Dick Salter launches a Combat plane at East Delta Park in Portland, Ore. Flying Lines photo.

Longtime Northwest control-line flier Dick Salter dies

Dick Salter of Tenino, Wash., died April 27, 2016, at the age of 71.

Services for Dick are planned for Tahoma National Cemetery at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, May 16, 2016. The address of the cemetery is 18600 S.E. 240th St., in Kent, Wash.

After services, there will be a get together at the Eagles Club at 2505 252nd St. in Kent, Wash. It is just off highway 99 in Midway. Everyone is welcome to come have a bite, and share a story.

Below is an article Rich wrote in 2013, profiling Dick's lifelong involvement in our hobby.

Dick Salter -- a life in modeling

By Rich Salter

Greetings Everyone!

This article is all about my dad, Dick Salter.

My dad has had some recent health events, Most of you know he has been suffering from Parkinson's, but also dementia, This has required him to need 24-hour care, and has effectively ended his modeling hobby. So I have tried to make a nice overview of his modeling, without it sounding like a memorial.

Dad has been building control-line and free flight airplanes since a teen, and the number he has built over the years must be in the thousands. He relied heavily on model building after his tour of service in Vietnam, as it allowed him a positive escape of the memories of war.

At right: Dick Salter poses with some of his airplanes in 1963. All photos provided by the author unless otherwise noted.

The methods and techniques he used in his building were nothing short of amazing. For instance, if he wanted a center line on the edge of a piece of wood, he would set his pen on his thumb, then set his thumb on the edge, then draw the straightest line right down the center of the workpiece. He then had a reference line, for cutting hinge slots, or even for carving an airfoil. He used reference lines on everything, to keep things lined up properly. It works well, and all of his models flew very well because of it.

We used to build combat planes together in batches. We had a good assembly line action going in most cases, as there were many “stages” to do.

Rich Salter (left) and Dick Salter often worked together as a competition team. Above, Rich starts a Combat engine at a contest at East Delta Park in Portland, Ore., while Dick holds the plane. Flying Lines photo.

A building session always started with a parts list, and inventory. What we didn't have on hand was ordered and depending on what was needed, a larger order was made (such as a balsa order, or hardware, FasCal, etc). Lots of planning went into the building. Supplies were sought out at swap meets, balsa, covering, bellcranks, glue, wheels, engines, tanks, wire, aluminum ... the list goes on and on.

After the inventory was checked, we would start by getting the sheet of foam out, and tooling up to make the cuts. (Hmm a side note, many of the “foamies” Dad has built over the past several years were with wings from inventory, as we cut hundreds of different ones, to make use of all the foam sheet available, thus limiting waste!) We would measure out the sheet to get the maximum amount of wings from it, and very little went to

Then the sheet would be cut into wing sized blanks, and any leftover was saved to cut smaller wings. Then there was the clearancing that had to happen for the controls, and bladder compartment. Those operations had to happen by hand. (Some wings were hollow inside, and there was a separate operation for that. Often times, we would just hollow out the inboard wing, and many times eliminate the need for tip weight.)

All of this is a bit labor intensive, but once tooled up, many wings could be produced in short order.

At right: Dick Salter in Vietnam. Model building was an important part of his life after his return, helping him escape the memories of war.

Then the center sections would be built, and finished. The center included the engine mounts, controls, tailboom and elevator hinge. Bellcranks and leadouts were installed, engine mount holes were drilled, and then the inboard wing was glued in place. Tails were also cut, shaped and finished as one lot. After the inboard wing joint was cured, the outboard wing was glued in place, along with the spars. For this part, the airplane was set into a jig, to ensure straightness.

After that joint was allowed to fully cure, the wingtips were glued in place, and the airplane was ready for a FasCal covering. After covering, the tail was installed, and controls adjusted. The “fleet” was ready to be test flown. We typically built a “batch” of six at a time, but we had built more in times of need.

Foam wing construction became a favorite for Dad and I both, as it cost less, was easy, strong, and saved much time. Many modelers learned this style of building from my Dad, and many others did some “horse trading” with him for wings. The only down side to a foam wing, it does weigh a tad more than a balsa wing. In most cases the extra weight doesn't matter that much.

Many an airplane was built with Dad's foam wings, by modelers old and new. From trainers, to combat, stunters, carrier, racers, and just good ol' sport planes.

Another interesting fact about my Dad is for every airplane he built, he wrote his name and the date on the bellcrank mount. “For luck” he said, “you aren't supposed to see that part again.”

Ever build an airplane “just because”?

Dad built very few airplanes “Just because”. Most of his airplanes were built for a specific purpose. He would think nothing of building models for combat, racing, or speed, but not usually because he just wanted to.

