New FF Scale Columnist

New "FF Scale" Columnist

Introducing Tom Hallman as the New "FF Scale" Columnist

By Tom Hallman | [email protected]
 
As seen in the November 2022 issue of Model Aviation.
 
The fleet of Scale rubber-powered models flown by the author in recent years.
The fleet of Scale rubber-powered models flown by the author in recent years.

I AM HONORED to pick up where my friend and mentor, Dennis Norman, left off. He inspired and informed the Free Flight (FF) troops for many years, and I hope, God willing, to do the same.

As an introduction, I’ve been interested in FF since the late 1980s, when I became involved with the Flying Aces Club (FAC). My focus has been on Scale rubber-powered FF, with an occasional dip into Power Scale. I’ve been fortunate to have been awarded the Earl Stahl and Walt Mooney Awards for Scale excellence at the FAC Nats, along with Grand Champion honors and the National Free Flight Society (NFFS) Model of the Year.

Competing has become a good way to challenge myself through a variety of different-size models from the many periods of aviation—pioneer to modern. I’ve never hesitated to try something different, which has allowed me to grow as a modeler. That approach stems from my profession as a freelance illustrator with a focus on book cover art. Week to week, I never know what the direction or subject matter will be, so I’ve come to embrace the unexpected and learn from it.

During the past year or two, with the uncertainty of the world, I’ve become even more nostalgic, and find myself drawn to the roots of FF via Old-Timer Rubber models from the 1930s. Their classic designs and duration potential bring out the pure joy and beauty of flight.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with FF, past and present. I also want to discuss technique and process, both for newcomers and veteran builders. I’m all about the questions and answers on my YouTube channel (listed in "Sources," or search for MaxfliArt), so don’t hesitate to ask questions and voice your concerns about model building and flying. I’ll also include field reports from trim sessions.

Fellow fliers surprised the author’s dad with a signed T-shirt after the 2012 FAC Nats.
Fellow fliers surprised the author’s dad with a signed T-shirt after the 2012 FAC Nats.

The author’s most complex Scale model, the 27-inch rubber-powered Dornier DO-X, flies with a 10-inch propeller on the nose. It features 12 freewheel, four-blade propellers.
The author’s most complex Scale model, the 27-inch rubber-powered Dornier DO-X, flies with a 10-inch propeller on the nose. It features 12 freewheel, four-blade propellers.

A Chance to Learn

Every new model is like starting over, so each aircraft is a chance to learn more. It never ends, and that’s wonderful. Problem-solving, brainstorming, and sharing are at the core of this hobby, so we should all continue to embrace it.

I didn’t start out with this knowledge base. I was as green as they come, although always eager to learn. My dad saw that in me and got the ball rolling early on. He was much the same. As a creative and curious 15-year-old in 1936, little did my father know that 50 years later, he would unexpectedly inspire his youngest son, permanently securing our passion for FF.

As were many of his friends in the 1930s, my dad was a model builder. He and his best friend, Gordy Robinson, built hundreds. They would buy the 5¢ and 10¢ kits, build them, and sell the models back to the same hobby shop for $1 or $2 as ready-to-fly models. They had a system and plenty of time. It was the perfect combination to keep a kid’s mind occupied and motivated—post-Depression creativity and resourcefulness.

In one of his magazines, there was a small advertisement placed by a hobby shop from a foreign country that sold various model plans and supplies. Although the shop was in Paris, that didn’t stop my dad from contacting it with an offer to trade one of his plans for one of its plans. The shop agreed and sent him beautiful plans for a contest-type floatplane: the 30-inch Hydravion MB. The envelope included a cover letter and a fourpage typed catalog. He then put it safely into his desk drawer, figuring he would take a closer look later that week.

Fifty years later, while attending the annual Easter gathering at the family homestead, I found a box stashed away in the attic. It was filled with black and white photographs from my parents’ early years as a couple in the 1940s. In the same box was the envelope from the Parisian hobby shop. The contents were nearly pristine, as though it hadn’t been touched since it was placed in the desk drawer long ago. Part of me felt that I should be wearing white gloves.

I showed the plans to my dad, who couldn’t believe what he was seeing because he had long ago forgotten about it. The envelope also contained a few photos of him when he was in his late teens, posing with a biplane as he dreamed about becoming a pilot.

The possessions of teenager Donald Hallman in the mid- to late-1930s.
The possessions of teenager Donald Hallman in the mid- to late-1930s.

Donald is remembering his own Fairchild back in 1935.
Donald is remembering his own Fairchild back in 1935.

The author’s first twin, a 37-inch MiG-DIS, was based on Lubomir Koutny plans. Photo by Don DeLoach.
The author’s first twin, a 37-inch MiG-DIS, was based on Lubomir Koutny plans. Photo by Don DeLoach.

There was also a letter that he had received from one of the directors of the 1939. World’s Fair in New York City. Dad had offered one of his models to be included in the displays at the transportation venue, but it was too late to do so.

Dad gave me the plans, so I quickly got to work, ordering some rather stiff wood from Old-Time Model Supply. It would be my first FF aircraft since some extremely poor attempts as a young teen in the 1960s. I was now 34 years old, had three young children, and I was looking for a hobby to share with them, so this was perfect timing.

The model was a brick, of course, but overall, I was pleased with the results. I eventually sent photos of the bones and completed model to Earl VanGorder at Flying Models magazine. He published them, along with my offer to make blueprint copies for anyone who was interested, for a nominal fee.

One member of the local FAC, the Skyscalers, saw my address, reached out, and invited me to the club’s monthly meeting and weekend flying sessions at the local schoolyard. I quickly became hooked on FF after getting the Hydravion to fly the circle a few times the first night out in the summer of 1988.

It’s no surprise that my dad was always the first to see and hold my latest Scale aircraft. I wanted his blessing and wanted to see his eyes light up.

Cheers to the 15-year-old Donald "Dee Jay" Hallman, who put it all in motion back in 1936.

Dream, ponder, build, but most of all, fly.

SOURCES:

Tom Hallman’s YouTube Channel

www.youtube.com/user/maxfliart

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