Flying Aces Club 101 #004 July 2019

Lt. Studster’s unofficial Flying Aces Club newsletter

This issue of the newsletter will focus on the primary Flying Aces Club awards and the heart of the hobby rubber! We’ll start with explaining what the heck is a Kanone? This will be followed with a brief explanation of FAC Rank and the coveted Blue Max Medal. Just as yer wrappin’ yer noggin’ around that fleet of facts you’ll be flanked with a tangle of information about rubber motors for freeflight models.

Flying Aces Club Kanone

As most of you buzzards of the first big fuss started by Kaiser Bill in 1914 know, “Kanone” is a German word used to label an aero ace. The FAC gang is as rowdy a bunch as the battle birds of that era, so naturally we adopted that word to identify our own “aces”. Yep, anyone of you FACs can become an ace, or Kanone by bagging yourself a first place, or victory, in FAC competition. This gets you on the official Kanone list. After every five victories you are promoted to the next higher rank, everyone starting as Lietenant.

FAC News #51

Flying Aces Club Rank

To squelch any curiosity about FAC rank, below is the list of official Flying Aces Club rank pulled straight from the source:

  • 50 Kanones: Air Marshall
  • 45 Kanones: Air Vice Marshall
  • 40 Kanones: General
  • 35 Kanones: Lt General
  • 30 Kanones: Major General
  • 25 Kanones: Brigadier General
  • 20 Kanones: Colonel
  • 15 Kanones: Lt Colonel
  • 10 Kanones: Major
  • 5 Kanones: Captain
  • 1st Contest Entry: Lietenant

FAC Blue Max Medal

The coveted Flying Aces Club Blue Max Medal.
Blue Max Medal

One of the most coveted awards in FACland is the Blue Max Medal, depicted above. This medal is a reproduction of the famous German decoration of WWI, and is awarded by the Erie Model Aircraft Association (Wm. Penn Squadron) to any FACer who achieves 16 Kanones. The medal is gold finish background with blue enamel filling, and is presented on a suitable ribbon to be worn about the neck of winner while participating in FAC events.

FAC News #76

Yes, winning, rank and medals are OOS! but it’s important to remember the first priority of the Flying Aces Club is to have fun! Kanone and Blue Max Medals can be an intimidating subject for some peelots. The Pinkham Field aces emphasize what’s most important:

  • Build – What you really like.
  • Fly – All you can.
  • Win – Just let it happen.

Non Blue Max FAC Events

Many FAC contests provide an advantage to fledgling peelots: Non Blue Max (NBM) Events. If NBM attached to a FAC contest event, “NBM No-Cal Scale” for example, it means pilots awarded the Blue Max Medal are not eligible to compete. NBM events allow fledglings to gain contest experience to start climbing the ranks.

Rubber Motors for Freeflight

The fledgling peelot will soon learn there’s nearly a zillion “best ways” to accomplish pretty much everything in regards to rubber powered balsa models. This newsletter will distill everything “rubber motor” a fledgling FAC peelot needs to know.

Contest rubber is available from all the big guys: Peck Polymers, Easy Built Models, Volare, etc. A fledgling need not worry too much about the different types or brands (as long as it’s purchased from a reputable dealer). Volumes have been written about contest rubber, let’s just say it’s like wine. Certain brands and certain vintages are dubbed “better” than others. Indoor fliers are specifically caught up in “collecting” rubber. A FAC fledgling shouldn’t worry too much, just make sure you’re getting “fresh” rubber.

Pirelli rubber is worth a quick mention. You’re bound to come across a mention of Pirelli rubber while researching free flight models. Let’s jus’ say it was rare when it was popular forty years ago. Nowadays Pirelli rubber (for rubber motor use) is for all intents and purposes obsolete.

Purchase a few different sizes of contest rubber, 1/8″ is most commonly used, but it’s a good idea to have 1/16″ and 3/32″ on hand. Sometimes you need to pack a little more or less oomph and changing the motor size (or length / loops) is a way to accomplish this.

Rubber Motor Tying and Break-In

The following is based on the opinions of four reputable freeflight authors: Bill Warner (Hey Kid… Peck R.O.G.), Don Ross (Rubber Powered Model Airplanes), William F. McCombs (Making Scale Model Airplanes Fly), and Leon Bennett (The Glue Guru FAC News #90).

To make a rubber motor: cut the required length of contest rubber and wash the powder off with soapy water (Bennett says this step doesn’t make a difference). Rinse off the soap and gently dry off the rubber with a paper towel. All four authors agree the square knot is the best knot for a rubber motor. Loosely tie the knot, wet the knot with saliva and pull it tight. Saliva lubricates the rubber creating a very tight knot. Ross recommends drying the knot and adding a drop of Cyano glue to set the knot (not required if the knot is tied correctly).

Flying Aces Club 101 Tying a Square Knot in a Rubber Motor

A rubber motor will perform better if it is “broken in”. Opinions on this topic vary, but boils down to two methods: stretching or winding.