Sometimes he would acquire an engine that didn't really suit his needs for anything in particular, and he might build a suitable airplane for it, and test a new covering or other finishing technique. Often times he would give away or sell these airplanes built “just because.” He would fly them a few times, then away they would go. Many newcomers ended up with a fine flying sport model in this fashion.

Dad did however build a couple of custom Ringmasters a while back, “just because”

One of Dick's modified Ringmasters, the "Flying Man."

They were from modification plans published in the early 70's by Model Builder Magazine ( I believe) for the hugely popular Sterling Ringmaster. They were for “The Flying man” “The Birdman” and “Uncle Sam.” Some of you will remember these, as they depicted a flying man, holding the engine in his “teeth.” Dad had a lot of fun building and painting these particular models, and they ended up on “The Wall” where his very favorites reside. and they were for “just because.”

They were always a big hit at fun fly events, as they are so unique, and they fly rock solidly.

A couple of other “just because” projects he put together was an autogyro, and a Flying Flounder -- yup...I said flying flounder... A Flying Flounder does look like a fish from the side ... and can be made to flop and tumble through the air, prop hang, and other seemingly impossible maneuvers.

Dad had toyed with the idea of Bi-Slob, even has plans for it, but never got around to building one. The one thing that Dad really liked were biplanes, but he built very few of them. He had built most of the biplanes in Sterling's lineup in his late teens and early 20s , including the Nieuport 28, RAF SE5 and Fokker DVII. In doing so, Dad discovered the pitfalls of biplanes, such as the inordinate amount of drag, and lack of lift and stability. He loved his biplanes though, but they just didn't fit into any of the competition events he enjoyed the most. (BTW, the Neuport 28 and SE5 still survive today, also residing on “The Wall.”)

One of Dick's several biplanes, a Nieuport 28.

The other two models that reside on “The Wall” are a Flite Streak he built as a teen, and a beloved and well-worn-with-many-miles-on-it yellow and red Super Ringmaster.

The latest biplane he had built was a semi scale Boeing F4-B4.

Here's a quick story about that:

Dad built the first F4B4 for a profile scale (Sport Scale?) event. It flew well, but scale events weren't his big interest, and he eventually sold the plane to Mike Potter.
Mike in turn took it and retrofitted the controls to three-line, and added a tail hook for carrier.

Dad was very impressed with the idea of using the biplane for carrier, and was inspired to build another one. He installed a vintage steel fin OS MAXIII 35 and just had a ball flying nostalgia carrier with it.

Dick's Super Ringmaster seen just after painting in 1968, and as it looks -- still flyable! -- today.

It didn't turn in the best scores, but was solidly reliable, looked very cool in the air, and most importantly, Dad really looked forward to flying it. He would even bring it along when flying over asphalt, just to throttle it back and do touch and goes with it. It did very nice smooth takeoff and powered landings.

Dad was no rookie flying carrier, either. He appeared on the front page of the Eugene newspaper in 1982, flying his SuperTigre-powered Grumman Guardian. It seems to me that Roy Beers, Wayne Spears, Loren Howard, Orin Humphries and my Dad all had a very close competition going on that year. Anyone else care to elaborate?

Dad had bought 2 of Joe Just's Wildcat kits for Sport .40 carrier, one for me and one for himself.

Dad built his in time for Regionals in 2012, and brought it to the contest not quite finished. It was just minor things, like putting on the ends of the leadouts and adjusting it all. After getting the ends made, we took the airplane out on the field to fly it. After passing inspection and pull test, Dad was asked “practice or official”? Dad thought a moment, and to my disbelief, and in that style all his own he said “let's make it official”!

Hmmm, new airplane, haven't even run the engine yet, and he's going for an official! How's that for confidence! He didn't win, but he did put up two successful official flights. (BTW mine is built but still “in white” just needing finish paint).

Dad flew many different events over the years, but is best known in the Combat and Racing circles. There isn't a combat or racing event he hasn't competed in. Fast, slow, FAI, 1/2a, diesel, FoxDoo? Remember that one? Later evolved into 80 MPH speed limit. He was just pondering building a “T-square” for the nostalgia “graffiti” combat.

Dad smiled and recalled a story about the first midair collision he had, it was with his long time good friend (and recently late) Jerry Studer.

Dad was flying his “T-Square” and Jerry had a “Count Clipper” (The “Count Clipper” was the only combat plane to use a speed pan, to my knowledge. I have plans, and will build it someday). He said the crash made a very loud THWACK when the two models collided.

How about Sport Race, Super Sport, Mouse I and II, Rat Race, Slow Rat, Clown, Goodyear (remember those?). How about FAI team race? Yup he was there too!

