Ep 54 – Astronaut Robert “Hoot” Gibson



Matt: Hello again everybody welcome to another episode of the AMA podcast my name is Matt Ruddick your host as always thank you so much for downloading this week’s episode coming up today we’re going to be talking about building because October is model aviation build month and it’s all about celebrating building and to help me do that today first of all today’s co-host is Mark Benson AMA Creative Director Mark thank you so much for helping me out today.

Mark: hey thanks for having me on the show Matt.

Matt: yeah absolutely you know we’ve got a really special guest on today’s show I’m super excited about and uh it’s somebody that you know this was kind of Mark’s kind of brainchild a little bit he kind of thought hey let’s talk to this guy because I bet he’s got some cool stuff going on we’re going to be talking to former Astronaut Robert Hoot Gibson AMA Ambassador and just all around amazing guy he’s got some really cool projects going on Mark you talked to him a little bit I believe recently didn’t you?

Mark: Well it started with an email just asking him if he’s building anything and so he started sending videos and photos and more information he’s like okay he’s building something we and he wants to share so we said well let’s have him on the show.

Matt: Absolutely and uh so stick around for that that’s coming up in just a couple of minutes but uh you know we want you guys to know that again October is model aviation build month uh the AMA is celebrating building all throughout the month of October you can learn more about that at modelaircraft.org/ibuildama and uh mark we got a hashtag i think out of that too don’t we?

Mark: yep #ibuildama so if somebody’s doing some building I guess we’d encourage them to use that hashtag so we can be a part of that conversation.

Matt: yeah absolutely put post those photos and videos on social media and tag that with #ibuildama and let’s let’s see if we can get that thing trending i think we can make that happen so without further ado i you know I don’t want to waste any more time I want to get into this interview because today’s guest uh is this is a real honor for me so let’s introduce Mr Hoot Gibson! Hoot thank you so much for joining us on the AMA podcast.

Hoot: oh golly man it’s a pleasure um i have been an AMA member since oh golly I hate to mention how many years I’ve been a member so it’s just yeah it’s just a pleasure to be here with you today.

Matt: Absolutely well it’s uh it’s an honor for to have you on the show. I’ve said it on the show many times I’m been a huge uh what I like to call space nerd for as long as i can remember and uh being able to interview an actual astronaut on the show is a dream come true so thank you for coming on I appreciate it oh god yeah it’s a pleasure astronaut and model builder too absolutely and that’s some of the stuff we’re going to talk about today. You know the first thing though I would love for you to kind of talk a little bit about your history and aeromodeling and how it uh kind of helped shape your career a little bit for folks that may not be as familiar with you as Mark or I am. How did you get started in this crazy world of aeromodeling.

Hoot: Well i have been a I’ve been a modeler all my life and I remember you know when I was young you know you’d head down to the drugstore with a dollar and buy a plastic model kit and it was always airplanes and uh and I’d be building uh plastic models I do remember though when i was about eight years old nine years old I wanted to make a balsa wood model of the x1 uh the first airplane to go supersonic and so I drew myself up a plan went to the model shop and bought some balsa wood and I made a stick and tissue it wasn’t real pretty but I made a stick and tissue model of the x1 when i was about eight or nine years old from there so I was doing rubber powered models and gliders and things like that and i’ll never forget my dad bought us for Christmas a thimble drum cox piper cub uh you control model and that was when I was 10 years old and so started flying you control then and couldn’t really afford radio control until i got out of college and was actually in the navy going through pilot training and uh at that point finally could afford radios used to be really expensive compared to what they are nowadays i bought a heath kit I bought the five channel heath kit RC outfit where you had to assemble the transmitter assemble the receiver assemble all the servos and it was a lot of work and I flew that for a great many years and that was what got me started in radio control and from there i really liked jets and I wanted jet models and so I was actually a bit of a pioneer with ducted fans because I flew my first f-16 prototype in 1975 which I believe was the same year that Bob Violet flew his prototype a4 model and so from there you know from there the RC world has really expanded and as we know has moved into electrics as well so that’s kind of a thumbnail sketch of my modeling background and how I got to here today.

