RC-1 (oz12778)


RC-1 (oz12778) by Chester Lanzo 1934 - plan thumbnail

About this Plan

RC-1. Radio control sport model. Wingspan 84 in, wing area 1010 sq in.

Quote: "RC One. This 1934, 7 foot Free Flight design by CD Lanzo was also flown RC. Traced from original drawings 1980. © 1980 Chester D Lanzo."

Direct submission to Outerzone.

Update 31/01/2021: Added (later) article from MA Dec 1986, thanks to TomRyan.

Quote: "Now acclaimed for its performance, this ahead-of-its-time 1934 RC model (which was described in big-city newspapers) 'had disappeared' for half a century. Its story is now revealed - with spark-gap transmitter, coherer coil, and Marconi age electronics which proved inadequate for this plane of the future. Lanzo's RC-1, by Chet Lanzo, with Bill Winter.

WHEN CHET LANZO WAS 20, more than half a century ago, he created a remarkably simple, functional, and graceful gas model with superb flying ability. It was a contemporary of the famed Bassett designs and the KG (Kovel-Grant) that was published in MAN in the 1930s, In fact, these two designs were Lanzo's in-spiration as he attempted to develop a gas model of his own. His objective was radio-controlled flight, as the name RC-1 testifies.

Sometime around 1934, a story about Chet and his historic craft appeared in the Cleveland Press along with an excellent photo of the plane and its creator. The newspaper's lead-in read: A high-wing cabin monoplane with a 7-ft spread, powered by a gasoline engine, capable of 50 mph, and equipped with radio controls so that it may be operated from the ground, is the ambitious model airplane project developed by Chester Lanzo for the Junior Aviator National Air Races. The article went on to relate that Chet had been interested in models for 10 years, and that he had already flown two large models. It recalled his experience in the craft shops of an East End neighborhood house and his graduation from East Technical High School where he had studied aeronautical engineering.

His peers here and abroad consider Chet to be one of the world's finest modelers. His achievements are monumental. I know Chet will disapprove of the last two sentences because of his self-effacing style - he is a humble guy - but it is necessary to say that in order to account for the out-of-the-blue events which unfold below.

Lanzo's 1937 Nats-winning RC, seemingly a step backward from the configuration of the 'forgotten' 1934 plane, is on display in the AMA Museum. It follows the ancient Lanzo tradition of the stick-type, wire cabane, polyhedral Free Flights he employed so successfully for RC. Its primitive radio now seems like something from the Ice Age, but of course, the radio from the RC-1 (never described), goes back to the Dinosaurs. Chet will talk about that. It is vintage Marconi, if I may make loose with words.

My awareness of the RC-1 began with a chance photo (from deBolt) of a winning model by Tom McCoy. In the March 1986 issue I was able to include an item on the RC-1 and a three-view drawing, thanks to both Tom and Chet. I was overwhelmed by Chet's invitation to write the RC-1 story for him. I feel profoundly honored. I have organized Chet's comments precisely as he spoke them. My questions (understood) are eliminated to permit Chet maximum space.

The RC-1 was approved by the Society of Antique Modelers (SAM) in 1982 to compete in its basic contest events. The authenticated design was listed in SAM Speaks as an accepted Antique. Here is Chet's account:

In 1934 I put together the RC-1, a first attempt at radio controlling a gasoline-engine-powered model airplane. My ambitious project was to be able to launch the gas model, get it into the air to a good height, have a reasonable flight, and then return the model to the vicinity of the launching site - all by radio control. It sounded simple enough, but it proved to be a very substantial goal - and one not easily attained.

I competed in the rubber-powered events at the Nationals held in Akron, OH in 1934. A new ruling for the contest was that gas-powered models were not allowed to compete against rubber-powered ones in events such as Moffet and Mulvihill. The winner of the Texaco event was the one that made the longest flight of a gas-powered model using a new ruling which limited the amount of fuel to 1/4 oz, for each pound of model weight.

Maxwell Bassett of Philadelphia, the 1933 winner, retained his title with a flight of 21 min, 57 sec. Irwin Ohlsson and Bill Atwood of California (See MA October 1986 for more on Atwood) flew two large (approximately 9-ft span) gas-powered models. Atwood had designed the gas engines for both ships. A few of the gas-powered models, unable to climb high enough to clear the 12-story Goodyear dirigible air dock, flew into the building with engines running and slid down its sides.

I thought it would be a great idea to build a gas job and prevent these fly-aways and accidents by controlling the model with a radio. What a brave lad I was. Our model airplane club in Cleveland was intrigued with the Brown Jr .60 engine which was just starting to be produced at the time. Money from the sale of several small Scale models built by members of the club allowed us to purchase one of those engines. We agreed that each club member would be allowed to use the Brown for a short period of time during the year, So I designed and built the RC-1, a 7-ft span cabin model, and waited for my turn to use the engine.

The Brown Jr became available to the club in the fall of 1934, and I could hardly wait to get the RC-1 into the air. Flying tests proved the model to be a very capable flying machine. It would climb steadily under power, and the glide was stable and slow. My idea was to get the model trimmed out and all the bugs worked out before installing the radio. I had been building models for 10 years - mostly rubber-powered Free Flight, Scale Free Flight, and contest types (what we would now call the Wakefield). The RC-1 provided a good opportunity for me to learn what I'd need to know in my further attempts to produce a successful flying and controllable model. It was, indeed, a good starting point.

