…fell in love with drones, when he purchased his first min-drone, just for something to do during his coffee breaks at work.
My name is Scott Schwartz, and I am enthralled by flying machines, large and small.
A licensed private pilot with over 900 hours of flight time, I fell in love with aviation at the age of thirteen. I remember the day quite well.
The year was 1975. I’d stayed home from school (I was in the fifth grade) due to a bad cold. That night, my dad came home with a surprise for me. I was feeling better, and after being cooped up in our Little Neck, NY apartment all day, I had grown bored. I mean, even in those days, I could only watch so much day time television, even when “good” shows such as Bonanza re-runs were being shown on network television.
At any rate, the “surprise” was a 1/48th scale plastic model of a P-51 Mustang. A P-51B, to be exact.
Prior to this, I’d built many plastic car models- I really loved cars, and I would go to dealerships and scoop up as many of the new-car brochures as I could. My model-building skills left a little bit to be desired, but I saw the car models as toys, really.
At first, I saw the model airplane as a just another toy. I wasn’t even that excited about building it. However, I found myself reading the abbreviated history of the real P-51 that was printed on the instruction sheet. The story behind this beautiful aircraft ignited my interest in aircraft, and I started purchasing model airplane kits any way that I could(being only eleven years old, this meant asking my dad to buy them for me.)
So, the years went by, and I continued to build model airplanes while I was in high-school. My skills improved, and with the purchase of an airbrush, I was turning out high-quality models.
As an adolescent, and then as a teenager, I had very little self-confidence. Thin, and incompetent when it came to athletics (the other kids would argue in favor of NOT having me on their sports teams when choosing sides), I sought refuge in my aviation history books, and in my airplane models. Oh, and of course, television shows such as Baa Baa Black Sheep. Those gorgeous Corsairs…
Of course, I had a couple of friends- other kids who preferred building model planes and watching Star Trek re-runs to playing outdoor games.
By 1976, we had moved out to Suffolk County on Long Island. My parents rented a house in the little town of Holbrook. We lived there for approximately a year. The interesting thing was that my Junior High School was literally behind our house. A previous resident had been considerate enough to cut a hole in the backyard fence, through which I would walk over to school. A year later, we moved to the little town of Bayport, which is on the south shore of Long Island. Interestingly, Bayport was the home of a little airport, which was called “Edwards Airport.” More about this, later.
Due to my lack of money and self-confidence, I didn’t think that flying lessons were possible for me, despite my close proximity to a small airport. I opted for what was (in my view) the next-best thing: radio-controlled (“r/c”) models. I’d had previously been exposed to r/c model airplanes, because one of my cousins was seriously involved in the hobby. So seriously, in fact, that it may have been one of the causes of his first divorce. Young wives don’t take kindly to model airplanes being built on their hard wood floors. But, I digress. Plus, I’d spent some time hanging around the field where members of the local model airplane club flew their aircraft.
Although the responsibility involved with flying r/c models did not intimidate me, money was still a problem. According to the adults at the r/c flying field, I would have needed, at the very least, a four-channel radio system (one channel for ailerons, another for rudder, etc.). The radio system alone would cost approximately $200. Then there was the airplane kit, the engine, glow plugs and other accessories. For me, at the time, this might as well have been a million dollars.
After conferring with my equally financially challenged buddy, who lived across the street from me, we decided to ride our bicycles to the local hobby shop, in order to see what our options were. There, the store owner suggested that we could build a two-channel (rudder and elevator only) sail plane, to be propelled aloft by a Cox .049 engine. The total cost for this set-up would have been approximately $70. My friend and I felt that this was feasible, especially if we both saved up for it (I had a job delivering a local newspaper, and I also worked part-time at a local delicatessen) and split the cost. I was so excited, that I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my parents.
My parents didn’t quite share my enthusiasm. Perhaps that’s an understatement, as my dad flat-out prohibited me from pursuing this project. He felt that I would be putting time and effort into something that would just crash. I argued and argued – insisting that “the guys” at the flying field would help me, but my dad would not budge. So, I gave up. In retrospect, though, my dad was probably right.
I then decided to re-visit model rocketry. I say “re-visit”, because I’d built a model rocket while we were still living in Holbrook. It was a cool model, with a small glider that rode piggy-back atop the booster. Having absolutely no money (my allowance was one dollar per week, which was paid sporadically, due to my parents having financial problems), I used an old dry-cell battery (I don’t remember where I got it, nor where I got the launch pad) to ignite the engine. The battery, as it turned out, only had enough juice to provide one launch, which I commenced from the school yard that was behind our house. Since I couldn’t afford another battery, nor more engines (you can only get one flight out of each engine), I shut down my rocketry activities, and I went back to building plastic models of cars and airplanes -when I could.
But, now living in Bayport and earning a steady income with my paper route and deli job, I could afford the $13 Estes model rocketry starter kit, which came with a rocket, and all the launch equipment- even a couple of engines, if memory serves.
At this point, I could afford to pursue model model rocketry, and I didn’t need a partner. This was fortunate, since my would-be model sailplane partner and I had had a falling out over a girl who lived in the same apartment complex, on whom we both had a crush. Hey, there’s more to life than model airplanes and rockets, right?
At any rate, I wound up “dating” the neighborhood girl, and many of our dates, during that summer of 1979, consisted of she and I walking the two miles up to the model airplane field (the r/c modeler’s had no problem with me launching rockets in a remote corner of the field) to launch rockets.
So, the summer of ’79 saw me flying rockets and watching the older guys fly their r/c models.
In the fall of that year, I started high school. My girlfriend and I had broken up, and she was now dating my former friend and would-be model sailplane partner.
More to follow…