e-Bay - if
you can find one). Are they still around today? Yep, only the company name is now
Curtis Dyna-Fog. One of the first pulse-jet products aerospace engineer Russell
Curtis produced was the Dyna-Jet "Red Head" miniature engine for use in model rocketry
(per their website)...
Du-Bro's Whirlybird 505 was the first successful
commercial helicopter kit (although successful is a relative term as applied here).
I was fortunate as a kid in Holly Hill Harbor, Mayo, Maryland, because there was
a man down the street from me who was an avid radio control modeler and seemed to
buy just about every new type of radio, engine, and kit available. I would anxiously
await the sound of an engine running, and instantly jump on my bicycle to ride down
and see what he was doing. The strange thing about it was that he had three step-sons
who were notoriously bad actors who counted it as sport to harass and occasionally
beat up guys like me, so I always approached the yard with a bit of trepidation.
The gentleman himself was very nice, and a few times even gave me...
Thimble Drone - later to become Cox - sold
its first ready-to-fly control line model, the
Thimble Drome TD-1, beginning
around 1959. Reports have it that the original selling price was $9.99, which according
to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' inflation calculator, is about $95 in year
2021 dollars. The wings were of built-up construction with ribs and thin, molded
sheets of aluminum skins. A modified Space Bug .049 engine was used for power. There
was no spring starter on the early .049 engines, but a rubber finger guard was provided
to help spare the modeler's finger...
brews over the merits of breeding plants that glow like a lightning bug. Proponents
glowing trees could eventually replace electric street lights, thereby reducing
pollution created by generating stations. Opponents say messing around with tree
genes is dangerous and should be disallowed since it could lead to unanticipated
environmental ramifications on both plant and animal species. The unique aspect
of this effort is that it is being pursued primarily by genetic hobbyists rather
than corporations - at least for now. There is bound to be a huge financial potential
for such a copyrighted line of plants. My opposition to the concept is primarily
a concern for light pollution projected skyward. Astronomers have a difficult enough
time with ever-encroaching sources of ambient light...
During World War II, Germany terrorized
Europe with it
rocket bombs, most notably the V−1 Buzz Bomb and the V−2 Rocket. The "V" prefix,
BTW, stands for Vergeltungswaffe, translated as "vengeance weapon," or "retribution
weapon." Both "vengeance" and "retribution" are really misnomers since it was Germany
that was the aggressor in both WWI and WWII. The vengeance or retribution in Hitler's
view was likely the punishment and restrictions imposed on Germany by the Treaty
of Versailles for its vicious and inhumane behavior before and during World War I.
History shows they doubled down on it during World War II. But I digress. This
1946 article in Radio−Craft magazine proposes a scheme for a "radar rocket"
system that could detect, acquire, and intercept an enemy rocket bomb in flight
- a concept that was never really successful until the Patriot Missile...
This is yet another of my unrealized lifelong
ambitions - building and flying an
autogyro. The state of the art has advanced significantly since the early garage-based
and corporate experimenters. Companies such as Autogyro USA sells a number of models
for private pilots with both open and fully enclosed cockpits. The Bensen Autogyro
was the craft du jour in the 1970s, with articles appearing in all the handyman
and airplane magazines of the day. My appetite was sufficiently whetted, albeit
well beyond the means of my meager paycheck. I vowed to build one when my finances
would allow. I'm going on 52 still waiting. There are quite a few model autogyros
flying with plenty of plans and a kit or two available if you would like to build
This triad of
comics appeared in the February 1941 issue of Flying Aces magazine. They are
a bit on the goofy side, but keep in mind what a novelty airplanes and parachutes
and such were even in the 1930s and early 1940s. Humor style was markedly different
in the day overall as well, so what passed as clever then might not be considered
equally clever today. That being said, don't pass up these comics - they might be
just the does of lightheartedness you need at the moment...
"University of Central Florida researchers
are building on their technology that could pave the way for
hypersonic flight, such as travel from New York to Los Angeles in under 30 minutes.
In their latest research published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, the researchers discovered a way to stabilize the detonation
needed for hypersonic propulsion by creating a special hypersonic reaction chamber
for jet engines. 'There is an intensifying international effort to develop robust
propulsion systems for hypersonic and supersonic flight that would allow flight
through our atmosphere at very high speeds and also allow efficient entry and exit
from planetary atmospheres..."
You might expect this "Flying
Broomstick" article to be about one of the many novelty witch-on-a-broomstick
models that typically appear in September or October issues of model airplane magazines,
but in this case it is simply a contest-worthy Class C rubber free flight job.
