The early sixties became a period of establishing myself as a part of the British stunt scene and I travelled to every meeting that I could. The 'Chief' and 'Bluebird' were supplemented by another O/D model which I called 'Pedagogue'. This was actually the third in the 'Iroquois' series but had square tips and a fuselage rather more like the 'Chief'. It had an upright motor (the Merco and later the OS) but had a dummy air intake below the nose. It was the first stunt model that I built with a wing-mounted undercarriage. I considered this to be a great success, although the wire used was too thin and would oscillate backwards and forwards in a 'wheely' landing.
Pedagogue 3. The tiny model is Frank
It was finished in plain black with 'Wolves' in large dayglo orange letters on the underside. Memory says that it was quite a good model, but it never seemed to get the same scores that the other two did, so it was not used a lot, although it placed sixth in the '61 Gold Trophy.
One other consequence of having a means of transport was that I involved myself in the running of the Midland Area and became Area Delegate. This involved monthly trips down to Londonderry House for SMAE Council Meetings presided over by the late Alex Houlberg. The secretary at this time was C S Rushbrook (Rushy).
Late in 1961 I built my first 'Nobler'. When Brian Horrocks built one to take to the 1960 world championships, he told me that it was a model that suited someone who didn't practice a lot (I never did) and he gave me a copy of the plan. This is what has now become known as the 'green box Nobler', though the term was meaningless at the time because it was the only one. With that reliable OS, and painted in my favourite US Navy colours, it became an instant success. Like most such models, it had a short life!
It was built mainly to be flown in the 1961 'Criterium of Europe' and had a removeable undercarriage. The logic here was that it made it easier to be carried on an airline flight - I still remembered a cramped flight in 1960! The joke was that I was immediately descended on by the cabin staff who allowed me to place it in the cloaks cabinet.
I made the trip that year in company with Dennis and Dave Nixon and Dave's T/R pilot Mick Campbell. We had arranged to pick up a hired Volkswagen minibus at Brussells airport. As I had been there before, I was elected to drive. This was the first time I had driven a vehicle of that size, the first time I had driven a vehicle without a bonnet and the first time I had driven on the right. Straight out into the Brussells rush hour...
The 'Nobler' was completely trouble free, but only managed 26th place. Maybe the pilot had something to do with it. Actually, the model only managed four other contests, two wins and two seconds, so it can't have been to blame.
The '61 Criterium did have one highlight. I've mentioned my practice of landing the model under full power and rolling the wheels on the floor. I got the idea from seeing Don Still do this at the 1960 world championships. Don's model (his famous 'Stuka') had the undercarriage mounted on the fuselage which makes things difficult. I discovered that a wing-mounted U/C in the right position made things much easier.
After the contest at the Criterium, there was a session where several of the flyers were flying each others models. Louis Grondal was flying the O/D model (with wing-mounted U/C) which has since become known as the 'Grondal Nobler', although there is virtually no resemblance to a 'Nobler' at all. He let Juri Sirotkin fly it and motioned to him to roll the wheels on the ground.
He then flew Sirotkin's model, which had the U/C on the fuselage, and was persuaded to do the same. I approached Juri, who I knew quite well by now, and made motions to suggest that I would like to fly the model too. He looked at the Russian team manager, who nodded! I then found myself with a handle in my hand and Juri starting the motor.
Juri Sirotkins model which I flew after the '61 Criterium of Europe.
The model was the last of the 'Mockba' (Moscow) series and had a deep bellied fuselage with no cockpit. It was the immediate predecessor of the 'Spacehound'. The motor was the MVVS 35 stunt motor, developed from the 29 racing motor with a rear intake. It was run on a 10x4 prop at quite high revs. The model probably weighed no more than 30 ounces or so and flew like nothing else that I had flown to that point.
It was very light on the lines and flew quite slowly. In level flight it felt almost sluggish, but turned very tight when you really moved the handle. The motor had been set very rich (I assume deliberately to limit what I could do/attempt with it), but leaned out towards the end of the flight. I immediately began to throw the model about and there was a shout (almost a scream) from outside the circle. I immediately levelled out and the motor stopped dead. An international incident was averted, but I'm not sure whether I was ever forgiven.
What I had forgotten for the moment was that the model had a balloon tank and leaning out was the warning that it was about to stop. I had taken some note of Juri's starting procedure, so I did know the situation. He would introduce a pipe into the motors intake from a squeeze bottle and repeatedly flick the motor over while gently squeezing the bottle. At some point the motor would feel right and he would fill the tank and attach it to the motor. A pair of surgical clamps (hemostat?) sealed off the fuel line.
