Confessions of Rubber Power Flyer

I fly Rubber Free Flight.  I do not fly r/c.  I do not fly gas.

However, I have wanted two engines for a long time, just to have, not to fly or even run.  Now I have them.  They will sit on my shelves as display models.  They are: the tiny Cox TeeDee 0.010 and the vintage Morton M-5 ignition pushrod radial.

No more gas motors for me, my collection is complete, I am done.

 517 total views,  1 views today

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Lacey and Fike Documentation Photos – Oh My

I want to go on record – I am NOT a fan of the Lacey and Fike, especially in Peanut class.  They are “ugly” and they are the easy way out for flying.  I’ve never built either … but that may change…

A couple years ago, Don DeLoach and I tracked down the Lacey M-10 – it still exists and has been significantly changed by the current owner (see THIS ARTICLE).  In that article, I promised a new 3-view, a 1″:1′ Scale Plan, and publication of all 40+ high resolution photos that Don sent me.  That has stalled, but I need to get back to it.

Yesterday, I told my wife that I was going out to the barn.  Also a couple years ago, I cleaned out the late Jim Miller’s modeling room.  Some of that stuff is in the barn – on top of my 1963 Studebaker Lark.  My dad and I have plans to work on the Lark together (the plans were hatched before this viral threat) and I need to get the car running before I can take it to Ohio.  In order to get it running, I have to clean off Jim Miller’s stuff.

As I looked through the stuff for the umpteenth time trying to decide what to toss and what to keep, found a photo pack.  Some of you kids might not remember, but once upon a time back in the dark ages, people had dedicated cameras that required film to capture the photograph.  You couldn’t see the shots you took until you had taken the film to get developed and then your received an envelope with all the photos you took – hardcopy.

I opened this envelope and found SIXTEEN color photographs of the famous Fike E (two separate locations).  I then went into the scale documentation folders that Jim kept and found the folders for the Fike – and I found SEVEN more photos of a SECOND Fike E, built in Canada.  Along with those photos, I found scale documentation sketches from the Canadian builder and a 3-view by Carlo Godel.  Obviously this second Fike (“Dream”) was known, but has been forgotten over time.  There was also magazine documentation for the original Fike E.

Every now and then you will get someone asking “does anyone have a COLOR photo of the Fike E?”  I think before I found this hoard I knew of one color photo online (Don tells me these photos aren’t unknown to some, but to most of the world, they are new).

Considering my distaste for these two aircraft, why is it that I am burdened with all of this documentation for these one-off aircraft?  I guess it is karma.  Here’s my plan:

LACEY:  I still intend to produce a 1″:1′ scale plan and 3-view of the Lacey M-13 (new designation) and provide a public archive for Don’s photographs.  This will also include several “new” photos of the original version (M-10) of the aircraft that the current owner provided to Don.

FIKE E:  I will create a similar documentation archive for the public of the TWO Fike E aircraft, including the article and many, many xeroxed build photos and all of the color photos.  The article, photos, and notes identify changes that were made to the aircraft and the various configurations it was flown in (providing lots of build options for the modeler).  I might even have to draw up a plan for the silly and ugly Fike E.

As if I didn’t already have enough to do…

Here are some teasers for the Fike.  These are reduced scans.  I have scanned these at the highest resolution that my scanner will allow and I will break them apart into individual photos.

 858 total views,  1 views today

Posted in Products | 1 Comment


Test Flight Video below.

After my “Isolation” post, I did a mental reset.  I decided to build something just for fun.  I’ve had this build in mind for several months.  I found it in the March 1935 Flying Aces magazine.  It is another one of their tiny sport planes.  There was no build article and the plan was on just one page of the magazine – kind of a space filler I guess.

As I’ve looked at this plan, it sure reminds me of the GeeBee Model D Sportster aircraft.  I think maybe there was some influence there.  So, when it came time to cover mine, I did up a GeeBee-style paint scheme.  This was done with printed tissue.

The original plan used some 1/32″ wood – for ribs, and cross pieces and it used bamboo – for the vertical fin outline and the wing struts (why they are there, I don’t know).  Another curiosity is the fuselage – I don’t know why they made it so narrow, but it is about 1/2″ internal width (5/8″ overall width).

