Ross Burgess’ Article – Dick Steele’s “Stick Trainer” 

Ross Burgess’ Article – Dick Steele’s ‘Stick Trainer”

Dick Steele’s “Stick Trainer” Pre-amble..In the 60’s and ‘70’s, most aeromodellers I knew participating in the sport/hobby were in control-line.

R/C was around – but limited to those who could afford the expensive gear associated with it.

My first observance in this was when I was a member of DAC (Doncaster Aeromodellers Club) – re-entering the sport for the third time.

There was a “distinct” brick wall between the larger c/l group and the minority r/c “huddle”….. a very sad impression to behold, being a club for “everyone”.

The c/l blokes were simply great….the R/C fraternity were very secretive, obtrusive and very much exclusive to outsiders. The C/L blokes ran classes with instructors and the club had a designated “trainer” type model, plus a more advanced one, once sufficient skills and pilot ability were achieved.

These two models were the result of many years’ experience by Dick Steele, one of the co-founders of our beloved LDMFA.

The models were a tried and true result of many efforts to provide a basic yet robust platform from which to launch and develop into control line.

They were created and produced from a little back-yard shed/garage at 137 Mt. Dandenong Rd, Croydon – my first recollection of visiting Dick was to purchase a “pint” of diesel fuel – at 30% ether… for the princely sum of 60 cents (1967).

I was then flying an Aeroflyte “Cobra”.. a terrible model for what you got in the  high graphic box illustration eluding to an aeromodeller’s dream…. I had to “lay-by” the model from my local sports store whilst I paid it off – forfeiting opportunity to also purchase a new engine. When finally I did get it home I was very much disappointed in what was conceivably hiding with in the box. It was terribly cut, and barely sufficient to “just” create a very much lessened effort of the depicted box top picture….. you did get two plastic “pizza cutter” wheels, a tank and some wire for the push-rod and landing gear… plus a canopy which simply got “stuck” on top of the only piece of crafted balsa in the kit… the top rounded plank –  he rest of it was just the instructions and a tube of C-36 glue….. kids’ stuff… stuck more to your fingers than what you applied it to .. arghhh, I’m glad I don’t “mess” with it any longer….. cyano and woodglue, plus some Araldite for the more serious areas around the engine mounts will do me just fine, thank you.

At the pointy end, I had a second hand Taipan 2.5 cc diesel – purchased for $1 of my 60 cents/week paper round “income”. Unknown to me, the motor was in its last throes of life… getting it going was a relentless succession of winding down the compression screw and enjoying the “thrill” of having it backfire on a compression lock – biting away a progressive “trenching wound” in the back of my third finger whilst at the same time channeling a likewise trench into the front of the finger as it slid across the sharp leading edge of the prop when it “locked”. The resultant infusion of ether, paraffin and castor oil into both wounds was immediate –wincing at the pain of the strike, the depth of the cut and the ingression of these very acute fluids. The hours I spent learning to get this going and keep it running were endless…… my academic studying suffered greatly due to this, not that I would ever have become a brain surgeon – but I can adamantly state that many an exam was sat without one jot of study …. The time “better” consumed by spending hour after relentless hour messing around with my little diesel engines on the 3 ½ acre property we lived on….. I wore out two planks of wood learning to start this motor….. the coarsely drilled holes (poked through, not drilled due to my limited access to anything suitable) simple ripped open once split.. on one occasion, the motor departed the security of this mount… amazing me at how quick it managed to get airborne without anything affixed…. Coming to a resultant demise once the fuel in the crankcase was spent…..

I did all this solo – other than the kids I went to school with and in whom I took my instruction from – far too far away from me to ever visit… but their information was invaluable at the time, but for the main – I had to self-teach.

My school uniform was often “doused” in the fumes of ether and castor oil…. Returning home from the paper round, I’d leap at the opportunity to designate whatever daylight was left to my little engines and spend it entirely to the point of not being able to see –  starting and running these little motors in great delight.

I never did learn to fly that Cobra properly – I smashed it up so many times I just gave up… and, although I continued to occasionally bring a motor out and re-instate my skills in starting it… I left the hobby for other passions – by natural attraction to other more interesting facets in biology.

When I commenced work, at age 15 having decided the attraction to biological options was something that could wait until I was in a better position to offer some attraction of my own – viz money and transport – one of the chaps I worked with belonged to the GMAC (Greensborough)….. this was the first I had learned of any “club”… and my passion re-grew intensely. I joined GMAC and took the last model I was attempting to learn to fly (a little 049 sized thing called a “burp” with an Enya .74 cc diesel engine).

On the Saturday, I set my 25’ lines out and with their assistance – managed to get it up….. and flew it – to the amazement of all in attendance who had never seen such a tiny model fly on such short lines.

I was encouraged to build the “club” stalwart model – a “Talisman” and purchase a Taipan 1.5 cc ball-race diesel engine….which I purchased from Hearn’s Hobbies in Flinders St, just below the offices in which I worked.

The Talisman was the club entry model – and many were flying them…. when I built and produce my own – I became a “resident” accepted member of the group… we had some “common” ground and I felt at home.

I learned to build that model from a plan (now available on line) and ran in the new motor with great delight (my first ever new motor).

I flew that for quite some time with the club, until I turned 16 when my focus completely was deflected to motor bikes, and not much later my first car… my “L” plates came up on aging 17 and passion for getting out on the road completely consumed any “time” for aeromodelling…..

Next up, roll on to 1977…. An absence of some 5 years…. For the life of me, I don’t know what it was – but I got the old Talisman out and set off to Dick’s for some fuel…. Whilst there, I noted piles of balsa wood and many cuttings laying on the bench. It didn’t twig to me then that he was producing models for sale… and I simply fobbed it of as him building up some huge model for himself.. I asked if there was a control line club locally, and he pointed me toward DAC (Doncaster).

I rolled up at a Wednesday night meeting and joined the ranks of control liners again.

