02 May 2012

Retro slopers

This past Sunday 22 April 2012, the weather looked favourable for sloping at my local slope Winston Park. I duly loaded the car and headed off, making a detour past Dudley’s workshop for help in getting my Zally ready for flight. When I arrived at the slope there were already guys flying, with more joining us as the morning turned into afternoon. There were some new faces on the slope, as well as some seasoned veterans, including both Daves (Greer & Hooker). Both these gents influenced my flying in my bm days (before marriage) in Pietermaritzburg, as well as others such as the late Pete Milne, Russ Conradt and Tex Impey. Back then I was only flying rudder/elevator models and it was only after a 20 year hiatus that I went onto aileron models (about 5 years ago). Needless to say, I had missed out on a whole two decades of “new” models which were no doubt cutting edge in their day, but are tame by today’s composite creations and modern airfoils. I’m not sure of the vintage of the Middle Phase glider, but I never had the pleasure of flying one back in my bm days, so it was with great excitement that I inherited one from Dave Hooker a while back. This one was an experiment by Dave who put Wortmann tips on it and changed the airfoil (or so he thinks) and had served its purpose and was going to be binned. A few servos and some epoxy later and it was ready for its maiden flight, which almost ended in disaster as there was very little up elevator and she just kept on going down. Having safely landed back on top (well done Arthur) it was discovered that the main wing incidence was way out and the elevator hinges needed replacing. This was duly done a while back and she was one of the planes I took with me on Sunday. I had by now also wiped her off my transmitter to make space for my Sungazer scale models which will see some Volksrust air this coming weekend.

Dave Hooker seated while I launch his Radian – his faithful dog Shasha watches with interest.

Dave Greer (left) and myself enjoying some stick time at Winston Park on Sunday.

Then along comes Shaun, a sloper whom I only recently met, who duly produces a stunning Middle Phase in a natural wood finish, which he prepares to launch.

Of course, this motivates me to pull mine out of the car, delete another model off my transmitter, and re-program my Middle Phase back in. A quick charge of the batteries, and we are ready for a re-maiden launch, this time without my test pilot Arthur for assistance. I even asked the photographer not to take shots of the launch, as it could quite easily end in disaster and tears – of course he didn’t listen. Thanks to (another)Dave (Claxton) for the superb photographs used in this blog. So here we go……..

Off she went like a homesick angel – once my nerves had calmed I got down to wringing her out, and she performed flawlessly (in a retro kind of way) Speaking to Dave, my benefactor, afterwards he mentioned that in his opinion, the original kitted model flew the best of the lot, despite his many experiments with airfoil selection, tips, wingspan and planform. But I’m happy with my under achiever – here she is in a dive – Wortmann tip clearly visible

Chatting to Shaun he tells me he bought two planes off Percy, another seasoned modeler, who was downscaling - the Middle Phase and a Gnot. I too had one of those (Gnot) which I loved flying, but which I swopped for a Fox aerobatic glider - which I have yet to complete. Maybe one day Shaun and I can fly our Middle Phase’s in formation, and if I can get my Gnot back, fly those together as well. All in all, a successful day at the slope with a great bunch of guys. I think if the rain hadn’t made its appearance at about 4pm, we would have flown until it got dark.

Perhaps we will see more of the old school slopers appearing as the price of composite models increases and more seasoned slopers start cleaning out their hangars.

I hope so………………

Some more shots courtesy of Dave, showing the clean lines of Shaun’s Middle Phase.