The immediate problem with the new 'Spacebird' was that ever-present tendency of all my models of this time to turn tighter inside turns than outside. Things weren't helped by the weight of the model, but I was becoming more and more sure that the problem was related to the wing-mounted undercarriages that I strongly favoured. These produced such a big improvement in ground handling that I was totally hooked on the idea.
One other feature that I haven't mentioned before was the use of a castoring tailwheel. This idea originated with Lou McFarland's 'Ruffy' design. The original article mentioned the fact that it was possible to 'tow' the model along by the lines by simply walking away from it. I liked the sound of that and had to try it. My first 'Nobler' was an obvious choice because of the removeable U/C. By using a screwed brass bush (a common modelling item at one time) I had a tailwheel that was castoring and easily removeable.
All through the 60's, one of my trademarks was to start the flight with a one lap take-off (illegal today), and end it with a high speed one-lap-plus landing. This I could now top by walking the model back to the side of the circle! I should explain that pulling the model resulted in it castoring around so that the tail was pointing towards you so that you could tow it at an angle.
If it was windy, the model could build up a lot of speed and people would rush out to stop it. By relaxing the pull on the lines, the model would castor away from me and stop dead - to their amazement! One other advantage of this idea was that the model would also castor round into wind when parked on the ground and tend to stay put.
In those days there was a definite fashion for very tall tailwheels - something that I first saw at the '59 Criterium. This reduced the tendency to leap off the ground by lowering the ground angle. It also reduced bouncing on the landings for the same reason.
'Iroquois 5' was very successful during this time and I didn't need the 'Spacebird'. It was flown in just one contest in 1965 and not used again until 1967. Nonetheless, I wanted to persevere with the new model because it was so quiet. It also had other advantages. One was it's clean shape, which seemed to offset the weight and also helped in the square manoeuvres. Another advantage was that it didn't change its turning radius with changes in airspeed. In very windy conditions it would 'wind-up' to very high speeds without the manoeuvres becoming bigger.
My first essay into scale competition took place at this time (I built a Frog 150 powered 'Tipsy Junior' from the Aeromodeller plan in 1951 but it never flew in a competition). I had always had a liking for the Fokker DVII and obtained a Sterling kit for a C/L version. It was intended for a 0.29 engine and I used a Frog 500 borrowed from Barcley 'Bark' Pittaway, a fellow Wolves club member.
The model was covered with tissue and, actinng on the advice of another Wolves member, Stan Perry, doped and fuelproofed before colouring. The colour was then added using Humbrol matt enamel. The idea here was that the enamel was fuelproof as long as it was applied over a fuelproof surface. This worked well, despite running the motor on 20% nitro fuel. I also used a vented balloon tank, as invented by Mike Burch. The whole thing was finished off by a home-made silencer, bent up from thin aluminium sheet and enclosed in the cowling, using the scale outlet.
I did a lot of research on lozenge pattern fabric covering. I made a mask so that I could copy the repeating pattern onto the model, being careful to get the joints in the fabric in authentic places. The remainder of the scheme was based on an article in an early 'Flight' magazine, describing a captured full-size machine.
Note the vertically stacked leadouts.
With thin symmetrical wings, the model flew well. It was happy enough flying inverted but refused to bunt out of it, so I had to fly high and recover with a half loop. My first taste of scale judging came when a judge insisted that a DVII couldn't fly inverted, despite the fact that my documentation stated that the favourite form of attack was an inverted dive!
At the '66 Nats, friend Tony Day (no relation) was also flying a (larger) DVII, powered by a Taplin twin diesel. The model was inspired by a similar model built by Cesare Milani, a noted scale modeller. The matter of two entrants with the same surname flying two models of the same subject clearly confused the judges. Things didn't end there, because one of the judges was the said Cesare Milani, who clearly thought that Tony was flying his model (which he had sold).
Excerpts from my scrapbook tell all? Well, not quite because I flew
'Iroquois V' in the Gold Trophy, not the new Chief!
At this time there was a change in the scale rules requiring that you provide a photo of the original subject modelled. As I couldn't do this, I had to change the colour scheme. This wasn't a good idea and amounted to a disaster. Not only was the model a mess, but the weight increased from 20 ounces (the practical limit for Frog 500). The model was still flyable, but not in contests. Regrettably, I have no record/memory of what happened to it.
I had dabbled in radio control flying a couple of times by now. I had produced a 'Galloping Ghost' model which had only two flights due to the very early transistor receiver not being reliable. I also produced a couple of single channel models, both of which were eventually lost. One other thing they had in common is that they were both powered by a Holland 'Hornet'!
The bug had bitten though and I was intrigued by R/C pylon racing, which was becoming popular in the US. In early 1965 I bought a Citizenship anologue proportional outfit on hire purchase. This had two proportional channels, plus a progressive throttle control. All this for £125 plus HP costs. It's difficult to translate that into real terms today when a 5 channel digital set costs less in numerical terms.
This was installed in a Frog 'Jackdaw' in order to learn to fly. Power was originally the long-suffering Merco 35 from the 'Spacebird', but I soon bought a 'proper' R/C motor, an OS 40H. For the next year or so, the radio and motor were installed in a succession of models, all of which had a short life. In each case, the equipment was returned to the patched up 'Jackdaw'. This soon acquired a new, fully sheeted fuselage.
