Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Radio Control Years – Tales of an Ancient Modeler

As promised I am continuing my book report of the Norm Rosenstock autobiography when Norm starts flying radio control. In this time period the modeler pretty much built most of the radio equipment themselves. Both transmitter and receiver were vacuum tube technology which required lots of batteries to supply the vacuum tubes which employed a heating element inside. The equipment was not proportional, that is a control surface moved when a button was pushed but even more difficult was to turn opposite direction two button pushes were needed and you had to remember what control you gave last.  Power to move the control surface was twisted rubber driving an “escapement”. Only one plane at a time could fly because the radio equipment was not very selective.

Good Brothers Guff at AMA Museum

Guff Radio

Another AMA Museum Plane
Museum Radios

I have never flown an escapement single channel airplane but have flown a couple types of single channel systems, one was pulse proportional and the other was a fairly modern toy-type airplane, Micro Flyer that used two push buttons for rudder and speed control by push buttons. Pulse proportional did move in sync with the control stick but the actuator connected to the rudder was continuously moving from one direction to the other. Control was done by moving more in a direction while pulsing back and forth.  It is amazing how well you can fly with rudder only control with some practice and proper airplane trim.  With the Mattel pulse proportional radio I flew a Littliest Stick powered by a Cox .020 and even did loops.

My Mattel Pulse Proportional Radio

My first equipment was “reeds” equipment which is mentioned in the book.  Reeds equipment was not proportional and you could only give one command at a time but multiple control functions were available. The equipment was obsolete at the time but I was happy to start flying RC at 13 years old, not too long after that I had a World Engines Blue Max proportional radio. I did have one plane flyaway with the reeds equipment but it was found by a farmer who returned it, I have another blog post telling the story.

My Reeds System Transmitter

Reeds Receiver

Reeds Receiver

People are so spoiled today with the modern radio equipment that comes ready to use and so reliable. There can be something to be said for being forced to innovate. Norm found solutions for smaller transmitter antenna, not needing all the expensive batteries in the transmitter; he built his own receivers, and had very stable airplanes that flew with only rudder control.  The only thing I can relate to this was when my flying buddies and I first started flying electric RC indoors; the equipment was so basic at first but advanced amazingly fast.  This spirit of innovation is what has really made this country great but we tend to not appreciate all the advances sometimes. My father was pioneering in the design of farm machinery in the same time period that advances were being made in radio control.  

My First Proportional Radio

In one of the chapters in the book, Norm teams up with Bill Winter, everyone has heard of Bill no doubt; they are trying to set a RC duration record.  The airplane which is basically a free flight with rudder control powered with .09 diesel. As it is using an escapement powered by twisted rubber they want to use as few turns of the rubber as possible by using the rudder control as little as possible. So using multiple transmitters they fly upwind with first transmitter and pilot upwind takes control as the other transmitter is shut off, actually they were going to try with three transmitters. The furthest upwind pilot puts the plane in a gentle turn so it can circle downwind in free flight mode until it is over the downwind pilot, the process was repeated.

Details About the book: Tales of an Ancient Modeler
Paperback: 179 pages Publisher: N. Rosenstock; First edition (August 25, 1989)
Language: English ISBN-10: 093457510X ISBN-13: 978-0934575102

National Model Airplane Museum - Muncie Indiana


From the AMA Model Aviation Hall of Fame Check Out these Biographies Mentioned in the Book
https://www.modelaircraft.org/files/RosenstockNorm.pdf  Norman Rosenstock
https://www.modelaircraft.org/files/RaspanteJoe.pdf    Joe Raspante
https://www.modelaircraft.org/files/DavidsonLarry.pdf  Larry Davidson
https://www.modelaircraft.org/files/WinterWilliamBill.pdf  Bill Winter

Related Video
https://youtu.be/jduj1wkGFT0  Good Brothers Pioneers in Radio Controlled Model Aviation 
Very interesting video from the AMA 
https://youtu.be/FB4faISZJd8  Flying Single Channel Escapement RC 
https://youtu.be/Li1NWWwNXgM  Flying Single Channel with a superregen rx and escapement
https://youtu.be/a8D24IgUwZQ My Video Clip about the Micro Flyer

Related Blog Articles
First part of the book about free flight.


Bill Kuhl

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