Sadly, even at meetings – there was a very distinct barrier between members in the room – the majority in the back stalls being control line and the minority up front, and occupying the office-bearers seats – r/c.

Much heckling and enlightened “yawning” was observed whenever matters concerning r/c were addressed.. the huge one being the proximity of flying next to the newly constructed and adjoining Eastern Freeway (the mind boggles now!).

My first flying day at DAC consisted of introducing the little 1.5cc Taipan diesel powered Talisman to the club…. I couldn’t fly it as well as I did at GMAC.. but, I was able to loop and do some inverted…. All on 35’ lines.

What I did see, however – was an amazing model called a Rookie….. powered by an Enya 15 glow motor…. On 50’ lines.

This model was the club “standard”… it flew very well, the motor started with only a few flips… and many, many of them were set out nose to tail in the “queue” for “next up”……

I was in love again… and asked of procurement….. I was somewhat intrigued that all this redirected back to our dear friend, Dick….

I returned, and asked of the Rookie…. He told me he didn’t have any in his stock… but there was going to be a “working bee” at the weekend when his group would produce more… this further intrigued me.

I purchased the little Enya 15 and a “litre” (metric by now) of his standard 4:1 methanol/castor fuel – the price now having gone to $1.

The following week I returned – and my Rookie was waiting…. In a plastic bag!…. just a pile of balsa bits, a tank and some wire and a bell-crank… no plan, no instructions… just the plastic bag and contents.

Dick pulled open the bag and gave me the “verbal instructions” necessary to build…. Which was incredibly simple to follow….

I set about building it, and did so in a very short time – the doping of the nylon wing covering taking the longest….

My model was complete during the week – and I took it to Bulleen for its maiden… a day of great enjoyment – and once again, I enjoyed a fresh sense of “belonging” to a group within the bosom of the club.

I met my wife to be not long after this – and, as is the natural course of events – I dropped out of aeromodelling yet once again…..

By the time my eldest son was old enough – I began to generate and instill a little interest in him towards aeromodelling. It was indeed a great medium where we were able to share on an almost level playing field (pun intended).

Again, I stumbled back into Dick’s shed for another Rookie… to complement my own. This time, from out of nowhere – Dick made mention of another of his creations – the Stick Trainer…… and produced it for viewing. A huge beam of a smile was cast over his face as he told me of its relatively indestructible simplicity… and, I walked away with yet another plastic bag of his of bits……. The build, with my son well and truly incited by the prospect of having his own model – helped with great interest as the simple model was put together…. He doped and painted it and we fitted my “old” DAC Mk 3 Enya 15 to it… myself now having purchased a second one… the Mk 4…. Which Dick retailed for Leo O’Rielly….

The next bit is probably the most notable of my recollections – and from which I spruke that this model should be considered as an entry into the amazingly huge “world” of control line – albeit within the confines of the 50’ lines used.

I took the Stick Trainer up…. And was amazed at how well it flew…. I had to have one of these.

It was about as aeronautical as a plank of wood….. but offered a most brilliant low sensitivety to a newcomer unfound in anything else I had ever flown.

I landed, fueled up and then proceeded to “hand-over”…. And “bang” in it went…. We rushed over to the model (I don’t know why aeromodellers do this?… it’s not going anywhere and won’t take its last heartbeat before we get there)…. No damage!.. not one jot.. just a bit of grass and mud on the prop…… I could not believe it – the amount of times I have had a “one flight” only day at a field learning to fly c/l…. demanding home repair for the next “subjection”….. this one, not a mark!

We filled up, and out we went again… hand-over – and two laps later “thud!”…….. again, rushing out to the model – no damage….

Back out again… time and time over – until, after about the sixth attempt – my son finally flew out his first full tank of fuel… landing wasn’t great … but absolutely no damage.

Back then, we ran nylon props – almost indestructible… the modern glass fiber props are much more vulnerable to damage – so, if you take this on… take some extra props.

The Rookie became the next progression….. and we bought another one for my son.. this time, he did a lot of the building – I simply had to tie my hands behind my back…. And assist by words – I found this a most formidable restriction – wanting very much to do it myself….

We flew the Rookies on a regular basis for quite some time, not being members of any club, but simply taking them to the local oval for a couple of hours and flying….

Like Puff and the Dragon – one of us had to depart first, when he did – I lost interest again.. and then came along my second son…. Equaled to the challenge to follow in his elder brother’s footsteps. A Rookie of his own eventually amounted after learning on a Stick Trainer……

By now, I am starting to get interested in r/c… something I had considered way back when – but totally out of my affordability.

I went back to Dick…. “I can sell you a “Hustler” – or, if you wait a bit –we make a basic trainer called the “marksman”…… I asked of the wait – and a shrug of the shoulders resulted in me taking home the Hustler.

I’ll address my r/c progression in another “novel” – but for now, I’ll return to Dick’s “stick trainer” and “rookie”.

The Stick Trainer

Parts – 610 mm x 100 mm length of 6mm hard balsa.

610 mm x 50 mm length of 5mm hard balsa.

420mm length of 12.5 mm x 12.5 mm beech.

2 x 150 mm lengths of 12.5 mm x 12.5 mm beech.

2 x 100 mm strips of 5 mm balsa (perhaps more, perhaps less – depending on spacing for engine bearer mounts – addressed in the “build”).

230 mm x 60 mm length of 3mm balsa for stabiliser.

230 mm x 50 mm length of 3 mm balsa for elevator

150 mm x 90 mm length of 3 mm balsa for cutting out of fin.


Two 80 mm lengths of 1.5 mm wire (for bellcrank to lines connectors).

320 mm length of 2 mm wire (for bellcrank to elevator horn pushrod).

Two 60 mm lengths of 2mm wire (bent to shape to form leadouts – pressed into wing tip).

100 mm x 20 mm strip of 3 mm ply (for overlay on top of wing to beech fuselage).

65 mm x 12.5 mm strip of 3 mm ply (for overlay on top of stabiliser to beech fuselage).