When he came to fly, the motor would be started with the clamp still in position and it would be removed as soon as the motor fired. I never once saw this system fail him.
Only a handful of these motors were produced. Another who used one was Josef Gabris, of Czechoslovakia (actually, he was from Bratislava, which was proudly displayed on his models) who was world champion in 1964 and 66. He used a conventional tank and a 10x6 prop and flew quite fast.
The Nobler was written off in a particularly stupid manner at the 1962 Wanstead Rally. It was a very windy day and I was lying second to (Doctor) Mike Hawkins after the first round. Not to be outdone, I decided to fly in the second round, although the wind was steadily increasing and no-one else wanted to. I've since won many contests that way. This time, the wind proved too much...
At the time, and long afterwards, I blamed that aerodynamic fin on the 'Nobler' and didn't use one like that again for a long time. I liked the rest of the model so much that I started on a replacement almost immediately using as much as possible from the old one - something I have made a habit of ever since. This one had a separate offset rudder! It was decorated in the later dark blue US Navy colours.
At the first contest that I attended with this model, the elevator pushrod detached itself at the bottom of a square bunt and the model skated to a stop on the ground (grass) completely undamaged. At the time I considered this to be a good omen, but read on.
There were two team trial meetings in 1962 - the usual practice at that time. I used the 'Bluebird' and 'Pedagogue' and placed fourth in each, making me the team reserve. I had already committed myself to judge the Gold Trophy, so I missed the two biggest meetings of the year. The offer to judge was the result of my attending council meetings. I thought it was a good idea at the time and that I could learn from it. The results were to be far-reaching.
My fellow judge was Pete Russell. Pete and I had rather different views on just how the schedule should be performed and had very different views on who was the best flyer. Pete was overwhelmingly in favour of Geoff Higgs, who flew very large, smooth, manoeuvres (80 degree loops), with an O/D model. I was very much taken with the flying of 'Jeep' Newman, an American serviceman flying two examples of Bill Werwage's 'Ares' from the Ambroid kit. His flying was the exact opposite, small and neat.
'Jeep' Newmans number one model.
'Jeep' had a party trick of flying numerous dead-stick loops after the motor cut (in calm air!), which I liked and Pete didn't!
The result of this difference of opinion was that Frank Warburton won. Frank was flying his original 'Tony' which was decorated in the full Japanese colour scheme. He thought that the SMAE number looked out of place on the top of the wing and put it on the bottom. Enter Tom Jolley with official protest (the story at the time was that Tom arrived at all meetings with protests ready written out) which left us no option but to disqualify Frank. He appealed against the decison and was reinstated some months later. Having rediscovered my colour pictures of this event I have produced a separate write-up here.
The highlight of '62 for me was being invited to attend a USAF control-line meeting at Lakenheath. This was a 400 mile round trip and by far the longest journey I had attempted till then. This was rather assisted by the fact that the stunt contest didn't start until 4 pm. Other British invitees were Frank Warburton and John Perry. This might well have been the only time that I beat Frank during this period, but he beat me by one point after I had the motor cut during the cloverleaf.
The CD for the stunt event was Keith Laumer (no longer with us). I knew the name, but was unaware at that time that he was in the process of establishing himself as a science fiction writer. A great pity, because I could have had a longer, more interesting, conversation than I did. His writing had a wry humour that I like very much.
The second 'Nobler' was becoming a favourite and established itself as a regular top two placer until the '63 Gold Trophy, where it placed fourth. There were rumblings in the SMAE council because it was thought that I should have judged and that judging the previous year had set a precedent. This was to run and run...
One reason why I was determined to fly was because I had produced a new model. Another was that the Gold was the qualification for the Criterium, which I wanted to attend. The new model was the fourth 'Iroquois', now back to the tubby fuselage and radial cowl, but with a 'Nobler' wing and tail for convenience, although it did have a wing-mounted undercarriage. The snag was that it didn't fly at all well, so I used the 'Nobler 2'.
It turned much tighter inside manoeuvres than outside and I convinced myself that this was due to the tubby fuselage. To check this, I pulled the fuselage apart and rebuilt it back into 'Nobler 3'. Guess what - no difference! I then attempted to rectify things by drastic trimming measures. Lot's of down flap around neutral was applied and this did soften the inside turns and sharpen the outside. It also made it fly markedly nose up when inverted.
I was steadily accumulating black marks.