When I drew this up, I decided that I would just forego the 1/32″ balsa – all of this is 1/16″ balsa, either sticks or sheet.  I also added some wood (as the FAC permits) for the motor peg, the nose sides, and converted the two-piece horizontal into a single piece.

The build was pretty quick, although in our situation today, I was in no rush.  This is a small plane and the laser-cut parts made building it a snap.  For my build, I also decided that since this is not likely to be a top-rung 2-Bit performer, that I would just build it simply:  regular sheet wood, pre-purchased 1/16″ stick wood, domestic tissue, and a plastic prop.  After a couple coats of spray-can gloss clear, it still came out about 13 grams with a 0.35 g/ wing loading – that’s pretty light.  I suppose that could have been closer to 10 grams, if I had wanted to build it light.  I even over-did the landing gear.  After I bent up and installed a gear out of 1/32″ wire, I read the original plan and it calls out 0.020″ wire!  Wow, I could have saved a lot there.

Mine came out just a touch nose heavy and needed a small pea of clay on the tail.  Test gliding showed that the solid structure of the landing gear and strut wasn’t my best effort – the compression struts don’t compress and just snap under impact load.  However, with just a few adjustments to the thrust line, I soon had in climbing out to the right.

Building and flying for fun really does bring the fun back!

You can find the kit HERE

You can find the Tissue Template HERE

And here is a test flight:


 465 total views,  2 views today

Posted in Builds, Products | 1 Comment

Isolation – End of March 2020

Good Afternoon,  I hope all of you readers are safe and sound and practicing safe viral isolation.  The Mrs and I were house-bound from Wednesday last week until Wednesday this week (had doc appt and grocery curb-side pick-ups).  Our experiences of social distancing in the public sphere were not smooth, nor are we eager to try that again.  But that’s not the subject of my writings today.

What many in the country (and world) are experiencing now is not much different than my day-to-day since my retirement 3.5 years ago.  I stay at home, do my stuff, and only went out in the evening or weekend if the Mrs said “let’s go”.  So, this is nothing new to me.

Strangely, it feels new – and not just because she is teleworking every day now, but mentally and emotionally, it is different.  2020 has proven to be a trying year, and we are only through the first quarter.  I’ve had web-site issues that I had to battle, supplier issues, increased prices for materials and postage, drop in sales, my mother passed away, our sons opened a new coffee shop – which is now closed indefinitely, and this virus thing is affecting the world in a myriad of ways that we couldn’t image in late last year.

Our near-future flying is in doubt – our indoor sessions are cancelled indefinitely, and outdoor sessions will be uncertain, and this time not just because of the weather.  All you have to do is look at the chart of infections to realize that we haven’t come close to peaking on this yet.  Here in Michigan, we have been hit hard – the Detroit Metro area is taking a big hit (where most of our aging Cloudbusters live), and according to the numbers I saw this morning, the county where we fly outdoors has an inordinately high count.  AMA has not cancelled the Indoor Nats – yet – but who would be surprised if they did.  After all, according to statistics in the end of May, we will either be on the tail end of an overwhelming spiked curve, or we will be in the middle of the flattened curve.  This isn’t going away any time soon.

All of this is taking a toll on me.  I consider myself level-headed and not given to irrational fears or panic – and I am not panicking or fearful.  But I am being dragged down emotionally.  It is hard for me to stick to any of my projects:  I can draw for a little, but I’m not eager to create something new.  I can pack orders, but I get tired of that, especially if a tedious task pops up where I have to “do something” (make parts, cut boards, count out a large number of things).  I am even struggling to build anything.  I currently have three planes in process.  I am finishing one that I started yesterday (see below) but I just don’t have much motivation to build anything.  And, I am more irritable than normal (not that anyone notices – HAHA!)

Of course, we all go through slow patches.  But I truly feel this is different.  I just don’t feel like doing anything.  I get up and do some of the stuff I mentioned above, but I take many more breaks than before and I get sucked into social media.  It is easy to see that and say “don’t go there” but there is little elsewhere to go – it is still cold and wet outside, so I cannot go work outside or on a car or stuff like that.  I cannot responsibly go away from the house.

