Mid 1970's C/L Aerobatics
At some point in time, I am not sure when, I started to drift towards C/L, Maybe it was because I could fly models in a reasonably confined space hence not have to travel miles to flying sites, or I could get involved with C/L aerobatics seriously without a heavy outlay. The fact that 90% of the recipe for success was down to the pilots skill and not much related to money, also appealed.
Some of the reasons I settled on C/L aerobatics were, C/L team race, needs a reliable partner to either pit or pilot, C/L speed needs a lot of expertise and somewhere to practice where noise is not a problem, C/L carrier deck you need 'a deck,' C/L combat needs extremely fast reflexes which I don't possess, and C/L scale meticulous attention to detail, something else I'm lacking in.
Last but not least, there is something about flying the stunt schedule that gets it's hooks into you. On a calm day with the engine droning away (stunters in general don't need high reving engines) and everything running smoothly, the manoeuvres follow one another like some graceful ballet. There is a quiet satisfaction when the the engine stops on time and the plane finally glides in to a smooth landing. The whole experience is like some meditative ritual, from picking up the handle in the line park and walking out the model, until putting it down again at the end of the flight. But that was all to come.
Around this time, a simplified version of the full schedule, in the form of a novice aerobatics schedule was introduced by the SMAE (Society of Model Aeronautical Engineers, ruling body over matters model aircraft in the UK). I decided to have a go and bought a new Fox35 glow engine, diesels are not really suited to this sort of pattern flying, or it may be truer to say they need a quite different approach. The Americans had introduced everyone to the glow engine that would fourstroke in level flight and switch to a twostroking in manoeuvres, giving an almost automatic throttle control without one. The model above is a Veron Cobra was built to get a feel for the engine, and iron out any problems with the fuel system before building anything serious.
As things turned out, the 1976 national championships arrived with me still not a having gained confidence with the new engine, or flying over concrete. So I entered with a PAW2.5 diesel powered profile model. The picture on the right, is me just giving the start signal to. I'm very grateful to whoever took the picture.
I'm going to digress for a moment, as PAW engines need a special mention. Progress Aero Works have been making well built, tough, almost indestructible engines for decades. They must have introduced thousands to newcomers to hectic combat circles where I have seen them hit the ground with such force and buried so deep in the ground, that a normally indestructible nylon propeller would have it's blades bent back parallel with the crankcase. After digging out the muck from the engine orifices and bending the blades back into something resembling a normal shape, one flick would usually have the engine singing again (I have even seen the same sort of thing happen on tarmac). There have been better, more powerful, more expensive engines, Oliver Tigers for example; but not much can beat a PAW for lots of serviceable fun at a reasonable price. I recently found out that PAW they are still in business, a great testament to a humble design that has grown quite sophisticated, and stood the onslaught of very good glow engines from Japan and round the world over the years. And long may they continue to do so.
Back to the competition. I was as nervous as hell and managed to over compress the engine on a very hot day. The engine stalled half way through the schedule and I ended up doing an ignominious, but gentle, upside down landing on the concrete. The judges where gentlemen however, and in spite of me thinking that was it, indicated that I could restart. A very kind gesture to a rank novice.
All I can remember of the flight was making all my manoeuvre pull outs very high, because of the constant thought, and somewhat nerve-wracking new experience of flying over very hard concrete. This can be seen from the picture on the left. I finished the schedule on a high, It didn't matter what the score was I had competed and finished in a national level competition, and boy! was I happy. It's very difficult to write down how that elation felt
There was no looking back now, and I was going to get serious.