A View from Broadway

Advanced Northwest B Proto

"Fast Hippie" Marty Higgs' Northwest B Proto plane. Ken Burdick photo.

By Ken Burdick

Yes, folks, it's true.

There are some who are taking the once-tame Northwest B Proto to its limits and looking for more.  Why not? It’s a Speed event after all and B Proto has a rich history in model airplane speed. Partner (Chris Sackett) has increased the record from 106 mph to 113! In this article, we are going to look at some of the more advanced models flying around out there and yes, one RADICAL model. So, strap on your walkers there, Geezers, here we go.

In the beginning

The Scorscher plan.

Back when Geezers were kids, there were all sorts of cool -looking speed ships that not only met the design requirements for what was then AMA Proto speed, they went fast, too.

Names like Al Stegans, Drazy, Browne, Jett, and so many others would craft beautiful speed ships for this event. The engine of choice in the 1950s  was a Dooling .29, Mc Coy .29, then Fox Bathtub .29, later Fox and SuperTigre rear rotor. One of our very own here in the Northwest (Bruce Tungberg, aka Batman) set an AMA record in 1966 with his ST .29 model.

Back then, nitro, props and heads were the ticket of the day, Nitrobenzene that smelled like shoe polish was in the air and it was always fun to see who would crank out the fast time. In those days, I was just a kid and would watch with my mouth open wondering how on earth they went so fast from a standing start.  

Back to the future

Two versions of the Blondie B Proto Speed plane. Ken Burdick photo.

Okay, enough of memory lane. Marty Higgs aka Fast Hippie conceived NW B Proto as a beginners' event. The idea was to only use profile models, (easy to build) and external lines, and the popular sport engine O.S. LA .25.  At the time, Marty and I were pretty busy promoting C speed so the NW B idea took a back seat. The truth of it is I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.  Chris Sackett aka Partner, decided it was just what speed needed and began campaigning the event tirelessly. I resisted for several years while Partner would send me plans and encourage me to try it. Nope, I wouldn’t budge. Finally, after C speed was a national event again and Combat Graffiti was up and running, I thought “Why not?” (this is how stuff gets started), or “How bad can it be?” Now my basement is filled with B proto ships. There are several articles written about the event in Flying Lines' Speed section and are aimed mostly at the beginner. I have written a few more aimed at going a bit faster than stock, so let’s expand on that thought, shall we?

Everything you need to fly B Proto in one box. Ken Burdick photo.

I built an” old school” model in the style of the classic B Proto ship. It uses an A class metal pan (DARP) that fits the LA .25 just about perfectly. The pan had to be cut off at 8 inches so I could get a total crutch length of 20 inches.

The wing was made from 3/8-inch light balsa with a small basswood spar to mount the torque unit to. The fuselage is mostly balsa but has a ½-inch bass crutch running the full length and the rest is balsa block. The torque unit is a Fast Hippie B Proto unit and I decided to use his “offset” model which is intended to be outside of the wing. I put it inside the wing with an access hole to get the line on it. This prevents me from having to disassemble the model to hook up the monoline. The model weighs in at 20 ounces ready to fly, so I’m pretty happy with that, it’s not close to the Hippie-mobile, but it’ll do.

The ride of Frankenstein!

Marty Higgs' B Proto plane, The Ride of Frankenstein. Marty Higgs photo.

While Ed "Bid Daddy" Roth would push his art to extremes, should we expect anything less from the Fast Hippie? (All together now, Geezers!) NO!!!!!!!!! No, not at all. And even though his Frankenstein Mark 2 engine does not hold the record, it might -- just might -- be because of me and how I am using it. Oh no! -- Oh yes!

So maybe we’ll see this reclusive manufacture of superb Speed parts out there kickin' butt and takin' names with his latest model which I call, The Ride Of Frankenstein!” Groan ... )

While some only think about making things, Marty actually does it. Currently the ship weighs in at 17 ounces! That is perhaps the lightest B Proto ever built. My favorite feature is the Buster style landing gear, complete with rubber bands. It is finished in a flawless purple tinged clear and violet trim.

Additional engine work

The O.S. LA .25, the required B Proto Speed engine. Ken Burdick photo.

“Houston, we have a problem.”

The LA .25 is really an odd duck. Partner has been able to get his around 112 mph while I am around 104-105 mph. We have had some conversations and agree that the engine acts “weird” after a certain amount of rework. It just does not act like other engines do under the same conditions. It may be that the liner ports point sideways and not angled up at the head, it may be the funky nickel plating they use on the liner, or maybe the positioning of the ports themselves. I wish I knew.

Over the winter, more work was put into Frankenstein Mark 2 and none other than by a superman in engine design and manufacture. The engine was sent with our bench prop and some explanation of what I was seeing, extremely good performance followed by lackluster performance.

I had high expectations that the Hippie and I were close and would be shown that by careful work on a different third port we would see GIANT results.

Hang on to your walkers there, Geezers. The engine made a slight gain from the head work it was given, but nothing, including an external port on the case would go any faster than the current third port we used. The engine designer clams “it’s as frustrating as my Fox Speed.” On one run the engine would outperform the reference set up, only to be followed by a run 500 rpm slower. The exact same issues occurred when additional engines were set up. One observation was that a simple hemi head shape smoothed out the performance, compared with the double-bubble shape.

Here is a link to the Frankenstein project and while the bench props show steady increases in RPM up to 21,000 for the Mark 2, getting it to produce air speed is STILL the challenge.

Dang ... so it’s down to props, weather and clean flying now. This is the challenge of the event, dear geezers -- you just can’t get five pounds of stuff into a one-pound bag. I do believe it’s time for the mini pipe.

Rumor has it, but no pictures yet, that Will Namura is building a super model, but like any hobby, available time is one of the major considerations.

Enjoy the pictures, they are there to inspire you to try this seemingly simple event.

Ken Burdick's Lagwagon. Ken Burdick photo.

Close-up of Blondie's business end. Ken Burdick photo.


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This page was upated March 27, 2017