On the positive side, I can see all of this in me.  I know it is happening to me and, because I know, I can try to do what I can to improve my lot.  I know that when I DO feel inspired, I need to take advantage of it.  I know that I MUST get orders out, so knowing certain things are less pleasant than other things, I tackle the more difficult stuff when I am feeling a little bit better.  And I know that building models will come back, even if flying doesn’t right away.

I have started on the Mega Caudron C.640 (as seen a few weeks ago), but it is stalled.  I started another Indoor Embryo (Hobo), but set it aside while I worked on the Corona Home Front Combat 1/2 Sized NoCal event.  I’ll get back to the Hobo soon, but I probably won’t have anywhere to fly it.  But, I did build something simple (nearly – it’s not quite finished).

I started on a Sky Bunny for the McCook Squadron’s Bill Warner Memorial.  This will take place in June at Muncie (all things permitting).  This plane is so simple, you can build it in a day.  And it is durable – everything is at least 3/32″ square (except for the sheetwood – ribs and pylon – which are 1/16″ sheet).  I’ve got to make the motor stick and landing gear, but all of the surfaces are built and covered.

For the tail, I dug in my scrap tissue box (you DO have a scrap tissue box, right?) the black tissue is scrap black Esaki, the yellow rudder is left over airbrushed (from a Durham Air Limo, I think) and the wings are some “domestic” tissue that I saved.  This tissue came wrapped around a bottle of gin we brought back from the Hebrides last summer.  Because of this, I will be calling my model the “Isle of Skye Bunny“.  Technically, the distillery was on Harris, not Skye, but it’s close – both islands are in the Hebrides!

I’ll be giving the surfaces a coat of Future to seal them up.  And, yes, building this made me happy(er).

 465 total views

Posted in Builds | 5 Comments

“Postal” Contest – Home Front Corona Combat!

Bored at home and ready for action?  Here is a fun event for everyone, but that must be flown in your own home.  THERE WILL BE PRIZES!  Here are the basic rules, with expanded reasoning below:

1/2-Scale NoCal WWII Home Front Corona Combat

  1. any WWII Combat eligible aircraft
  2. FAC NoCal Rules, excepting
    a. maximum 8″ wingspan
    b. maximum 4.5″ propeller
    c. must use a LOOP of 1/16″ rubber (only this size)
    d. minimum wood size: 1/16″ square (laminations ok, all-sheet build ok at 1/32″)
    e. minimum motor stick: 1/8″ square (no rolled)
  3. Flying – inside your home only
  4. Scoring
    a. unlimited attempts and submitted scores
    b. flight time in seconds (no max)
    c. weight multiplier: flight time x grams w/o rubber (penalizes ultralight models)
    d. video multiplier: subtotal x 1.5 (shared video bonus)
  5. Submission must include
    a. Builder Name
    b. Model Name
    c. Weight in grams
    d. Flight Time

Since we are all home-bound, photos of any stage of construction, finished models, weights, and videos of flights will be most welcome.  Contest will run through the end of April.

I will do my best to share submissions and keep track of times.  It is best to post on one of the Contest Posts on the Facebook Groups, or on my post on my web site.


  • a NoCal Short Kit from my Production (winner’s choice)
  • a 3D-printed Prop-Form or Winding Stooge from Archie Adamisin

Let the (isolated) fun times begin!  Share this (virtually and online) with as many as you like!  The more the merrier!

Background and Explanation:

Archie and I were talking and, in light of the Indoor group’s “Scraps” contest, Archie casually mentioned a 1/2 Scale NoCal event.  Not having enough to do, my mind started planning – and the rules were born.  Note that the rules are designed for FUN – no real benefit of building ultra-light or being super-competitive.  Here are explanations:

