Up, Up, and Away – –

Jack makes it in time again – just – – –

I came across a photo recently that brought back many memories of one of my teenage passions.

I think I was first introduced to the magic of flying model planes by my Dad – he was recuperating from two broken ankles and built a model glider from a kit. Then a beloved woodwork teacher at the high school I attended started a model building after school club when I was about thirteen. He and some of his adult friends went on to establish Dunfermline model aircraft club and rented an old empty house in a village just outside town. I joined that and could go there any time to work on my models or just hang out with my pals. We also shared copies of two popular specialist magazines – Aeromodeller and Model Aircraft.

We lived on the edge of town with fields right behind the house where I could test fly my planes, but the club had permission to fly on farmland further away. So most weekends when the weather allowed I would walk the thirty minutes to the clubhouse and then a further thirty minutes to the flying site.

Most years a group of us would rent or borrow a van and drive to the Scottish and British championships, although we rarely won anything.

I was most interested in two specialist types of planes – competition free flight and ½ A team racing. Free flight involved the model corkscrewing up vertically under power for 15 seconds and then gliding for as long as possible in circles. You were allowed three flights and if any exceeded three minutes that was termed a ‘max’. All those that got a full set of maxes went on to the next round and so on until you had a winner.

But there was one member of the club who was a few years older than me that became a big influence on me. He introduced me to jazz music and he was snappy dresser, so of course I became a snappy dresser too! Ian wasn’t interested in free flight; his passion was team racing. This involved planes flying very fast (80 – 100 mph) in a circle aiming to be first to finish. They were ‘control line’ models (U control in the US), with the pilot in the middle of a 100 foot circle holding a U shaped handle with two thin wires attached to the plane which controls the up and down movement. The models have a specified size, engine capacity and fuel tank capacity. Up to four planes fly simultaneously with all the pilots entwined round each other in the middle. I was the ‘pitman’ and my job was to refuel the racer and restart the engine while dodging the other ones flying over my head.

I continued as a member of the club until I was about twenty and over time there began to be quite an overlap between models, jazz and eventually folk music.

That link eventually re-emerged when I was booked to sing at Dunfermline folksong club about twelve years ago. My old high school woodwork teacher, George Simpson, was in the audience!

Many years later and after I retired and moved to the US I revisited my teenage passion and discovered that electric motors had taken over as well as cheap and easy radio control. Much less messy and much less likelihood of losing models – or breaking a finger with a back-firing diesel engine!

2 thoughts on “Up, Up, and Away – –

  1. I used to fly ‘control line’ models (U control in the US), They were Testors Plastic models, I flew a P-40 Warhawk, P-51 Mustang, Supermarine Spitfire Mk I , & an Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero. These were already assembled & ready to fly, right out of the package, I loved doing “touch & go’s” (except the P-40 which has broken landing gear & was removed so someone had to catch it when it ran out of fuel, I think it flew faster too without the landing gear in my opinion)
    But I never knew of Control line models having diesel engines (Not doubting it) The ones we had, would have .049 Gas burning engines (the Gas was made for the specific type of engine.

    The one I really wanted to fly, Was the Cox Junkers JU-87 Stuka Dive Bomber, As it was really neat looking & really detailed too.

    Blue Skies.

  2. Hi Alex – For some reason all model plane engines in the UK back then were diesels. The only exception was for U control stunt models and they used large gas engines. I had a variety of diesels including the much sought after ‘Oliver Tiger’ 2.5 CC.

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