Aerial Walkin’ With the Spacewalker

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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 itís as close as youíll 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 ë80ís, he said he was trying to capture the essence of a 1930ís sport airplane. Iím 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 1950ís: 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 meóoh, 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 wasnít 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 couldnít 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 werenít trying to convince anyone we were headed for a destination and saving time. We werenít 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, itís 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.

Updated: August 22, 2011 — 1:43 PM
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