Like many of us, I got into model airplanes very young with my Father. My Dad was into U-Control and except for supporting me, he never got into RC himself. My first U-Control airplane was of course a Cox PT-19.
One afternoon, we went to an air show, and yes there were also RC model airplanes. These RC airplanes were great! I had to have one!
Odd jobs and Christmas/birthday gifts, I built a Don Dewey Royal Coachman, bought an Enya 15 and a Controlaire Galloping Ghost radio. The airplane first flew in 1968 and I continued to fly it for a few years (my club members called it the Royal Patchman). The Galloping Ghost radio also ended up in two other airplanes and an airboat. I learned how to repair airplanes, engines and how to keep that radio working.
I was able to buy a used Micro Avionics radio and flew it in several airplanes including a Kwick Fli MKIII with an Enya 60 and Goldberg retracts. I also ended up with my private pilots' license while still in high school.
College came along and studying electronics, my modeling slowed down.
I later saw the need to buy a new radio, a 1976 Kraft 7C with the interchangeable RF modules. I quickly installed that Kraft radio in my proven Kwick Fli, everything checked out fine. Advanced the throttle on the first flight and 100 yards off the end of the runway, my Kwick Fli did a slow roll and went in. By now I was pretty good at rebuilding models, but no one could fix this. A Kraft service center fixed the receiver, a bad filter that I would have probably noticed if I had done an engine running range test. Without a Kwick Fli, I flew the Kraft radio in an Ugly Stick for awhile. I thought if I was going to fly Kraft, I needed to learn how to service them.
In the early 1980’s I became very interested in the QSAA (Quarter Scale Association of America) wow ¼ scale airplanes and bigger! The QSAA also had a “Marathon of Flight”, fly a model from the back of a pick-up truck over a course of 200+ miles and then repeat or go as far as you can - nonstop.
For several years, I flew for a team headed by Harry Dickinson. On October 25, 1984. We flew a 1/3 scale Piper Tripacer for 8.2 hours covering a distance of 360.5 miles - nonstop. At the 1986 QSAA event, we flew for 9.3 hrs covering 435.5 miles.
During my involvement with the marathon of flight, I started to think this is a lot to ask for one receiver and a few servos. I built a redundant radio system to protect from loss of signal and/or interference. The system we used in 1984 included two Airtronics radios. In the back of the truck, we had both transmitters but with a modification to the buddy box trainer system, either set of sticks transmitted through both transmitters RF sections. By flipping the trainer switch (not spring loaded) my co-pilot, Ron Meyer had control, still transmitting on both frequencies. In the airplane we had the two matching receivers and what I called an “Error Switch”. The Error Switch looked at the servo outputs of both receivers and automatically tied all the servos to the best receiver. I did not have a primary and backup receiver; they were both primary and my Error Switch would switch back and forth as necessary - automatically.
I described my redundant radio system to Jim Oddino who wrote the Radio Spectrum column in RCM magazine. I met with Jim and demonstrated my system to him, Jim wrote his article for the May 1985 issue of RCM. If I had a crystal ball, I would have seen that almost 5 years to the day, I took over the Radio Spectrum column in RCM.
Keep in mind, the magazines came out a month early. In April of 1985, Byron Originals contacted me as Byron had seen the RCM article and wanted one system to test/evaluate for Kraft radios. I had also been working on a device for Kraft transmitters that I called a “Transmitter T”. The “T” plugs into the top of a Kraft transmitter in place of the transmitters RF module. Two different Kraft transmitter RF
modules then plug into the “T” allowing that transmitter to simultaneously transmit on those two frequencies through the one antenna. Byron got the 2nd proto-type Kraft Transmitter “T” and an Error Switch for 2 Kraft FM receivers. My redundant radio system was installed in a Byron Originals Staggerwing Beech model and proved itself. Several more systems were ordered and were used in the multi-engine aircraft of “Striking Back” during the Byron Originals Aviation Expo 1985 - what a show!
A couple months after Expo, I received another order from Byron Originals as they had started building a 1/5 scale, 29’ wingspan almost 400lb B-29 model for the 1986 Expo. The B-29 was on display and taxiied in front of the crowds at the 1986 Expo, but its first flight was August 20, 1986, a couple days after the show. The B-29 first flew in Aviation Expo 1987 and many other shows.
During all of this, I was also running a company called Custom Electronics and made electronic items for the motion picture industry, I had decided to expand into RC. In October of 1985 I had an exhibitor booth at the QSAA gathering in Las Vegas. I did well enough that I signed up for all the RC trade shows, Pasadena, Puyallup, New York and Toledo.
At my first IMS show in Pasadena, I met Steve Helms who worked for Futaba at the time. Steve not only gave me the radios to develop my redundant radio system for Futaba, Steve also helped me with my FCC type acceptance for my “Transmitter T”. Many thought that my “Transmitter T” needed its own FCC type acceptance. My thought was, it is a change to an existing type acceptance. Short story; with Futaba’s type acceptance in hand, I went to the FCC and was granted a “permissible change”.