The RC picture was bleak in 1934. I did not know anyone who was building or had built an RC unit for a gas-powered model airplane. In fact, some of my fellow modelers considered me a bit unusual when brought up the subject. Radio control equipment just did not exist. We must remember that gas-powered models had been flying for only about two years.

There had been some very heavy radio equipment used to control model boats and lightplanes during WW I. The amateur RC hobby was composed of a few isolated experimenters who were using makeshift equipment to produce successful models guided by radio, but there were no miniature components or lightweight units available. Parts for radios were extremely heavy. Lightweight batteries weren't available either, so most receivers used filament, high voltage plate, and bias batteries. Most tubes being used were the high-drain filament type.

Beginnings of the model design: The design stems from the full-size cabin airplanes that were flying then, If I could point to one design that was most influential it would be from the greatest gas modeler of all time, Maxwell Bassett. The RC-1 incorporates a lot from his 1933 cabin model design.

The wingspan of the RC-1 was dictated by a 3-ft length of balsa I had on hand. I didn't like to splice spars or leading and trailing edges - made them weak - so I used 3-ft tips and added a 1-ft center section to give the 7-ft span. I must have been influenced by other models and modelers, but while some of my memories of old times are crystal clear, others are about 50 years old.

My plans call for silk covering to make the model a durable and long-lasting one for present-day RC. The original was covered with bamboo paper (it looked like blotting paper) and given three to four coats of heavy nitrate dope. (Butyrate was not available then.) This made a tough and inexpensive covering. I used silk when I could afford it. The nitrate dope was somewhat fuel-proof (to gas and oil). For this reason, I used black-pigmented nitrate dope on the front end (engine compartment), Lacking bamboo paper, or when I wanted to make the tail sections lighter, I would use Japanese tissue and double covering with the grain of the tissue crossing at right angles; this was to discourage puncture tears.

The model RC-1 design was similar to the rubber-powered cabin-type models that I was flying in 1934. The design philosophy of the time dictated that all airplanes 'had' to have a cowling over the engine (even if it was a mess on a model), and a cabin with windshield and windows on the side. The wing is a simple rectangle with rounded tips. A conventional rudder and elevator complete the design.

The 1/4-in sq diagonals on the fuselage are for rigidity and are not really necessary for modern-day RC. I used Ambroid cement (the red-colored stuff). I also made homemade cement from acetone and celluloid. I thought that if I could eliminate all of the heavy electrical equipment (vacuum tubes, batteries, transformers, and relays) I would stand a chance of successful operation. In other words, I hoped to simplify the receiving end of the equipment and thereby eliminate a great deal of weight.

The coherer-type receiver and its associated spark-gap transmitter seemed to fit my requirements very satisfactorily. It was simply a detector and a relay-actuator combined, with engine ignition system batteries to power the unit for the airborne equipment. The complete receiver turned out to weigh less than 8 oz.

The transmitter was simplicity itself: a Ford Model T spark coil (1923 vintage), a key to pulse the signal, and a 6V auto storage battery made up the bulk of the transmitter. Of course, there was also the antenna and tuned coil system.

Early radio tests: The RC-1 was very stable both in powered flight and in the glide. Small movements of the rudder while trimming would give a nice large circle to the right or left. I discovered that the model could handle the additional 1/2 lb weight of the receiver quite well. I built the radio equipment and bench-tested it. It looked as if the coherer receiver system was viable as a method of radio control, although it took a lot of fiddling and fussing just to get the relay to close and stay closed.

I eliminated all gears and motors and devised a very simple rudder control system by re-winding an electromagnet from a Ford cut-out relay. I used it as a combination relay and rudder operator. I placed an extended arm on the clapper..."

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RC-1 (oz12778) by Chester Lanzo 1934 - model pic

  • (oz12778)
    by Chester Lanzo
    84in span
    IC F/F
    all formers complete :)
    got article :)
  • Submitted: 27/01/2021
    Filesize: 563KB
    Format: • PDFbitmap
    Credit*: TomRyan

RC-1 (oz12778) by Chester Lanzo 1934 - pic 003.jpg
RC-1 (oz12778) by Chester Lanzo 1934 - pic 004.jpg
RC-1 (oz12778) by Chester Lanzo 1934 - pic 005.jpg
RC-1 (oz12778) by Chester Lanzo 1934 - pic 006.jpg
RC-1 (oz12778) by Chester Lanzo 1934 - pic 007.jpg
RC-1 (oz12778) by Chester Lanzo 1934 - pic 008.jpg

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User comments

Pic of Chet Lanzo with his RC-1, circa 1985 [pic 004].
TomRyan - 01/02/2021
Hi Mary, I have attached from my original magazine [Popular Mechanics, Oct 1935] a picture of Chet Lanzo with what became known as the RC-1 [pic 007]. The details are hand written on the sheet. Thanks to you and Steve for Outerzone.... Take care,
JeffMac - 01/02/2021
Hi. Attached pic [008]. Just built from this plan.
Dan - 17/10/2021
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