A Special Builder's Notes


The Special Builder's Breakfast Club

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03 February 2018

We Called An Attempt.

In the Olden Days, when model aircraft radio control systems were in their infancy,

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Pa was Secretary of the Royal Air Force Germany Model Aircraft Association (RAFGMAA).

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Under Pa's tutelage, my brother and I were keen competitors in the Single Channel Spot Landing Competitions. Filling the fuel tank with an amount of fuel that you guessed would place you up-wind and high enough for a couple of positioning circuits, you started up and launched your model into the air. When the engine stopped, deft use of the rudder control (1 push of the button on the transmitter for left and 2 for right) you guided the model in to land as near as possible to the pre-designated 'spot'. The rules accommodated for the best of three launches and, if you touched down a bit wide of the mark and felt you could do better, you called an 'attempt', and that launch would be discounted. My brother got rather good at this and would regularly beat all comers at the 'Champs' to carry home the prizes that Pa, in his capacity as Secretary, had selected from Herr Jansen's Modellbaugeschäft in Mönchengladbach

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We never had a spark ignition engine - I'm not sure why - E.D.'s and Mills engines powered all our models until the Japanese O.S. engines became available (I think one of the very small ones was a prize once). The E.D. pictured here was used and abused for many years before being sectioned in the Station Workshops at R.A.F. Bruggen in Germany.

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My brother has a box of now vintage engines, he being more of an aeromodeller than me, though I seem to have ended up with the paperwork.

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We had over the years several radio systems, some of which were better than others. Starting out with the 'Galloping Ghost' escapements, we quickly progressed to the much more advanced Graupner sets that had proper servos - Bellamatic, Variomatic (I think) are names I recall. Simprop was our first 'proportional' system - how much you moved the joystick on the transmitter corresponded to the deflection of the control surface on the model - and was rightly considered a huge advance. Pa though, was always a 'rudder and throttle' man. He reluctantly added elevators in the late 70's but I don't remember him ever experimenting with ailerons. 'Keep it simple' (and light) was a sound philosophy and, against all odds, he managed to get a scale 56" wingspan Sopwith Camel flying perfectly reliably on rudder and throttle alone.

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A call to Norway for a quick magnetising job involved a 3:30am start (groan). My fellow magneteer and I arrived in Drammen to find snow piled 2ft high and temperatures promised to plummet overnight to about -16°. This cold snap wasn't expected by the cable manufacturer (or anyone else) so after a night in my favourite hotel in Drammen, The Clarion, where the food is first-rate and the beds very comfortable, we were sent back home, to touch down at a sunny Gatwick (+5°) by 2:00pm the following day.

That's what we call an attempt.

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