When we still lived in Ellicottville, NY, my father came home one night with five Guillow kits for us to build. It took me years to get through all five kits. They were stick-and tissue construction and had rubber-bands for power. When I was in grade school, Stu MacRoberts taught me how to fly control-line airplanes. His brother later got me a Galloping Ghost system. I did not have the skills necessary to make it work. The best flight any of my planes had with that system was when Greg Widger flew it. The plane circled three times before crashing. He said he never touched the controls.
These are the two Galloping Ghost planes that I built from Model Airplane Plans in 1966-67. I used my parents' Polaroid and did not do a sufficiently good job wiping the fixer chemical swab across the photos. I've kept them in a dictionary that I won in eighth grade for the last 34 years or so. I only had one set of wheels for the two planes. I lost them one night when I was trying to fly in a farmer's field. There's nothing I love better nowadays than to successfully find parts that have fallen off planes or planes that have fallen into the woods.
In May of 1995, Mark Kriz moved into Loyola Hall. I met him at lunch one day. He took me to his room to show me his collection of R/C airplanes. I borrowed a magazine. The next day I bought a kit; three weeks later, the plane flew. I've had more than a thousand flights since then. Some have been more successful than others!
This was Big Bird. It was a Sig LT-40. It started life with an Irvine .40. I messed up the plastic backplate and switched to a Royal .40. I broke that engine when I crashed on a cold day and went back to the Irvine. I also turned the engine sideways and put a new nose on the plane. I figured that I might as well get some extra fun out of the rebuild. The plane flew quite well. It had about a six-foot wingspan and was easy to see way up high.
|LT 40 kit||$85|
|Wing and Rotor||$50|
I had several minor crashes with Big Bird. The end came on a very nice summer day when I volunteered to let a young boy try his hand at flying. He did very, very well. He only made three or four mistakes. Trouble was, when he made a mistake, I neglected to climb back up to "three mistakes high." The last time he made a mistake, I did too. I double-clutched on the buddy switch and flew Big Bird into the ground at full speed. I was starting to do a post-crash assessment when the boy said to me, "That wing would sure look nice on my wall." I gave it to him as a souvenir. I've still got the other pieces in my closet. Some day, I'm going to sponsor a Trash or Treasure Night for my club. I figure that everyone should bring out their souvenirs, let other people take what they want, and then burn whatever's left over at the end of the evening.
I started building my second plane after I had only about forty flights on Big Bird. This was a Great Planes Fun One. I nicknamed it The Flying Brick because I built it way too heavy. This is a photo of it on the day of its first three flights.
The Brick didn't last long. I was not ready for a high-performance plane like this. After a few practice crashes, I demolished it totally at the 1996 Winterfest. I gave this plane a nose job from the very beginning. I'm still very pleased with the way it turned out.
My first hand-cut airplane since 1966 is the Sig Wonder pictured below. Mark Kriz, SJ, is on the left, I'm on the right, and the Wonder is at my feet. Mark built the jet and the biplane. This was a publicity photo for a graduation booklet. I usually don't go around in a silk scarf. The leather jackets are a gift to us from Regina Lea Utz.
I just recently crashed the Wonder by flying it with a radio system that I knew was not reliable. It won't take a lot of time or glue to put it back together, but it was still a pretty dumb maneuver.
The plane on the left is WallFlower. It's an UltraSport 40 that Mark gave me because it was not to his taste. I kept it hanging on the wall for over a year before I tried to fly it. I cartwheeled on an overshot landing--I was trying too hard to land gently--and cracked the wing retaining bolts. I didn't notice what had happened. I was able to take off and get up a few hundred feet in the air before I found out that the wing was no longer securely fastened to the fuselage. The wing came down very slowly and gently. The fuselage did not.
My second hand-cut kit was a replacement fuselage. It turned out surprisingly well. I took third place (out of five pilots) at the Marcellus Pattern Primer in 1999. I crashed on the fifth and final flight of the day, hurting the wing too badly to make it worthwhile to repair. Fortunately, Ron and Matt Black had a blue UltraSport wing that survived a hard landing, so the fuselage is still flying with them.
This is after rebuilding the fuselage and before the Pattern Primer crash. The yellow canopy is made from a pop bottle. George "Nitro" Barth did the cowl. The shirt is a gift from Regina Lea Utz, whose charity in this case far exceeded her taste in men's clothing. ;-)