2 x 20 mm round discs of 3mm ply (support and platform for bellcrank to pivot on – one above wing, one below.

Fuel tank – 50 mm long, 40 mm wide, 20 mm deep – gives about 4 minutes flight duration (long enough, too long sometimes!) with an Enya 15 glow motor.

Control horn for elevator.

Four small nylon hinges (cloth and dope or cloth and PVA glue optional for those seeking to “re-live” the ‘60’s).

Dope and paint (see above) or film covering (sooks) and suitable wood sealing for engine bearer area.

That’s it!…..

Wing (the hardest bit of the build).

Cut wing to length, wood glue the thicker front section to the rear section.

Cut out two 20 mm ply discs.

Measure and mark out location – 60 mm back from leading edge, 50 mm from centre line of fuselage.

Drill pilot hole through centre of both discs.

Apply wood glue to each and position on wing – hand push small brad through top disc, wing and bottom disc to locate  – set aside to dry overnight.

Fuselage (the Stick).

Cut main fuselage to length.

Cut engine bearers to length.

(tricky bit) – measure distance of motor mounts…. Gap, if you like between the mounting tabs that the crankcase will fit between.

Loosely assemble main fuse with engine bearers each side then buildup suitable spacers to give clearance for engine mounting – allow a little space to afford engine being offset outboard by about 2.5 degrees (important).

When satisfied – epoxy fuselage, spacers and mounts together so that there is an over-lap of  100 mm from end of centre fuselage to rear of engine bearers/spacers.

When dry, drill pilot holes into outer engine bearers at 30 mm and 80 mm from front of centre fuselage at slight forward angle for insertion of two small nails long enough to penetrate centre fuselage. (Angle of insertion assures securement of engine bearers to main fuselage and resists separation due to vibration).

Cut stab and elevator to size.

Insert/fit hinges and set aside to dry.

Cut fin from sheet – rake angle of leading edge at 50 degrees.

Rake angle of trailing edge at 64 degrees.

When wing dry, sand slight leading edge profile to top only…. Need only to take corner off and provide some “rounding” of upper edge. The narrower the edge, the faster the model will fly – the less robust the edge will be to damage.

Wrap some sandpaper around a flat block and sand down the joint of the rear wing panels….. trailing off only sufficient to produce a blending to the trailing edge. Attempt to leave most of 5mm trailing sheet intact – for strength purposes… some reduction will be necessary to attain a continual narrowing.

Mark out wing (front and back) on fuselage – 55 mm back from centre spar.

Mark underside of wing accurately for location of 12.5 mm centre fuselage spar, and outer engine bearer locations.

Run strip of epoxy glue along centre fuselage, “share” epoxy with underside of wing and bond.

Place assembly on flat board and epoxy 3 mm ply support to top side of wing – spaced evenly front to back.

Check for centre, alignment and square to fuselage – re-position as necessary.

Drill pilot holes through ply plate into fuselage and then hammer two small brad nails in to secure.

Mark out stabiliser to flush with end of fuselage spar.

Mark out spar location on fuselage.

Epoxy stabiliser assembly to fuselage – check for square, parallel to wing and central.

Epoxy 3 mm ply stabiliser plate onto top of stab – flush both ends.

Drill pilot holes front and rear in ply plate though into fuselage and hammer in two small brad nails.

Check all alignments and allow to cure out.

Loose fit fin and set raked angle as required – Mark off excess balsa sheet and cut as required.

Epoxy fin to inboard side of fuselage – check fin for vertical and square to stabiliser – set aside to dry.

Method of covering is entirely optional –  to revisit the “period” of this model – dope and enamel paint are the norm…. however, if preferring to shrink film cover – strong recommendation is to fuel proof the top of the engine bearer assembly and joint to the wing.

Remove brad from bellcrank ply assembly and drill hole for suitable BA screw, washers and nut.

Fit bellcrank with inner bearing upper most on ply mount plate.

Fit metal washer both sides of bellcrank for bearing and install nut, and second lock nut. Ensure bellcrank entirely free to pivot – but without any noticeable rocking.

Form two lead out ends from 2 mm wire. Bend centre to form semi-circle then fold it over at right angle… result should be two “prongs” with a central “U” at right angles to them.

Very carefully insert the “prongs” into the outside edge of the wing, withdraw again and epoxy holes and re-fit. “Overcoat” inserted lead-outs with epoxy.

Location for the front one is 50 mm back from the leading edge of wing.

The second one is 100 mm back.

Position elevator horn 25 mm inboard of fuselage centre-line.

Drill and fit elevator horn –

Shape 2 mm pushrod to elevator.

Typical period fabrication consisted of a “dog-leg” bend, front and rear through which it would be inserted through the bellcrank and elevator horn holes prior to fitting them.

As we have already measured and fitted both the elevator horn and bellcrank – the accuracy and stresses involved in bending the pushrod are critical……. An option would be to bend only one end of the pushrod (bellcrank preferred) and make use of a threaded pushrod employing a clevis for adjustment at the elevator horn end.

Alternatively, the pushrod could be bent within close measurement – and the elevator control horn positioned accordingly to suit.

Bellcrank to control line connectors.

Insert thin wire through holes in bellcrank sufficiently to allow returning along wire and twisting around – clearance must be provided for bellcrank to pivot within the opening.

At other end bend at 45 degrees first, then make two 90 degree bends and a further 45 degree one before crossing over the shank.

Bend a final 180 degree up to the shank and leave about 10 mm before trimming to length.

Sounds a bit complicated, doesn’t it… but, in effect – it’s just a square diamond shape at a 45 degree angle to the main……. The end affords sliding the “loop” of the end of the control line around and “into” the diamond….. it is quite captively secure, yet lines can be fitted/removed quite readily.

Motor – fit motor so that it affords some 2.5 degree outboard offset (to keep the control lines taught).

Drill holes and fit washers to BA screws then insert from underneath.

