Waar is de tijd naartoe?
This year has been a real low point with my aeromodelling activities. I’ve flown twice and built one small model, which is still not finished… ?. On the plus side, I have managed to repair two damaged models, though. However, ultimately I’ve spent more time being penningmeester than pilot. I guess these years happen, but I really have no idea where all the time went.
Some of you know that my father died in July and his spirit has been hanging out in my hobby room since. Aeromodelling was his life long hobby and I grew up with it all around me. When I was a kid, my father’s garage was a treasure trove of model aviation, filled with old models, engines, castor oil, methanol, nitromethane and even a first generation, single channel, pulse control, valve transmitter. I loved digging around in the back, trying to figure what all that stuff was for.
Dad taught me all the basic aeromodelling skills, from how to work with balsa, glue, tissue and dope through to how to design a basic glider from scratch – Clark Y sections and all. When epoxy resin became available, Dad & I went through a couple of days of rapid design cycles, testing small, canard gliders of different configurations. We would figure out a basic design, make a small model out of sheet balsa, apply epoxy and then bake the model in the oven for an hour or so. We’d then hand launch the model, or catapult it to see roughly how it flew, experimenting with the relative size and position of the airfoils and the CG to see the effect on performance. Was a lot of fun and taught me a lot about canard designs.
In my early teenage, radio control equipment began to become affordable. Dad & I saved up money together and bought an early 2 channel proportional system. Dad chose to try it out in a Keil Kraft Elmira, high aspect ratio glider. The Elmira turned out to be a poor choice for a 2 channel glider, being fairly unstable along the roll axis and too difficult to turn with rudder alone. Basically it was a pig to fly, so we didn’t. We had to wait for a while until we could afford an new model – a Graupner Amigo – before we really got to enjoy radio controlled flying. The Amigo turned out to be a great model and we had endless hours flying it. Dad eventually trashed it after flying it into a mega-thermal in front of an oncoming thunderstorm, panicked and tried to force the thing down, ripping the wings off in the process.
On to University days and modelling for me was a great source of stress relief during exam time. In the 1st & 3rd year, I built a couple of models in the 3rd semester, providing necessary relief from quantum mechanics, electro-magnetism, divs, grads and curls, and all the other nightmare subjects of a Physics degree. In the 2nd year I built a radio controlled sail boat, for a change. All of this with support from Dad.
Once working life began I moved on from modelling, spending my time windsurfing and skiing, etc. But in some senses one never quite moves on entirely. My father remained an avid reader of all things aeromodelling and kept me in the loop. At some point 15 years later my interest was reignited and I started building and flying again, although now with Dad in a purely advisory roll. When I’m working on a model, I often find myself explaining what I’m doing to him. Until July, I could Facetime him when I wanted to talk in person. Since July, the conversations have to take place in my head. It’s one of the hardest things to get used to about losing him.
At some point in the near future I’ll have to go to the UK to clean out his workshop out and figure out what to do with all that stuff he’s got. The castor oil and nitro are long gone, but there are all kinds of diesel engines and other potentially useful modelling paraphernalia there, even a steam engine that a neighbour built. His lathe I already have, along with the last model that he started building – a 2m span Dynaflite Spitfire. The Spit is my next major project, when I can find the time.
So here’s hoping that next year will be a better one for my model flying and that I get the time to finish the Spit. Dad would have loved to see it fly.