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A Smoky Bucket List

Roger Simmonds & Andy Blackwell

Andy and I would agree with what the film of the same name implies: it is a good to have a bucket list (BL). For a modeller, such a list inevitably includes aeroplanes you want to build, or having built, fly or make your peace with before reaching the great flying field in the sky. The two complimentary protagonists in the movie were fortunate in that the rich one, inspired by the more reflective other, had the wherewithal to make their combined list more than aspirational. A BL needs, we would suggest, to be slightly realistic; one of us (RJS) has all the fine hand-eye coordination of a mollusc (so flying F3A is a no-no) and Andy will never, alas, climb into a Bell X1 at 30,000 feet and ask for a stick of Beaman's. But we did compile a list of Jetex models we would like to fly before our fuel becomes useless and our wicks lose their fizz.

In the main, the models relate to our past - they are the 'nose up against the model shop window' kits we could never afford, or the tricky designs too advanced for our rudimentary trimming skills. There are others, of course - scale models of jet propelled aeroplanes never before attempted - and we will mention these in due course. But it is the first two categories, surrounded as they are by a warm glow of nostalgia, that really inspire our endeavours.

Sea Hawk
Hunter Jetex

Jetex ARTF models from Keil Kraft and Veron, of which the Sea Hawk (left) is the most attractive, was high on the our list. Flying 'Jetex' models as they should be flown (we don't count catapults, and reserve our judgement on EDF) would of course be impossible without either Rapiers or Jetex motors, so an addendum to our list, and just within the realms of possibility is, "an adequate supply of either or both Jetex and Rapier motors"!


The Hawker Hunter was high on Andy's list, who wanted to recreate his father's Keil Kraft Hunter that had so inspired him as a boy, and RS at last had some success with the Skyleada design. Neither of us, though, has yet flown a Tailored Hunter. Kits for the larger Jetmaster powered Hunter turn up from time to time, but the smaller one is as rare as Hen's teeth. We have lovely drawings for the Hunter and are experimenting with balsa moulding techniques, but the smaller (Mach 1+) Tailored models have a fearsome reputation, so seeing an example - any example -make a successful flight, features high on our BL.

Mike Stuart has made a Tailored Skyray (see http://www.ffscale.co.uk/jetsky.htm). which hopefully will see our ambitions fulfilled this year. Let's face it, if Mike can't get one to fly, there is little hope for the rest of us and our desire to fly the Hunter (left) may be on a par with attempting the North Face of the Eiger on a pogo stick or learning to fly a helicopter and perhaps it had better come off the list!


Above: the most attractive but elusive Jetex Hunter. This is one of Bert Judge's most beautiful creations and is (a) high on our bucket list but (b) very low in our estimation of success!



A Skyrocket with an internal motor (see left) is a more achievable ambition. We are both attracted to designs that have proved tricky to trim in our past - the DH 110 for example, or the Swift, and have an especial penchant for tailless designs. Making a copy of the old Aeromodeller DH 108 was the first item on Roger's BL, and we both want to see a Cutlass in the air, as neither of us can remember seeing one fly. There are a number of designs, including one by Albert Hatfull


Above: we are both attracted to models with internal motors. Some readers may remember my Leduc 21. This is Andy's rather more sophisticated Douglas Skyrocket for Jetex 50. It has nearly flown successfully (i.e. made a flight and landed with the motor expired). When it does so we can tick our BL!

Douglas Skyrocket

Hatfull's model is of conventional structure, well worth building, but there is Cutlass from Bob Burgas, which, with its all sheet structure and rear enclosed engine, is rather more interesting:


If not careful, a BL can grow and grow: one of us, having made most of the Jetex 'ARTF's from the fifties, for example the Sharky Wren and Shooting Star, is eager to build Sigurd Isacson's very rare Star and Meteor. Then there are profile models from the US, and the delightful all-sheet models the Japanese manufacturer of Tiger motors produced. Then there are the ambitious multi-engined creations from Paul del Gatto … truly, the list can go on and on!

HP 88

Above: One of us (well AB actually) has a 'thing' about the HP 88, a curious experimental jet with a Swift fuselage and the scimitar-shaped wings of the Victor bomber. This 3-view, taken from 'Jet Aircraft of the World' shows that nostalgia is also a factor in choosing what full-sized aeroplanes to design.

And then there are the full size jet aeroplanes that inspired us for which there are no plans. These too must be added to our BL (another piece of paper, please!). Meredith Evans has succeeded with a Jetex B-70 Valkyrie, so that's OK; Steve Bage's X-15 meant Roger didn't have to build one and could tackle the equally iconic Arrow instead. Also, our lust for an FD2 and Later BAC 221 has been satiated. So what's still to add? Err … well, lots actually, a Hawker P. 1081, an HP 88, a twin-engined Bristol 188, even the contemporaneous SAAB Gripen. All these are worthy prototypes and enough of a challenge to our mature modelling skills that their inclusion in a BL is not too incongruous.


So back to the genuine nostalgic stuff, like the Sebel Sea Vixen - enormously attractive to a young lad:


It came with wonderful coloured and shaped fuselage sides made of cardboard. However, given its purported (non) flying characteristics, this is one to 'have and to hold' (that is, collect) rather than fly.

This 'psuedo-BL' category includes many vintage Jetex models. For example the Zyra Spaceship, the early Vampire (the first Jetex model I ever saw. Bright yellow it were, and I've never quite got over the thrill!) and, as we have implied, perhaps most of the smaller Tailored models.

Peter Cock


But there is one Jetex model that fulfils all our BL criteria: the Interceptor Fighter that was demonstrated by Peter Cock at numerous meetings in the early/mid fifties (see left). Peter's creation was very similar to the pre-war FROG models (and oh how much Roger wanted one of those!) and gave, we are sure, many young fliers their first taste of success with a model powered by a means other than rubber. Peter told us the only person who crashed one was John Cunningham, the famous test pilot!




As we said, it certainly fulfils our BL criteria: Was it a 'nose pressed against the window' job? Yes. Does it have an internal motor? Yes. Is it a great looking model? Well the delta certainly pleases our aesthetics (note Andy's love of deltas like Draken and Skyray). Will it fly! Well yes, certainly. We have now acquired two examples in good condition, and plan to clone a couple more. We also have sufficient stocks of motors, pellets accessories and fuse. So we can, as the saying goes, "Live the dream". Hopefully, unlike in the film, we won't drop down dead afterwards!




One thing more needs to be said. The original film (worth seeing, by the way) is really a 'buddy movie'. The heroes find that companionship is actually more important than achieving their goals. And so it is within the aeromodelling fraternity. The real value of a bucket list is in helping others in their endeavours by sharing plans, motors, skills and encouragement. So top of our real 'Bucket List' is, "Have fun on the flying field and never be discouraged".






The authors demonstrating it is not too late to remake the mistakes of the past!