Fit motor, a washer, split washer and nut… then nip up, but not tightly.

Turn heads of screws so that the slots are in a straight line to both.

Cut a short length of thin wire (I used a pin for one model) and solder this into the slots. This prevents the screws from turning when you tighten up the nuts – good practice for a later build – and much more economical than the fitting of blind nuts with insertion screws.

Position tank between leading edge of wing and rear of motor.

Double wrap a #64 rubber band around the tank/fuselage.

Connect up fuel lines – optional muffler pressure line fitting to lower vent hole on tank affords more consistent mixture during flight, but far less warning of eminent quitting of motor.

If using the metal tank option (a further “novel” will be posted on creating such a “period” one for purpose…. Including the infamous “stunt” tank –  from sheet tin) – make sure to fill using the top pipe and use the bottom pipe as indicator for full tank on overflow.

Make up a blanking plug to fit to top pipe if using muffler pressure.

Ok, there is yet one more thing to do – one which may not be obvious to the newcomer…… wing tip weight.

This will vary a slight bit, but any effort to get this correct will pay dividends…. The weight varies directly according to the weight of the lines…. This is the main reason we add it.

Before winding your lines onto your control handle, weigh them and record it somewhere.

Without weight on the outboard wing… your model will fly like it’s trying to do a left bank turn….. adding the weight of the lines to the extreme outboard tip will counter this to some extent… to much and it will look like your model has drawn issue with you and is like the dog trying to get loose of the chain…..

Position – again, this varies a little…. But, for a model such as the Stick Trainer – it’s pretty much very lenient…. Poke it on “somewhere” would result in not a lot of difference actually correctly positioning it…. Almost entirely down to the shape of the “plank” wing…. It won’t make much difference an inch forward or back from where it “should” be… there’s literally no “foil” in this wing…. The Rookie is a little different – we’ll get to that one when I punch out a  build for it… and the newcomer will begin to add more and more to their understanding of these “boring and stupid” toy planes on a wire….. of which, I can very much assure you – the basic aeronautical skills and development on offer are almost immeasurable….. even for seasoned r/c pilots – this c/l is a discipline all of its own… the limits are only those placed on each person individually – by the reluctance to persue more maneuverable, faster and challenging models. There is almost every bit of challenge to the world of c/l than there is of r/c – added to a physical “attunement” not required when standing in the pilot area of an r/c assembly.

Flying – this is “it”… your big day into the world of c/l…… nervous? – you should be!… but, I guarantee you – it won’t take you 3 to 6 months to get your wings….. more like 3 to 6 flights!… and, with this great and robust little model – you’ll more than likely do this on your first day!

Position – forget everything anyone has ever told you about take-off…. This is almost entirely different.

The model does not have the benefit of any wind to take off into!… with c/l – you take off down-wind….. a paradox, surely – lunacy even?

Not so, there is one major contributing factor with c/l that the outsider cannot possible “observe”…. The lines….. tension on them – more particularly – on take off!

With a free flight/r/c 1:1 scale aircraft, advantage is taken of any prevalent wind by employing the airspeed to landspeed difference in assisting to get to “flying speed”.

We c/ler’s… do not and cannot employ this advantage – it will, in fact work very much against us.

The main impetus being – your model will be struggling to get to flying speed…. Until it does, the tension between it and your control handle will be quite low (almost slack)…. If we were to take off into the wind – almost immediately – our model is “upwind” from us…. It then becomes “side on” to the wind…. And any tension in the lines lost immediately.. and so too – our control……..

We take off down wind – so that when the model goes side on to it – the wind is actually pushing the model away from us……

Once up to flying speed, line tension will have increased dramatically…. And it is the learned practice that one’s confidence grows with this great direct communication between model and pilot.

On very gusty days, c/l is still very high on the list of probability…. I have flown in some pretty ordinary winds… being mindful that upwind, I need to step back out of the circle – and downwind, remember to retrace my steps to as to avoid finding land-locked infrastructure (and vegetation).

So, folk – set your model up at about 45 degrees prior to down wind for take off.. those 3 to 4 quick steps by your assistant (mentioned later) will quickly bring the model around to being tail-on to the wind on release…. Perfect!

Control lines – this is the greatest discipline of all of this sport – the “lines”…. The care needed and discipline demanded to look after your lines like they were the last ones on the planet cannot be understated!

Take great care unwinding them out, using them and running them back onto the control handle wheel….. one mistake during the entire day with them can lead to disaster!

The most common cause for damage is simply by tripping over them – or others doing so.

Learn to walk well clear of your lines, you won’t possible be able to see them once they get dirty or become dull…. They are only 0.3 mm in diameter… the older ones much thinner than that.

Kinks are your enemy – never… did I mention, never ?…… never! Pull on our lines unless you “know” they are not twisted or looped….. a kink is almost impossible to straighten.

A mild one might not cause issue with normal straight and level flying – but, to expand just a tad on the subject….. imagine you are now highly confident… and decide to do some “loops”… great, if you have straight lines… but, when doing loops – you begin to “wind” the lines over each other… each loop, another wind…… if you have a kink (or more) in your lines – they “will” bind on your ability to freely direct the elevator… eventually getting so bad that the will lock it into an unrecoverable position – the outcome need not be mentioned here….. but, hope you have plenty of balsa at home.. and can source some new lines.

Biggest trap of all players in this aspect of the sport – is the picking up of the handle….. I simply don’t know how many times over the years that I have seen a model launched and immediately on release – goes directly into the ground….. I have seen some amazing builds go into fragmented pieces before they ever did one circuit!

My method is simple – but in 40 years – effective.

Start the motor with a slightly “rich” setting – control line will go a lot leaner than r/c as it runs at full throttle all of the time (more dedicated 3rd line models have throttle – later, not now).

As soon as the propeller gets the model to flying speed – it will scream… right on the edge of its ability… and, if you take off at full mixture power…. You’ll “lean out” almost immediately the model goes into full “song”…. Risking a lean run and engine damage… so, have it just “splutter” that little bit more than you would an r/c model.

