Radio Control Early 1960's


This photograph which I took with a Kodak Brownie 127 camera, is not only
interesting from a historic point of view, but just about sums up what radio control
flying was about in the early 1960's.

dad mercury matador Just to show that I am not anti Radio Control, these are some images of the early days of the hobby when R/C was just becoming a practical reality. If you wanted it, you had to build it yourself. The first receivers I can remember my father building, had two valves, valve high tension and heater batteries, plus a relay to operate the rubber powered escapement that controlled the rudder; and all this did was give a full left, full right, neutral, control over the model. The picture on the left is the that actual model, a Matador, much modified, over weight and underpowered by a small diesel, it needed a good run and heave to get it airborn, it's amazing it flew at all.

cam iconYou can see a short video clip of those actual days at Braunstone Aeromdrome and elsehwhere, here. The end of the first clip is my father flying the original red extended wing Matador with a Hill two valve receiver.

Building on the lessons and failures learned from my fathers experiences, the model on the right is my much modified adaptation of a Mercury Matador kit complete with tricycle undercarriage, a Fox15 glow engine for power, and for people that can remember that far back, a home built Terrytone transistor receiver, featured in the Radio Control Models And Electronics Magazine of the time, a single valve transmitter built into an OXO tin, and a Fred Rising rubber powered escapement to operate the rudder. It was a very successful combination and made many successful flights.

It's probably been forgotten these days, how much it is actually possible to do with a just control over the rudder. With the right design of model and the know-how, it's possible to control the altitude of the model quite precisely, also perform simple aerobatics like loops and barrel rolls, and even inverted flight is possible for limited periods. Over exuberance or radio failure, which was quite common in those days, would result in scenes depicted on the left, also a Matador. Believe it or not, damage like this would be repaired ready for the next weekends flying. damage

To my surprise the Matador model is still available from Ben Buckle Kits , where you can see it as it was originally conceived.

This site is a real nostalgia trip if you are interested in vintage designs. Proof if needed that you can't keep a good model down. I noticed the KK-Super 60 is still available on that site, which was another popular model of the time suitable for conversion to R/C

RC wing During this period there seemed to be a lot of experimentation with model designs as illustrated right.

Various ideas were also used to used to produce some form of proportional control. The simplest was an electric motor that when activated would wind the control surface from one extreme to the other. Neutral was achieved by pulsing the transmitter button manually, fast for one side, slow for, the other, in between for neutral. This system was automated at some point and it was possible by an ingenious rudder and elevator linkage to get elevator control as well. In a way this was the father of modern model control systems.

RC stunt The models on the left were the epitome of a competition R/C aerobatics model of mid sixties period. These were a brace of models built by the Franklin brothers. They used reed recievers which where tuned to differentiate between different audio frequencies, thus allowing controll over lots of different channels, still not proportional though.

Geoff had inherited a bicycle shop in Jarrom Street, Leicester, UK, from his father which he had rapidly turned into a model shop, It was more like a club house at times with people gathering there and talking about R/C models. Mo Franklin emigrated to the USA and worked for Orbit, the then de facto R/C gear manufacturer. And of course Geoff became the UK dealer, later he also cornered the market in Kraft R/C gear to. Geoff was also a FAI R/C aerobatics judge for many years

During this period I was also building freeflight and controlline models, but R/C had really taken over my attention at this point.

NOTE: All the pictures except the last one, where taken at Braunstome Aerodrome, Leicester, UK., where the LMAC (the Leicester Model Aero Club) flew reguarly, and which is still going strong today. Geoff Franklin also formed the LARKS (Leicester Area Radio Control Society) during this period. That to is still in existence but appears to be fully subscribed.