Matt: Did how did that kind of help shape you know going into the navy and then eventually going on to work at NASA I mean did was there was there a connection there at all oh absolutely man yeah because you may not even realize it as you’re doing modeling but you are learning about weight and balance you’re learning about stability and control you’re learning about propulsion you’re learning about lift and drag and you’re not always focusing on those the way you do when you’re studying aeronautical engineering for example but i remember as an example one time I built a glider and balsa wood wing and I made the fuselage just used about a half inch wooden dowel and I remember saying to myself well you know why in the world should I make a short nose on it and then have to add a bunch of nose weight to it i’ll just make the wooden dowel long enough that it balances with just the wooden dowel okay well that sounds fine yeah holding the wing at the quarter chord point to check the balance yeah it balanced it didn’t fly worth a darn and the reason was the fuselage had too much inertia in it and so you’ll learn like I say you learn those kind of lessons building these models what I wound up doing of course was cutting off the long nose uh that I had put on this glider and then adding weight to make the CG come out so you learn you learn about stability and control lift and drag and all of those things so that definitely played a role in the success that i had learning how to fly and going through navy pilot training because you learned a lot about why airplanes fly how they fly uh not just how to do it.

Mark: You mentioned the F-16 I just want to revisit that for a second is that the same airplane that you competed at Nats with like in the early 80s.

Hoot: Yes it is now I made my first prototype and flew it um flew it several times it was it was a little bit rough because it was my first attempt at a fiberglass fuselage I made myself a hydrocal mold which is uh like a plaster kind of a plaster mold for it and molded the first fuselage that came out of that mold wasn’t very pretty and so i said okay I’m going to use this one as a prototype flew it several times and it worked fine and then I started in on the one that wound up being the one you re referred to Mark that I took to the nationals in 1981 in Seguin Texas and that one took me a while to build because test pilot school got in the way I left San Diego in my fighter squadron in 1976 and I had started to assemble this one the one that we’re seeing on the screen now this was the prototype the one that’s on the screen right now okay and it didn’t look too bad but I didn’t want to waste a whole lot of time on retractable landing gear and a detailed cockpit and all of those things because like I say I wasn’t proud of the fiberglass job that I did the first one although you know it looked kind of acceptable there’s the old heath kit radio with it as well and I flew it with that radio and it worked it worked just fine and the model flew all right and i said okay now let’s press on with the nice one and so that was when i started it in about 1976 and then test pilot school is the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life and this was the final version obviously in the in the construction stage and uh it had a whole lot nicer fiberglass fuselage on it and I finished that one not till I got to NASA and it did very well in contests and did very well in shows and so as Mark as you mentioned I took it to the nationals in Seguin Texas in 1981 and i got third place in stand-off scale at the nationals with it and so it’s been a very successful model I still have it I still have that really i haven’t found it in quite a few years because again it’s you know it’s gas powered and I’ve been spoiled by the electric ducted fans i have been really spoiled by these things they are so easy and so simple uh because with the ducted fans you were always trying to lean it out to maximum RPM trying to get 21 22 000 RPM and heck with the electrics 30 000 RPM is no problem at all.

Mark: Yeah I remember that model being you loaned it to our museum for a period of it was time display there.

Hoot display in the National Model Aviation Museum

Hoot: yeah yeah up in Muncie for oh golly at least a year maybe a year and a half maybe two years and uh yeah I kind of referred to it was sort of a Hoot Gibson shrine that we had up there at Muncie with the f-16 on display there wow .

Matt: so you know and Mark actually uh before we started the show he ended up tracking down a little bit of a little bit of history uh from Model Aviation magazine that we found a photo from uh this was the uh 1982 Nats I think Mark is that what you said I think that’s what I think just said 1981 I believe so maybe uh maybe it’s 82.

Hoot: I don’t know oh i remember this photo yeah this was in 1981 this was the it’s Seguin Texas 1981 the nationals um that year and I had just made the first flight on that F-16 in February of 81 and then had enough flights on it that I felt confident enough to take it to the nationals and figured that I could reliably fly it there at the Nats and uh you know it was funny one of the judges there were three judges that did the static judging one of the judges really hated my airplane apparently because he gave it a 70 on the overall score the other ones were oh golly up in the 90s but i flew it well enough uh i think i was in last place based on the static judging because of that one judge and and i wound up in third place overall that year and there were a lot of models entered in sports scale so so I guess I flew it well enough that uh that it moved way up on the flight scores.