Next, I pick up both lines… keep my hands wide apart and very loosely walk out to the handle… allowing the lines to easily pass between my fingers and thumb… looking for “kinks”… and also “cleaning” the debris from the ground from them….. you would be surprised at how little some of this takes to cause “sag” in your lines when the model is in flight… more so, if you are struggling to get it to fly from take off.

When I arrive at the handle, I do not release my slight tension on the lines back to the model – we don’t want any tendency for them to curl over themselves and form the basis of a kink, do we?

I pick the handle up – never look at it… but the first thing I do is look back the model. The launching assistant (rocket thrower) will be instructed to look at the elevator for me… and I then give a distinct “UP” pull on the handle…. Sometimes, you can’t see the elevator from out in the middle…. Some of the speed demons I have flown are either so small from way out there – you can’t… some of them, have had an inboard wing panel only – and an out board stab/elevator… all speed related.

The assistant will indicate up with their thumb…. And I’ll give one back – indicating we are “set to launch”.

These two models I suggest do not have undercarriages. I have flown models with them and found them to be tiresome…. Great for take-off and landing – but, with c/l – we fly our models…… not do touch and go’s etc. etc…. they are built to fly – undercarriage “up”…… for the duration of the flight.

Not having an undercarriage is of so small a disadvantage – more so with small models like these – it doesn’t need justification to go without them……. they simply fly like they should, much faster and more responsive.

The “launch” – the second hardest part of your flight….. getting it up to speed with virtually no purchase on control of the elevator… not for the first 6’ of release, anyway…..

This, folk – is entirely on the ability of your assistant.

A few pointers….. never “throw” it…. It’s more than likely to create a tragic slack in the lines between you and the model.

Always point the model “out” ….. at about 10 degrees outwards from the intended line of the circle…. This aids in keeping the lines taught for you.

Holding the model – one hand over the leading edge of the outboard wing and the other around the fuselage forward of the stabiliser…. Holding anything anywhere near the elevator can be disastrous.

The method of release…. This can be done in just three or four quick steps….. once signaled to launch, begin a progressive acceleration in step…. After the third step – you should be nearly at running pace… by the fourth step – you simply are forced to let it go…. Easy as that.

Allow the model to “fly” from your hands… it will, as it is now well at flying speed – slow, yes… but “flying”.

Main thing is to keep it “smooth”… the pilot will have tension on the lines – you’ll feel this too…… the combination of this tension and the short rise to running speed will allow the model to simply fly out of your hands when you open up your fingers…. If anything, open the front ones first…. Then the fuselage – but, from memory I don’t believe my method indicated there was much “time” between them… maybe it was all psycho-embedded…. Smooth, that’s the word… no throwing, chucking or “pushing”…. Keep it pointed out, and with the nose just slightly up (not to the heavens – absolute foundation for a stall)…. Point it up just sufficiently that the power of the motor has its best chance to pull forwards and slightly upwards…..

The release – yes, your part is almost over….. but there’s one final thing to pay strict attention to – the tailplane…. It has to come past your left hand….. when you let the fuselage go – learn to get out of the way…. Your front hand has plenty of room to escape… or you’d end up clapping hands with the other one… the left hand, however – it has little to do with the launch, but a lot to do with the release……. For the launch, it is basically only a steadier….. for the release – it’s the last point of known contact the model has with the ground….. once that hand lets go – the model is flying…. And you, dear person – are the only threat to it for the short term if released in-correctly.

Learn to get your left hand away as soon as you open your fingers from the fuselage….

Ok, back to the pilot…. For now, it’s a “do or die” situation…. I cannot stress how important it is to “hold your steel” here.. have a little confidence in the model you have just built, the motor you so keenly learned to start and the set-up you have so disciplinary adhered to….. only you are going to bring all of this to an untimely demise…..

Far too many try to do far too much – far too soon!…. in opposition to the famous words of one Winston Churchill….. (sic).

Your assistant has got the model to flying speed for you – your lines are reasonably taught… and the motor is working its little heart out trying to get the model up to flying speed……

The basics – keep your lines taught, not ridiculously that it will draw the model in from your intended circle of departure – but sufficiently that you can maintain control…. The motor will be doing its utmost to pull into the air…. It doesn’t need your added aversion to making it contend with direction from the side as well…. And, too much will counter that great little bit of outward offset the assistant afforded you on release…. You’ll simply “snap” that back and risk the lines going slack as the model tries to accelerate….. yes, folk – there’s a bit more this than meets the eye… and it happens all in the first 3 seconds from release……

We want to keep the model pointing slightly up… even level is ok… down is “not” and neither is anything more than about 20 degrees up…..

When released – it will “dip” – all of them do… even racing speed demons…. So, just be aware of it – all perfectly normal.

The “urge” to react when the pilot sees this is super-critical here…. do NOT pull up… you’ll stall.

As long as the model is pointing slightly up, there’s no point in making matters worse than by adding to it by up elevator….. it’s the model which has “dipped” not the angle of the elevator – and this is all part of getting up to flying speed…… just let it climb out at a gentle rate – it will get to flying speed much quicker on its own than anything you can do to force it….. pull back on the lines to keep a constant firm, but gentle (contradiction, words fail me for the correct term for “firm”) hold on bellcrank….

After about two seconds – the model will have accelerated sufficiently that you’ll start to see it want to level off … that “dip” created on release will have been recovered and you’ll note that you no longer have to keep tension on the lines… the model will now start to be doing this for you….

By the time you get to “downwind” – it should all be starting to come together…. The song of the motor will be coming right on tune and beginning to scream into a solid two-stroke scream….. your lines will by then be as firm as they are going to get… and you will note your having to quicken your “backwards” walking to keep up with the model….

