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THE FIRST DAYS OF RADIO CONTROL
Walt and Bill Good and their R/C model - The Guff
(circa 1939).

R/C PIONEERS

Several men who were active in amateur radio became interested in the possibility of controlling model planes by radio. Two of these early pioneers were Ross Hull and Clinton DeSoto. Both were officials of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), which is the governing body of ham radio operators. Hull was a very gifted radio designer whose achievements include the discovery and eventual explanation of the tropospheric bending of VHF radio waves. Since his youth in Australia, Hull also happened to be an avid modeler.
Hull and his associate DeSoto successfully built and flew several large R/C gliders in the first public demonstration of controlled flights. Their sailplanes made more than 100 flights. (See the January August '38 issues of Model
Ross Hull
and Clinton DeSoto -
early R/C
pioneers.

The Good brothers give a flight demonstration for
Henry Ford Sr. (age 80) in 1940.

Airplane News). Tragically, Hull died one year later in 1939 when he accidentally contacted 6,000 volts while he was working on an early television receiver. DeSoto died a decade later.

COMPETITIVE FLIGHT
The 1937 Nationals R/C event attracted six entrants: Walter Good, Elmer Wasman, Chester Lanzo, Leo Weiss, Patrick Sweeney and B. Shiffman. Lanzo won with the lightest (6 pounds) and the simplest model plane, although his flight was a bit erratic and lasted only several minutes. Sweeney and Wasman both had extremely short (5-second) flights when their aircraft took off, climbed steeply, stalled and crashed. Sweeney, however, had the distinction of being the first person to attempt an R/C flight in a national contest. The other three entrants weren't able to make any flights at all.

BIRTH OF THE REED
One of them Weiss; was an 18 year-old aeronautical engineering student who had constructed a very large, 14-foot-wingspan R/C model. He and an electrical engineering student, Jon Lopus, had devised a very sophisticated innovative R/C system consisting of six tuned reeds that reacted to audio tones. The reed-control system became widely accepted in the 1950s. During the1937 Nationals, however, Weiss wasn't able to start his plane's Ferguson twin-cylinder engine. He went on to successfully operate an avionics manufacturing company.

R/C EVOLVES
The 1938 Nationals were once again hosted by the "Motor City." Although the R/C entry list had grown to 26 entrants, only five fliers showed up on the field. One of the newcomers was DeSoto, who entered a 14-foot- wingspan, 25-pound, stand-off-scale model of a Piper Cub that was powered by a Forester twin-cylinder engine. Each of the four separate receivers on board used a gas-filled Raytheon RK-62 tube in a super regenerative circuit to activate its own sigma relay. His plane placed second, but it isn't clear whether or not it actually flew. Oddly enough, these first contests required only that contestants demonstrate their R/C systems in a static position on the ground to win a runner-up award.

 

Reprinted from Model Airplane News January 1994
Copyright © 1994, by Air Age, Inc.
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