Matt: so you’ve been building for a while I guess is what we’re saying i mean this is a long time ago so it’s not nothing anything new so I guess that’s what we’re here today to talk about some of your most more recent building projects right yeah absolutely yeah I have uh you know and what will happen uh Matt and Mark is that you know there will be an airplane that I want a model of a flying model of and nobody makes one and uh so you have two choices you either don’t have one or you could make it yourself and so uh I’m sure we’re probably going to talk about the Pogo uh that’s probably one of the more ambitious and most challenging things I think I’ve ever attempted yeah before we get to that let me touch just on what you said there so you know if there’s an airplane that you want a model of and there’s not an existing model out there what okay so for example the pogo what kind of process.

Matt: how do you even start that process you know the research and designing the plan and kind of how do you tackle that sort of thing.

Hoot: Well what I did Matt when I would have a model that I needed to make you’ve got to have like you mentioned you got to have a plan because you don’t know what you’re going to do unless you know the exact dimensions of it you know what size the fuselage has to be and so what I would do is I would take a three view drawing and so you’ve got to find a very accurate review of whatever it is you want to build now you could do it by hand just mechanically measuring that three view and then saying okay I’ve got to blow this up uh 6.85 times something like that as your scale factor for this review but I used to cheat a little bit I would take a an opaque projector and I put that three View into the opaque projector and then I’d project the three view on the wall and on the wall I had my big piece of paper and then I would just take my pencil and I would draw out this review and that that gives me the overall dimensions of the thing of course and the overall shape of it and then you had to you had to do a little bit of kind of detailed work to figure out what the cross-sections are going to be in other words what’s your bulkheads you know we built models generally with bulkheads in them of course and you’ve got to be able to picture in your mind to some degree okay here’s what that bulkhead is going to look like now you can measure on your on your three view drawing that you’ve made of your full-size model of what the full-size model is going to be so you know it’s this wide and it’s this tall and then you can interpolate what the shapes are sometimes on your three views that you’ve blown up you’ll get the exact bulkheads but you’ve got to draw all that out and in a fuselage for example you’re going to have longerons that are going to be going the lengthwise way and then you’re going to have your bulkheads that’s going to define the shapes for you so that’s the process that you go through to make your design before you can even get started on starting to cut wood.

Mark: So why the Pogo?

Hoot: Well maybe it’s because I was Navy and this was a Navy airplane and a pretty fascinating airplane an airplane that could take off and land straight up and down and it was only successfully flown by one pilot named of Skeets Coleman and I don’t even remember what his what his first name was he was a marine corps test pilot and then I guess he was a test pilot for Convair and he’s the only person that successfully flew that airplane there was another pilot that attempted to hover it without having had the advantage of doing the blimp hanger up at Moffett field and actually learning how to fly it and he just barely got away with lifting it off and hovering it for a little while and it wasn’t in very good control and he got it back down on the ground successfully in one piece and then no one else ever attempted to fly the thing Skeets Coleman however in 1954 I think it was November 2nd 1954 did the world’s first vertical takeoff transition into horizontal flight and returned back in the land again and of course he had had all the training in the blimp hangar at Moffett so he could hover the thing very successfully but it was a scary airplane to fly and he but he did it oh he did it brilliantly uh he was awarded I think it was the collier trophy that year uh for the for the flights that he made in the Pogo so it was an airplane I’d always been fascinated by and I had even traveled to Norfolk Virginia one time because it was it was a gate guard sitting outside for years uh at Norfolk Virginia to see it and then I made sure that I got to go to silver hill where the actual pogo is still it’s not really on display but it’s in storage uh it’s silver hill which is the Smithsonian’s uh storage facility for airplanes that they don’t have room for to put on display.

Mark: So I remember you talking about the pogo in one of your Expo talks 2014 or so and I think we’re going to include a link you know in the description of this show to those expo talks so somebody could learn more about you and your story and some of these other modeling stories and I remember you showing pictures of the pogo that wasn’t covered in the I’m sure we’re maybe going to flip through some pictures now of the pogo and look at it where it is today which it’s kind of exciting to see where it is today compared to where it was back then.

