My Modelling History


Like most boys I started ‘playing’ with small model airplanes at an early age,models similar to the rubber powered one (still available to day) shown opposite. I still do play with them occasionally but nowadays I make the excuse that's it's for the grandchildren!


They don't seem to fly as well as I remember, or is that just the rose tinted spectacles of nostalgia?


In 1962 at age 8, I got copy of “The Boys Own Book of Power Driven Models”. (They don’t make titles like that anymore – not p.c.!). This covered boats, cars, aircraft and various forms of propulsion, rubber, electric, steam, clockwork, jet, diesels and glow units.


Over the next few years, I worked my way through a number of projects in this book., like the totally barmy prop driven tether car shown left.


However, I was always attracted to aircraft rather than the other types.


Using this book, coupled with frequent visits to my local model shop in Addlestone I tried my hand at free flight, gliders and rubber power, and control line models.


I was a pretty good draughtsman and managed to design my own free-flight towline launch glider at the age of 12 or so. It was very successful, in fact so good that it picked up a thermal on its first flight and disappeared into a cloud never to be seen again!


I don’t have any photos from this early period but have cleaned a few examples from my books of that time to illustrate the type of equipment and models.

During this period obtained good grounding in model design. Also, an understanding of flight trimming and what makes a model fly. This is something that isn’t always appreciated these days.


At the time, I was flying free-flight at Chobham Common and that is when I first started to notice that some ‘lucky’ guys where using radio to control their models. The picture left is not untypical of what was around then (mid sixties) altough the picture is a bit earlier.


What really got me hooked on RC was when at the age of 13 a model show was held on the playing fields of my local college. That was in 1967, and it was the first "Symposium" concept of exhibition and display at Brooklands College organised by members of Esher & District Model Flying Club. That symposium eventually transmuted into the very popular event held annually at Sandown Race course.


I sneaked into the back and watched many types of model and wandered around the stands, and came back with grand ideas about what I could buy & fly!


Of course reality and the lack of pocket money curbed those plans but I did manage buy a ‘single channel’ system RCS system (left) and a Vernon Robot model (right). Thank goodness for paper rounds.


The Robot didn't last very long as I tried flying it from a small field near home. I quickly learned that even with radio control you still need a lot of space, and reverted to flying at Chobham Common again.


For those not old enough to remember ‘Single Channel’ radio control was confined to controlling  primarily one surface, normally rudder. There was one simple press button on the transmitter (see above) and you would press once for right rudder and twice for left rudder.


Something called an ‘escapement’ in the model converted this into a fixed rudder deflection. The escapement was normally driven by a wound length of rubber in the fuselage. This could be expanded to give ‘kick elevator’ (3 presses) and throttle cycling between fast to slow (4 presses) with a separate clockwork escapement..


Some of this can be seen in the typical installation photos (above right) taken from my copy of “Single Channel Radio Control” by RH Warring published in 1967.


The installation shown is in a model called 'Super 60',  60" span, hence the name, bigger brother to the Mini-Super shown left. I had a couple of versions of the Super 60, and it makes a great trainer even today.


Models then were really free-flight designs modified to accept the radio gear, and were ‘radio influenced’ rather controlled, especially if there was any sort of wind. I’ve spent many a happy hour trudging down wind to retrieve a model that was unable to make headway back to the take off point. (Honestly it was great fun.....)


You would trim the model for free-flight in a straight line, usually by hand launching it into a glide off a gentle slope. Once trimmed you would start the engine, hand launch it, and wait until it had reached a safe and comfortable height before attempting any radio control.


The radio systems where unreliable, and the airborne equipment heavy, by today’s standards. We didn’t have spot frequencies, which meant that only one person could fly at a time. A good days flying might be a couple of 10-minute flights!


After three years or so, I managed to buy a second-hand proportional system, three channels, Skyleader I think. I don’t remember much about it (I didn’t have it very long) except the servos were the size of half house bricks!


I put that into something called Tauri and flew that at Chobham for about a season. About this time 1971, I stopped flying as I was off to university .


In 1973-1974 or there about while still at uni in Southampton I had another go. I bought some new modern miniature gear (very much like today’s standard sized equipment) and the low wing model shown opposite. I can’t remember what this was called. I took this off to the old airfield at Beaulieu which has the luxury of a concrete apron (Chobham Common has no such things!).


The model took off and climbed out straight and level going like a good ‘un. Then I tentatively applied a touch of left to bring it around; and it immediately dove straight to the ground and was smashed into balsa splinters! At the time, I put it down to a twitchy model and lack of practise, but with hindsight (after the incident with X-fire) I wonder if I had the ailerons working the wrong way round.

More hair than I've got


I then built another Super 60 (left) which was flying well until I decided to make the wings into a 2-piece to ease transport. They then broke in half on the next flight!


Finally, I built another Tauri, seen on the stand (right) with a crowd of admirers (young lad in shorts is now a grey haired 39 year old and father of my grandchildren!).


Shortly after this I gave up again as money was needed for house purchase etc.

Less weight than I've got now!

1989 I decide to return full time to modelling after a 15 year lay off. I had climbed up the greasy pole of corporate employment, started and crashed my own business, loosing a bucket full of money in the process, and determined that I was going to get a better work/life balance, and that included modelling as a hobby.

I bought and constructed the Progress 40 shown opposite. I took it to Reading and District Model Aircraft Club site near the Thames, as a guy I was working with was a member there.

Lift off - at Chobham Common

I think Phil was a bit surprised when I told him that if he launched it I’d fly it (after 15 years off the sticks I was probably mad). However, I got away with it, and staggered it around the sky sort of under control and landed in one piece! Phil was only slightly less cob-smacked than I was.


After that, I returned briefly to Chobham Common for a couple of flights, as can be seen from the pictures opposite, of my Dad and me.

Can you see it son?

Shortly after that, I joined a small club North Hants Model Flying Association, and progressed up through various trainers, into WOT4s and low wing aerobatic models. I designed Tempus, and started an infrequent succession of publications in the modelling press.


I wound up on the committee of the NHMFA and we went through a succession of flying sites until we gave up the fight and joined a bigger club with more funds and muscle!


Oh and in about 2000 I eventually got my ‘A’ cert, and one day (maybe) I’ll have a go at the ‘B’. The models shown on the Model page span this last period, although they only represent about ¼ of the models I have built and flown in that time.

So that’s me, warts and all from age 8 to old grouchy. I still have loads of things I would like to try but time and money preclude.


In my opinion, this is a fantastic hobby as it covers such a vast span of possibilities. It is getting more difficult in some respects these days with less open space in the SE and more issues to address.


However, on the other hand we have so many more models available, from miniature indoor electrics, through helicopters and jet turbines, all of which were mere pipe dreams when I started.


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