1. How it all began down under. 1959 -1974
I remember having a lot of fun with rubber powered stick models as far back as Grade 1 at school. I distinctly remember making a ramp with a brick and a piece of fibro sheet so I could enjoy the thrill of a ROG rubber stick model. I was 6 years old then. If I wasn't flying kites or playing with folded paper or balsa chuck gliders, I was looking up at the sky watching real planes. My fathers cousin flew in to see us for an over-nighter sometimes (in Warwick Qld, Australia) in his twin engined Piper. He would fly over our house doing steep turns until we heard him and then we would come out and wave vigorously at him. He would then waggle his wings fly the 12 miles to the Warwick aerodrome and wait for us. Dad would drive us out to the strip in the 58 Ford Customline to pick him up. I will never forget the first time he took my brothers and I for a flight over town. That flight was all I needed to be hooked on flying for life.
I advanced to my first real balsa model build about 1970 aged 11 when in Grade 6 at school. It was a free flight balsa and tissue sailplane called a Nimbus(Made by Aeroflyte I think and about 3 foot wingspan.) The joy of hooking a thermal off a 150ft towline and nearly losing that plane altogether was the beginning of a lifetime interest in the excitement of finding that invisible rising air and flying my sailplanes in it. I dabbled in control line in Grade 7 and 8 and then through high school with a succession of planes including a Cox .049 PT19 trainer to start and then my first big balsa build with a 56" Aries stunt plane powered by a McCoy .35. A succession of very fast Taipan .15 Gold head powered combat wings followed. These were my first "real" builds from plans without the help of a kit. The model was designed in the UK and called a Hornet (from Aeromodeler mag.) Control line combat was certainly a lot of fun but reading the Aeromodeler mag and Radio Control Modeler every month had me pining for something RC as soon as I could afford it. My brother Philip and I built a 50" wingspan free flight model powered by a 2.5cc diesel engine and fitted a single channel (rudder) rubber band powered radio to it. It used a push button radio. If I remember corectly one button press gave right rudder 2 presses gave left rudder. and 3 clicks for neutral. Something like that in any case. It was a terrific challenge to make this contraption fly in some sort of controlled manner and we were very proud when we manage to not only complete a flight until the engine ran out of gas but also managed to land it back on the soccer field where we started. What an accomplishment! I remember I was about 13 at the time.
During High school on Saturdays I would ride my treadly all the way out to the Warwick Aerodrome to help the full size sailplane club and most days spent out there driving the winch retrieve jeep netted me a "hangar flight" in the Blanik at the end of the day. A great feeling of pride was had when I finally got to drive the V8 powered glider winch at age 14. Hauling full size gliders up with that winch was a terrific thrill. I remember the instructions I was given for when a glider got "hooked up" and was unable to release. I was supposed to hop out of the drivers seat and grab the bolt cutters and cut the wire. Never did happen but was a scary thought all the same. I never did go solo in a glider but had many flights where I flew the entire flight under the training of instructors Ted Steggall or Mr Frank Hart. I remember being enthralled for hours with their accounts of flying and World War II exploits etc. My first job at 15yo netted me $50 a week after tax. It took me just 10 weeks to save enough money to purchase a 5 channel Futaba Digital Proportional Radio. That changed everything!