The wing section would not allow proper inverted flight and I crashed several times in the attempt. As a C/L flyer I would persevere until the model hit the ground inverted. I eventually got the message and started much higher so that I could recover with a half loop. The first attempt resulted in the wing folding and the model was then fitted with functional struts!
I produced a new model, a Veco 'Chief' with a wing-mounted U/C. I still had happy memories of my first 'Chief'. Early in it's life, this was flown into a tree! This was the result of using a very restrictive flying site. This seemed like a bad omen and the model was put aside while I concentrated on other things. The motor was a new OS 35S which handled well and would start inverted from cold.
My records show that I only competed in four stunt contests in 1966, probably due to my new interest. This does seem strange now as I flew in 11 contests in 1967, having flown in nine in 1965. There were, of course, far fewer contests then than there are now.
As a result of my efforts at the trials (see above) I was invited to be the line judge for the stunt event at the 1966 world C/L championships at Swinderby and spent a happy weekend with all my heroes without the responsibilty of having to fly. I also flew the 'Chief' during the evening and demonstrated my full power landings.
Sometime in 1966 I removed the spats from the 'Spacebird' and replaced them with dummy wheel covers made from tinplate. This produced a dramatic improvement in its flying characteristics and it became my number one model for 1967. The 'Iroquois' was now long in the tooth and its different control characteristics needed more practice than I was willing to do. An indication of the capabilities of the models at this time can be seen from the fact that the 'Iroquois' was fourth in the Gold Trophy in 1965 and third in '66, while the 'Spacebird' was sixth in 1967. This was the first time in 5 years that I had been out of the top four and only the second time in nine years.
Who the hell is that with my 'Shoestring'? ('RCM&E' cover) It was green, not yellow.
My radio flying had advanced to the point where I felt confident enough to embark on a Goldberg 'Shoestring' as my first pylon racer. This placed ninth in scale at the '67 Nats on only its third flight. That sounds good, but the next flight was its last! The culprit was a transmitter potentiometer. Easily fixed, but my confidence in the equipment was gone.
A mortal among gods. Yes, that WAS the famous 'Dauntless'.
I had read the series of construction articles on the 'Digitrio' radio in 'R/C Modeler' and decided this was the way to go. A man in Coventry (can't remember the name) was offering kits and I bought his transmitter circuit board kit. The official kits were by World Engines, who had a dealer in this country, one Mick Wilshere. I did a deal with Roland Scott, in Bolton, for kits for the remainder of the outfit, in exchange for my Citizenship. The transmitter case and sticks were obtained from Mick himself, our first meeting.
Entries at the '67 Team Trials.
Standing (L to R): Unknown (Thunderbird), Mick Mayne (two o/d's),
Mike Gagg (Chizler), Jim Mannal (Crusader) and Dave Day (Spacebird).
Kneeling: Steve Blake (Flitestreak and Crusader), Mick Reeves (Dictator) and Mick Harvey (o/d?).
I flew the 'Spacebird' at the '67 team trials for the 'Criterium'. Some people never learn. It was a three round contest with all three rounds to count. During my second round flight, flown in an overcast, I experienced severe static shocks down the lines and aborted the flight. No one believed me and I ended up in second place, despite having won the first and third rounds by a large margin. This was far from the end of the matter.
The very next meeting was the Woodford 'Stockport Express' Rally. On my first flight, I had a very rich run but decided that I could continue. The wingover never really looked to be on and the model hit the ground on slack lines, breaking the nose off. Not to be outdown, I returned to Birmingham to collect the 'Iroquois' and returned to Woodford to place fifth. Apart from the Gold Trophy, this was my lowest place of the year. Some part of me must have felt it was worth it!
I repaired the 'Spacebird' and it actually flew better. However, wingovers were never the same again, probably due to the increased weight, now around 60 ounces.
With the time passing, nothing had been heard about the 'Criterium of Europe' other than a provisional date and venue. In desperation, I travelled to the Old Warden scale meeting to see Ron Moulton, who was SMAE secretary. This was just two weeks before the date of the event and he told me that the date and venue were confirmed and I was in the team (I was still painfully aware of being dropped from the team for the previous event). He told me that I would receive a letter on Monday confirming all of this.
On the way back from Old Warden, the engine in my car expired. Actually, the centre main bearing disintegrated and I crept home with virtually no oil pressure. I did a quick bearing shell replacement job, but it needed rather more. By Wednesday morning, no letter had arrived so I decided that the car came first and embarked on a full engine rebuild. A letter actually arrived on Friday, by which time I had already written to say that I was not going.
In retrospect, it still seems incredible that any organisation can expect to tell you by letter that you will be representing them in a foreign country in rather less than a week. Almost as incredible as telling you that you won't be representing them when your arrangements are made. I resolved that I would never represent this country in an official international meeting again.
Late in the year, at the Wanstead C/L Rally, I was approached by Kevin Lindsey, who made some comment or other about "the ban". I had no idea what he was talking about. Later I learned (by letter, of course) that I had been banned from SMAE membership and competitions for the next five years. Clearly, those black marks had finally added up to a critical figure.
It's worth considering the full implications of this situation. I had been tried and convicted without even knowing about the fact and without any opportunity to say a word in my defense. As a competition flyer, my life had been taken away from me for the next five years. It also meant that I had no insurance cover for any type of model flying.