  1. Follow FAC NoCal rules.  Any dihedral or covering or coloring or marking or such questions are referred to the FAC NoCal rules.
  2. Must be half size:  8″ max span.  This is to fit in your living room.  Some of us will suffer with our smaller rooms and some will have huge multi-story rooms, but so be it – IN YOUR HOME ONLY.
  3. Max 4.5″ propeller – this is plenty big enough for a 8″ plane.  You can make it smaller, if you like
  4. Use a LOOP of standard size 1/16″ rubber only.  No single strands, no stripping rubber (this levels the playing field for those without strippers).
  5. all wood needs to be a minimum of 1/16″ square.  You CAN laminate to get that dimension.  Any sheet wood needs to be 1/16″ thick UNLESS your ENTIRE model is sheet – then you can use 1/32″ sheet.
  6. the Motor Stick must be no smaller than 1/8″ square – NO Rolled Tubes
  7. Flying must be done inside YOUR HOME – i.e. Home Front, participating in self-isolation due to the current health situation
  8. You may make unlimited flights.  You may submit as often as you like, but each time must be a separate submission
  9. Flight time to be submitted in SECONDS with no maximum flight time
  10. Since some of us are heavy-handed builders and not indoor artistes, there will be a weight factor applied.  Your flight time in seconds will multiplied by your weight in grams.  A 4-gram plan flying for 10 seconds will beat a 1 gram plane flying for 30 seconds.
  11. Since everyone is alone and cannot see others flying, there will be a video submission bonus.  The above sub-total will be multiplied by 1.5 if a video of the flight is submitted.


 1,858 total views,  4 views today

Posted in Builds, Events | 17 Comments

Tip for Better Flying – Notekeeping

Whether you fly for competition or just for fun, what follows WILL help you.

Background:  When I came back into the Free Flight game in 2012, I had about 75 FAC kanones (competition wins).  My first kanone was in 1990 and the last before my time-out was in 1999.  When I started back up, I continued to do the things that I had done 10 years earlier – I just built and flew – and kept track of things in my head.  This included rubber size used in each model and how the plane flies.

Somewhere within the first couple of years back, I realized that I was older and could not keep track of everything in my head.  (I’ve been told of a theory that there is only so much room in your brain cells and, as you grow older and that space fills up, there is no more room for new information – haha!)  Anyway, I started doing something that all of the better modelers do:  keeping a notebook.  I have a Franklin Planner left over from my corporate days and I buy refills for it.  One refill is a calendar, so I record upcoming events, but more importantly, the other refill is for blank note pages.  I make a page for each model and record characteristics on each model.  See the photos.

Things you can see in the notes (besides my ever-worsening handwriting):

  • The name of the model and size/event
  • The weight of the model and propeller used
  • Rubber Motor Used, Number of Turns, Torque at those turns, Results.

This type of note-taking is critical – not just for remembering, but for analysis and improvement.  Look at the notes for the B.A.T. Monoplane.  The first four entries are testing observations where I was working up to final contest-ready performance.   He same is shown on the Yankee IV page.  I worked up to the rubber size and torque setting until I got optimum results.  Other things to note:  the notes are a) inconsistent and b) incomplete.  There is a lot more that could and should be added and observed.  Keep track like this and your level of success will increase.

The second thing that I do is on the other end of modeling.  I do this during the design and build phase.  Some of the information is created during the drawing and some is applied later after flying.  Take a look (clicking the image will open it in a new tab and it will be bigger):


This is an Excel sheet in which I record every design I am building – or even thinking about building.  There are over 100 entries and this is just some of them.   As you can see, I categorize them according to FAC Event.  Why?  This puts similar models together so that I can compare and predict performance.

This spreadsheet’s primary purpose was to calculate CG Locations based on TVo calculations (thanks to Don DeLoach’s and William McCombs’ works).  Later, I added modifications to the formula for biplanes and also a different TVo formula for Endurance ships.  Finally, there are columns to record observed model weights and grams per square inch (erroneously labeled as g/CuIn!)

Why all of this work?  well, during the design phase, I can predict performance based on the TVo.  This also shows if the tail is too small (see those red and yellow indicators in the TVo column?) so I know when to enlarge the tail.  Through these calculations, I know where to place the CG indicator on the plan.  As you might understand, that much is for the eventual production product, for the customer.  But the notes regarding weight, propellers, rubber, etc – that is basically for me.  I can compare built models to new models and say “I think the new model is a lot like old model X and I can use a similar prop and rubber”.  All of this helps with consistency and such when it comes to flying your models.

