The way we were – February 1969


February 1969 is not a month I recall (I was only a toddler), yet on the 9th the Boeing 747 made its first flight, on the 24th Mariner 6 was fired into space en route to Mars and, somewhere in-between, Volume 10 issue 2 of RCM&E hit the streets. With both Ron Moulton (Managing Editor) and Tony Dowdeswell (Editor) appearing in the ‘flannel panel’ the issue promised great things and, by the look of it, didn’t disappoint.

Ad Manager Roland Sutton had clearly done his job well for this was an issue packed with period advertising. Occupying the rear cover, and doubtless paying a heavy premium for the privilege, RCS Ltd. was proudly offering its single-channel super regen’ radio. Costing £13 for the transmitter and receiver combo, plus £4.5.0 for the rubber driven escapement this was the solution for budget-conscious R/C flyers of the day. In contrast, then, Kraft’s 6-channel digital proportional set was ruinously priced at £199! So expensive was this back in 1969 (by my estimation, approaching £3500 in today’s money), Roland Scott Ltd. was not only providing demonstrations on request, it was also offering to spread the cost via 24 monthly instalments of £9.15.0.


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While on the subject of radio gear, this was clearly a time when UK manufacturers were making hay with kits and ready-made radios of all shapes and sizes in abundance. Take, for example, Remcon’s 12-channel Versatile superhet reed set with its seven fascia-mounted switches which, in the hands of an accomplished pilot such as Chris Ohlson, could be employed to guide an Uproar through a beautifully arranged aerobatic sequence as if under full proportional control. Alas, I never saw these skills for real and can only imagine the incredible dexterity of the hand and finger work that must have been required to fly, and compete, at this level. 




Typical of the period, and possibly the dearth of rival publications, very little attempt is made to sell the content on the front cover, indeed only two cover lines appear, the first highlighting a Fokker DVIII plan feature, the second drawing our attention to a build article for RCM&E’s very own digital receiver. 

Designed by Pat Tranfield for single channel (that RCS gear, perhaps?) “or even the latest, lightweight multi R/C gear” the 47” Fokker made into a very good-looking model indeed. It featured some wonderful scale detailing, too, not least of which was a convincing pilot, authentic lozenge camouflage, dummy engine cylinders, twin Spandau machine guns, struttery, bracing wires and a cowl from an aluminium saucepan. Remarkably, the DVIII displays absolutely no sign of dihedral, which I find amazing given that it was designed for rudder-only control. 


I had to smile at Pat’s closing comment: “I’ll bet there’s some multi man reading this article wondering why I’m getting worked up over a simple single-channel model? All I can say in my defence is: One day, when we colonize the moon and give proportional radio equipment away instead of Trading Stamps, I shall go to the Nationals with my action-packed BF109G and… See you there in 1979?” Well, Pat may have been a few decades out on the timing but he wasn’t wrong about proportional R/C being given away. I wonder if he made it to the Nats with his BF109?




In the news section a report of John Crampton’s attempt at setting a national R/C speed record noted that on 20th October ’68, at Godalming in Surrey, his cut-down 32” span Merco .49-powered Goldberg Shoestring was clocked at 101.49 mph. Quite a modest speed given that today’s DS gliders are reaching upwards of 400mph, however, back then, topping the ton was clearly quite an achievement. John was never one to sit still, indeed, when I first met him, some 20 years later whilst reporting for Clubman, my then new RCM&E column, he’d just flown an own design sea plane, called Orbiter, all the way around the Isle of Wight. A true innovator and gentleman who left a positive impression on all.


Writing under the pseudonym Button Man, David Boddington’s column Single Channel Chatter discussed the annoyance of arriving ill-prepared for a flying session with less than a full complement of tools and accessories. Amongst the essentials are listed the following: Spare escapement rubber, plywood packing for wing and tailplane incidence, a tuning tool for receiver tuning and, get this, “some glass headed pins and a wax model of your editor (for revenge purposes when all is not going well!).” Don’t be getting any ideas you lot, my flying sessions can be painful enough, thank you.


Back in the late ‘60s R/C aerobatics was clearly the Holy Grail of many aspiring pilots to the point that three pages were dedicated to reproducing the first part of the FAI schedule, along with guidance notes for judges. Amongst the figures is a smattering of both straightforward and (given the radio of the day) downright difficult manoeuvres. Can you imagine flying a single five second slow roll or a rolling circle using non-proportional reed gear? I’m a great believer in flying pattern aerobatics as part of a regular Sunday routine. It keeps your hand in, stops you getting stale and improves confidence no end. This being the case, why not dig out your low-winger and have a go at the ’69 FAI Schedule. Download the pdf at but don’t expect to breeze through it!   

Of particular interest in the judges’ notes is the paragraph that reads: “Not permitted – models which are completely prefabricated and require only a few minutes of unskilled effort for their completion or complete ready to fly models which have been built by a person other than the pilot.” Hmm, that would rule a good many of us out, then!    


What with Peter Russell’s Straight & Level, Peter Chinn’s Radio Motor Commentary, a new products section and a report from a Japanese waterplane event hosted by Shigeo Ogawa (Mr O.S.), this was a full issue despite its pagination – 60 pages, 26 of which were filled with advertising.

Finally, in the Model Shop Directory of the classified section an ad for Avicraft Ltd. of Chatterton Road, Bromley. Established by Bunny Newman in 1963 the shop is still there, it’s still owned and run by the Newman family and it still serves the needs of the model flyer. It’s a shop with a genuine atmosphere, a real sense of history and a warm welcome. All should pay at least one visit if only in homage to the past masters of model flight who have crossed the threshold.

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