From about age 12 or so, Grandfather has built and flown model airplanes. These were free-flight models, before technological progress made radio control inexpensive enough for anybody except the military.
In his teens, grandfather built more advanced free-flights. They were susceptible to capture by thermals — rising columns of hot air on sunny days — so “dethermalizers” were devised. They were controlled by a timer, usually a fuse which burned through a hold-down thread loop, which allowed a rubber band to pop the rear wing vertical. That caused the model to descend in a flat stall, but occasionally thermals were strong enough to carry the model up and away faster than the stall descent speed.
One time Grandfather lost a model that way at Fourteen Mile and Southfield Road in Detroit and it landed in Redford hours later, in the evening. Grandfather got it back because we modelers always tagged our planes with name, address and phone number. Most finders were kind enough to help us retrieve them.
In the mid-1930s, U-control appeared. The plane flew in a circle on the end of two wires which controlled the model’s pitch up or down. Grandfather built the fastest one he could devise; actually, a little missile sustained more by centrifugal force than its wings.
One day it broke loose and disappeared somewhere behind a Montgomery Wards store. Grandfather never did find out where it landed. Come to think of it, maybe it landed on the roof. Wonder if it’s still there?
Here are some later models, after radio control for modelers became affordable:
About the Author: RD Blakeslee is an octogenarian in West Virginia who built his net worth by only investing in that which can be enjoyed during acquisition and throughout life, as opposed to papers in a drawer, like stocks and bonds. You can read more about him here.
Photos: Courtesy of the Blakeslee Family