Coming into “upwind” – be on alert .. this return to take off position is going to cause the lines to slacken a little bit…. Do not hesitate to begin to counter this as the model departs wind-on to upwind….. only the fastest of models ever become impervious to any wind when the model  is between you and the wind direction….

Over “take-off” position we go… hopefully, your assistant has had the presence of mind not to become a human pylon for you…. And has either stepped well away to protect your flying site from people/animals entering your circle… or, has dashed out and is standing behind your right shoulder – often being forced to “run” around you as you rotate backwards to the speed of the model……

Duration of flight – I can promise all of you, dizziness “is” going to come… we all get it, most of us learn to live with it when flying.

That terrible blur of a background is going to do amazing things to your mind’s stability… the “only” thing which will stay constant it the solid lock on view of your model – and to a lesser extent, your lines…. All else – will become one of your biggest obstacles if you are to sustain a full flight….. for now, my only suggestion is to attempt to totally ignore the blur of the rapidly passing background – it will “suck” you into some amazing mind feats and distortions if you let it…. Fix on that elevator.. move your eyes up to the prop then out to the wing-tips and leadouts….. stay absolutely focused on this great model which has brought “life” into your world….. a world where you exist entirely on your own with it…. One, which onlookers cannot possibly share the intensity of…. One, until you have embarked into it – cannot possibly be appreciated… this folk, is the selfish little world of c/l….. you and the model – all within the confines of the length of your most precious leads……..

Landing – hmmmm – for those who elected not to employ muffler pressure – this one is going to drive you crazy…..

As the fuel level gets down to the point where it is no longer a solid supply to the motor – the engine is going to go leaner and leaner and leaner…. The model will go faster and faster and faster….

Add this to an existing battle with dizziness – and you result in something that you really just want to come to an end… a happy one!

Do not be surprised, if the motor appears to quit…… almost stops – and the relief of the flight coming to an end almost applaudable….. then, without any warning – it will spring back into life and take you around another two or three laps…. This, folk – can go on for a minute or more… each time, almost quitting – then self-launching back into a sprightly return to the dizzying backround blur….

It can feel as if the model is “possessed”… taunting you to fall to your knees as it attempts to claim you as victim defeated……. You will very quickly come to terms with this “natural” series of stops and starts…. Until one of them finally has that prop stationary… and, it’s all over….. not so!

We now have model which is still “flying”.. dead stick, in r/c terms….. the lines are going to go slack – and there is nothing the motor can do to help you keep them taught enough to maintain control….

This now is entirely up to you – already in a maze of confusing ground levels and numerable vertical axis which you struggle to find the correct one….. you must now bring your model to a safe conclusion…. And the only way you can do this is start to run – backwards! – as if flying the blasted thing and staying upright until the end of the tank wasn’t enough! Demand is now placed on you to run backwards…..and even worse – in a circle…..

We do this to keep the model in flight until airspeed is washed off… the only way we can keep the lines taught is to “lead” the model.. that is – to “pull” or “whip” the model ahead of itself…… and maintain a very slight up elevator to keep “attitude” until it can be gently lowered to the ground as it loses any form of lift……. “fluffing” it down is the expression used to land a model without an undercarriage… belly landing if you like….

Ok, so – it’s “down”…. In one bit.. and by now – any way can be up for you…. You’ll find this “up” tends to wander around a bit until it settles…. Don’t be surprised if your legs want to take you places you had no intention of going… all perfectly normal – no-one had slipped a “Mickey” into your last cup of tea……. You’ll “sober” up quick enough, but the flight isn’t over yet…. You have one last demand – and again, it’s one that many forget and drop their guard…. The “lines”… yes, you must learn the discipline of looking after your lines.

With all your wandering about looking for “up”…. If it gets too much, drop the control handle and try to stagger away from it –completely…

When you have recovered, go back to them and pick the handle up….. being ever careful not to tug on them should they have crossed or looped.

Hopefully, your assistant will have re-emerged from the safe haven of cover and is willing to set you up for another attempt at their lives….

Ask them to lift the model – first looking for any missing “bits” which the model may have shed on landing….. yes, it happens.

Gently pull on your handle to lift the lines from the ground and reposition them to your flying seat position.. and the model to the starting box……. Very carefully, pick up each line as before and walk back out to the model… running the lines through your fingers as before – looking and feeling for “kinks”…. And wiping them (again).

That’s it….. you have “soloed”…. Congratulations.

Of course – you are ever likely to incorporate a considerable number of not-so-successful shorter flights until this full tank qualifier arises… but, as you build experience – so too, will you gain confidence – the two go hand in hand and fully complement each other…..

Clean up – no, don’t run for cover and go home if you have a domestic deadline…… it’s not over yet – the day will be a promise of return if you do just a few little things now to ensure a happy start to the next one…

In order – the lines… they take precedence over all else…

Take a dry cloth and walk back out to the control handle.. checking, checking checking again… but, this time wiping….. get everything off them – or each successive build up of grass, dew, soil (and even insects caught in flight) will amount to greater drag on your lines as they age…. Clean them up nicely after each day’s flying and you will give them their best ever chance of a long life.

The model – “nifty” from the supermarket – a must for IC oil cleaning…. Great smell too…… wipe the model clean, clean enough that you’d be happy to put it on the carpet of your car…..

The motor – make absolutely certain there isn’t any fuel left in the crankcase. Try to start it with few flips – it should be bone dry if you ran that tank out… but, try anyway… nitro methane in fuel can do a lot of damage inside a motor if left for any spell…. So, run the motor dry.

I like to add an “after run” oil in my IC motors… I have used this brew for many years… and found that in a recent return to this aspect of the sport – a motor which was “mothballed” employing my procedure started up within 5 flicks after a spell of over 30 years – yes, incredible – but true!

I mix up a brew of 50% Dexron auto transmission fluid (ATF) and 50% “Inox” oil.. I drip a full venturi of this brew in then flip over the motor a few time then repeat. I wind some old material (a perfect use of old sheets etc.) around the openings and tie a piece of string around all of this…. Ensuring that nothing will leak out – and the dust/crud/ingress of the world won’t get in.

