Photos & Projects

Aeromodelling and Photography in 1957 – By Jordi Fradera

April 4, 2021

Before I get started, I hope that the Stuka aircraft models featured in this article are not seen as in any way reflective of my political ideas – far from it. In fact, we also made English Spitfire and American Mustang planes, but the Stuka happens to be the only one that has remained in my photo collection. I also hope that the depiction of these aircraft does not cause offence. I hope you understand, this is purely a document of my fond memories of the hobby of Aeromodelling.

I do not know if readers will know about this hobby..? We flew the aeroplanes in circular tracks held by two steel cables that governed the flaps, two-stroke internal combustion engines with displacements of 1.5 cm3 or more were in charge of propelling them between smoke, tuff (ether + castor oil + detonant) and roar. This hobby, I think, is being lost in favour of drones and other remote-controlled devices, although a few days ago I saw on dedicated tracks that there are still fans who practice model aeroplanes.

The team was made up of Enrique, his father Manolo and I, we dedicated several years to this hobby as well as photography. This photo shows my friend Enrique and me.

Once the aeroplane model had been chosen, we looked for plans and photos and made our own design. After the first conventional models made with boards or simple wings for acrobatics, we built the Mustang, Spitfire or Stuka with wings based on wooden ribs covered with fabric and in the case of the Stuka with a 5 cm3 engine.

We moulded the cardboard fuselage (similar to paper mache) on a mould made with slats that we then extracted through the nose of the fuselage, the material was water-gummed paper tape. The wings were constructed of wooden ribs covered with cloth, varnish, and paint. Even the wheels had suspension.

It flew great although a little slow but it did loop and fly vertically. We built a second unit with a 6 cm3 engine, you can see a photo with the two planes.

Its easy construction allowed it to be duplicated.

Enrique and I did the entire plane except for the wooden wing assembly of the wings where Manolo was a true and patient artist. The construction method made the devices very light and resistant as well as easily recoverable after frequent accidents. We got to build a very heavy twin-engine (5 cm3 + 6 cm3) but it flew!

Manolo, Enrique’s father

The best thing about this hobby was the construction of the aircraft, if it flew well, fantastic and we launched ourselves for another model. Simple models were easy to build and a good way to get started, but we needed more.

One of the first models that we made

The photos that I’m showing you were taken with Enrique’s Contaflex camera from the ’50s or maybe my Leica IIIF or Manolo’s Contax and surely with Kodak Plus X that we bought in rolls developed at Enrique’s house, even the hard copies. They were shot at the La Salle school where we studied.

For me these photos are fantastic memories of an unforgettable time and hobby.

In front of the school chapel

Hanging from the clothesline

With Civit, a friend of Enrique’s father and some curious students.

Stuka at rest

I love to remember – these are memories of another time that will not return.

Thanks for reading this article, I hope you liked it.

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    Ant Lockyer
    April 4, 2021 at 10:07 am

    I love the pictures and the history, I hate you had to put that disclaimer at the start.

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 4, 2021 at 1:19 pm

      Thank you for your comment, an apology never exceeds.

  • Reply
    David Hume
    April 4, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    A lovely story and I am just old enough to remember these planes; some of my friends made them, and I remember the balsa and dope construction of the wings (when dope meant the varnish over the cloth.) They seemed hellishly noisy to me then! And it’s odd that yes, perhaps one needs now to qualify the making of a Stuka when back then the Stukas, Spitfires, Hurricanes, Zeros, Mustangs and Messerschmitts were all made and flown without a second thought.

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 4, 2021 at 1:20 pm

      Thank you, I would like to see the photos you take of the new model airplane.
      Regarding noise my opinion is that it should remain, without it the model aircraft would not have the same flav

  • Reply
    John Duder
    April 4, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    Nearly a decade after you, I made control-line models…

    A few months ago, I contacted a local aeromodelling club – and they still exist: I hope, after lockdown, to go and take some pictures of modern models – complete with silencers on the engines!

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 4, 2021 at 1:15 pm

      Thanks, the noise they made was a perfect complement. Any model we built gave us satisfaction and if it flew it was ecstasy.

  • Reply
    Omer
    April 4, 2021 at 1:48 pm

    I built a couple from kits, and bought a small, pre-built Fokker Triplane. Glow plugs, start up batteries, and the smell of castor oil.

    I smashed all of them. Fun times!

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 4, 2021 at 2:11 pm

      Yes, fun moments and hobbies that are lost but remembered, good for your efforts with the Fokker, at least you had a good experience. As for the smells: unforgettable.

  • Reply
    Ken Rowin
    April 4, 2021 at 3:58 pm

    I remember starting up an engine in my backyard and ran it until the fuel tank was empty to “break it in.” Kids from half a block away came over to see what the noise was. A real community.

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 4, 2021 at 4:48 pm

      Thank you, great memories wrapped in noise and smells.

      • Reply
        Jordi Fradera
        April 4, 2021 at 4:54 pm

        Thank you. Very good moments? Yes

  • Reply
    Kurt Ingham
    April 4, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    Great document of a super hobby experience-Thanks

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 4, 2021 at 4:49 pm

      I will never forget that hobby, thank you.

  • Reply
    Charles Higham
    April 4, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    Great post Jordi, thanks. I occasionally joined a friend as a 12 year old back in the 1970s flying control-line balsawood models, and this brought back the noise and even the smell of dope and glow fuel.

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 4, 2021 at 4:53 pm

      Thanks for reading it, Ah .. the smell of ether without knowing what exactly it was and the emotion of the flight, unforgettable.

  • Reply
    Jim Hanes
    April 4, 2021 at 9:37 pm

    My father had a very realistic proportioned Spitfire which flew in circles using the two wire control method and he was no Englishman, so I would therefore draw no conclusions about you over your choice of aeroplanes (note clever use of English spelling). Flying model planes made of expanded polystyrene, with dependable electric motors and radio controls are available now and I gave my grandson a BF-109 without realizing the negative political influence I was exerting on his young psyche.

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 5, 2021 at 9:26 am

      I appreciate your comment, I know very little English and I translate everything with Google so sometimes I find it difficult to express complicated thoughts. Everything used to work but if the cables got tangled you would crash for sure. On the other question: it has already happened and toys are always toys and only that.

  • Reply
    Jalan
    April 5, 2021 at 2:37 am

    Thanks for the post Jordi!

    A great reminder that the images we produce create value through the emotions they engender.

    Your pictures bring up the memories of the smell of the fuel, the burp of the engine as it sputtered in starting attempts, and the inevitable scraping noise when I ran my plane into the concrete!

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 5, 2021 at 9:15 am

      Thanks, if at least it flew before crashing it was already a pleasure, then to repair it if possible.

  • Reply
    Michael J
    April 5, 2021 at 11:04 am

    That photo of Manolo with cigarette and Stuka is absolutely wonderful.
    The language of design and construction of old aeroplanes (especially warplanes) is so absorbing that if can transcend the mature examination of the history they represent. Those cranked wings…

    • Reply
      Jordi Fradera
      April 5, 2021 at 2:36 pm

      Ah! … Manolo!, his image and ideas!. He was a mentor to his son Enrique and mine in crafts (also photo hoby) and the craftsman of the folded wings. The first time we made him fly that Stuka he didn’t make the quarter turn, the plain crashed. That was not his specialty.
      Thank you.

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