  • Stretch Break-In: Lube the motor (more on lube below) and stretch the motor loop three times its resting length. Hold for a minute. Allow the motor to relax fifteen minutes. Stretch the motor five to seven times its resting length and hold for a minute. Allow the motor to rest an hour before use.
  • Winding Break-In: Lube the motor, attach one end to the motor peg of your model and the other to your rubber winder. Stretch the motor four times its resting length and wind motor to 50% of max winds while slowly walking towards the model. Attach to propeller and allow the prop to unwind. Allow the motor to rest a minute and repeat with 75% max turns. The motor should rest an hour before use.
How to lube a rubber motor.
Image borrowed from Bill Warner’s Hey Kid! Ya Wanna Build A Model Airplane?

Both methods are effective. Winding break-in puts your precious model at risk. If the motor breaks or the knot comes loose the motor will most certainly damage your model.

Rubber Motor Winders

Many different styles of rubber motor winders are available. In the early days of the hobby hand drills were retrofitted with a hook to wind motors, many peelots still use this type of winder. Some over-the-top winders include torque meters and counters. A counter is nice to have, but a torque meter isn’t particularly useful for a fledgling.

FAI Model Supply sells a variety of rubber winders. Winders use a ratio which indicates how many rubber turns are created by one turn of the handle. The blue 5:1 winder is perfect for a fledgling, the gearing is ratcheted so it can only be turned in the correct direction. This means the motor will not unwind if you let go of the crank handle.

Many, if not all, of the yellow winders do not have a ratchet mechanism to prevent a rapid unwinding due to an unattended crank handle. These work well for experts that wind the rubber motor until the rubber is on the verge of breaking (the rubber feels “hard”) and then unwind the motor a few turns to release the stress.

Steer clear of the beasts that look like hand drills. They’re expensive, heavy and hard to handle for a fledgling. When you get the hang of the hobby, feel free to get a beast of your own.

Blast Tube For Rubber Winding

Blast tubes are a common safeguard to prevent a visit from HUNGorilla. The principal is simple, the application requires practice. The general idea is to place a tube (plastic, paper or balsa wood, etc) around the rubber motor inside the fuselage of the model while winding the rubber motor. If the motor breaks while winding it is trapped inside the tube within the fuselage, protecting your model.

Flying Aces Club blast tube for winding rubber motors in free flight models.
Blast tube retracted from fuselage after winding.
Image borrowed from McCombs : Making Scale Model Airplanes Fly

The illustration above represents a post-winding scenario. The motor is wound, the blast tube is retracted over the winding wire which is slightly longer than the tube. The next step is to remove the wound motor from the winding wire and attach the motor to the propeller / noseblock of the model.

NOTE: It’s the opinion of your dutiful editor that blast tubes aren’t for the fledgling. Blast tubes require practice and patience and don’t guarantee the motor will not destroy your model. There are many opportunities for things to go wrong during the final step of unhooking the motor from the winding wire and attaching the prop.

The two hands of a pilot can only accomplish so much: holding the winder, holding the winding tube, holding the motor, holding the noseblock… Many catastrophes DO occur at this vital moment. It’s better to be safe, change motors frequently and wind your motor to 75% of max power to prevent a catastrophic failure.

Next month’s issue August #5 will introduce the use of a winding stooge. A winding stooge is a person or apparatus that securely holds your model while you wind the rubber motor. A must for any serious peelot.

Types of Rubber Lube

The following table illustrates the four author’s (cited above) recommenced rubber lubes. Across the board all authors suggest using commercially available rubber lubes (SIG Lube, etc).

Liquid Soap or
Baby Shampoo
50/50 mix
Glycerin &
Green Soap
KY or

Granted, these publications were published a few decades ago. Good luck finding Green Soap at the pharmacy (don’t confuse it with tincture of green soap which contains alcohol). Commercial rubber lube works well, but once the lube is applied to the rubber Bennett recommends spreading the lubed rubber out on newspapers for a day to air dry before using. Otherwise the lube splashes all over the inside the fuselage resulting with greasy messed tissue. And splash all over it will!

Silicon spray is gaining popularity. Do the sandwich bag process, let it air dry for a half-hour or so and it’s good to go. Bennett warns to stay clear of liquid silicone, KY and surgical jelly because it doesn’t work.

Soaps and other products may contain alcohol which will degrade the rubber over time. Bennett suggests this isn’t an issue because a lubed motor should only be used for six flights and discarded. There isn’t enough time for the alcohol to cause rubber damage.

Braiding A Rubber Motor

Most accomplished peelots “braid” their rubber motors. The rubber motor isn’t literally braided, it’s twisted in a fashion that results with the appearance the motor is braided. This shortens the length of the motor and keeps all the strands together in one clean “bundle”. It’s not as complicated as it appears, try it once and the process will make sense.

This issue isn’t going to tackle the subject, but here’s a few links to documents on the Flying Aces Club PFFT Archives that do:


There’s a lot to learn about rubber motors and this newsletter has merely scratched the surface. For instance, the width, length and number of loops (strands of rubber) greatly effect the performance of any freeflight model. Perhaps we’ll cover these topics more in depth in future newsletters.


Here’s a nice plan and instructions to build your first full fuselage stick and tissue model. This model is called Twirp and it was designed to be a highly adjustable model for newcomers to the hobby. The original plan is in the article (reduced in size). Included in the folder is a reduced scale version of the plan which results with a 13″ wingspan. Send it off to Staples to be printed on 11×17 paper. It’ll cost a buck or so.

Back to FAC 101 Issue #3 or Continue to FAC 101 Issue #5