Hoot: yeah well you know one of the things that I said initially was okay you know you’re tempted to just go start building the model you know because that’ll be easy I’ve got the three views drawn I’ve got the plans for the longer ones and the bulkheads and all of that and i can build that and i said you know what if I can’t build the contra rotating propeller make sure that that works this is going nowhere so i said okay I’ve got to do that first i need to go ahead and build the contra rotating propeller and here’s the mechanism that I built um and I don’t know when you when you study it you know it looks like it’s a little bit of a rube goldberg yeah and it kind of is i didn’t want to have to mess with bevel gears to change the direction of rotation of one propeller compared to the other one so I did it just using straight gears and an os max 61 vf for the engine and so of course I had to have a cooling shroud in there and you can kind of make out the starter belt sticking out on the right side of the image that we’re looking at and I ran this successfully and so figured out okay and I think I measured something like 11 and a half pounds of thrust and this is one of the pictures I took of it running and in my driveway and like I say had done a thrust measurement and had 11 and a half or 12 pounds of thrust and I said okay i believe that’s going to be enough thrust for the model to be successful so now I can do the fun part I can start building the actual airframe itself and so like i say i made sure that I could do that now since as you can see in this picture it’s going to sit on its wing tips and the tips of its rotors or its vertical tails i thought wow it’s going to need some strength in those surfaces just in case it has a hard landing it’s going to need some real strength in it so i’m going to build the entire framework on it out of aircraft plywood and so that’s what i did now what’s interesting in this photo well the whole thing is interesting but this isn’t glued together real quick and the body and the wings are not glued together I tab them with the different plywood parts so it’s just sitting here with the bulkheads in place attached to the longer ones the wings I have developed this technique which is the way that real jet airplanes are made for example jet airplanes don’t have tons of ribs in them and wooden spars the way we make or you know square pieces of wood that we put together the wings with they’re made up out of spars lengthwise spars because that’s where all this strength comes from and these spars will form the shape of the wing just fine and so anyway I think I think it’s kind of fascinating that this is not glued together it’s just tabbed together in this picture which was how I designed all the structure in the framework.

Matt: yeah that’s incredible because i mean it’s literally it’s you know for folks that are listening to the audio version of this that in this photo this the Pogo it’s standing straight up like it would be you know prepared for takeoff and none of that’s glued together that’s amazing it’s amazing to me how much strength there is in that construction design that’s amazing.

Hoot: yeah you’re right Matt just by the fit of it together you’ve got you know you’ve got some strength some ability um but if you look at the tips the wing tips and the tips of the vertical tails there’s only a single piece that it’s sitting on the ground and when i actually glued it together that’s going to form those tips are going to form the mechanism where I put a spring in there and the landing gear themselves you notice are not in it so it doesn’t have the wheels and it doesn’t have the gear struts I’ll describe them as uh because I needed to be able to encompass those in a bit of a sandwich a plywood sandwich at the tips and so it’s just sitting there on the uh in a single in a single tip now this was a picture when i had finished the covering and the landing gear in this case is definitely in place and the spinner I had to make a mold for the spinner because nobody makes a 12 inch long by six inch diameter spinner that one part of it is going to be turning one way and the other part is going to be turning the other way nobody makes one of those so I had to make myself a mold to build a fiberglass spinner for it and so this is the wood form that i turned on a lathe to get the correct shape and the correct dimensions for the for the spinner so there wasn’t anything easy about this model it was a you know it was a it was a challenging endeavor.

Matt: When did you start this process from just from inception you know how long ago was that?

Hoot: oh golly this is embarrassing Matt but oh no but those pictures of the propeller being run in my driveway were taken in 1982. wow this was back in Houston now.

Matt: but hey you’re a busy guy oh I think it’s all it’s all understandable.

