After breakfast I headed across the yard to the road with my new
automobile under my arm. I carefully placed in on the right hand side of
the road and pointed it toward our closest little town. After winding it
thoroughly, I carefully sat down on it and prepared to push the ďgoĒ
lever. Before I could get started there was a heavy clunking sound and
the top of my limousine caved in and the wheels collapsed. When I
struggled to my feet I saw a mangled pile of junk. My beautiful new car
was ruined. What I did was a stupid mistake. But I never tried to ride a
wind up car again.
It must have been the next Christmas when I got a box of sticks
and things called an airplane kit. I had seen an airplane or two flying
over and I had a pretty good idea what they were. My mother read the
instructions and showed me the picture. The airplane looked like a stick
about a foot and a half long with thin wooden wings near the front and a
fin and smaller wings at the end. There were two wheels under the wing
area with an axle and supports formed out of stiff wire. In front was a
peculiarly curved piece of wood connected through a metal clip to a
rubber band that extended to the tail.
With the assistance of my dad and mother the kit was assembled
and ready for a trial flight. I knew from my wind up automobile
experience that I would not be able to ride in the airplane. But it
would be fun to watch. The little stick in front with the nicely curved
shape on each side was called the propeller and my dad explained to me
how the propeller spinning fast would catch air in the curved blades and
would pull the plane forward. When it started moving forward the same
thing would happen to the airplane with the wind passing over the wings.
He pointed out that the wings were mounted with the front edge a little
higher than the rear edge. The airplane would be suspended and the prop
(a short term for propeller) would pull it forward. It sounded simple so
we prepared for the first flight.
The prop was turned backward and started winding the rubber band
that ran from the prop to the tail. As the rotation continued the rubber
band started twisting and knotted. When the band appeared to be in
double knots the whole length my dad said it was ready to try. He placed
it on a smooth section of the space between the front yard and barn and
turned the prop loose. The rubber band started unwinding and the
propeller started turning very fast. The airplane began rolling along
the ground and quickly gained speed. In a very short time it started
climbing into the air hurriedly gaining altitude. The little machine was
actually flying like a real airplane. The prop quit turning when the
plane was about thirty or forty feet high and it continued to glide and
gradually descend. It made a perfect landing at least a hundred feet
from the take off point.
The success of this flight was impressive and
We should have learned that weight is important and that the
light balsa wood used in the model was not available. But we didnít.
Instead we began making plans for building one large enough to ride in
using an old tire inner tube for the rubber band. With a little rough
carpenter work we did build one around an old apple box and a tube from
a truck tire for the power source. Of
course you have already guessed that it didnít work.
The propeller turned but the airplane didnít move.
We should have abandoned the project there, but we thought it
just needed a boost. After a long struggle getting it on top of the barn
we wound it up for the roll down the roof and the anticipated flight. We
decided not to try a ride on the first flight. When we got the inner
tube motor wound and turned it loose it sped down the roof like a
rooster after a june bug, but when it reached the edge of the roof it
nose-dived into the dirt.