Scale Matters

Nostalgia and other items

By Orin Humphries
April 2016

Once, again, my visit to the 2015 Regionals in Roseburg set off a wave of nostalgia. Several men my age bought kits from me in my tailgate swapmeet thing. Some of them said they had tried unsuccessfully to build these kits when they were young. Now, they were going to build one and finish it to bring closure to their boyhood memories. Well, I got exposed. Since then I have thrown quite a few bucks eBay's way gathering some similar items.

Included in this installment are a couple of photos of kits I got. One is a 1958 Berkeley kit of a Curtiss A-12 Shrike that is odd in the right way, and I will build it as is maybe two to three years from now. Another is a 1940s(?) Sterling kit of a Monocoupe. That kit's box art shows a model with an ignition engine mounted, hence the guess at the date. The Monocoupe kit was from a recently deceased modeler's estate, and it had the worst ever case of mildew on the box I have seen in my life. I sprayed the box and the plan with Lysol which took care of it. The rest of the kit seemed to be okay.

We cannot store our kits and magazines in the basement or garage where it is dark a lot of the time and humid. They get mildew, and if you then bring them indoors to another room where you have stored other items that are precious to you, the mildew will spread to them.

A week before this writing (February 2016), my wife and I as retired people were out “bopping around.” We grabbed a crab toast lunch at the Everett, Wash., marina restaurant, and then I got an urge to go to Snohomish to see the river at near-flood stage. Snohomish's main street is a noted tourist trap with all sorts of antique stores and eateries. There is a paved path down beside the river, and the path dips down to a low point next to the middle of Main Street.

We were ambling along Main and came to the first antique store. We went inside and right away I was in trouble. On the counter across from the cash register, there sat a Cox .049 Super Corsair for $19. It was all together and had only a single broken elevator hinge as damage. I would be picking that one up on our way back to the car later.

(I am a huge fan of the Super Corsair, and I had long ago started a Top Flite kit of the regular Corsair and modified it to be a Super Corsair. But the scale was too small for the radial engine I bought for it, so I sold it recently. But back then, I had also bought a Cox Super Corsair like the one above and it still sits NIB. If I ever finish a big flying project of that subject I was to maybe fly the Cox bird at that time. Now, in buying the used Cox Corsair, I have one to fly some day and keep my original still pristine. Actually, most of us are not collectors, but still, it happens.)

Outside the antique store again, we headed toward a viewpoint of the river and the walkway. Now, it got strange. There were two young men, well, loitering, it later turned out, outside some store. They saw my RETIRED NAVY ballcap and one began an effusive admiration of my service. It was so much more than “Thank you for your service”, that it was truly odd. It was childish. The other remained silent. We did not stop and kept going to see the river. More on this in a sec.

The river walk at its low portion had wet mud on it for 30 yards either side of center. The flow in this seemingly flat river was remarkable. You could hear it. That done, we continued our walk around the main drag.

On the way back to the store, we again encountered these two strange characters. They tried once again to get us to tarry close to them, but we stepped away. Their clothes were below the standard of the typical tourist, and their hair was not well groomed. These two Caucasians looked totally out of place. An evening later, Jan saw a piece on the news about a local scam program. Crews like the one we encountered were hiding a smart card reader and trying to get you to linger close by them to get your credit card information. Our cards are protected inside foil-lined envelopes for just such threats.

We stopped by the first store and I bought the Cox Corsair. It set a record for the filthiest flying model I ever saw in my life! It had been flown for years and never once cleaned in any way. Jan thought it would never make the comeback.

At the Historic Flight Foundation where I am a docent every Friday, our chief mechanic, Ben Olson, had for weeks been trying to sell us on getting a cleaning product called Scrubbing Bubbles. I have seen its ads on TV for several years and dismissed it as just another cleaning product among many. Ben, however, had told us that he tried it on the exhaust stains that get burned into the Foundation's airplanes', paint, all of which fly. He said, “Nothing else I have tried would take the stains off. I sprayed Scrubbing Bubbles on the exhaust stains and in thirty seconds, brown started coming out through the foam. It was lifting the goo.” It cleaned the expensive paint totally. (I don't sell this stuff and am getting nothing for saying this.)

I bought a can of it and tried it on my badly gummed up Corsair. Before using this, I had tried the usual alcohol rub down with some success. The alcohol was taking off the stickers so I had to stop short of a clean airplane. Scrubbing Bubbles, however, didn't harm the stickers and cleaned this plane like nothing I have ever used. The dried gum was everywhere, even inside the hollow wheels, inside the tail cone, everywhere. Now, it is as clean as a new model, except where the damage to the stickers was irrecoverable.

The first thing I had noticed about the airplane in the antique store was that it had what first appeared to be a left hand prop but with a right hand starter spring. The spring had been wound so tightly over time that it was tightly wrapped around the crankshaft housing and would be tossed in the trash at home. I was totally rusty on Cox airplanes at this point so I mistook this prop. It occurred to me later that a few Cox planes had pusher props and that's where this prop came from. The owner had just stuck something that was lying around on the plane for the sale.