Pogo converted to electric

Hoot: NASA and all these space flights really got in my way and so they were constantly sending me off to space again and of course you know it wasn’t just the space part of it, it was the training for it because you trained for an entire year for each mission yeah and so they kept getting in my way so you know the career constantly slows things down you know the Navy with test pilot school and my fighter squadron work and all of that uh meant that you know I was mostly working in the evenings and on weekends uh to do these things now I also had a problem with the pogo um i mentioned that I that I ran the thing with the glow engine in it problem i had with it then was I kept breaking the gears now there was a picture and I don’t know if it’s real handy that has a bit of a close-up perfect mat you are right on top of everything the glow engine I guess because of the pulsing of the power kept breaking the gears and I didn’t really have a solution at hand for that so I have to say the model did sit dormant for quite a few years because I had other models that I was building other models I was working on and so it sat there for years in the balsa wood covered phase and didn’t progress very much because you know it wasn’t going to be able to be flown and so I just kind of had it on a back burner so that model has been in existence for what is this what now 38 years it’s only been in the recent past that i finally said which I had been saying to myself for quite a few years you know what you need to do you need to convert this over to electric and so there’s the lead-in and Matt’s right on top of everything holy smokes matt you’re amazing anyway um i finally said okay I need to convert this over to electric and I thought oh this is going to be terrible no it wasn’t it was quite simple and you can see in this picture what I’ve done is it’s essentially mocked up and I’ve built uh part of the aluminum tab that I needed to be able to mount the motor and just adapt the electric motor to where the glow engine had been previously and this greatly simplified everything and with the electric motor there’s no pulsing of the power so it doesn’t break gears and so it has just been obviously the way to go let me ask let me ask you this you know did you find that there was uh issues in terms of weight distribution that you were going to have to solve because I’m sure there’s a weight difference between that glow engine and this new electric motor uh there there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between the weight of the glow engine and the weight of the electric motor it wasn’t a whole lot of difference but what’s yeah and you know the answer what’s the big ability we have with the electric powered models i can put the batteries anywhere I need to that’s a good point and so it’s interesting though the pogo the actual pogo the one that actually flew the balance point was 15 of the mean aerodynamic cord and so you know what does that mean to most of us well you know i’m sure all of us are used to saying okay i’ve got to balance the airplane so it balances at 25 of the cord of the wing in the in the forward 25 of the wing and for the pogo the actual pogo it had to be at 15 now what i think that has to do with is the moment arm that the flight controls would have between the the elevons or in the case of a regular playing the elevator to where the center of gravity is going to be and so i have a feeling that that was why the pogo had to be at 15 which is really way forward right extremely forward for a CG and again I suspect it’s just because you know the this is part of our you know stability and control and controllability the moment that you’ve got to have to control the fuselage in pitch for example is a big function of what’s the distance between where the center of gravity is and in a normal airplane the elevators in the case of the pogo they’re elevons so they accomplish both elevator and aileron but I suspect that’s why the center of gravity had to be so far forward and that made it easy to put the batteries you know fairly close to the motor because you know one thing you don’t want is you don’t want your wire runs to be too excessively long right but anyway I was able to balance it easily at 15 so I feel like we need to see where it is today we led right up to that point right yes well and once electrically I figured out okay this can work i went ahead with the covering and to keep the weight down I covered it in monocoat and uh because that’s golly that’s that surely is lightweight although i had covered the body in just 1 16 inch balsa once again to cut down on the weight and in order to give that a little bit of strength and durability i did cover all of the balsa wood with three quarter ounce cloth and epoxy resin and so i did have to do that just to build up enough strength in it but then above and beyond that i went ahead and covered it in virtually all of it in monocoat which i had done that for a number of years in other models I had to mold a canopy uh as you can see and then after i finished with the uh with the monaco as we can see in this picture I finished up with the markings and then i put Skeets Coleman in the cockpit.

Mark: And look at that thing it looks awesome!

Convair XFY Pogo

Matt: it looks awesome yeah really yeah.

Hoot: I had to build a model of it and of course in all the photos that we see of the airplane hovering Skeets Coleman is doing just what’s in this photo he’s looking out to the left because that’s how he’s controlling that airplane he’s looking at what his orientation is his attitude is by looking out to the left and it it’s more natural because your right arm is forward on the control stick and your left arm is on the throttles and it isn’t nearly as far forward so it makes all the sense to be leaning to the left so I put Skeets looking out to the left when I added him to the model.

Matt: I love that attention to detail like just those little things like that may I think make all the difference I love that.

Hoot: yes and it’s um oh golly it’s been it’s been a real a real challenging model and I uh someday I’m gonna figure out how i can tether it to where i could catch it if it starts to go haywire and really determine whether or not I have enough flight control to do a free flight with it.

Mark: and hopefully you’ll let us know when that’s going to happen so we can be there to videotape.

Hoot: well yeah you can you can count on it.

Matt: Mark yes I’ll make sure that happens I’m going to put my name in that hat right there to be there for that um now you’ve actually already done a little bit of a test hover with it am I right?

Hoot: yes I’ve actually done a number of hovers of it and uh and I’ve sent uh I had forwarded to Mark uh the short video relatively short video of it in in my garage because it was in the winter time when I was doing it and uh I had it on just a four inch tether uh so that it just couldn’t tip itself over and caused me several weeks of work to rebuild it because I didn’t I didn’t really design the spinner prop mechanism for easy maintenance it was enough of a challenge just to build something that would work that it is definitely not easy maintenance to work on the thing which is why i’m scared to tip it over again.

