The way we were – March 1992


Some old issues of RCM&E resonate for different reasons. March 1992 hits the spot for me as it reflects the time when I got back into the hobby, thinking it best that I learn how to fly properly, once and for all.

For many, twenty years won’t seem so long ago, especially as the letters A, R, T and F had become quite well established. Truth is, kits of this nature actually date back to the early ‘80s, if not before, and while far less common in ‘92, they were certainly around. Many manufacturers and retailers names are still familiar, two and four-stroke engines don’t appear much different from those we use now and the competition disciplines were mature. Yet, change is the only constant and much that’s reflected in the March 1992 issue does seem to hail from another era. For example, the plethora of cottage kit manufacturers, the sheer dominance of i.c. and an absence of mainstream ARTF, foam and electric products.   

A model aeroplane on the cover will help sell a model aeroplane magazine so March ’92 offered a rare break from the norm. Whether new editor Kevin Crozier was keen to stamp his mark or not, David Bramwell’s fine hand-built 9cc V-twin, a highlight at the Model Engineering Exhibition a couple of months earlier, was undeniably impressive.   


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The first computer radios were starting to appear in the early ‘90s so by ’92 JR’s X-347 and Futaba Field Force 7 Super were boasting features previously unheard and starting to find (prosperous) adoptees at club level. The LCD screens were small, yet the sets offered a pretty good array of facilities and a grand total of four model memories apiece. They weren’t cheap mind, a FF7 setting you back some £450 in today’s money. Nevertheless, they were well made and, even now, you’ll sometimes come across a FF7 doing sterling service. 


In looks alone the JR and Futaba sets appeared cutting-edge but, sadly, by comparison, Fleet’s MX7 system, advertised on page 44, seemed to hail from another age. I say ‘in looks alone’ because despite the absence of an LCD the PCM-MX7 transmitter offered a surprising number of facilities including end point adjust, exponential, dual rates, aileron / rudder mixing, elevon mixing, V-tail, and differential ailerons. Fleet, the last mainstream British radio manufacturer, would continue for another 10 years or so bolstered by a loyal customer base and excellent service reputation.




By 1992, MFA’s Sport 500 helicopter was clearly showing its age too, especially when compared to machines from other manufacturers such as Kyosho. Mind you, price can’t be ignored, the significantly cheaper Sport 500 was still finding rotary wing converts perhaps thanks to its new collective pitch capability. Morley, incidentally, would keep the British R/C heli manufacturing flag flying until the late 1990s.  



Who remembers Powerplanes International? The Welsh kit manufacturer was also prominent at the time and its Maule M5 Sky Rocket was reviewed by Archie Clark. It’s an aeroplane with which I’m particularly familiar as I was fortunate enough to bump into Archie some time after he penned the review and persuade him to part company with the model.  

At the time I convinced myself that any high winger had to fly like a trainer, which isn’t always the case, of course. Indeed, the 66” span aerobatic Maule was anything but. Following on from my three-channel Galaxy trainer, the Maule was a right ol’ handful and my learning curve certainly hit a plateau for a few months until I realised a proper high-wing trainer was required. Nice aeroplane the Maule though, and surprisingly aerobatic. In fact, I’m currently attracted to the modern ARTF example from Glen’s Models.


Cambrian’s Fun Fighters always seem to be just about to return to production, the headline ‘They’re Back!’ having that familiar ring. Perhaps the little three-channel hacks just keep getting re-discovered by succeeding generations? 

The kits were a good 10 – 15 years vintage by ’92 when Ripmax re-introduced them at £49.95 a go, and guess what? Yep, they’ve recently returned thanks to Paul Bardoe’s PB Models, some 30 years after they were first introduced. 


Remember Profilm? Of course you do, it’s Oracover by its earlier name. First introduced in 1991, the German made covering was one of the first polyester based materials and offered improved characteristics compared to some of the existing polypropylene films that builders had grown up with. A firm favourite with many ever since, polyester films can stand heaps of heat and can be repositioned, even after they’ve been attached. A touch of the iron is all that’s required before lifting and re-adjusting. As you can imagine, this was a feature that seemed pretty revolutionary at the time. 


From the pictorial aspect alone, it’s fascinating to see how portrayal of the hobby has changed. Good flying shots weren’t so easy to acquire twenty years ago, so visuals have a more human quality. Simply stated, there are far more faces, and younger versions of some well-known latter-day flyers filling the pages. 

Jeff Barringer is the founder of the helicopter 3D masters and 3DX so now spends his time travelling the world to organise the international competitions. A March ’92 article saw him writing a plan feature for Wild Thing, David Boddington’s new and unusual twin-boom fun flyer. The nifty configuration didn’t catch on as far as fun flyers are concerned, although Jeff seemed suitably pleased with the model’s performance. 


Dave Chinery flew the electric flight flag in RCM&E for many years in his Flying Sparks column and he’s still avidly building and flying, electric of course. Ninety-two saw Dave describing his huge 115” span, 8.5 lb Bristol Brabazon. The ground-breaking model employed four geared Astro Cobalt .035 motors (remember them?) driving counter-rotating props that employed between 21 and 24 cells in series. Dave designed and built the propulsion systems and retracts and believes his Brabazon is still the largest counter-rotating R/C model to have flown.

Cobalt motors, thanks to their terrifyingly high current draw, had but a short dalliance with aeromodellers, although Nickel cells are still used occasionally and Dave still favours NiMHs in many of his larger projects, particularly where their weight counters the need for additional ballast. 


In his Turnaround column, Colin Fretwell introduced the GBRCAA’s Sportsman class, a new entry-level competition discipline designed to encourage those who might have been put off by the cost of a high-end F3A model. The Sportsman class called for engines no bigger than a .61 two-stroke or 1.20 four-stroke and no retracts or tuned pipes. In other words, pretty much anything would go and that’s still the case. Now called the Clubman class, the idea has been responsible for introducing many talented young flyers to precision aerobatics in the intervening years.

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