Herein lay a small chapter about this mystery owner/pilot. He flew the pants off of this Corsair and had a pusher style Cox bird as well. He was a very accomplished pilot of these airplanes. Yet he never cleaned them. Go figure. I put a new set of Dacron lines on my Corsair to show it respect.

Before I did anything with the model, I noticed that Cox had made The Classic Leadout Mistake. The leadout guide was at the wingtip. I have published on this subject several times. You have to mount the leadout guide such that the model hangs right on its lines.

The corsair at the proper roll angle.

The Corsair will roll in on you on takeoff if you bring the leadouts through the wingtip. It will have nearly zero line tension and it will come in on you on the upwind side of the circle. Yet, despite having published this several times before, this just doesn't get through the mindset of many modelers and into their airplanes. A lifetime of habit is impossible for us humans to break until we have a crash to be staring at. It is very helpful, here, for the reader to look up the word, “dogma." We think we know what it is, but the dictionary gets to the heart of it that we all miss. This is left as an exercise for the readership, if you please.

My Cox Corsair is the first Mark of this subject. Its bellcrank is on the bottom of the wing.

I put something under half of the bellcrank for visibility. That puts the bellcrank and leadouts in the way of rigging the rubber bands that hold it all together.

That brings up another subject in this piece that seems to be growing to the dimensions of a tome. When we are configuring a model, we need to think well beyond the building board. How is this arrangement going to be in the field to live with? I thought I could simply move the bellcrank to the top surface of the wing and cut windows in the fuselage for the ends of it at extreme rotation. This is what you see in the later Mark II version of this.

On the bottom of the wing, the bellcrank and the whole control system would be subject to trauma in a crash where the wing comes loose. This would happen, also, if the bellcrank were on top of the wing. No gain there, and time spent away from my F-84 project would not bear fruit. I went online and found that Cox had later redesigned the plane with the bellcrank mounted inside the fuselage, eliminating the trauma of separations. That was an expensive lack of thinking by Cox, through to the end usage.

I stopped planning more invasive modifications and mounted new leadout guides at the proper place under the wing, inboard from the tip. I used cut off 1/2A horns.

I have another photo of the model with me holding it were the factory leadout location is. (I have enhanced the rolled-in attitude a bit for clarity. The 36” Sterling Corsair needs no such help to show the improper result of a wingtip location of the guide.)

Factory leadout position results in bad roll angle.

Another photo shows the model hanging from the new guides with a very good outboard yaw. What Cox plastic plane can't use this? I didn't change the yaw in selecting the new guide location; this is an increase in yaw that just happened from the inboard relocation.

On my first examination of the model, I had noticed that the hole in the bellcrank for the pushrod had been relocated by the first owners, closer to the pivot/mount bolt. Apparently they thought the model was too flighty. What they hadn't foreseen was that now the relocated pushrod was hard riding the bellcrank mount post and was locked up! (Also, with the bellcrank under the wing, the pushrod was riding the wing's trailing edge, introducing a bit of friction and slightly bending the rod. You can figure that one out.) For any larger model, simply adding nose weight would have solved that. For Cox planes, none were ever accused of needing more weight, right?

Back in those days, not even the experienced modelers who were advising kit companies knew what to say to novice kids about how to take off. They all said in the instruction sheets, “Give it UP for takeoff”. We didn't know how much was too much and we all crashed before making it one-third of the circle. We had held our arm with the handle straight up next to our ear, right?

The proper way to take off

  • Adjust the lines at the handle for neutral elevator.
  • Hold your arm out perfectly straight at shoulder height.
  • Handle is to be exactly in level flight attitude.
  • DO NOT bend your wrist or elbow to control the airplane.
  • Keep your arm dead level and call for LAUNCH.
  • The airplane will rise gently to shoulder height and stay within inches of that height.
  • Keep your arm and handle like this until you get dizzy and fall down or run out of gas.
  • Once you have mastered takeoff like this, you can climb or descend gently by simply pointing your arm where you want the airplane to go. Do not bend your wrist or elbow. (We learned this from the aerobatics pilots.)

The engine on my used Cox Corsair was frozen worse than any I have ever dealt with. It had a huge rust gob at the low point where morning dew had condensed. I had to order a new cylinder and piston. That brings us to my final thoughts.

What year is it?

I called the local hobby shop to see if they had replacement parts for Cox engines. The young man at the counter literally had never heard any part of “Cox .049.” I had to repeat each part of that until he could wrap his head around what I was talking about. He said they didn't have engine parts. How the world around us has changed! A hobby shop employee doesn't know What a Cox .049 or any .049 is.

I then went to the shop to speak to the owner, a man around 60. He looked online to his suppliers and none of them carry such parts today. He also did not carry .049 propellers. He showed me his stock of gray props for which you have to buy a pack of some three dozen adaptors just to get the one piece you need for these small prop shafts. This would about double the cost of the prop.

I had tried this shop before going to Ebay to help the local shop stay open. No joy. I bought everything I need online. The new piston and cylinder arrived three days later.

I just looked out the window. Hey, guys, it isn't 1980 anymore.

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This page was upated April 5, 2016