I was getting lots of press including a video interview with RC Video magazine (1988 vol 12). My Redundant Radio System did not have high sales to the average modeler though it got lots of attention at the RC shows. Show teams and target drones were my bigger customers. I then started making electronic products for the average modeler: servo drivers, wiring harness, field chargers, servo analyzers etc. My products were found in the Byron Originals catalog and the ACE RC catalog. I also started writing for Scale RC Modeler Magazine, for about two years, my column was the “Electronics Page”.
Making aftermarket RC items, I kept running into - what connector do you want or for what radio? I designed and had a mold made for my “CEU” (Custom Electronics Universal) connector. These 4 pin 3 wire connectors fit every radio of the day. I used the “CEU” on my products and sold them to many other companies that had aftermarket and/or battery charger products.
***Many things happened in the early 1990’s. ***
I had the opportunity to take over Jim Oddino’s Radio Spectrum column in RCM magazine. I was honored and my first column appeared in RCM June 1990 and I continued until the close of RCM in 2005.
I became the 2nd dealer for Dave Abby who was Hitec RCD at the time. I narrow banded a ton of transmitters and sold lots of 1991 Hitec receivers.
My Servo Driver required a single axis joystick that I bought from ACE RC .... that we could no longer get. I had a mold made and made my own joystick. I used the new joystick and also sold them to ACE for their Nautical Commander boat radio. I also sold to an automotive tire balancing company who used my joystick in their balancing machines.
The Byron Originals show team switched from Kraft FM to Airtronics PCM radios for the 1990 Expo. I designed a “Transmitter T” for Airtronics, I also redesigned the Error Switch for PCM. The last Aviation Expo in Ida Grove was August 1991. There was not a show in 1992 and the Expo reopened in Ankeny Iowa in 1993 through 1997. The giant Byron Originals World War II models can still be seen at the Iowa Heritage Aviation Museum at the Ankeny airport.
The 90’s also brought giant scale model airplane races, sometimes called the “Madera Races”. I was asked to do radio checks and I implemented my engine running radio range test that I learned in my early Kraft days and yes, some airplanes did not pass. Every other year of “Madera” I was the Contest Director. Giant scale racing really took off, some years I was the Contest Director for 6 races a year including Aviation Expo in Ankeny and at EAA Oshkosh. 1994 forced me to take another look at my Redundant Radio System as at Madera that year with 200 entries and a couple thousand spectators, we had intentional outside radio interference.
While making lots of wiring harnesses for the RC modeler, I thought he/she could make their own. I came up with “Unassembled Radio Connectors” and sourced a crimping tool and wire for the do it yourselfers. I sold kits compatible for all radio systems of the day, packs of 4 connectors male or female with the pins to be crimped to your wires. Look what I started; almost everyone sells that stuff now.
Also in the early 1990’s, Horizon Hobbies picked up my line of RC electronics. I really enjoyed working with them, they moved a lot of product. It was my goal to come up with something new at each Toledo RC show and my Horizon sales rep came to my booth to see what I had this year.
My work in the motion picture business became very busy, I was running out of time to sleep. I sold the model airplane side of Custom Electronics in 2001 to George Joy (Peak Electronic) who had also bought a battery charger company. George did well for several years until his untimely passing.
Now, I have slowed down some. I still do some motion picture work and service vintage RC radios. I want more time to play. I enjoy boating, full-scale aviation and all aspects of RC airplanes. I fly gliders, prop, EDF, warbirds and what ever gets my attention. I enjoy traveling to different contests, fun fly's and Vintage RC events. - it's the people, all walks of life are in our hobby.
My Father is now into RC and has a couple Horizon ARF’s.
Iowa Aviation Heritage Museum
pictures by Nathan Smith
Aviation was my first love. I have been flying RC models for more than 50 years and "U" control before that. When I started working toward my pilots license some 45 years ago, it bothered me that I could not see when the wheels would hit during landing.
Model Airplanes is a fantastic hobby! In the 1960's, this hobby was the fastest growing hobby in the USA. Whether you are into engines, electronics, aircraft design, building, competition, scale or lazy flying - our hobby has it all! You get out of the hobby what you put into it. Yes, I also have a hanger full of ARF's but there is so much more! Staying up late at night to finish that pride and joy is worth it!
I have been in the motion picture business for many years, designed and built professional motion picture equipment used world wide. I have also been in the "Hobby Business", manufacturing - testing and an author. In the late 1970's, I set out to make "Custom Transmitters" that had features not found in any other RC radio system. Features like "Programmable slow rolls" where elevator and rudder were automatically added as your plane rotated.
A "Flight recorder" where you could recorded a maneuver (up to 20 seconds)
and than play back that maneuver through the transmitter.
Features still not found today!
But after a couple prototypes, I gave up when I realized how
much I would have to charge for the transmitter.
The items I have offered here, have been designed as the needs
have arisen in my own RC hobby experiences. I am proud to be
able to offer these items to the RC modeler.
And yes, I fly just about anything - not just the old stuff.
But what do you think of a twelve cell EDF on Reeds???
Cal Orr, Custom Electronics
Cal Orr .com