From time to time, I may be featuring guest posts on FlyBoyz. These would be posts from member (registered) FlyBoyz that evoke the spirit of what I envision FlyBoyz to be all about – sharing our love of aviation with like-minded aviators. FlyBoyz Steve Dwyer submitted this post and it fits the criteria! As a note, I find it VERY interesting that Steve’s rekindled interest in modeling started last January, which is exactly when my interest was rekindled (as posted on the ‘ABOUT‘ page). There must have been something in the air that month! Enjoy Steve’s post and feel free to comment.
Old Time Control Line Building
For you RC modelers, ¼ scalers or guys who never had any interest in building and flying models you might find this a bit boring but otherwise it might bring back those early memories and nostalgia especially for those who started their aviation passion with control line model flying like me.
This story starts on a January 2013 evening while the snow was blowing outdoors and I was on line looking at some old control line U tube videos and came across one entitled “Gramps Flying His Control Line Plane”. As I watched it occurred to me there was something very familiar about the model that Flick (Gramps) and his grandson were trying to start. The video is humorous, it is a real beat up plane that Flick built 50+ years earlier and it sports the same colors and scheme I used on a plane I first built. I then realized this was the first model I had built when I was 12 years old. Flick appeared to be my age (of course a little older) so it began to add up and I confirmed this was the same plane especially since it had a unique engine mount, a solid wing and was built like a tank I never forgot. Even thou I had never lost the memories of those early moments building this plane, I could never recall what model the plane was or the kit manufacturer. This was becoming exciting so I tried with no avail to contact the Grandson who filmed the event. I reached out to a model builder’s site and received several suggestions after recommending they view the video but nothing appeared to be the match. Then finally, I received a photo of a Guillows Basic Profile Trainer 3. It turned out Guillows made three trainer versions starting with a small ½A size up to a 36” span size having the capacity of a .35 size engine. The kit I built was the larger but I used a Fox .15 engine, which I still had, in the bottom of a box of junk.
Intrigued by all this, I found a site, which has a library of plans for just about every control line kit or scratch built plane ever designed. With little effort, I located the plans and received an email attachment which I disk drive copied and then traveled to a print shop to make the blue print. It occurred to me that I was now looking at the same plan that I first looked at over 50 years earlier. The nostalgia was really taking hold. I tacked the plans on the wall above the same work bench where a series of Vans RV 9A plans had hung 10 years earlier. For those not aware, Van’s is an experimental aircraft company, which I decided to build a Van’s RV-9A sport plane 10 years earlier.
Back to the Guillows plans, what do I want to do now? For several weeks after passing by the plans, I decided to take the next step. I contacted Sig Balsa and called my son Matt to see if he had any maple hardwood he could mill for me in his wood working shop for the engine mount. Model building is like riding a bike, you never forget the basics. I was now looking for a bell crank, lead out wires, a fuel tank, those little Perfect Brand wheels, even the little wheel locking collars. As a kid it seemed everyone in our neighborhood built model airplanes and we all went to a hobby shop that required a bus ride to the next town. It was called the Palace Hobby Shop because it was next door to the Palace Theater; it had everything, a trip to the hobby shop was like a trip to the candy store. I needed a hobby shop so I started my search locally. I quickly discovered most of the old control line parts I required were almost nonexistent. This was disappointing. The local shops had long since discontinued carrying any gas engines and had converted to electric motors on a limited basis. The old style hobby shop was no longer, even model railroad interest was waning to the now more popular RC plastic cars which come pre-assembled and all you have to do is buy expensive replacement parts when you destroy your car crashing it into a wall or another car. The flying field had become a big room behind the hobby shop store where tons of topsoil has been brought in and contoured into a muddy racetrack.
After resuming my online search, I discovered there are sources for the model airplane enthusiast, even the old control line modeler. The trip to the hobby shop was now a digital excursion and I began wondering if as a kid I would have preferred the online experience to the visit to the ‘candy shop’. I’m very traditional old school and must admit I like the convenience but I’m glad I had the experience and nostalgia of the Palace Hobby Shop. For the next several weeks I placed orders, discovered that only substitutes were available for the various brands of glues, paints etc. that I recalled using 50 years earlier. As the materials arrived, I started tallying my accumulated cost to build the plane. I quickly realized building this plane was going to cost well over $100.00 without the motor and during my search I found my Guillows kit originally sold for $2.95 in 1959. It’s no wonder young kids today have little interest in model building.
