Shortly after my move to Watford, I received a 'phone call from Sean Bannister, the gist of which was that he and Phil Greeno had voted me into membership of the North London R/C Club. The opening remark went something like, "You did want to be a member of the North London club didn't you? Let them have your subs if you do". The club had its own flying field at Baldock, which solved one problem. It was some 30 miles from Watford but, in Birmingham, I had a choice of two fields at 30 and 50 miles distance.
After the Aerolympics, It took quite a while for my back to return to normal, although the heat of New Jersey had certainly helped. I had already flown the 'Spacebird' in the Wolves C/L fly-in and the Nats before the trip. That was the last of my C/L competitions for the year, but in the course of 1974 I flew in 14 other pylon race meetings. Prior to the Aerolympics I had written off 'FAIr Move 3' in a meeting at Swinderby. As numbers 4 and 5 survived the trip to Lakehurst, they became my regular fleet. It's worth pointing out here that Formula One pylon (Goodyear) was now dead in the UK.
My job with World Engines really was a gamble and it didn't pay off at all. As a result I became unemployed in early '75, but not before Mick Wilshere had taken me to the Nuremberg Toy Fair. I looked forward to attending this famous gathering but had second thoughts when I saw we were to travel in a Boeing 720B of Monarch Air Lines. I managed to overcome my reluctance but the trip back made me wonder if I had made a wise choice. I heard one engine shut down and the remainder of the flight had strong turbulence, obviously caused by the aircraft being out of trim. On landing, we were all shepherded out of one side of the aircraft. I ducked under the nose and saw groundcrew in the process of removing the oil-streaked cowl of the inner engine on the other side! Unfortunately, loss of job meant loss of 'Lark' helicopter too.
I tried to survive for a while on R/C servicing and making monitors for the 27 Mhz band. I made the mistake of mixing a business partnership with a personal relationship, which rarely works. In late '75 I returned to my former employer in Birmingham as a commissioning engineer. This entailed a lot of miles (sometimes as much as 1,000 miles a week - all in my car as previously). This, plus my attempts to continue the relationship led to the collapse of both and I was out of work again.
Thus, between 1975 and 1977, I only flew in a total of 5 stunt events, all with the aging 'Spacebird'. I can't explain my reluctance to build a new model at this time. I certainly had the time. I also had a good stock of wood, so expence was not a factor. This lay-off from regular stunt competition had long lasting results from which I never recovered. Eventually, in 1978 I built a new 'Nobler' (my fifth) which was film covered and had a wing-mounted undercarriage. The most obvious name for it was 'Nobler Still'. It only flew in one event that year - the Nats - where it placed sixteenth. I had powered it with my 'old faithful' OS35 Max-1. Unfortunately, it was more 'old' than 'faithful'. It had been thumped into tarmac too many times and overheated due to distortion. At least, that's what I thought at the time but I've realised since that most of my models of this period had poor cooling, particularly in terms of air outlet. It's amazing how many people still think that bad cooling or lubrication is a 'tank' problem.
In 1976 I joined a party arranged by Glen Alison for a trip to the C/L World Championships at Utrecht. I plan to do a separate write-up on this to include all my pictures. A link will appear here when it is done. A minor glitch was that I couldn't find my passport and had to obtain one before boarding the boat, which meant I had to catch the following boat.
My pylon activities continued with the two surviving FAIr Move's. The FAI event was the only serious pylon contest left, although the new Club Twenty class had appeared and was evolving into a popular event. I dabbled, with a modified US kit of the 'Miss Dara' racer intended for the Quarter Midget class, but it didn't grab me.
In 1977 I did several kit reviews for 'Aeromodeller'. These included two Sig rubber powered scale kits, the 'Mister Mulligan' and the 'Monocoupe', both of which I converted to Co2 power. Both flew well and the 'Monocoupe' outlasted three Telco motors.
At the Aerolympics in 1974 I acquired a copy of a magazine article describing a method of adding doors to close off a retracting undercarriage and driving the whole system from one servo. I rather liked the idea, more so since I had never built a model with retracting U/C. In 1978 I built a 'Manneater' incorporating this system.
The 'Manneater' was designed by Phil Greeno to beat Alan Mann. It appeared in 'RCM&E' as a construction article. Terry Gane produced a kit using a glassfibre fuselage and foam wing. I obtained one of the fuselages and built my own wing.
I used Goldberg retracts and made a set of legs tailored to the model. The system worked well and gave a completely smooth lower wing surface with no openings. However, in the air, one of the doors remained slightly open. This was a pressure problem and - if the model had lasted longer - could probably have been fixed with a vent in the top of the wing.
Power was provided by a K&B 40 with tuned pipe. I used several of these motors during the pipe era but all eventually sufferred from cracked pistons. Obviously, I should have lowered the compression for piped use.