This little procedure of looking after your precious motor, model and gear will amount to many years of consistent and reliable enjoyment in the sport….. rush to get this packed away before heading home will most certainly result in much frustration in the future….. and possibility of an end result from deciding it’s just too hard to get everything in good order again – as many have done over decades.. and we lose them to another hobby….

LDMFA Display day 2017 report

Another successful Airshow on Sunday 19th March. In the lead-up we had an interview on
Eastern FM, Displays at Lilydale Marketplace and Chirnside Park shopping centres
together with our familiar roadside signs.
The day dawned fine and mild but temperatures quickly rose with the maximum for the
day being around the 34C mark. Winds were light for the whole day. Almost perfect flying
weather. With our CASA permit and a 1500 foot ceiling for the day all was set for a
fabulous day. The club now has a five year permit from CASA to hold Display Days at any
time with a 1500 foot ceiling.
Flying commenced sharply at 10AM with a group of club members flying their civilian scale
models. During the course of the day we were to see F3C and 3D helicopters, pylon
racers, gliders being towed to height and F3A aerobatics. There were awesome displays of
mammoth scale aerobatics courtesy of Phillip Singh with his Edge 540 and Scott Matthews
and his ½ scale Pitts. In fact at one stage when Phillip was giving a demonstration with his
Edge he was briefly joined by a rather large wedge tailed eagle. The eagle observed the
action and gently sauntered away from the action. Check out the image on the club
Facebook page.
Unfortunately early in the day Scott Matthews was unable to get the turbine of his De
Havilland Vampire to spool up properly and it was parked for the day. Shortly afterwards
Neil Addicoat lost his Euro just after take-off when it went into failsafe and crashed into
Cocks Paddock. Not an auspicious start to the day.
However as all good modellers do we soldiered on with several large scale models, an
assortment of scale warbirds from both wars flown by club members and a couple of
visitors from other clubs. For a little nostalgia there were a couple of control line modellers
who put on an enthusiastic display of aerobatics and some exiting combat routines. There
were also a number of unusual models including John Warren wing flapping raptor which
handled the slight breeze at the time with aplomb. There was even a session with four
“bugs” undertaking a streamer cut competition. There was still some argy-bargy on
Tuesday with Les Marriner still skiting to Brian Evans
For the newer generation there was FPV racing and some drone flying including Henny
with his octocopter. The drone racing and some sport aerobatics had the crowd
spellbound. I’m sure sales might well increase after these demonstrations.
Action was non-stop for five hours with the show eventually coming to a close at 3PM.
There were over 900 paying public and children attend the day. All children under 16 were
admitted for free. They received a chuckie glider (courtesy of the MAAA) and a ticket for
one of three gate prizes. We were honoured to be paid a visit by two of our local politicians
– David Hodgett with his son and Christine Fyffe. Christine’s husband David is a club
member. Both members seemed to thoroughly enjoy their visits.
That old doyen of the microphone, Cliff McIvor, provided a fantastic narration of the event.
As well as the Air League we had the AvServe team from Coldstream in attendance with
their full size simulator. This proved a popular venue throughout the day for young and old
alike. There was an aerobatic demonstrator by a local from the Lilydale Aero Club in his fill
size Decathlon. The general feeling amongst the modellers was that we modellers do it so
much better than the big boys. But that is just our opinion.
We had the raffle with five major prizes and three gate prizes for the juniors. Michael
Lerpiniere is still giggling after being told he had won the Ares Alara Glider courtesy of
Andrews Scale Models.
Although the final accounting has yet to be done we expect in the order of $5000 to go
toward the cost of replacing the tractor shed.

Thanks go to all the volunteers at the shopping centres and on the day. Those special members who put in that little extra know who you are and for your efforts I am eternally

Terry Pollock
Display Day Director

And of course, there is no event without the assistance of everyone who put in their share
of time, enthusiasm etc etc.
Raffle Sponsors are listed below. Please make every effort to go to them first before you
make your next purchase. They support us, and they may even have what you want in
stock!. Their raffle prizes helped us to have such a spectacular day!

Andrews Scale Models
Organiser – Terry Pollock
Barry Thompson – Catering and facilities
Glenn Presser – Finances
Peter Rebbechi – Main Gate/Parking
Peter Rady – Raffle
Terry Pollock – Shopping Centres

I don’t have the list at hand regarding the members who did the shopping centre displays, but we should all
thank them profusely.
Gate and Parking
Bill Schuffelen, Frank Siberras, Rob Eastwood, Reg Gardner, Carl Cowman, Graham Broad, Barry Browne,
Arch Fotheringham, Rusty Prouse, Gamini Undugodage Michael Lerpiniere and Lee Eastham
Food Stall – Note Russell Thomas and Ha Claydon served the WHOLE day – Thankyou for your effort!
Russell Thomas, Barry Thompson, Ha Claydon, Maddie McLaren, David Louden, John Walker, Rod McLaren
Raffle Tent
Peter Rady – Also the whole day (main driver last year too!), Ian Bray, Brett Lang and Ken Dalgleish.
There was also an excellent turnout for the two working bees. Many thanks Gentlemen.

Here are some pictures of the day sent in by Peter Ward:

Thanks Peter.

Is Training required?

When beginner planes are sold with stabilisation, self landing and bailout functions, and quadcopters can almost fly themselves (sometimes better than we can!), and return to home is available, it may be asked if flight training is still valid?

The answer is an unequivical YES.


NO electronics yet has substituted for a poorly built model that requires some attention, where a stabiliser may be at an odd angle perhaps.
No electronics available can test for cracking in structural components, or reversed controls. Or a fatigued rubber band about to let go. Or a lead poorly plugged in.
No electronics yet can determine that it is better to wait until ‘that fast plane’ lands to take off, or it is best to remain on the ground if ‘Deadstick Harry’ takes to the air.