(Curious about the other colors on the chart?  Green on the model name = Short Kit in production, Yellow on the model name means a potential Production item.  Over on the weight column, Green indicates actual measured weight of the built model.  no color in that column often indicates a projected weight or a guestimate.)

So what does this all mean?  Well, looking at this and looking back at my history, I just don’t know how I ever got those first 75 kanones!  I did very, very little of this type of analysis back then.  Switching over (due to the fact that my advanced 50+ years made it difficult to keep track of model specs) has made an impact – my current kanone total is 259.  If you want better performance, keep track of what you do.

 424 total views,  1 views today

Posted in Builds | Leave a comment

More NAR Racers – Airmasters and Others!

Awhile back, I documented a Cessna C-34 that raced (and won) which made it eligible for the FAC Thompson Races.  The FAC Rules have changed, but it is still eligible for the FAC National Air Races.  Read what I wrote about Betty Brown’s C-34 here.

Yesterday, an EAA video was posted in the Cessna Airmaster Facebook Group (here) which featured Steve Wittman.  At about 30 seconds into the video we see Wittman flying a red Airmaster with a white racing number “45” on the side.  Here is the video:

I asked if there was documentation – what registration number and what race (all required for proper FAC Race participation) and Daniel Henley provided this image:

As it says, this is from the 1939 Miami All-American Air Races and the specific race was for the Green Trophy; a race for C-licensed airplanes with engines displacing 550 cubic inches or less.

This particular photo is FULL of racers that are eligible for our FAC NAR!  All you have to do is document them!

The Wittman racer was NC-18554 and according to other Cessna Documentation, it was:

  • a C-37
  • manufactured on 09 Aug 1937
  • sold originally to Wittman
  • was Stearman Vermilion, with Diana Cream trim, and an Alexander Blue pinstripe
  • note that the race number appears to be white-whashed on the side.

There are four other Cessnas, two Monocoupes, and a Rearwin registered for this race.  Here is what I can find on the other aircraft:

  • Cessna NC-19491 – C-145  – Stearman Vermilion, Curtiss Blue trim , black pinstripe, race number 10 (or 18?) – no photo
  • Cessna NC-19484 – C-145 – Galetea Orange #55, Marine Blue #71 trim, Drake Blue #70 pinstripe, race number 29 (?) – plane still exists
  • Cessna NC-19459 – C-38 – Lemon Yellow #53, Willow Green trim, black pinstripe, race number 32(?) – plane still exists, but not original colors
  • Cessna NC-19464 – C-145 – Brilliant Vermilion #60, Drake Blue #70 trim, Marine Blue #71 pinstripe, race number 39 – plane still exists
  • Monocoupe – NC508W – Model 110, race number 36, but right now, I can find no other information besides being owned and flown by Larry Cook.  He raced it as early as 1937.
  • Rearwin – NC19415 – Speedster 6000M, race number 23 – unknown original colors, but the plane still exists (I will have details on a different racing Speedster in a future article):
  • Monocoupe – excuse me while I dive deep here – Johnny Livingston is my favorite race pilot.  Livingston was famous for racing a Monocoupe, NR501W – but the Monocoupe he raced here was NOT 501W.  He sold 501W to finance his Cessna CR-3 racer.  This Monocoupe is another clipped-wing 110, NC-511.  This was owned by Clare Bunch (president of Monocoupe) and had a racing history, also.  Here are some contemporary photos of NC511:

Johnny Livingston with NC511

Clare Bunch with NC511 – note the navigation antenna on the top


As I understand it, Livingston went on to win this Green Trophy – and at least one other event at the 1939 Miami races.  Here is a photo with him after the races.

Johnny Livingston with trophies from the 1939 Miami All-American Air Races.


NC511 still exists, although now registered at NC101.  You can read about it in the EAA publication Vintage Airplanes here.  An interesting note on the article below, Facebook friend Harman Dickerson did work on the restoration!

So there is more info than you could have expected for several “new” race-eligible aircraft!