The fuselage has a slight resemblance to an old wooden broomstick, but the similarity
pretty much stops there. The hollow tubular fuselage made of rolled 1/16"' balsa
holds 18 strands of rubber. Semi-elliptical shaped wings with a gull type dihedral
give it unique look. Per designer / builder Kukuvich, "Flights of 2 min., 30 sec.,
are common in "dead air" and are accomplished without the help of risers..."
As with model airplanes, if you wanted to
enjoy the hobby of
back in the 1960s when this article appeared in American Modeler magazine,
you had to be willing to tackle building your own model either from a kit or from
plans. Ready-to-run boats were a relative rarity. Having built half a dozen model
boats myself, including nitro and wind powered types, boats require a bit more work
than an equivalent level of airplane because working with birch and mahogany plywood
and various other-than-balsa woods is more difficult when bending, forming, and
sanding. Nothing makes you appreciate carving and sanding a balsa block like trying
to do the same on a piece of soft pine (or worse, something like maple or teak).
Radio control was well established by the 1960s...
This is kind of an unusual story for a TV
news outlet, but glad to see it: "Which
model airplane kit is best? Model airplane kits come in a vast variety of styles
and detailed constructions. They aren't just a few wooden planks that click together
and barely float anymore. They can be almost exact to scale replicas that can be
radio-controlled. Model airplane kits are for all ages and can be a wonderful bonding
experience when putting them together with family and friends. The best model airplane
kit is the Guillow's P-51 Mustang, perfect for those seeking a touch of challenge
and plenty of detail in their builds. What to know before you buy a model airplane
kit. Who it's for. There are all sorts of different model airplane kits, some of
which are better suited to certain intended uses. If the model airplane is intended..."
This is pretty cool. A recruitment ad for
the U.S. Air Force appeared in the March 1961 issue of American Modeler
magazine showing the type of
precision approach radar (PAR) that I worked on while in the service. It was
part of the AN/MPN−14 Landing Control Central system which was a mobile combat unit
consisting of airport surveillance radar (ASR) and PAR primary radar, a TPX−42 Identification
Friend or Foe (IFF) synthetic radar, an AN/GPA−131 data mapper, and AN/ARC−? VHF/UHF
radios. Alignment of the display for glide slope (top) and course line (bottom),
and mile markers, was a complicated procedure involving twisting multiple interdependent
control knobs until the sweeps met with a template. It was not a raster type sweep
like a vintage CRT television, but like a old fashioned oscilloscope sweep instead
where x-y data was fed to the deflection coils...
Every month in Model Aviation, the
AMA's monthly publication, there is a "Safety" column that reports on model-related
accidents and issues like not charging Li−Po batteries in appropriate containers,
not smoking around glow fuel and gasoline, not flipping your propeller with a bare
finger, etc. Many moons ago the big safety concern was not flying control line models
too near to high voltage power lines. This photo from the April 1957 edition of
American Modeler shows some guy attempting to retrieve a radio control
model from its landing spot
atop a set of telegraph
wires. He is standing on a barbed wire fence using a wooden pole to prod it
off the lines. The captions asks, "Who knows line voltage?"
"In an enduring image of the Second World
War, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe,
huddled with members of the 101st Airborne Division on the eve of D-Day. Later he
watched as a procession of C-47s took off carrying numerous paratroopers, many of
whom died later that night. Eisenhower and his companions saluted each plane. 'It
was a painfully moving and exhilarating experience,' his biographer Carlos D'Este
wrote, 'and the closest he would come to being one of them.' In fact, Eisenhower
did know a little of the terror and thrill of flight. There were near-crashes as
he learned to pilot a Stearman trainer. 'Because I was
learning to fly at the age of forty-six,' Eisenhower wrote, 'my reflexes were
slower than those of younger men.' Once, a sandbag jammed the control stick..."
Believe it or not, there are still some people
who scratch build their own model airplanes or build kits that require bending and
even soldering music wire for
making landing gear. I fall into that category, although I occasionally buy
a pre-built model to use while projects are on the building board. This article
from a 1954 Air Trails has some handy tips and illustrations to help someone
doing doing landing gears for the first time and maybe even for seasoned landing
gear builders. In fact, after reading this article, I implemented step #8 that shows
a good way to assure that the wheel retaining washer is soldered perpendicular to
the axel. If you do not use a jig of some sort, the surface tension of the molten
solder tends to pull the washer askew because of the proximity of the bend in the
wire between the wheel axel and where it leads up to the fuselage. The phenomenon
occurs because the natural action of the solder is to minimize surface tension everywhere...
The October 1950 issue of Air Trails
magazine did a duo-feature on Henri Delanne and his
Duo-Monoplane designs. This article reports on the life and accomplishments
of Delanne and his out-of-the-box concept of what an airplane should look like.