And most certainly, no electronics yet can take in all the variables that Flight Training teaches. Situational Awareness.
What is everyone else doing?
What is everyone else about to do?
What direction is the traffic pattern today?
Can I share with other people?

Flight training teaches situational awareness as part of a RISK MINIMISATION process.
As well as the obvious practical flight instruction, the core component is the ability to read a situation and act appropriately.
This applies to every model we launch into the air. Whether it cost $20 or $20,000.

Other peoples thoughts?

Please let me know your thoughts at [email protected] or in the comment area below, I am sure there are plenty of sides to this argument as well as comments.  All are welcome.


The MAAA has listed a few issues lately with large models using powerboxes where it appears that failsafe did not work properly. Losing a large model is heartbreaking, but smaller models would benefit from using failsafe as well. So would your wallet.
Hearing talk in the pits, it was apparent that people would like to use failsafe, but were worried that it was complicated and beyond them. I had a look at my own models, and the internet and thought a starter article would be of use to members. As always, test and retest on the ground. Being cautious is a good trait. It is quite easy, and only takes a few moments.

Below are listed the means to program in failsafe in three of the most popular transmitters and systems in use.
You SHOULD DEFINITELY read the manual that came with your tranmsmitter to make sure that these apply to your model transmitter. The internet is very good at propagating mistruths. YOU are responsible for your models.

In all cases, you should enlist the help of another person to restrain the model, and test before launching your beast into the air whenever anything is changed. Testing on the ground is vital, as it is easy to overlook something like a reversed throttle position if you have not verified this.

In any case, you have to assume that if the FailSafe is activated, the model becomes a large free flight model. Idle throttle, neutral or slight up elevator, level ailerons and a small amount of rudder should see a circular glide to the ground in the event it is activated. Much better than a full throttle bore into the distance.!.

All this assumes your model flies straight and true with no control input. If you haven’t trimmed out your model properly, the result may be spectacular but brief.

Where possible, I have cut and pasted directly from the manufacturers manual, but you owe it to yourself to confirm with your own manual!

None of these operations take much time. Heck, you may even learn about something that will save your model (or skin).

Hitec Aurora 9 Fail-Safe Setup
a. Switch on the transmitter, then the receiver, wait for the system to boot and you have control over the model.
b. Press and hold the receiver function button for 6 seconds, release the button. After 2 more seconds both red and blue LED’s blink rapidly.
c. From the moment you release the button, the receiver will count 5 seconds during that time move all the transmitter sticks and other controls to the desired Fail-Safe positions (e.g. motor idle, control surfaces neutral) and hold them there.
d. After 5 seconds the system will save the Fail-Safe position. Relax all the control sticks.
e. Turn off the receiver, then the transmitter.
f. Turn on the system to use it. Fail-Safe is now activated.

Testing the Fail-Safe setting
a. Move the sticks to positions other than the Fail-Safe settings, and then switch off the transmitter. he servos should now move to the Fail-Safe positions previously stored, after the HOLD period (1 sec) has elapsed.

The failsafe feature allows you to set the positions to which each control will move
should the radio signal to the model fail or be corrupted. While this may prevent a flyaway
or save the model from serious damage its main purpose is to minimise the risk to
people on the ground.
In 7-channel mode the failsafe is only available on the throttle channel. In the LINKAGE
MENU scroll to FAIL SAFE and tap RTN. You will see that, by default, the throttle is set to
HOLD . This means that the receiver will hold the throttle at whatever
setting it is on when the radio signal fails. It is strongly recommended that this should be
Scroll to HOLD next to Throttle and tap RTN. Scroll to
change HOLD to F/S and confirm with RTN. A % value
will now appear which shows the POSition to which
the throttle will move in the event of signal failure.
Scroll to this value. Move the throttle stick to its fully closed position and hold RTN for a second. The value
will change to reflect the position of the stick.
Check the operation by switching on the receiver.
Open the throttle by moving the throttle stick up.
While watching the throttle servo switch off the
transmitter. The throttle servo should move to its tick over position. Switch on the
transmitter again and the throttle servo should return to its original position. On an
electric model the motor should stop when the failsafe activates.
In MULT and MLT2 frequency modes failsafe positions can be set for every channel.
Spektrum Failsafe Settings
three settings really, Smartsafe and failsafe and hold last command

SmartSafe™ prevents unexpected motor startup when connecting the battery and shuts off the motor if the signal is lost. Failsafe positions for all channels are stored during binding. If the receiver is turned on before the transmitter, the receiver will not output a signal to the throttle channel, preventing the ESC from arming. When the transmitter is turned on and the throttle is placed in the low throttle position, the receiver transmits a low throttle signal to the throttle channel, allowing the speed control to arm. After connection, if the signal is lost, the throttle will go to its preset failsafe position (low throttle), while all other channels will hold their last command.

Preset Failsafe The Preset failsafe moves all channels to their programmed failsafe positions. We recommend using Preset failsafe to deploy spoilers on sailplanes to prevent a flyaway if the radio signal is lost.
To program Preset failsafe:

1. Insert the bind plug in the bind port on the receiver and power on the receiver. 2. Remove the bind plug when the orange LED on the main receiver and all attached remote receivers flash rapidly. The orange receiver LEDs will continue flashing.
3. Move the transmitter control sticks and switches to the desired Preset failsafe position. Power the transmitter on.
4. Failsafe programming is complete when the orange LEDs on the transmitter and all receivers turn solid.

The Hold Last Command failsafe maintains the last command on all channels except throttle. If the radio signal is lost, the aircraft maintains the commanded heading until the receiver regains signal. To program Hold Last Command, follow the provided binding instructions in the instruction manual.

To Test Hold Last Command:
1. Power on the transmitter and receiver.
2. Move one of the control sticks to the desired Hold Last Command position and hold the input.
3. While holding the control input (for example, a small amount of rudder) power off the transmitter. The rudder should maintain the input command

– Peter Rebbechi … [email protected]