A few Cox cars were fun, but they never made much of an expression on me.
At nineteen, I was visiting my best friend, Joe, after a bad motorcycle wreck. He was in his wheel chair with one leg sticking straight out in a cast. In his hands was an unfamiliar sight. It was the leading edge and ribs of a Voodoo .35 control liner he had decided to build in his down time. After about 20 minutes of checking it out, we where on our way to one of the local hobby shops to pick-up my first plane. My .049 Pussycat took shape as the two of us talked of his youthful days in the control line circle.
Before long they were both ready to fly. His Voodoo was set-up with bladder pressure and needed a competent pilot to put it through it’s paces. His leg was getting better, but not ready for the test flights. His flying buddy of days past accompanied us to the field. Dave was a little rusty, and had never flown such a performance beast. He mostly held level flight, and prodded by Joe, tried some maneuvers. Nothing against Dave, but he was not up to what that plane could handle. Next up was my Pussy cat. He kept it in level flight only, but it flew great. My turn at the controls netted some babbles, but I started to get the hang of it right away. On to inverted flight, same thing, some mistakes, but I was loving it. I was becoming an acrobatic pilot.
That was the beginning of a love affair with model airplanes. I went on to build and fly some great, fast, and aerobatic control liners. Some, I still have and fly occasionally. I built some free flighters too. About a year after my first plane, one friend, (John), started talking about his attempts at R/C. He still had the radio, and wanted to try it again. Off to the hobby shop. We went in halves on the first of four Quickee 200s I have owned (I still have the last one and think often about converting it to electric). This is a great 1/2 A plane. Not knowing any better at the time, I outfitted it with a TD .049 on pressure. That part was ok (not really a good idea for beginners, though), it was his radio that caused most of the problems. It was an old Futaba on green. We found out later that this was a shared frequency with CB that was so popular at the time.
With enough model experience under my belt, the plane was built and balanced well. We headed down to Whittier Narrows for a day of flying.
Even though he had never completed a full successful flight, John was to be the test pilot. The TD was screaming as the plane was released. With a major bout of overcontroling, the little plane jumped up and down wildly, never getting more than ten feet in the air. Luckily the damage was minor, as the plane didn’t have a chance to build up much speed. After two more tries, with the same results, we decided that John wasn’t up to the task.
We watched some of the flyers and then approached one that was flying well. He said he would be glad to help.
The Quickee took to the air and was flying very fast. He claimed it might be doing 100mph, as fast as a pylon racer. Not too far into that flight, the plane started doing some incredible aerobatics. We were impressed, until he cried out, “it’s getting hit.” He held out the transmitter to show us that he was not giving it any input. The control came and went, and a smooth landing ended the flight. It was decided that semis on the nearby freeway (605) were the culprit. A normal CB is limited to 5 watts, but many people at the time had biamps that would transmit at well over 100. He was not that interested in another flight, but it was such a good flyer (when the signal was not being interrupted), he agreed to one more.
We were hooked. The next flying day was at Carbon Canyon Park in La Habra. This is where my first C/L flight was, and as far away from any freeways as we could get. I had installed a regular tank to slow down the plane a bit. John was able to fly it, but his landings resulted in stalls and crashes. Dead stick landing can be hard for some people, and with that 1/2 A, it was the only option. We all took turns, after the minor damage of each crash landing was completed. It was a grass field, and foam wing 1/2 A planes are pretty durable. One of our group, Harold, actually made a landing and he was immediately decreed to be the “official” lander. Turns out it was a fluke, and his title was removed. I was the one who first became proficient at flying and landing.
We still had radio hits that day and we only got them when we could see small aircraft high in the sky above us. That didn’t make sense that they would be on a R/C or CB frequency, but I decided it was time to buy a “real” radio. Off to the hobby shop again. Have we all heard that one before?