Matt: well we uh we actually do have that video clip we’re gonna we’re gonna toss to that right now we’ll talk a little bit more about it uh right after we watch this quick clip.

Hoot: so obviously there’s plenty of thrust there you know there’s you got the power.

Matt: uh it looks like you’re not far from that from that uh next phase of testing it looks like.

Hoot: oh god yeah that that’s true Matt yeah and I’ve you know I’ve been focusing on other models you know more recently and so I haven’t haven’t messed with it i’ve got to figure out a way to where I can tether it and catch it from above and uh i can’t remove the spinner and attach to the nose of it the way they could when they flew it in the blimp hanger so so i’m gonna have to do a little bit more strategy and all about it where it was hovering was at about three-quarters throttle two-thirds or three-quarters throttle so it has more power than what I was using uh on that hover and and what i was using was a 150 amp electronic speed controller or esc and 12s batteries three four cell batteries in series uh is what i was using uh so it has plenty of power definitely got the juice in there it’s got the juice yeah I like to say the part the part i’m uncertain about is control because uh you know control is important as we know

Mark: yeah matt will be there to catch it it’ll be all right okay

Matt: i’ll just i’ll just stand there with my arms out it’ll be fine.

Hoot: being close to that thing when those props are going the diameter of those props is about 24 inches and so you know it’s almost a little bit scary to be too close to it so i don’t recommend catching it

Mark: that’s why I volunteered matt

Matt: really he just volunteers me for all the dangerous stuff perfect. like i’ve said i’m really excited about seeing this thing you know as it progresses and definitely let us know uh as as it progresses along because I know as Mark said we’d love to be there to
see that made in flight when that day comes um you know you mentioned you’re working on some other uh been working on some other projects too um you know you sent along some photos of uh i think it’s the skyrocket

Hoot: yes the Douglas skyrocket is one of those airplanes that i have always been fascinated by because i think it is one of the best looking airplanes we’ve ever built it is so sleek and beautiful and i got to know Scott Crossfield uh in the course of my time as a rocket pilot and it was a real honor getting to know him and of course he was the first person to ever go Mach 2 two times the speed of sound and that was in the Douglas skyrocket which the designation of it was d558-2 And he did that in 1953 and you know everyone knows that Chuck Yeager is credited with being the first one to go Mach 1.Scott Crossfield the first person to go Mach 2 wasn’t nearly as renowned out of it but I got to know Scotty and he and I had done a couple of talks uh at least three different occasions where he and I would be on stage together and that was a big thrill and a big honor for me and we would do a talk called rocket pilots then and now and of course he was the then and I was the now and I really enjoyed scotty and I really like that airplane and once again nobody makes a radio-controlled model of it so I decided I want one so I’m going to have to do it myself so sort of similar to the to the f-16 model the logical thing for uh electric ducted fan model is going to be a fiberglass fuselage so once again I went through all the effort to build a fiberglass fuselage in this case what I did however was I made a plug out of blue foam and then covered it in mailing tape you know the thick mailing tape yeah well not really thick but the plastic mailing tape because fiberglass won’t stick to that and so I covered it in plastic mailing tape and then laid the fuselage up right over that foam covered in mailing tape plug and then cut it in half to remove it from the mold and actually even though I cut into the mold a little bit into the blue foam when I remove the two halves all I have to do is put more mailing tape over the cuts that I’ve made in it so I have actually made two fuselages off of my blue foam plug so this works just fine now there’s a significant amount of work to do in the finishing the sanding and filling and finishing of the fiberglass on the outside but the inside’s beautiful because it’s shaped and it’s got the smooth finish of that clear plastic mailing tape and then as you can see in this picture the wings and the empanadas the vertical tail and the horizontal tail or plywood and balsa wood is what they’re made out of and anyway this um this was really a well it was a bit of a challenging model to build because uh with all the other work I was doing as well I have to admit it has taken me a year uh to build that model uh but it came out pretty nice uh and this is uh of course the picture with uh with the landing gear in place now one of the interesting things about the skyrocket is that it was jet and rocket powered and all three of them they built three of the Douglas skyrockets all three of them have survived to this day two of them had the jet engine provisions removed and I’m just pointing to the air intake that’s up here that they originally had and skyrocket number one and skyrocket number two had all provisions for the jet engines removed and so you don’t see the intakes on it skyrocket number three is on a pole in Lancaster California at the community college there in Lancaster California it still has the jet intakes on it so therefore I was able to build the model and this is the finished skyrocket you know it looks too pretty to take a chance on flying it I was gonna say it’s gorgeous but it came out really well and I have a uh I have a cheater hole I have an intake uh underneath as well uh about where the main gear sits but I also have the normal jet intakes up at the front and I have measured the static thrust and it’s got enough thrust to fly so that’s a work in progress still i need i need to do more flying and less building and get my skills right up as good as
they can because the wing loading is a little bit high on this model and so I’ve got some other models that I’ve calculated the wing loading on them and they’re about the same and so I need to practice on some of those before I fly this one I do have a gyro in it so of course those really helped a lot now.

