Round & Round

The Control-Line Modeler at Large

By John Thompson

July 2006

Modeling thought for the month:

"If the 20th century taught us anything, it is to be cautious about the word impossible."

-- Charles Platt

End of an era -- and beginning of another

(This column was published in the last printed edition of Flying Lines, Issue No. 215, July 2006)

Flying Lines started amid a crisis in Northwest control-line model aviation. Gas was in shortage and expensive. Contest attendance had fallen off. People were saying control-line was dead.

It was a pretty simple idea: Maybe a newsletter would help all of us keep in touch. Maybe it would help keep things in the hobby together.

"OK, let's do it."

There wasn't much more thought given to it than that. It came up as an idea on the flying field one day. The next day, Flying Lines was a monthly independent control-line newsletter for the Northwest.

This was in 1979. Nobody involved was thinking about 2006. Nobody had any idea it would involve 215 trips to the print shop, and everything else that goes into creating 215 issues of a news publication out of thin air.

Think about it: None of us had home computers. (Flying Lines was typed out on an old manual typewriter.) Cell phones hadn't been invented. Music was distributed on vinyl records. There was no ESPN (and no interleague play, wild card teams in the playoffs - and Northwest baseball was played in a concrete garage called the Kingdome).

Jimmy Carter was president of the United States and Earl Witt was president of the Academy of Model Aeronautics. Homer Smith was Dist. XI vice president.

Issue No. 1 of Flying Lines, May 1979, reported on the results of the five-contest Northwest Sport Race Drizzle Circuit (there was only one class of sport racing - Super Sport came later). The Drizzle Circuit was another one of our "CL rescue" ideas; we thought that if we set up a series of winter contests, maybe people wouldn't drift away from the hobby in the "off season." That idea only lasted 11 years.

Incidentally, the DC champion in the 1978-79 season was FL's then-publisher Mike Hazel, not yet known by the "ZZ" monicker, and second place went to then-editor John Thompson. In 13th place was Dave Green, who would later dominate the series for several years. (Oh, another thing that wasn't around yet: Todd Ryan.)

The more interesting fact about Drizzle Circuit's first year is that there were six guys tied for 27th place. Thirty-two contestants raced in that first Drizzle Circuit!

Issue No. 1 also reported on a nationwide crisis in the hobby - a shortage of nitromethane. Fuel was going to be hard to get, and expensive. Well, one thing turned otu to be true - the price never came back down.

The contest calendar included the Regionals in Eugene, a June combat contest in Redmond, Wash., Race Time '79 in Eugene in June, the Boeing Management Association Scholarship and Open Contest in Kent in July, The Prop Spinners annual Summer Meet in Eugene in August, the Portland Aeroliners' Control Line Classic in August, the CLAMBASH in Astoria, Ore., on Labor Day Weekend, the RatBash racing contest in Eugene in September (and RatBash II in October), the Bladder Grabber in Redmond, Wash., in October. (No Raider Roundup or Fall Follies in those days.)

Stunt was just stunt - no Old-Time, no Classic, no PAMPA classes, and it was one of the lighter-entered events. The Nelson engine hadn't arrived; the hot combat engine was the new Fox Mark III. Rat Race was still a big deal, with a dozen entrants at the Regionals and planes sneaking up on 160 mph (170 mph and the 10% nitro rule came later), but there were only about half as many racing classes. Some of the speed planes were actually faster then, before many recent safety rules. Combat shutoffs had not even been thought of.

Almost-ready-to-fly ARF) hadn't come on the market - not even in RC to any degree.

You could buy a glow plug for 50 cents, a prop for a buck, and a year of Flying Lines for $5.

Well, times have changed.

Costs have gone up, of course, but so has the quality of almost everything we deal with. Companies big and small, such as Brodak, RSM, Aero Products, Tom Morris, Mejzlik, Sig, Tower, GRS, UHP and many others, provide all the kits, engines, hardware, adhesives and finishing supplies - not to mention whole airplanes - beyond anything we could imagine in 1979. Organizations like PAMPA, MACA, NCLRA, NASS, NCS, all of which were fledglings or nonexistent in the late 70s, serve our special interests. AMA has a fabulous national flying site and museum that didn't exist in 1979.

More to the point for the Northwest: Now, almost everyone has a computer, a digital camera, a cell phone. We're in the information age.

We go to a contest, and by the time we get the results typed up, the rest of the newsletter pulled together, hauled to the printer, stapled, stamped and mailed, all the information about the contest has been posted, discussed and almost forgotten. But it still takes the editor/publisher 10-20 hours a month of work to put out the newsletter.

We resisted it for a long time, but finally it seemed like the time had come to switch FL to the Internet.

The FL web site contains all the regular features of the newsletter, plus more, and it's almost immediate. Instead of a monthly magazine, it functions like a daily news report - and as a library of past articles and news reports. Everything you need to know about CL model aviation in the Northwest, available instantly, right at your desk in the den.

We know we're leaving some folks behind - just like we left behind the Drizzle Circuit, the Kingdome and the 50-cent glowplug.

But CL is still alive and well in the Pacific Northwest. In some ways, we could say it's better than ever. The equipment we're using is certainly a cut above the planes, engines and hardware we were using in 1979.

We like to think Flying Lines is better, too, now that it's on the Web.

That's not to say we won't miss it. Oh, we won't miss the work. But, yes, we'll miss adding to the stack of printed newsletters piling up on the corner of the desk, or on shelves and boxes in the shop - 27 years of 'em, and no more.

Farewell, good friend. Hello, Information Age.

E-mail John Thompson

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