Saturday, May 30, 2009

Buzzard, Buzzards, & more Buzzards

This is the cover of Bill Dean's Book of Balsa Models.
The plane on the cover is called  the Buzzard.
I fell in love with the Buzzard from the magazine ads. for this
book long before I ever ordered it. I modified many, many
North Pacific Sleek Streaks into Buzzards over the years. 
And yes, they flew better than stock Sleeks.
After I got the book, I built two accurate to plan Buzzards,
then a somewhat larger one. Finally, my flying partner Steve G.
and I were getting ready for a big free flight contest, hosted by
the Brooklyn Skyscrapers  at an abandoned WWII airfield in
New Paltz, New York, on 4th of July weekend 1976. We got
dropped off, and camped the three days by ourselves, right on
the runway. That was one of the best weekends of my childhood.
Anyway, we wanted something extra to compete with and didn't
have a lot of time, so we decided on Unlimited Rubber [not many
rules] and upscaled the Buzzard to around a 4ft wingspan, but still
using a lot of the same techniques. No landing gear though, since
we'd be flying in tall grass, and the rubber, once unwound, sagged
over a foot below the plane anyway. It flew great!  Unfortunately,
on the 3rd test flight or so, we stuck it in a very tall pine tree.
Oh well, no time to build another.  Too bad too, it would've got
us a trophy in our age class for sure.

Here's the real kicker to this story.
Our Grandmother Nana unloaded her 8mm home movies on us
when she moved south. Eventually we went through those old films
and ran across a family reunion/thanksgiving? from around 1964 or
'65.  There in Nana's backyard, is my cousin Charlie and myself,
both around 4-5, chasing after Charlie's dad, Uncle David while
he's flying a Buzzard!
Haw! No wonder I was so attracted to the design.
I have vague recollections of that get together, but that ain't it. I
never got to ask Uncle David about it 'cause he lived in Chile.

The book was published in the USA by ARCO publishing  which
appears to be out of business. A quick online search shows that it
can still be found, as well as the original British version, which is
called Eagle's Book of Balsa Models. I don't know of any
differences between the 2 editions. Look for it [them] on Amazon.
There are a bunch of cool models in it, including 4 Jetex vehicles
and a sailboat. If you have kids you want to introduce to real model
building, or if you're still a kid at heart, this is a fun book.

Oh yeah, check the typo on the cover. That's supposed to be
Skyray, not Skyway. A profile model of the Douglas jet fighter.
Another great model plan we built several of.


  1. I built the first Skyray and it had incredible flight characteristics! Just an insanely smooth flying indoor balsa plane, and it responded very well to the nuances of your toss before levelling out into a long glide.

    Since I actually bought a Jetex motor, remind me what we did with it?
    Did a plane ever fly successfully using the Jetex? Did we strap it to a car?
    I just can't remember.
    We had trouble with the fuel pellets being crappy, and the "nozzle" (a hole) gumming-up.
    Lighting them was always a struggle, too.

    I hope you have a post in mind for your reversed Sleek Streak pusher canards with 2 sets of landing gear--those were some sweet flying planes, and the only balsa toys I recall that could actually take-off from the street and fly every time without trouble.
    The trick was making a reversed notch in the propeller/shaft engagement, plus a new angle for the former elevator?
    Wasn't there also a V-fuselage double prop version?
    You were very inventive.

  2. I still have the Jetex stuff.
    Know where it is too. It was a PITA.

    I forgot about the Pusher Sleeks.
    They were neat because they actually had to roll a ways before liftoff. The Buzzards would ROG, but it was more a case of the wheel holding the prop off the ground, then zoom, it was up.

    For a Pusher Sleek, you turn around the fuselage. Remove the prop from the shaft, mod the notch and reinstall with a plastic bead thrust washer. Attach an extra landing gear [with 1 or 2 legs and wheels] with glue and thread right behind the elevator notch. Glue one or two rudders at the new rear. Ready to fly. 2 sets of mainwings arent bad either.
    I built a couple pusher Biplanes using Guillows parts too.
    I don't recall building a Twin Pusher, takes a crew to fly one, they're a literal double handfull.