A Tutor for a Schoolboy

Wednesday, 31 May 2017  |  Jonathan

I have long thought we should put into production more kits from the FROG catalogue.

This is mainly because I have such fond memories of FROG models from my childhood and partly because the kits themselves are rare now and command such high prices when they appear for sale.

This means that very few are ever seen flying now, beyond the Senior and Junior series rubber models - even original versions of these fetch high prices, but modern laser-cut versions save us from building from scratch or using precious saved originals.

What of the other models?

I am lucky enough to have several original FROG free-flight and control-line kits in my collection and I hope we at VMC may be able to use them to produce good quality reproductions and hence see these models become available again.

I want to start with the 39” span FROG Tutor because it occupies a very special place in my aeromodelling heart.

When I was a little boy, my father decided that the ideal birthday present for me would be a model I could learn to fly (with some tuition) at our favourite flying field in the Goyt Valley. 

I believed then, as I still do today, that God lives in the Goyt because it is the finest place on earth and if aeromodelling is my faith, then the best place to worship it is there.

I may have been very young, but I was not naive - the present of a FROG Tutor kit and gold-headed FROG 100 diesel engine was just as much a present for my father as for me.

I can remember vividly, opening the box and smelling that “once experienced, never forgotten” smell of balsa (Why doesn't that happen anymore? It is the one thing we can’t reproduce in our modern day kits).

I don’t remember much about the build itself, but for once it went smoothly and the model emerged covered in red and yellow nylon (to make it resistant to the inevitable accidents caused by me making a complete bish of the launch).

It seemed such a big, impressive model to me at the time, but of course, it wasn’t really.

I find it hard to convey just how excited I was at the idea of “going flying”. It was a treat of unimaginable proportions to a small boy.

The mere phrase “we’ll go flying tonight when you get home” rendered me completely incapable of concentrating on anything else during the school day.

When I look at the relentless pressure to learn heaped on today’s young children from the moment they come into school to the moment they go home, I realise no-one could have possibly taught me anything on the days “we were going flying”.

As a lower junior, I was in the class taught by my mother - she knew how excited I was on those days. Reading, writing and maths all went out of the window as I hopped from one foot to the other, willing the day to pass, whilst I drew aeroplanes on any piece of paper that came my way.

I think she knew I was learning something, but it had nothing to do with school; however, it lasted all my life.

At last I would run home at top speed.

The fuel, rubber bands and bits and pieces necessary for free-flight were in the old ex-US Army ammunition box - model, sister, dog, Mum and Dad in the car and away!

In the case of the Tutor, I had practised starting the engine - which was a bit frightening as they can give you a nasty rap on the finger if you get it wrong - so I was confident-ish (funny, I’ve never had any problem starting model engines to this day).

After test glides, it was time to give it a go for real.

It flew just fine in lazy climbing circles, then when the fuel ran out, it leaned out and climbed a bit more before gliding back to earth.

You couldn't call it a high performance model by any stretch of the imagination, but it was consistent. 

And so it remained.

I kept and flew that model well into my late teens, by which time the little FROG engine had lost a lot of its compression and the airframe was looking a little sad, but it had been well-built and had survived quite a few crashes and mishaps. More importantly, it had taught me a lot about flying small sports free-flight models.

I still have examples of the Tutor, both in kit form and built up, though the latter is now about 30 years old, long-retired and very grubby.

The kit is not for building because it is too valuable nowadays, not to say very rare indeed.

So now that we have a laser-cut kit in production, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it, build it and fly it.

The result is the model you see here.

You see I still get so excited about going flying, I can’t think of anything else at the time!