Hoot’s Douglas Skyrocket

Matt: is this I assume this is electric as well this is an electric ducted fan as well

Hoot: yes it is

Mark: I will have to say though if you if you’re looking for a pilot we might be able to find somebody you know just throwing it out throwing that out there.

Matt: sure yeah not me don’t look at me.

Mark: not me either but we know we know people.

Hoot: I’m busy building another model now um it’s a kit though uh but it’s another it’s another navy jet model the f4d sky ray and nobody makes an ARF uh that’s big enough and uh so um I have it’s a balsa wood kit and I’m at the point where I’m ready to do the and uh and get into the finishing of it it’s a 90 millimeter fan and it’s got a big wing it’s got a gyro in it as well um I had to evolve some different things I needed to put rotating retracts into the main gear and for it to fit inside the wing and it’s a big model it’s uh it’s about 50 i think 52 inches long and the wingspan is something like 47 inches or so it’s a big model all balsa and ply and I’m right at the stage where I’m ready to start finishing it so anyway that’ll be fun I’ve always been crazy about that airplane as well.

Hoot’s finished Douglas Skyrocket

Matt: you’re a man of many projects is what I’m what I’m gathering uh you know who you’ve had an extraordinary you know lifetime of experience in modeling and specifically building and I’m curious if you know as we kind of wrap up here I want to see if you have any kind of words of wisdom as it were you know what do you what do you see as the importance for people to scratch build and kind of you know as an exercise going through that process do you see that as something that’s you know beneficial to model pilots all over the world.

Hoot: oh golly absolutely Matt yes because as I talked about earlier when I when I’m talking about stability and control and lift and drag and um flight dynamics and the things that we learn from flying model airplanes in the course of scratch building there’s a lot to be learned there as well structures and control runs and control throw and control effectiveness and all of those things come into play and I guess some of the advice that I would offer is don’t be afraid to try it I wouldn’t start on a convert pogo as the first one definitely but don’t be afraid to give it a try I would I would try on something a little more simple to begin with but you’re going to learn so much from every time you undertake building a model from scratch that the next one can be even more complex and even more complicated and you’re going to build on your knowledge as you progress and so it’s a you know it’s a fascinating thing to get to do and the end product is something that you look at and you go you know what i made that myself out of nothing and that’s really rewarding that’s really satisfying so I recommend it.

Matt: well hoot i cannot thank you enough for coming on the AMA podcast today to help us talk about building and and helping us celebrate build month here and sharing the stories that you’ve shared in your experiences you know building the not you know the skyrocket the pogo the f-16 there’s just so much knowledge here it’s it’s uh almost overwhelming.

Mark: I can’t thank you enough for coming on the show and I want to make sure I thank you as well for uh sharing your passion for the hobby.

Hoot: yeah and I you know I’ve been an AMA member I figured out when I joined 1962 i had been an AMA member first in 1962. 1962.10096 is my AMA number and I’m just I’m just really fond of AMA because you guys do so very much uh for the world of aviation and for the world of model aviation and in exposing young people to the excitement of aviation so you all keep up the great work.

Mark: and thank you for your work I guess as AMA ambassador and an ambassador for the hobby and AMA

Hoot: it’s just been a joy to work with you over the years and you’ve done a lot to help us for sure and it’s and it’s been a real pleasure
thank you Matt and thank you Mark

Matt: thank you hopefully we can get you back on the podcast again soon I’d love to pick your brain about a whole number of topics but uh we’ll talk about that at a at a later time but thank you so much for coming on the show it was a pleasure thank you.

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