Skip to content

Rockets and Airplanes

My Pop was a fireworks fanatic.  Summer would arrive and with it, Pop would bring boxes of fireworks home.  There were lots of different sizes from little finger crackers to m80 bombs.  My favorite fireworks were the rockets.  Of the rockets, bottle rockets were my raw materials to build things.  Lots of things. I, of course, took bottle rockets apart.  Unrolling the paper of a bottle rocket revealed, the power source.  Black power and a fuze made of string drenched in black power made the assembly work.  Bottle rockets could be taped together in an assembly of three and a forth could be slid between the assembly.  By carefully building a fuse and rapping all four fuses together it was possible to build a two stage bottle rocket and yes, it flew many times!.

Just launching bottle rockets was one thing.  Combine this with a paper or balsa airplane and I had a very exciting sky climbing flaming beast.  I chased down the fire ball multiple times before I decided this was a bit more dangerous then I wanted to deal with.  Lighting the neighborhood up in flames was not a good idea.

Experimenting with paper planes, then balsa planes, balsa planes with elastic bands and propelers kept me busy for a couple of summers.  But the Holy Grail was that nitro powered plane in the green stamp book.

Green stamps.  Back when I was young (had to say that somewhere in this blog) grocery shopping at the Stop and Shop was much like today.  The part that was cool for kids was the checkout.  The cashier would punch in the price (there were no scanners) and at the end,  would take Pop’s or Mom’s money and give back some change and green stamps.  Somehow greenstamps were a prize for shopping at Stop and Shop.  Now, what do you do with green stamps?  Once a year, the green stamp company (who ever they were) would publish this glossy book of prizes you could get.  Each prize required some number of books or pages of green stamps that were collected when you went shopping.  Scattered around the Boston metro area were Green Stamp stores where you could go and claim your green stamp prize.

So, what does all this have to do with nitro airplanes?  Well for six books and three pages I could get this nitro powered .049 cu hand controlled airplane and really fly something!  With wet tongue and a draw full of loose green stamps I managed to fill the appropriate number of pages and walked up to the green stamp store to claim my airplane.

Now, Pop was not big with mechanics or fixing things and, well, I was.  So, I was on my own, something that, really, reflects how I have gone through life.  No mentor for model airplane flying, no friends to share experience with, just my own brain.

Nitro planes are a bit dangerous.  The fuel is very flammable and evaporates really fast.  The motor is a tiny single piston that runs in two cycles.  First cycle draws in some fuel, compresses the fuel, a glow plug (diesel style) explodes the fuel (keeping the glow plug hot) and the second cycle pushes the exhaust and compresses the air for the next cycle.  To get this engine started, I had to load fuel into the fuel tank with a tiny plastic hose, prime the engine by spinning the propeller (hitting the propeller blade with your index finger so it would spin) then, hooking a battery up to the glow plug to get the initial heat started.  Finally, you whack the propeller blade with your finger and if all goes well it starts up. (sometimes the motor would back fire and your finger would take the brunt of the force causing painful cuts).  With the plane engine  running and the blocks holding the plane I ran to the other end of the control lines, tugged on the plane to release the blocks and the plane picked up speed.  With deft control, I tipped the hand control up and the plane took off into the sky and promptly nose dived into the ground.

A week of repairs, glue, screws xacto blades and thinking about how to keep it from nose diving and I was in the air.  The first of many flights and many airplnes that kept me occuppied for many summer days.

One Comment

  1. Zinahe wrote:


    I really enjoy reading your blog entries. Thanks for sharing.


    Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *