A View from Broadway

Restoring a Creamsicle

In honor of Norm McFadden, who designed the AMA Fast Combat plane called a Creamsicle and used it to win the U.S. Nationals and many other contests, author Ken has restored this model of the Creamsicle built by Dick and Rich Salter. Ken Burdick photo.

By Ken Burdick

Yes Folks, it’s true.

Once upon a time, there was a much-feared combination of combat wing, flier and engine. These were all the brainchild of a friend of mine, Norm McFadden (photo at right). Norm died in 2023, and I was in another country and unable to attend the memorial. Norm and I worked together at Carver Corporation for about seven years, helping to take it from a garage operation, to a world-renowned esoteric hi-fi company.

When there were the few brief moments of off time, Norm and I would talk Combat. He had a design in mind that would be stiff enough to run the leadouts to the very rear of the wingtip. It would not work with foam, because it caused the wingtip to pull down, making the outboard wing to cant down and amplifying the problem. The advantage of this is to have lots of line tension helpful in eyes-off flying.

By now I am sure some of you know that I’m talking about the Creamsicle. We named it that because Norm used white and orange covering like the ice cream bar. The soft-spoken McFadden terrorized everyone in the U.S. with that thing for years, and you could always tell when Norm ran his engine. It was before Henry produced his superb .36 and changed the Fast Combat landscape forever. Norm shared exhaust timing specs with both Henry and Duke Fox — guess which one listened.

After Norm’s memorial, my good friend Gene Pape asked if I would like a keepsake and offered me a Norm McFadden Fox .36 MK3. I gladly accepted. Gene built the engine from parts in a treasure trove of parts that were still in Norm’s shop. It arrived in Seattle along with a Voodoo kit Norm had given Gene many years ago. Well, these engines were pretty rare and I was elated to say the least.

I called good buddy John Knoppi to tell him the news, he said he had a Creamsicle and would donate it to me if I wanted it. Holy smoke! What a keepsake!

My Creamsicle was not built by Norm, but by the late Dick Salter and his son Rich. One of them would build the inboard wing, while the other would build the outboard. The covering was a blue that I stripped off in favor of the orange and white, “factory colors.”

To say Norm was frugal would be an understatement. He bought the cheapest covering he could get. I on the other hand I bought an expensive brand that would just look good for this restoration. Gene said, “He’d NEVER buy that stuff!”

Norm quit flying Combat for health reasons several years before his passing and I think the jig for the killer wing was first obtained by Buzz Wilson, who gave it to Robert Smith where it resides in his barn. I was just fortunate to get the plane I have. So unless Robert opts to build one of these machines, there are maybe three or four of them in various shops. (this does not include a possible stash owned by Bob Carver (Norm's son Jim financed part of his University of Washington tuition by building Creamsicles for Bob.)

It's a cold winter here in the North, but this projects really warms my heart. Gene, John Knoppi and I will fly it at the 2024 Northwest Regionals in Roseburg, Ore. High nitro, a screaming Mk3 with the B&M crankshaft and the old familiar surge of adrenaline.

Thanks, Norm.

— Kenny-b

The Salter-built Creamsicle before restoration. Ken Burdick photo.

Fox Combat Special Mk3 with parts reworked by Norm McFadden, assembled by Gene Pape. The fuel tubes at the rear enter and exit the McFadden pressure regulator and the broad thrust washer indicates the after-market B&M crankshaft designed and produced by Norm and Rich Brasher. Also see reworked needle valve setup. Ken Burdick photo.

Rear view of engine shows the regulator, which assured a steady engine run, easy needle setting on the ground, and quick cutoff when fuel ran out. Ken Burdick photo.

The usual prop for the high-reving Fox Combat Special engines was a Top Flite Pylon Racing 8-1/2x6-1/2, cut to 8 inches. Ken Burdick photo.

Norm McFadden (top) and the late Tom Strom battle in Fast Combat at one of the U.S. National Championships held in Tri-Cities, Wash.

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This page was updated  an. 25, 2024