 631 total views,  2 views today

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Random Acts of Thinking

I’ve got nothing – other than this mixture of odd (and possibly distracting) thoughts.

1… Long ago, I sold full kits of the Phantom Flash.  I soon learned that selling FULL kits takes way too much time per kit to assemble.  Today, I ran across an insert that I included in those kits – the original Phantom Flash graphics that I cleaned up and enhanced.  Note that the original plan only included one of the rudder logos and I had to create the second.  Anyway, I don’t use them anymore but maybe someone would like to have them.  You can print on regular paper, cut them out,  and stick on the model (old skool) or you can print them on tissue paper.  Here is the image – right click on it and then Save As.


2… Seemingly Odd Question – Do you (or should you) lube your Jet Cat rubber?  What?!?!!?  Why would you lube the rubber on your catapult?  Well, you could consider the question as a thought exercise – something you can ponder when you’ve read all the magazines in the throne room.  But let me confess to this: I have used lubed rubber in a Jet Cat catapult.  And I may again!  Next subject…

3… I found a use for old broken motors!  If you’re like me and fly a lot of 2-Bit and OT Stick and OT Fuse, at the end of a season (sometimes at the end of a contest!) you have a large pile of used rubber from broken motors.  Since I make most of my OT motors out of 1/8″ rubber, I might just have a secondary use for it.  Yes, I admit, I have made smaller motors from the pile of “waste”, but now I am talking about what I referred to section 2 above – I have made Jet Cat catapults with used rubber!  You need to inspect it for nicks, but certainly in a 12 strand, 36″ motor made of one continuous strand of rubber that broke one strand, you should be able to find 36″ inches that are nick-free.  36″ will make an FAC-legal 4-strand, 2-loop, 9″ catapult motor, like this:
PLEASE NOTE:  while the photo is of a product that I sell – I NEVER sell catapults with used rubber, only new rubber.  But, that gives you something to think about.

4… Sometimes I get distracted easily.  I was looking at an Old Timer as a possible build sometime down the road – and I got caught up in how to do the spinner and nose block.  I put this together the other morning and printed it out.  Yes, the original included a folding prop and a spinner.  I’ll send on of my $11 kits to the first person that correctly identifies the Old Timer in question based on the pieces shown here.


5… Today is garbage day!  The garbage has to go down to the road so they can pick it up at about 5am tomorrow morning.  I wanted to clean off my desk/building board so I can FINALLY get started on the Mega Caudron C.640 – but the garbage can is full.  I have several cardboard boxes to take down, too.  I need to get a trash can here at my desk and be BRUTAL about things that need to go.  Sometimes I wish I was organized and a neat freak so this part would be easy, but I understand that my messes are part of me.  But, the Elmendorf that I built last month had to be built on part of my building board just because I couldn’t move the stuff off the building board – the desk part is literally overflowing.  Time for that garbage can.  Maybe I can put the kitchen bags of garbage into the boxes and fill up the garbage can with all the loose stuff off the desk!  Now, there’s a thought!

 539 total views,  1 views today

Posted in Builds, Customers, Products | Leave a comment

Superior Props Products are Back!

Well, almost – I still have to load Old Timer Folders and Old Timer Freewheelers and all of the hardware onto the web site.

My mother passed away peacefully last Friday and we went to Ohio this week for the service.  My dad is now ready to return to work (his decision)  and has asked that I send him “work”.  So, as soon as I can, I will load up all the products.

As he now lives alone in the middle of nowhere, my brothers and I will be checking on him more regularly.  This means more trips to Ohio for me – which means more time away from the business.  This is good for us, but may hamper the promptness of your order fulfillment.  I caught up before I left Tuesday, but have a couple new orders since then.  With diligence, I can stay caught up.

I still have some voicemails to catch up on – I will get to those soonest.  (P.S. – email is the best way to contact me.)

Anyway, soon, I will be back in full operation and we can provide you with the products you need.  Thanks for your understanding – and thanks for all of the compassionate thoughts I have received to date and for those in the future.  We truly appreciate it.


 460 total views

Posted in Events | Leave a comment


Click HERE to shop NOW!

Posted in Customers, Events, Products | Leave a comment