Round & Round

The Control-Line Modeler at Large

By John Thompson

December 2007

Modeling thought for the month:

"You can only be young once. But you can always be immature."
-- Dave Barry

For no good reason ...

For many of us, model airplane building and flying is all about competition.

Now, I don't want to hear this "I don't compete, I just fly for fun" business. Hey, so do all of us. Competition is fun. Sport flying is fun. Tinkering in the shop is fun.

But the "I just fly for fun" guys do have a point ... sometimes we competitors forget that it can be a lot of fun to just build something and fly it -- for fun, not for any competitive purpose.

Lately I've seen some ads, some online chatter and a magazine article or two about the line of kits made by Black Hawk Models. These are the Walt Musciano models that all of us older modelers remember from our youth. They were basically just flying boards with shaped balsa fuselages, but they came in a bunch of cute designs. A kid could buy a kit for a couple of bucks, build it in an evening or two, put a Babe Bee on it and go around in circles for hours. I know, I did it, circa 1962.

Nowadays this nostalgia craze has even blossomed into some little contests just for these old designs.

So I got to browsing on the Black Hawk Web site, and ended up buying a kit. They're no longer a couple of bucks -- more like $26.50 -- but they're otherwise about the same.

Why would I do this? Hey, isn't it time to fix the fillets on the Ares, recover the sport racer, and get busy building that serious stunt plane for next year. Yeah, but ... Sometimes you need to take a break. This year (2007) has sort of been a break year. I built the Evil Twin profile stunter, just because it seemed like a fun idea at the time. I'll get to the other stuff. But, the Black Hawk stuff just looked like fun.

So I sprung for the Golden Hawk kit, glued the few pieces together, and felt like a kid again. (I was also thinking I might use this little project as a chance to practice some "serious" finishing techniques, but I sort of abandoned that idea.)

Of course, things aren't like they were in 1962. For one thing, I didn't have a Babe Bee fresh out of a broken Cox PT-19, like I did then. I thought a Black Widow would be a nice engine. Have you tried to buy a Black Widow lately? I finally found one on eBay for a reasonable price, after giving up on several that skyrocketed into the $75-plus range. Goodness me!

So anyway, the Black Hawk kits are true nostalga. You could dress them up a lot more than I did. I left off the thin plywood cowling and the silly little wheel pants, and also didn't bother with the little windshields. But otherwise, my Golden Hawk is they way it might have come out if I had built it 45 years ago. Except then I might not have thought to paint it in University of Washington Husky colors.

I gave up on the "practice painting techniques" idea because I didn't want the project to consume so much time, though I did learn one thing: If I decide to build a "serious" Husky airplane, that gold paint will have to go ... I'll try yellow instead. Gold is not much fun to work with. Anyway, it's a fairly quick finish in Brodak dope. Weighs about 8 oz. ready to fly. The wheels, bellcrank, pushrod and landing gear all came with the kit -- as did the cute little dowel pilots.

You can see the full line of Black Hawk kits -- Musciano replicas and others -- at the Black Hawk Models web site.

About the kits: The parts are all nicely made, though the company could spend a bit more time on the plans, considering the price. The plans are a bit generic and somewhat vague. An experienced modeler will have no problem, but be careful about turning the grandkid loose on building one of these without supervision -- you might get some unexpected results, because not everything you need to know is on the plans.

I haven't flown this one yet ... not even sure if I will. I may just hang it in the shop for "conversation" and save it for my own grandson when he gets big enough to get the idea about flying.

But I did have fun building it, and don't consider the time wasted. After all, modeling is not all about competition, even if we sometimes act that way. It's about the fun of building and flying. And, OK, yes, now it's time to get busy replacing those fillets on the Ares.

Update: First flight on the Golden Hawk was on Dec. 9, 2007. It was flown on 30-foot Dacron lines. Wow! The Black Widow is a lot more power than the Babe Bees we used to use as kids. The plane rocketed off the ground and was very fast. I think that after a little trimming, it probably even will stunt! The dope finish warped the wings a bit, and it's a bit tailheavy, so some tinkering will be needed to make it fly well. And I may go looking for a Golden Bee to tame it a bit!


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This page was updated Dec. 10, 2007