Monday, December 11, 2017

Going Back in Time – Model Aviation

I have never thought of myself as a “luddite”, a person that fears technology, in fact I have been working with some of the fastest moving technology, computers for many years now. I have driven hybrid cars for the last several years. Building model airplanes from balsa no doubt would be considered a hobby from the past but it is what I enjoy. Free flight model airplanes are the oldest facet of the hobby and so far most of the free flight models are still built from balsa. For other types of model planes such as radio control slope gliders balsa isn’t ideal as it breaks too easily. High performance thermal sailplanes are now constructed from materials such as fiberglass, foam, carbon fiber, and Kevlar. I went along with this when I was flying RC hand launch gliders but the idea of paying over $300 for a model airplane kit is just something I have not justified.

Evening Flying of Sniffer Free Flight
Very Functional Balsa Structure

Foam and Strapping Tape Makes for a Rugged RC Slope Glider
Modern Thermal Soaring RC Sailplane - a little spendy
My desire to build some of the older free flight models I think is partially because I feel like I missed out on free flight when I was younger flying control line and radio control models instead. Recently I built and flew a control line model although it was powered with an electric motor. Some of the free flight models I am building are from a time way before I was born however, such as the Flying Aces Moth rubber model I am building, a design from the 1920’s.  The other day I ran across videos on the Internet from people who tried to live their life in another time period by furnishing their home and wearing clothes from another time period, I doubt I will go that extreme.

Flying Aces Moth
Control Line Built This Year

Several months ago I reread a book about a modeler growing up in New York and riding the subway with large gasoline powered free flight models to fly in a park. I wrote a blog post on the book, Tales of an Ancient Modeler by Norman Rosenstock. I am now currently rereading the book by Dave Thornburg, Do You Speak Model Airplane.  Although the equipment and materials available then was nothing like we have now, the interest level in model aviation was unbelievably high back then.  Another book I just purchased, The Fascination of Flight the story of famous modeler Hank Cole I will be reading soon.

Kits and Engine for Winter Build

This past year I had great fun in flying the older designs I had built a Jetstream towline glider, Wilbur rubber model, Sniffer, and Basic Yeller PeeWee 30 model powered by a Cox PeeWee .020. For next year I am building additional glow powered models. I have obtained a couple of older glow engines a K&B .049 and K&B .19 Greenhead. In flying e20 and e36 electric free flight models I have found electric power works really well but yet I have this desire to work with the noisy and messy glow engines again. 

Basic Yeller Structure

I plan to write more blog articles about what I find most interesting in the books I am reading on model aviation history. 

Bill Kuhl

Related Links    Hank Cole story


  1. I've thought about trying cox .049 model airplanes again but living in a city I fly at local parks and schools, and I wonder if I would have any problems with complaints of the noise they make.

  2. I wonder that too. People were more tolerant when I was a kid.