by Bob Clauss
Some modelers may say that Control Line flying has been replaced by the large variety of Radio Control models. And, who can argue with the popularity of RTF, ARF, Rx-Ready, BNF, etc., etc. These are beautiful good flying airplanes and I salute the engineering and the production techniques that have produced these aircraft. I myself own and fly a variety of these airplanes. However, I am also an old school model builder who enjoys gluing sticks together, creating a flying machine and feeling the satisfaction when viewing my latest finished project.
I was also the designer at Sterling Models for 25 years and was quite involved in C/L building and flying when I started at Sterling. I was a kid in a candy shop and built and flew most of the then existing Ringmaster kits. I never did the Imperial but that’s the only one I missed. I still have a few of these in the stable.
In the process of helping a local shop update and produce his line of kits, I was looking for a computer savvy person (not my bag) and somewhere to have kits Laser Cut. As luck would have it I found both in a Father, Son combination who were already producing model railroad building kits. Turns out Dad (Don Reed) built C/L kits as a young man and his Son (Matt Reed) is also an Airplane enthusiast. Don reminisced about the Sterling Super Ringmasters he built as a youth. I knew I had an original Super Ringmaster kit at home somewhere. I searched the archives, found it and gave it to Don. His son Matt took the kit and duplicated the parts on his Laser Machine. This was the beginning of the updated Super Ringmaster kit now produced and marketed by their company, Micro Scale Models Inc.
It was obvious that the model outline had to be exactly as Matt Kania had designed it for Sterling. However, we also wanted to incorporate the wing design I did for the S1A Ringmaster which builds on a flat building board resulting in a true wing that is not only stronger but lighter than the original. We also wanted the modeler to have the option of building either a Glow Engine or Electric Motor version. Since the overall size and outline was pre-determined the challenge was not with the glow version but fitting the necessary electronics for the Electric Version into the Fuselage. I think we accomplished this and was quite pleased when we took both versions out to the flying sight. NOTE: the sight need only be large enough to accommodate a big ole circle; advantage C/L.
Now the problem was with the test pilot, ME. Having not flown C/L for quite a while I soon found out how rusty you can become. The lack of C/L flying and the aging process reared its ugly head. The first flight loops were fine but the exits were really bumpy. Figure Eights had an inside and outside loop of really different sizes.NO FAULT OF THE AIRPLANES!! Inverted flight (what a thrill). Now which way gets it safely back to right side up, oh yeah, down elevator-right. Well after a few more trips to different flying fields and more and more practice things started to come back. Maneuvers kept getting cleaner, getting slightly dizzy disappeared and the airplanes proved their heritage. The accompanying pictures show a few of the construction details as well as the finished results of a really fine nostalgic airplane.
Well now that we’ve updated a true nostalgic champion to current technology with Laser cut parts and the option of Glow or Electric power what’s the next step? This is where the hobby really becomes fun and of course can also be somewhat frustrating. Why not move this Old Timer into (you guessed it) R/C maybe? After all the size is fine, the moments look a bit short at the tail end but why not give it a try? Todays modern R/C equipment should allow us to stuff everything we need into the Framework. The major changes for the R/C version were to enlarge the Vertical Fin and Rudder slightly, decrease the Elevator area and add a Steerable Tailwheel. I managed to fit everything in as the photos show. Now with a lot of help from Bob Kopski, who agreed to test hop the plane after giving his input for the Electronics and measuring for the most efficient Prop selection the time had come! The weather finally co-operated after a really tough winter in PA so it was out to the club field. I’m sure we’ve all had the nervous feelings on that maiden flight. After some fine tuning between flights, a bit of trim here and there, adding some nose weight, things worked out fine, we tamed the Tiger, ( although this is not a beginners airplane). So we now have a Triple Threat Airplane. 1-Control Line, 2-Radio Control, 3- Glow or Electric. This now allows the builder to select his or her mode of flying. You should be able to purchase either version of the kit (Control Line or R/C) by the time your reading this article. I had a great time working on this project which brought back many memories from my days at Sterling. Till later, Clear Skies, Moderate Winds, Calm Nerves and Happy Landings.