The model was lost due to flying in the rain. The transmitter quit and I was left with nothing. I was using a World Engines 'Pylon Midget' transmitter. All of the WE transmitters had been criticised in the press for not working in cold/wet conditions, due to having an untuned oscillator. Mick Wilshere simply refused to acknowledge the problem and wanted no part of the responsibility for mine on the basis that "I had modified it". Well I did modify it from then on.
There was also a long-running problem with WE receivers. This was a down elevator glitch caused by one particular component in the receiver. I fixed the problem for several people. However, I had one customer who would take the receiver back to Mick - without having flown it - and complain of glitching. Mick would open it, announce that "someone has been playing with this" - and change it back!
I never assessed the full potential of the model, but it was noticeably faster exiting the turns, presumably due to the cleaner wing.
For 1978 I changed the motor in 'Nobler Still' to an ST 35. This was an R/C motor with the carburretor removed. It was originally designed as a combet motor with a flat-topped piston and a squish band cylinder head. It has since become known as the ST 35C. It was flown in 10 events that year and finished tenth in the Gold Trophy.
I was still flying in Class 2 scale events with the Stearman and competed in the Class 2 event supporting the R/C Scale World Championships and C/L World Championships at Woodvale in 1978. Qualification to enter was based on the result of the Nats event. Having stumped up the substantial entry fee and made my way there in a borrowed car (with a rented tent), I made two flights in the pouring rain only to discover that we were there purely to entertain the non-existent crowd. More so, only those who had placed in the first three at the Nats were eligible for an award (I was fourth, behind three Class 1 models). The logic was that the first three were the 'official' British team - this being an open international meeting. Maybe someone should have told us this before the event! I had to refer to my records to find I placed eighteenth. It's worth repeating here that I was the top Class 2 qualifier in the Nats Class 2 event.
That was effectively the end of my R/C scale flying. The event was always far too open to differing interpretations of what constituted a class 2 model and I was becoming increasingly fed up with finishing fourth behind the British scale team - all flying their Class 1 models. I was not alone in this and the event eventually collapsed. At least it wasn't my fault this time! I had been repeatedly approached for some time by the owner of a local model shop who wanted to buy the Stearman so I sold it and used some of the cash to finance my second 'Lark' helicopter.
At least, this one had the more practical HB 25 helicopter engine. This is no criticism of the ST G21/23 in my original model, which was never intended to be a heli engine. I learned later that Mick's son Dave used the model - and that engine - to learn to fly heli's. Maybe I was the loser here.
I never really got to grips with the model. For one thing, there were no gyros in those days. Also I would struggle to hover until I was in trouble and then attempt to recover by pushing the model off into forward flight. I was merely making matters worse because the hardest part of learning to fly helis is getting from forward flight back into the hover. Add to that the fact that all helis show a trim change between the two states and most early helis had large trim changes. The 'Lark' in forward flight would show a distinct tendency to yaw to the right. My well-established fixed-wing reflexes wanted to turn left. Turning left while yawing right equals reverse into ground. It took me three years to learn to hover!
During all of this period, the FAI pylon event was 'Provisional', meaning in effect that the rules had full FAI status but there was no recognised world championship. When the FAI formed a Technical Committee for this event, I was invited to join by the then chairman, Hal DeBolt. By joining the SMAE R/C Power Technical Committee I was able to travel to the annual FAI CIAM meetings in Paris. I should point out that we only received nominal expenses for this. However, by travelling overnight via boatrain, finding 'digs' for one night in Paris and travelling back over the following night it was almost possible. Nontheless, I did just that for nine years!
On one occasion I was closely interrogated by a man with an Irish accent at about 1am. Having established our relative standings, we wished each other luck and went our separate ways.
In late 1978, after nearly three years of struggling to make a self-employed living I noticed, by sheer chance, an advert in the local paper for electronic service engineers. I applied and got the job. I can't really add any more, except that it involved signing the Official Secrets Act. The problem was that it was incredibly boring.
In late 1979 an advert appeared in 'Aeromodeller' for an editor. I applied and attended an interview with Ron Moulton who explained that the position was filled because 'Model Maker' magazine had ceased publication, leaving them with a spare editor, Colin Rattray, who was to take over 'Aeromodeller'. However, there was a job open at 'RCM&E'. Ron explained that he would make this associate editor, not assistant editor and made me a salary offer.
Weeks passed, during which I left the other boring job. Having heard nothing I went into the MAP offices immediately before Christmas to enquire the position. After discussion with Tony Dowdeswell and Bill Burkinshaw ('RCM&E' editor), Tony went into Ron's office and came out with the news that I had the job of assistant editor at a reduced salary! After protesting and further discussion, I got the promised salary, but I was still assistant editor. I'm sure this affected my salary prospects for some considerable time to come, but it wasn't really the point.
At least, 1980 looked interesting.