While not quite canards, they did have the wing far back on the fuselage, and larger
than usual horizontal stabilizer surfaces (essentially a second wing - almost a
biplane with sever staggering) and dual vertical fins. Flying surfaces were so close
to each other that airflow from the forward wing had to profoundly affect the rearward
wing. Wind tunnels, pioneered by Wilbur and Orville Wright, were available for study
of such configurations, but it would be very interesting to see on of Delannes Duo-Monoplanes
modeled on a modern software simulator using computational fluid dynamics algorithms...
"We posed a simple question to top people
in a few leading aviation companies and asked - regulations, market impacts, and
investment aside - how can
technology improve aviation and what should be commonplace that we don't currently
have? The answers were interesting, insightful, and surprisingly consistent. Connectivity
Our lives nearly depend on connectivity. Work, communication, social interactions,
home management, and virtually everything in our world rely on sharing information
with other people and other devices. Except in the aircraft. With limited exceptions
our aircraft remain black holes of connectivity. We have radios and receive GPS
signals, but until you get into large business jets and airlines, other communication
and information sharing is sparse at best. Maybe because of marketing to business
Here is a report on the
aka the 28th National Model Airplane Championships, held at Los Alamitos Naval Air
Station, California. For those not familiar with the early Nats, the U.S. Navy used
to sponsor and host the entire show primarily because it was considered a good recruitment
tool for young men of a necessarily competitive nature. Their hopes were that those
guys would see really cool stuff at the base and anxiously anticipate the day when
they could join. Some time in the late 1960s, the attendance by youngsters was so
low that the Navy decided to pull its support. Bill Winter managed to talk them
into staying for a few more years after promising to work to bring youth participation
back up, but, alas, it did not last...
Perusing through some old
Wish Book issues printed by the likes of Sears, Ward, JC Penny, Spiegel, etc.,
turned up quite a few model airplane types. Joe Ott and Comets stick and tissues
kits were available as were Cleveland as static display models. Many fuel-powered,
ready-to-fly models that pre-dated the Cox line used the Wen Mac .049 engines
with much-heralded "Rotomatic," "Cyclomatic," and "Flexomatic" starters, which were
variations on the simple spring type starter used by Cox. One particularly interesting
item is the "Remote Control Unit" that appeared in the 1958 Wards catalog for control
line airplanes. It allowed the pilot to operate controls from outside the flying
circle. I'm guessing no beginner ever got one of those to work - it was unlikely
enough that he would be successful holding the handle from inside the circle...
"A new gallery in the Smithsonian's National
Air and Space Museum devoted to the largest category of human activity in the air
- general aviation. Scheduled to open in 2022, the
Thomas W. Haas We All Fly gallery will help define the wide world of general
aviation and, through interactive exhibits and audiovisual displays, explore its
impact on everyday life and how it has influenced society. Most people experience
flight aboard airliners, and a great many have flown in military aircraft. General
aviation is everything else - private pilots who fly for fun and those who, like
Mock, set records; performers who fly aerobatics and compete in races; and professional
pilots who fly for all kinds of practical reasons other than fighting wars or moving
This short tongue-in-cheek article about
the use of salt mines in Communist countries like Romania for indoor free flight
contests was appeared in a 1963 issue of American Modeler magazine, at a time when
the Cold War was in full swing, your neighbor might have built a nuclear shelter
in his back yard, and kids practiced getting under their desks in the event of a
wave of incoming ICMBs tipped with MIRVs. In fact, the FAI world championships have
been held in Romanian salt mines a few times, and they will return there in 2014.
BTW, for those too young to remember, it used to be a common joke to talk about
sending someone to the Siberian salt mines as a form of punishment...
Here on page 541 of the Sears 1969 Christmas
Wish Book is a wide selection of
paraphernalia, including books, calendars, ribbons, coloring books, hand bags,
and Snoopy the Astronaut dolls. If you look for the authentic Astronaut Snoopy dolls
(item #4 in the photo) today on eBay, you'll find that they regularly sell for $250
or more. I've been a big Peanuts fan for all my life (more than 60 years, sigh),
and I have a few collectibles, but nothing worth much - a few old comic strip books,
and some glasses/mugs. I have all the fairly recent biographies on Charles Schulz,
which provide an interesting insight into his childhood, WWII Army years, and career
path from working as an art instructor up to his final years drawing Peanuts...
A little levity is good comic relief from
the burdens of the day. These half-dozen quips from a 1941 edition of Flying
Aces magazine are the perfect pick-me-up for an otherwise mundane day... as
well as for an otherwise good day! You will probably notice that the style of humor
is a different than what would be seen today. Other magazine of the era, like
The Saturday Evening Post, often contained short pieces interspersed throughout
the pages with similar odd-sounding poems and quips...
If the Standard Aircraft Company's model
Standard "J" looks a lot like the Curtiss JN−4 "Jenny," there's a good
reason - it was manufactured to supplement the Army's urgent need for trainer planes.
Its two-seater configuration provided the student-instructor accommodation not available
in the high-powered, single-seat fighter and patrol aircraft. The January 1955 issue
of Model Airplanes News magazine contained a two-page spread of some of the most
highly detailed line drawings you will find of the Standard "J," inked by Willis L.
Nye. Mr. Nye produced many such fine quality drawings for both model airplane
and professional aeronautical magazines...
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My father's side of the family hearkened
from the Buffalo, New York area, but we lived in Mayo, Maryland, where my mother's
family resided. Most summers my father's sister, Bonnie (my aunt) and her husband,
Brian (my uncle) would load my grandparents and another uncle or two into their
big cruiser and drive down for a week. It was always a great time. Every five years
or so, my parents braved a trip with my siblings and me up to Buffalo. I loved it
up there because of the cool weather. Sometime around 1972, we made the trek and
while there, in-between going to Niagara Falls, Crystal Beach, and other nearby
attractions, I built from a Comet kit the
Curtiss JN4-D Jenny
biplane shown below. My Uncle Brian cleared a spot in his basement for me to work.
I left it for him as a decoration. The years passed... and passed... and passed...
"James Meador, an independent researcher
at the California Institute of Technology, has found evidence that suggests the
11 ascent stage may still be orbiting the moon. He has written a paper outlining
his research and findings and has posted it on the arXiv preprint server. In 1969,
NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made history when they landed a craft
successfully on the moon. After more than 21 hours on the surface, the astronauts
blasted off the surface in a part of the Eagle lander called the ascent stage. They
soon thereafter rendezvoused with Michael Collins in the command module which carried
them back to Earth. Before departing for Earth, the ascent stage was jettisoned
into space - NASA engineers assumed that it would crash back to the moon's surface
sometime later. Meador reports that the ascent stage may not have crashed into the
moon after all and might, in fact, still be orbiting the moon..."
was scanned from the July 1968 American Aircraft Modeler magazine. Most building
tips are timeless. Even in this era of ready-to-fly (RTF), almost-ready-to-fly (ARF),
bind-and-fly (BAF), etc., there are still many modelers who build their own aircraft.
Nearly all top tier competition fliers build their own models, as do aficionados
of vintage (aka old-timer) models. Some guys just would rather build than buy a
pre-build airplane, whether from a kit or from plans. This month's building tips
include a method for making scale WWI machine guns, fabricating scale flat-head
rivets and screws, properly balancing an airplane, and a holding jig for use when
Here are some photos of very nicely built
Wakefield models from UK modeler Peter W. He is an active contester. Peter
originally contacted me ask to the Langley Mulvihill article and plans from the
July 1962 American Modeler magazine to be scanned and posted, which I did.
There is currently a big shift from internal
combustion engines to electric motors for powering model vehicles of all sorts -
airplanes, helicopters, boats, and cars - and of all control modes - autonomous
(free flight), radio control, and control-line. The state of motor and battery technology
has passed the point where the weight and thrust available with electric power meets
or exceeds that of engines for most applications. Costs are pretty much at parity
as well when you compare engine vs. motor and fuel vs. battery acquisition and cost
of ownership over the life of the power system. All sorts of useful
electronic peripheral equipment has been developed for use with electric motor
power: programmable electronic speed controllers, motor cutoffs based on altitude
and/or elapsed time for free flight, motor timer/speed controls for control line,
and even engine noise generators to give life-like sound to otherwise eerily quiet
war birds and commercial transports, to name a few. These devices had made the switch
to electric power nearly seamless for most flyers...
"Dope Can" was a monthly roundup
of aeromodeler news and views which ran in American Modeler magazine (which was
re-named American Aircraft Modeler in 1968). This March 1961 edition covered
a lot of ground, as did all Dope Can columns. A "Hummin' Boid" towline-launch R/C
glider with a 9-foot wingspan took the "My Favorite Model" photo prize for the month.
Well known in control line circles (pun intended) Hi Johnson has a new stunter design
he dubbed "Stunt Supreme." Then, there's the 0.006 cubic inch displacement
Hummingbird diesel engine - claims to be the world's smallest, and I believe it.
The Jacksonville "Prop Kickers," incredibly still in existence today, was endowed
with the "Club of the Month" honor. A big deal is made of the action photo on the
magazine cover. Remember that back in the day, there were no microprocessor-controlled,
auto-focusing, light-level-setting lenses and irises that could make a rank amateur's
photos look like a seasoned professional's, so a lot of planning and test runs were