Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


YESTERDAY’S CELEBRATION OF the 1953 Studebaker Starliner evoked other memories of Tom’s Stude sedan and his mentorship with our control-line model airplane flying. Today, we pick up with Tom’s ramjet-powered airplane, its intensive startup procedure, and the Harley Guys’ involvement.

Two comments: Starting a ramjet requires pumping air into its nozzle, in our era typically by energetic action of a bicycle pump. And, once it lights off, a ramjet makes an absolutely hellacious racket. Especially when you’re standing next to one sans ear protectors. (We kid knew nothing of such protection. What did you say?)

As kids, we all feared ramjets even though Tom chose to fly one occasionally.

I couldn’t find a video of a control-line ramjet, but here’s modern operation of a radio-controlled craft (powered by a related pulsejet).

The Harley Guys. Our Cleveland lakefront airfield was located adjacent to a freeway, and occasionally those passing by would see our model planes circling and exit for a look.


Our control-line flying was along the Cleveland lakefront. Early on, I thought sunset was to the north (as was Canada across the lake).

Among visitors were the Harley Guys, a tough, leather-jacketed, older crowd. (They might have been as old as 20.) Generally, the Harley Guys were disparaging of us kids and our “dinky little toy airplanes.” 

They were in the midst of dissing even grownup Tom when he brought out his ramjet craft and asked the Harley Guys for assistance. 

We kids had regularaly deferred. The Harley Guys no doubt thought, “What the hey, even this old guy flies dinky little toy planes.…” 

A Complex Maneuver. Tom carefully instructed them about the startup procedure, as complex as a race car pitstop: Tom, 60 ft. away at the controls, signals when he’s ready for the firing-up. Two steadiers are to grip the aircraft’s wingtips. The hoser is to connect ignition and the ramjet nozzle to the bicycle pump. The pumper is to pump like crazy until the ramjet howls to life. Then the hoser disconnects and, upon signal from Tom, the wing steadiers release the craft for its essentially instantaneous blastoff.

However…. The Harley Guys are casual to an extreme. The wing steadiers are too close to the ramjet exhaust. The hoser hasn’t practiced his multiple connect/disconnect. And the pumper is working directly in front of the plane.

Pump. Pump. Pump. All fury breaks out, albeit only for a bit. One of the wing steadiers loses grip, the plane pivots slightly, and the ramjet’s exhaust singes his leather jacket. The hoser forgets how to disconnect. The pumper trips and falls over the bicycle pump. 

It’s a mid-Fifties Italian Formula One pitstop, though the expletives are in English (some of them, new to us kids).

A Successful Restart. This time around, the Harley Guys display intensity of a latter-day Formula One team. Tom’s ramjet explodes to life. The airplane howls into the air. And, just for the record, the Harley Guys no longer refer to dinky little toy airplanes. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021

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