Scale Gliding


Your new columnist’s latest 1:3.26 scale version of the full-size Gull replica.

Chris Williams kicks off his new scale soaring column with a rare Fly-In report.

As we all know, there was precious little to be pleased about in 2020. But one thing happened that stimulated even my normal dystopian cynicism. The White Sheet Club (or White Sheet Radio Flying Club, to declare its full title) had lost most of its scheduled events by the time we got to September. All that was left was the proposed Scale Glider Fly-In on the 13th. (The 13th? You can’t make this stuff up!)
To add to the tension, the following day was when the existing 30-person rule was due to be chopped down to six, so the stakes were very high. You can imagine the surprise all round when the forecast was one of such perfection, that it’s never happened before, or since. I was a little worried that the 30-person rule might be breached, but on the day a manageable 20+ plus turned up to make hay whilst they could.



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Action! Motley Crew launches the prototype RCM&E Petrel.

Despite the favourable forecast, conditions became a little light at times, adding a frisson of adventure to some of the flights. On a personal note, I was, therefore, very pleased that my latest fifth scale version of the venerable Minimoa performed admirably, being efficient enough and small enough to put down anywhere on the slope edge on the occasions when Mr Lift went off for a break. Pat Teakle was the only one to succumb to landing out with his Skylark, and such was the expertise of his landing that he was awarded the White Sheet Hat of Commiseration, for which he was truly grateful. (Or so he said.)


Smallpiece launches Jim Emptage’s Slingsby Skylark.

Since their publication both the seventh scale Wolf and fifth scale Petrel designs have found a certain favour locally. And thus, it was that we had three versions of the Wolf on display, including the original, as well as three of the Petrels. Inside my head, I hatched a cunning plan, but how to persuade the others..?



Richard Edmunds considers launching his Minimoa in the light air.


The prototype RCM&E Wolf in action.

It took a mixture of cajolery and outright threats but eventually we were on the same page – there was to be a simultaneous 3-Wolf launch and my pal Motley was going to immortalise the moment with the camera. ‘I’m going to count to three’, I said, as I have counted in the lads in the band many times, and the other two victims… sorry, volunteers, nodded glumly. ‘One, two, three’, I shouted, and the camera went clickckickclickclick etc. Well, Red Arrows it wasn’t, as I was the only one to launch on time. And to make things worse, Smallpiece turned left instead of right, leading to some very nifty all-round stick work. Meanwhile, the camera suffered a digital focussing crisis, deciding, what the heck, to focus on the horizon instead! So, no front cover pics resulted, but I have to say a great deal of enjoyment was spread wide and far!



You don’t see one Wolf for ages…


Your author tries out the new fifth scale version of the Minimoa slope-side for the first time. Coming soon as an RCM&E plan.



Happy scene at the White Sheet Scale Fly-In.


Pat Teakle receives the White Sheet Hat of Commiseration for the landing out of his Skylark.

It seems a long time ago now – laughter, sunshine and soaring – but, hopefully, this year will see a return to some sort of normality and, who knows, maybe a simultaneous four Wolf launch!


For the last few years, it has been borne upon me that there’s more stuff behind than the stuff ahead. This has manifested itself in various ways, such as the fact that the larger gliders, once hoisted above my head with impunity, now seem to be rather heavier than I remember. One of the consequences of this fact is that I now seem to relish building models of more modest dimensions and avoirdupois.


The new Kirby Gull before finishing.

For instance, my original version of the Slingsby Cantilever Gull replica now seems immodest in size, so I set about building a smaller version. One of the big advantages in designing using a CAD programme is that scaling up or down can be a fairly swift process overall, although re-drawing the slots in the formers and ribs can be a little tedious. I quickly realised that by a judicious choice of scale, 6mm slots on the original drawing miraculously become 5mm slots in the new one, which is why, as I build my way through old designs, that they come in at slightly odd scales.


The Gull in action at the County Model Flying Club.


Author with the new ‘Cantilever’ Gull.

The new Gull, based on the ‘Blue Gull’ in the museum at Lasham, is built to 1:3.9 scale, which gives a wingspan of 3.9m and an AUW of 12lbs (I know, but as a Baby Boomer I’m only halfway converted to metric.) The fuselage is built by the half-shell method, the individual gull wings are built in one piece, the fuselage is covered with Solartex and painted in two-pack, whilst the flying surfaces are covered with film. Such are the topsy turvy times in which we live, that the model is still to be trimmed out properly – and yet I have built two more scaled down designs since then!


All you wanted to know about quantum gliding, but were afraid to ask…

The BJ1 glider is an American home-build glider, with as far as I know no discernible vices. My first attempt at an electric glider was a small seventh scale version that flew like a rocket. This was followed by a more sedate fifth scale version and, finally, the 3.6 scale version. This started off as electric assist, but due to the start of some very exciting adventures it now exists as a pure glider, as nature intended.


The offending article – the BJ1 Duster.

Of all the models I have ever built over a busy lifetime, I have never had one so keen to dismember itself against Mother Earth’s hard, stony surface (or Unplanned Rapid Disassembly in modern parlance!) Inquest after inquest has failed to come up with a definitive conclusion as to the root causes, other than the usual pedestrian mistakes like forgetting to glue the elevator on etc. However, I think science, in the form of the realm of theoretical physics, might be able to get to the bottom of it all – it has everything to do with Quantum.

If you’ve been paying attention, you will no doubt know that Quantum Computers don’t use the old-fashioned binary system at their core; instead, they rely on switches that can be either on, off or both on and off at the same time. This has something to do with Quantum Superposition, or am I confusing it with Superstition? It seems that in the Quantum world, the act of observing something happening, changes it, causing what’s happening to happen in a different manner, and I think this is what is at the root of the problem with the Duster.

Somehow, during the course of its construction, the airframe slipped into a Quantum dimension, which neatly explains why the paint wouldn’t dry. You see, when I put it aside for the chemical magic to happen, the paint hardened off nicely, but as soon as I went to look at it i.e., observe it, Superposition took place, and the ruddy stuff went soft again. This also explains the lack of glue on the elevators; they were firmly fixed until I needed them, then…bammo!

So, here’s my theory:

Left to its own devices the Duster is a very nice flying model, but as soon as I look i.e., observe it, it slips into the Quantum state and heads straight for Terra Quanta. After some hours in my bijou home laboratory, and taking some advice from the late Douglas Adams, I have invented some Peril-O-Matic sunglasses. These are designed in such a way that if a model is observed in the process of committing Glidercide, they turn black, thus cutting off the act of observation and returning the model to its previous Quantum state…


In passing, it’s worth noting that the late Douglas Adams had some sage words about flying. It seems that the secret of learning how to fly is to throw yourself at the ground and miss…

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