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My Model Flying History (1962)

1962: My father had finally made a driver’s license for a car. Our first car was a used Volkswagen Van that was missing the middle bench. Now we could drive to the Kaltenkirchen Moorkaten airfield more often on weekends. This airfield originally was a military training area. But the local club FAG (Flugtechnische Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kaltenkirchen) was allowed to use it over the weekends. There we could see for the first time how radio-controlled models were properly flown. In addition to some powered models of the RC1 class (today F3A), there were mainly sailplanes of the RC4 class (today F3B). The models were started up with a 200m long nylon cord by a runner using a pulley. A rubber high-start was not common at that time because it was not allowed for competitions. And the members of that club were very active competition flyers.

In a kiosk in Elmshorn I discovered the “Mechanikus” magazine. It not only contained very interesting articles on the design and construction of model aircraft but also on model ships and model railways. From now on I bought and read every issue of this monthly magazine. Werner Thies, in particular, has to be mentioned here as an author who described his glider models in detail. And he also was the chairman of FAG Kaltenkirchen. I learned a lot from him.

Very soon our decision was made: our radio control units had to be installed into a glider. Of course we didn’t want to buy a kit. We were brave enough to design it ourselves. It had to be a little bigger than the “Geier” because of the weight of the radio control. The fuselage should look elegant, so a simple box construction was not an option. Since we couldn’t afford a fiberglass fuselage, we built an oval one from balsa wood. The wings got a span of 2.50 meters (nearly 100″) and were fastened with tongues and boxes, as we knew it from the “Geier”. The sizes of the horizontal and vertical stabilizers were calculated according to the instructions by Werner Thies. Our radio only allowed rudder control. We didn’t think about spoilers yet.

Some weeks later we went to Kaltenkirchen with the finished model. A few other modelers were already there and eyed up our plane when we took it out of the car and assembled it. At first we tried some hand launches. Helmut Noffz, one of the experienced model pilots, watched us with interest and finally said: “The balance point is not correct!” He balanced the model with his fingers under the wings and found that the center of gravity was to far back. We had determined it according to our experience with the free-flight models “Donald Duck” and “Geier” and that was not right for a radio controlled glider. Mr. Noffz showed us where the balance point should be and that was in the first third of the wing chord. He had a few pieces of lead in his toolbox. We cut a slot in the model’s nose block with a knife and temporarily stuck the lead pieces inside. Now the hand launches looked a lot better and the model glided beautifully. Eventually, also the position of the tow hook had to be corrected. After that, we dared to make a first high start, which went without any problems. The model climbed straight up and was released at a height of more than 100 meters. It was very easily controlled and flew more than two minutes. The landing was not very close to us, but the model remained intact. What a sense of achievement! We drove home thoroughly happy.

I had been interested in control line flying the whole time. So we looked for a model kit that should be appropriate for the Hurrican engine. We decided on the “Ultra-Stunter” from Graupner. My dad assembled it because the fuselage had an oval cross section and therefore was a little difficult for me to build. Of course we had to buy a lot of additional accessories again. The most important one was a tethered flight grip “Meister” from Graupner which already included the wires. The finished model should be tried out on our small grassfield near our home. We were watched by a number of curious onlookers. The lines were laid out and the engine started. I should do the first flight. My father released the model. It immediately took off and went into a loop. I was so surprised that I couldn’t react fast enough. Before I could give down elevator, the model was already descending. The loop merged into a figure nine, which ended with full speed in the ground. Everything was totally destroyed and hardly repairable. We were utterly ashamed and disappointed. The Ultra-Stunter was an aerobatic model with extremely effective control surfaces. It was therefore completely unsuitable for beginners. We should have studied the description in the Graupner catalog more carefully.

A few months later I built a new control line model together with my friend Joachim Jürgensen. When designing it, we made sure that it was easy to fly for a beginner. I found instructions for this in the book “Fesselflug-Fibel” written by Gernot Nobiling. If only I had read this book beforehand! This new model flew without any problems and was easy to control. We had a lot of fun with it.