Monthly Display - June 2019


About Flight 1

From the earliest times in my life that I can recall, I was inspired by the idea of flight. I can remember that I would often hold a toy plane in one hand and with an outstretched arm, watch it as I moved it along in the direction of flight as if the plane was flying. I would be imagining that the plane was flying. I loved the idea of free movement through clear 3-dimensional space. Flying to me meant moving fluidly through 3 dimensions.

As I got older, I constructed plastic model aircraft from kits, and also small balsa wood and tissue paper flying model aircraft from kits. When flying the model aircraft, I loved watching them glide silently on and on. There is something quite special about seeing a model gliding on real air with excellent balance and a very shallow glide slope. Naturally, I read up on what to do to make the models fly as well as they possibly could. I particularly enjoyed making the aircraft wings, which were usually like skeletons of glued balsa wood pieces, covered in tissue paper that was then tightened using ‘dope’. This hobby grew to the stage of flying several radio-controlled gliders from the local school oval.



A heron in flight:

I have always enjoyed watching birds fly. Their graceful and masterly movement through air is fascinating. I’ve noticed that different types of birds fly with different characteristics. Small birds fly with very fast wing beats. Large birds fly with slower, strong beats of their wings. Some birds do more gliding than beating their wings (like pelicans and eagles).

Some birds, such as kestrels, can ‘hover’ above a hill with fluttering wings seemingly remaining in a stationary position, even though there may be quite a strong breeze blowing against them. Somehow, they can read the moving air and make subtle compensations for the variations in the moving air’s strength and direction.

The pelicans my wife and I saw flying over Meningie in 2003 were fascinating and inspiring, before the changes to the environment that occurred as a result of the drought of 2006. Pelicans are long distance flyers, that use gliding and rising inside air thermals (columns of rising warmer air) for most of their journeys.

I have watched white sulphur-crested cockatoos, and black cockatoos over many years in the pine forest at Flinders University, in South Australia, while working at Flinders University. Both species of cockatoo have very different types of calls, and quite different flying characteristics. White cockatoos will often fly quite erratically with very loud shrieks (sometimes even twisting upside down as they fly). Black cockatoos fly much more sedately, and have a more languid type of beating of their wings, which suggests that they may be more long-distance flyers than their white cockatoo cousins.

I remember watching large numbers of starlings fly around and settle on two old church towers in Launceston, just before sunset. And my wife and I saw them flying as a huge group, like a swarming mass in the twilight.




A rainbow lorikeet flies away from a prunus tree in blossom:





Two pelicans soaring in circles, gaining altitude:





A kestrel jumps into the air from its resting place:






Looking up at a hovering kestrel:

I have also enjoyed watching many flying insects, especially dragonflies and butterflies. Some insects fly very quickly and change direction so unexpectedly, that they are difficult to observe. Dragonflies can often fly in a similar manner to helicopters.

I have seen many butterflies flying around interacting with other butterflies, seemingly just for fun. I have seen many butterflies sensibly using gliding in their flying. Obviously, their tiny brains are quite capable of deciding when it is appropriate to glide, or not.



A butterfly settles on one of thousands of wild flowers:




A resting dragonfly:

The wings are fascinating constructions.



Some recollections about aircraft and/or flying, part 1 (continued on the next page):

I would often see aircraft from my home when growing up in Sydney. The aircraft were usually airliners either leaving Kingsford Smith Airport, or going to land at the Airport. Occasionally, I’d see smaller aircraft, or helicopters flying around doing other things. I’d often wonder what they were doing, who was on-board, where they are going, or where had they been?

I remember visiting a country airport (probably Bundaberg Airport) when I was quite young, and thought that the airport and aircraft all had a fantastic atmosphere around it all. I can’t remember the actual type of aircraft I saw, but they felt as though they were similar to Douglas DC3s. I remember that the aircraft had propellers, and that the passengers had to step down from the aircraft and walk to the terminal out in the noise and the breeze.

I was shown where ‘flying boats’ (Consolidated Catalinas and Short Sandringhams [converted Short Sunderlands]) used to take off and land in Rose Bay on Sydney Harbour. Apparently, my Granddad had gone on an overseas trip from there, in one of the Short Sandringham flying boats. I can remember feeling that an overseas trip in such a flying boat would feel very exotic to me, seemingly from an amazing time in history. The services to England had already closed down in 1955, but Ansett Airlines were still using the flying boats at Rose bay to fly to and from Lord Howe Island until 1974 (when I was about 14 years old). The Short Sandringhams on the harbour looked amazing!

I have read many books about aircraft, and some about building and flying model aircraft. I have also read many magazines about building and flying model aircraft.

I built several radio-controlled gliders. One glider had a wingspan of over 2 metres. I usually flew these gliders from the oval of my local high school. To get the gliders higher into the air, I developed a technique of launching them a little like kites, but with a line that would release from the aircraft when it was high enough.

I have built and flown many kites, including classic diamond kites (with added tails for increased stability), and two line controllable stunt kites, built from diagrams in a book.

I remember reading in one my magazines about the first person-powered flight over a distance of 1 mile (1.6 km) in a figure eight path – in the Gossamer Condor to collect the Kremer prize, back in 1977. I later read about the same team coming up with a new aircraft, called the Gossamer Albatross, to be the first person-powered aircraft to cross the English Channel. These were amazing achievements, and very inspiring stories that resonated with the story of the Wright brothers flying the Wright Flyer in 1904 at Kittyhawk, in North Carolina, USA.



Some final adjustments made to a radio-controlled model aircraft:

One of my brothers makes final adjustments to his radio-controlled model aircraft, before attaching the wings with large rubber bands and starting the engine. You can see the white control connectors attached to the small special movement motors (servos) inside the fuselage (just under my brother’s hand). I had several similarly sized radio controlled gliders.



Engine Started

The engine is started, and the starter battery connector is removed, ready to release the aircraft.


Monthly Display - June 2019