For most of my life the traditional default power source for model aircraft has been the two stroke internal combustion engine. Powered models were admirably supplemented by rubber power and solid fuel rocket engines that were mostly of the JETEX brand. Over the last few years there has been a concentrated attack on our traditions by the advances of technology.
Four stroke model aircraft engines were the first to appear on the scene and at first were an expensive, underpowered but lovely sounding alternative. In a few short years we have seen refinements in these motors produce astounding advances and the increase in power output, and the reduction in price, has seen their wide spread adoption, particularly in the larger scale model arena.
Next was the appearance of large four stroke multi cylinder engines. Marvels of miniature engineering and, many modellers thought, to own one was almost worth dying for. The appearance of multi cylinder RADIAL engines was just one more reason to build that huge model with the great gaping round cowl. If you have ever seen a large scale F4U Corsair or a big P47 Thunderbolt equipped with a radial engine you will know what I mean. With the appearance of the Chinese manufacturers, and the attendant reduction in prices, even these miniature marvels are within the grasp of us poor mere mortals to possess. On top of all this the Japanese O.S. Company brought out the the IL300, a four cylinder masterpiece based on the old Gipsy aircraft engine. Most modellers thought we had died and gone to heaven.
Of course the two stroke motors had benefited from all this technology as well. I nearly choke when I run up one of my larger vintage motors and see a modern two stroke half or even one third it's capacity produce twice as much power. Modern two stroke motors are lighter, more compact, better designed, more powerful AND cheaper than their equivalent counterparts of even twenty years ago.
So everything was looking sweet and we old dinosaurs sat contented with our oil soaked rags, our methanol and our nitro. Then one day a younger member turned up at the field with an ELECTRIC powered, ALMOST READY TO FLY, MOULDED FOAM model of a Spitfire! The damn thing was still in the box he'd bought it in! A Triple effrontery to us balsa stick and nitro devotees who built all our models with love and dedication from scratch. Then he proceeded to assemble it on the spot. The mutters of disgust and the jeers of derision would have defeated a lesser man, young or old. Never the less he had it assembled and ready to fly in less than fifteen minutes.
The comments from the old lags flowed like water off a duck's back. Followed by howls of "It'll never fly" and "It will crash and all that foam will crumble" he launched it into the air. There was a stunned silence! The damn thing flew! Fast! And he pulled all the maneuvers that you would expect from a radio controlled model of the legendary Spitfire. After only five minutes the motor quit and he brought the model in, dead stick , to a perfect three point landing. We wouldn't admit it but we were impressed. Of course we found reason to roundly criticise the model. The batteries were flat after only barely five minutes in the air and a Spitfire that flies by with nothing but a whisper was definitely not kosher for a War Bird. We pronounced electric power dead before it had even had a chance to grow up.
That was nearly five years ago, that same young modeller is now in his mid twenties and constantly wins our scale day trophies with his electric powered, multi engined, sound system equipped, giant scale models. We scratch building, nitro engined old dinosaurs sit away in the corner of our pits and while sniffing the aroma of our Castor Oil soaked rags and discussing the relative merits of cross grain as opposed to radial grain balsa mutter terrible incantations to banish the squadrons of moulded foam, electric powered, trainers, pylon racers and scale war birds flying triumphantly around the skies. Sometimes I just want to cry.
What's It all About ???
This page is all about the building and flying of radio controlled model aircraft. It's a highly diversified hobby that takes in as many skills as you like to use. Everything from electronics to carpentry, to painting, to drawing and designing with a little bit of metal work thrown in. Some builders even go into doing their own machining, pattern designing, fibre glassing, moulding and engine design. You can use electric motors, 2 stroke or 4 stroke internal combustion engines or even minature turbine (jet) engines for power. My own models use 2 and 4 stroke internal combustion engines and range in size from about a metre in wingspan to well over 3 metres from tip to tip!