So the process began, getting started was a lot like preparing to build the RV. I had to get my shop ready; this was a good excuse to re-organize everything. I placed a new luan plywood top on the workbench. It was now early February and I could look outdoors from the shop window to see the snow was still falling. Just like spending shop time with the RV, I was back but this time really back to the beginning. I wondered what room as a 12 year old my mother relegated to me to build my plane. I knew it’s wasn’t the bedroom because I shared it with my younger brother and there was little room for both of us. I concluded it was probably the dining room and that meant the work had to be picked up and relocated daily to allow the family’s use of the table.
The Trainer 3 started taking shape. I carved and shaped the wings and profile fuselage. Of course, I used all my expertise I’d honed building a real airplane. I was wondering about things like center of gravity, nose heavy, how much fuel I wanted on board, remember I was no longer 12 years old and flying in a circle may result in my passing out. Did I think about these points 50 years ago? I doubt it. I had to think about a paint scheme. The Guillows plans showed a two tone red and yellow scheme with a curved pattern on the wings and horizontal stabilizer. I recalled my scheme was much simpler, the wings were yellow and the fuselage was red. Interestingly, Flick used the same basic scheme as I had on his. As a 12 year old, the use of masking tape and stenciling was no doubt beyond myskills, yet later on I recalled using this technique as my skill level improved. Getting so involved with building the Trainer 3, it occurred to me that I had another control line model in the shop that I had acquired so I decided to restore it at the same time. Two years earlier while restoring a home in Auburn, the owner decided to toss out a plane his father built also 50 years earlier. This was a Ringmaster Junior and it had a much overpowered McCoy .35 engine on it. The owner lived in California and was tasked with returning back to the homestead to ready the estate for sale since his Dad had recently passed on. This was the same gentleman I received the photos taken at the Curtis Field in Hammondsport, NY by his father many years earlier during an antique aircraft fly in. I had given these photos to Bob Lyman club historian and some are now on the walls in the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) 486 Pilots Lounge in Fulton, NY.
Worked continued, evenings were consumed with the model building and I was very much enjoying myself. Actually, I looked forward each day to getting down to the workshop. Both planes were progressing along, the Ringmaster had covered wings and was in such bad shape I had to replace the tail section, motor mounts and fabricate landing gear it never had. I had materials left over from the Trainer so it worked out well. I purchased silk and clear butyrate dope to recover the wings. Both models have finally been painted. I told myself the paint wasn’t a health hazard but complaints were frequent about the strong unusual odor coming from the workshop down stairs. I don’t recall Mom ever complaining.
The old Fox .15 would not run as it lacked compression. Reluctantly, I sent it to Fox Manufacturing for a half price exchange but discovered the pistons are back ordered with no timetable on availability. I suspect it is a Chinese problem. I hope our positive relations continue at least until the pistons arrive. I was very disappointed that I was not able to have the original engine I used as a kid but Chuck Burtch EAA vice president came to the rescue. Chuck had an old Fox .15 that looked new; I have run the engine along with the old McCoy .35 and an old Torpedo .36 my Pastor Paul gave me. Pastor Paul is another former control line guy converted to radio control. Setting up an engine test stand was also a fun experience and I could spend time on this perhaps some other time. I will say I ruined a good pair of Jeans and received a nasty cut on the shin when the test stand took off and caught me. Utilizing my keen building skills, I fabricated aluminum interchange plates for both planes allowing the use of either the .15 or .35 size engines. This is especially for the Trainer if it turns out underpowered or tail heavy with the .15. Still more lingering concerns about aircraft weight and balance thanks to building a Vans Aircraft, but most people who know me know I am a worrier.
Both planes are now completed and during the restoration I also re-strung, using new .018 control line cables, my old Jim Walker U-REELY flying handle that I discovered in the junk box as well. Jim Walker designed this unique control handle in the early 50’s that enabled the pilot to reel the lines back in after flying without having to spool them for storage. Anyone that was anyone had to have a Jim Walker handle in those days.
I’ve not been alone in the building and restoring process of these planes. Mary’s 5 year old Grand Daughter, Mia followed the progress and often frequented the workshop bringing someone down to show off Pop’s airplanes. Mia is fully aware how an elevator works by pulling the lead out wires in and out. She continues to show an interest in aviation and wants to be part of the model flying experience. I have decided to name both planes after Mia and My Grandson Evan (Matt’s son) who is also a fledging pilot when he’s not enthralled with Spiderman. The first flights for both ships are scheduled this summer (date to be announced). The below photo shows the two 5 year olds holding their new aircraft. It’s been a fun winter tripping back into model building after so many years. Its now early April, the snow is gone, the lake has thawed and now I have to brush up my flying skills on both control line as well as staying current on the RV 9A. As for the Grand kids, who knows perhaps one of them will come away with a passion for aviation and that’s what this is really all about. How else will young people today experience the aviation passion we did building models unless we make the effort to show them?
The Evan and Mia Flyers
(Click on the photo to get a large image with higher resolution)