Early T/R in Western Australia

By Charlie Stone

I started flying T/R in the late 50s, so I missed out on all the early stuff, but there were still a few features that would seem odd now. I still have a copy of the 1956 rule book in my possession and it is a much thinner publication than you see these days. The rules called for a centre post or pylon, which when I first flew was a 44 gallon (200 litre) steel drum. All the pilots had to run around the perimeter of the drum, there was obviously no cutting across the centre of the circle or pivotting possible. We also flew 4 up at this time, so it was very hectic in the centre at times.

On one occasion at the start of a race, one of the entries did a wingover and crash from take off, while the other 3 of us were in the air racing. The resulting line tangle was a disaster. I was bound at ankle height with C/L wire around my ankles and around the drum that finally stopped me from moving. I was clinging to the rim of the drum to stop myself from falling over. The wires cut through one of my socks and cut deeply into my leg. One of the other pilots took the handle from me and as our plane was the last in the air, flew it through huge loops until the fuel ran out. The drum was rather a nuisance at times. I flew A, B and C (10cc) classes. C class was definitely for the hairy chested types (I am pleased to report that I am one of those :-)).

I cant remember the detail of lap scoring, but the rules say that they were to be kept together in a 'Seperate enclosure' to prevent 'interference' by crewmen or spectators. (Put on another 2 laps or I'll give you a knuckle sandwich :-)). The race was controlled with flags: Green to start, Yellow to maintain altitude at 15 feet, Red to stop, Chequered for finish of each pilot.

The team was a pilot and up to 2 crewmen. One being a battery boy, who carried the huge wet cells used for glow plug ignition.

The start could be mechanical or manual. The mechanical or racehorse start had the stooges (4) set up in the take off zone by staggering them 5 feet apart in a sideways and 9 feet apart fore and aft with number 1 stooge being the nearest to the centre of the circle. Release was simultaneous. The fastest plane after qualifying flights was in stooge 1. A manual start (hand release) also used a staggered pit position, but with the front plane furtherest from the centre. When (if) you could get the engine started (there were a lot of glows used even in A), the back markers had to carry the model over the lines of any stationary models further forward before release. In the (unlikely) event that they all started, then there could be a 'Mass release. In the elimination heats, there was a 1 minute 'engine starting' time alloted and so a much more likely chance of mass releases.

In flight, passing could be over or under, (Of which I approve still. There have been a few instances even recently when I believe that this would have been safer than the pass over only rule which can force dangerously sudden moves.) Whipping was forbidden, but applied surreptitiously. Line thickness for A class was .008", B class .010", C class .016" but if over 30 ounces, had to have an extra .001" diameter for every 3 ounces weight. All were G tested to 20G. All models were judged for appearance and an award given. I think that the last time that award was made was at the Strathalbyn nationals in South Australia in 1964 when Hans Bertina and myself flew together in FAI and B classes and Hans' planes were judged 'Best finished Team Racer in Australia'. 2 very pretty planes mirror finished in snow white with turquoise trim in the Wharfdale (England) colour scheme.