As time went on, and the popularity of control line modeling began to dwindle in the Seattle area, Dad began to dabble with radio control. He quickly mastered the art of piloting. And true to his nature, began competing in racing events and becoming a force to be reckoned. He began winning pylon races and producing much faster models (to the dismay of some seasoned pros) than most.

At right, Dick shows off one of his Quickie 500 RC pylon racers.

I was able to attend one of his races in Snohomish, he was racing the “doubler” class (similar to our Flying Clown race, just with the “Doubler” and LA .15 engine.)

It was kind of funny, and I chuckled to myself when I heard someone say “S&%T drew Salter again...” I remember saying that years ago “S&%T drew Green again...”

He also flew RC combat with ruthless intent, and designed some odd looking, but very responsive foam wing models as well. (I never saw him fly pattern though...)
He prided himself with the performance level of these airplanes, and even more so of the materials he used.

Ever see a plane built from plastic gutter pipe? How about sheets of corrugated plastic? Those big trainers made of injection molded foam? He built all, and they performed at expert levels.

He never ever tired of taking one of these models out, listen to someone say “wow that's weird, will that even fly?” and then he would proceed to turn extreme maneuvers in to child's play. Situations like that were just as fun for me to watch as it was for him to do it.

He acquired several of those all foam models, and found out they would fly very well with the right trim and balance. He actually wore out a couple of those foamies, and had a ton of fun doing it.

And as I said before, he never tired of hearing someone say, “I never thought one of THOSE would fly like THAT”...

As Dad's Parkinson's progressed, he retired the pylon racers, and began dabbling with electrics. He missed the roar of a well tuned engine, but began to see the merit in electric power. No fuel to buy no glow plugs, no needle valves, no leaky fuel tanks or tubing, no boxes of tools and support gear, no paper towels and cleaner, or castor oil goo to wipe up. Just the transmitter, airplane, spare batteries and field charger... pretty simple.

He was just getting going with some new high performance electric motors and high output li-po batteries when his health failed him.

I did mention free flight at the very beginning. He did build a very few free flight models, but never flew them much, and to my knowledge never competed in any contests. He did attend free flight contests whenever he could, and I know he thought about building some new ones, even having plans for several airplanes. He had been watching me dabble with the spark ignition engines with great interest, and I have a feeling he was thinking about using sparkers for free flight. I am still playing with sparkers, and will eventually fly Old Time Stunt with a spark ignition engine (but that is a story for another time).

Dick Salter and his dragster.

One last tidbit, Dad was a drag racer at heart. He raced many of his cars as a youth, including a 1956 Lincoln, and a '64 Galaxie and was part of the Travel On's racing team in the early 70's. He had a 289-powered econorail dragster at that time, that routinely turned low 9's... and that's spinning the tires halfway down the track.

A quick story about that.

There was only room for two pedals on the floor of the dragster, the clutch and throttle. Dad was seated directly over the rear end, and straddled the back of the transmission. Brakes were actuated via a hand lever on the roll bar. He said there was plenty of clearance between the lever and the roll bar for the brake action. He said you couldn't push the lever far enough to hit the roll bar, even if you sat on top and put your foot against it. After Dad's first run, they found the paint had been scraped away from the rollbar, and the lever had scraped it. Much time and discussion was spent trying to figure just how Dad was able to push that lever hard enough, with his arm, to scrape the paint off the rollbar.

As I said in the beginning, Dad requires 24-hour care now, and is currently residing at Evergreen nursing and rehab center. 430 Lilly road N.E., Olympia, WA 98506.

He can also be reached by phone at 360-491-9700, or 9701 Just tell the operator who answers you would like to speak with a resident in the 500 section and they will transfer you to the nurse's station, and they will bring him the phone.

He welcomes visitors any time. If you visit, please remember he is a dementia patient, and he may tell some tall tales. Just go with it, and enjoy the stories.

I was out in the shop looking for airplanes to take pictures of, when I ran across the very first project Dad and I built together. I was probably 6 or 7. it is a Carl Goldberg “Little Toot.” In those days you could send away for a certificate saying you built and flew the airplane. I have the certificate for it.

The Little Toot biplane built by Rich and Dick Salter when Rich was 6 or 7 rests alongside their last project together, a Phire Phart sport jet plane.

I also realized the last project Dad and I worked on together was also there, still not quite complete. We built a new Phire Phart sport jet plane for me, and it isn't quite finished yet. What a strange feeling that was to see those two airplanes together.

I also ran across a tiny biplane he built when he was 7 or 8. That one will reside on my own wall of fame.

A tiny bipe from Dick's childhood.

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This page was upated May 11, 2016