Control Line aeromodeling allows a modeler to have direct physical control of their model airplane. As can be seen in the drawing below, the pilot, standing in the middle of the circle, flies the model on one or more control lines. The control lines run from the pilot’s control handle to the airplane and traditionally operate the models elevator, allowing the pilot to make the airplane go up and down (controling the pitch of the airplane). The pilot also must continully turn with the airplane.
The first model airplanes to by flown on a line were tethered. These airplanes had a single line running from one wing to a post on the ground and allowed the model to fly around in a circle, but the modeler had no control. While this worked indoors, any type of wind would cause the model to fly poorly and possibly crash, so they were not very good outside.
To keep the models from crashing modelers then tried connecting their models to the end of a long pole and, by raising or lowering the pole, they could make the airplane climb or descend. While this helped modelers to fly their airplanes they still had limited control. The solution was a system that used bell-cranks and, instead of a pole, used a handle. In 1937, a modeler named Oba St. Clair used bell-cranks to fly the first documented Control Line model - the Miss Shirley.
Click the picture below to learn more about this flight.
It was not long before other modelers began developing and marketing Control Line systems. In 1939, the Stanzel brothers began advertising their Tiger Shark, and in 1940, Jim Walker unveiled his Fireball.
In no time, Control Line models replaced Free Flight models on the shelves of hobby shops and new contests were created to test a pilot’s skill. The first Control Line events were Stunt (aerobatic) and Speed but these were soon followed by Racing, Combat, and Navy Carrier. In the United States Control Line aeromodeling reached its peak in popularity during the 1950s and 1960s although Control Line is still the most popular form of aeromodeling in the rest of the world.
The Control Line exhibit in the museum showcases the development of this form of model aviation and includes sections that highlight each of the events.
Control line Combat
Control Line Stunt (top of case), Speed (left inside case), Racing (right inside case)
Control Line Navy Carrier