Seeing a photo of the Cox E-Z Flyer, a "control line" model airplane popular in the 1960s and 70s, revived my long-forgotten memory of snapping together and attempting to fly one when I was a kid. In the latest issue of the Why Is This Interesting? newsletter, Mark Slavonia describes his experience with the E-Z Flyer, which closely mirrors my own:
Theoretically, the control lines allowed the pilot to perform tricks and maneuvers with the plane by tilting the handle to manipulate the plane's control surfaces. However, as a practical matter for most Cox EZ-Flyer owners, this illusion of control only served as a temptation to stray from the only prudent flight plan, which was level flight until fuel exhaustion.
Did the pilot get dizzy? Yes.
One day, after my brother had pulled off another flawless full-tank-to-exhaustion rotating flight on our cul-de-sac, I managed to wheedle and whine enough to get him to allow me to fly his plane. Our very poor idea was for him to begin the flight (I'd prop and start the plane as usual), then I'd dash to the center of the 50' radius, grab the control handle from him, and continue the flight. This did not go as planned. The moment of slack created when we handed off the controls sent the plane into a climb, then an unrecoverable dive. The little plane crashed into the pavement and burst into dozens of pieces of sharp plastic and hot metal.
Mark's essay includes a couple of great videos. The first is from a 73-year-old guy who bought a new-in-box EZ-Flyer on eBay and successfully flew it:
And this one is a professional short documentary about the exciting sport of control line flying, called "Wired for Excitement." It's narrated by the great John Facenda, who could make even the most mundane topic seem earth-shattering:
Thumbnail Image: ZikG / Shutterstock.com