Aerial Walkin' With the Spacewalker
As I was reaching down to the sides of the little cockpit for the seat
belts, I found myself asking what seemed to be a logical question: If
you built a model airplane that is on a 1:1 scale, where do you draw the
line between model and real airplanes? Certainly the Spacewalker begs
that question, considering it’s as close as you’ll ever get
to a man-carrying model airplane.
When Jesse Anglin of Hendersonville, NC first laid down the lines for
the Spacewalker homebuilt in the early ‘80’s, he said he was
trying to capture the essence of a 1930’s sport airplane. I’m
quite certain the same thoughts went through a long ago designer at VECO,
one of the leading manufacturers of control line model airplanes in the
1950’s: as I cranked the little Lycoming into life and looked around,
I felt for all the world like I was sitting in one of the VECO Braves
or Chiefs that had died so valiantly at the end of two wires leading to
a handle in my quivering young hand.
The Spacewalker is one of those rare instances where many curves cross:
modeling becomes reality and reality looses some of its definition.
As I taxied out to the runway, I was acutely aware of sticking out of
the airplane from my love handles up, a position that make me feel as
if everyone was looking at me—oh, everyone was looking at me because
I was taxiing in front of the crowd at Oshkosh and it was impossible for
them not to visually track such an attractive little airplane. Never mind
the guy sticking up out of the front seat.
As I brought the power up, the Lycoming got louder, the runway began to
move under me and long before I was ready to raise the tail, the airplane
floated off the runway. It wasn’t so much a takeoff as it was levitation.
Those long, long wings reached out, grabbed some lift and went flying.
Once off the ground, I couldn’t help but grin. I mean, after all,
how often do you get to fly this kind of airplane without a transmitter
in your hand. As I banked into a gentle climbing turn and headed out over
Lake Winnebago, I half expected to glance down and see a couple of servos
and a receiver pack under my legs.
At altitude, I found myself scrunching down a little to get my head down
away from the turbulence breaking over the top of the windshield. Otherwise
I was having a blast. Now this is true sport aviation. We weren’t
trying to convince anyone we were headed for a destination and saving
time. We weren’t trying to write it off our taxes. We were doing
nothing more than having more fun than is usually allowed legally. Part
of the fun was me snuggling up next to an EAA camera place to get our
pictures taken. What a blast.
When you look at the Spacewalker, it’s no stretch of the imagination
to say it would almost be as easy to build the real thing as a finely
detailed scale model. So, why not? 1:1 on an airplane this small barely
gets you into the giant scale category.
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