Let’s go flying!
September 22, 2019 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Dave Pecotta collects flyable antique balsa-wood toy aircraft. He posts images and descriptions of many, including Oregon-made aircraft from North Pacific, Massachusetts-made specimens from Guillow, and many more.
posted by mwhybark (11 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I had so many of those as a kid and I’ve graduated to powered planes but those little unpowered toss gliders are still so much fun. I had no idea there were so many brands and types. The Cloud King looks amazing. I also really like this style of website and they’re getting rare.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 12:10 PM on September 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

The North Pacific line Sleek Streek, Skeeter, and High Flyer were the ones most available n the early '70s where I grew up. I had a marginal preference for the Skeeter over the Sleek Streek, as it was cheaper and had no landing gear. I may have felt differently if the Sleek Streek would have been more reliable at Rise Off Ground launches. They never lasted very long, though. Roughly half ended up stuck on the roof, the other half generally destroyed by collisions. Those balsa wings can only take so much abuse...
posted by coppertop at 1:42 PM on September 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Dad built his own back in the 60's - weighed .008 of an oz.
Only place to fly it was in the highschool basketball gym.
He then discovered the Osh Kosh experimental aircraft fly-in and began collecting the parts to build his own plane to fly in.
posted by Mesaverdian at 3:15 PM on September 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

These are gorgeous!

I loved them when I was a kid (and there were rubber-band powered ones too) - when they'd inevitably fail, (this was when styrofoam egg cartons didn't have that divot on the lid for added structural integrity, just a flat rectangle of precious precious styrofoam) I'd rebuild them with styrofoam/ random bits around the house.
posted by porpoise at 3:35 PM on September 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

We had the 74 Fighter back in the early 50s, cost a quarter. I don't see it represented here. We also had a folding wing flyer that launched from a rubber band sling, cost 35 cents which was a big investment. Many a summer afternoon spent tossing and chasing these guys. I got some current replicas and gave them to my grandkids. They were unimpressed - sigh.
posted by charlesminus at 5:37 PM on September 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

my grandkids. They were unimpressed - sigh.

That sucks.

I remember hand helicopters too (what else were they called?) - but kids these days probably think something like this.
posted by porpoise at 7:51 PM on September 22, 2019

First thing I thought of was that squeeky sound
the balsa wood makes as you slide it into the
plastic joint. You have to get it just right
because the balsa compresses and your second try
is not as stable.
posted by quazichimp at 2:02 AM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the post. I love this kind of special interest site.

My brother and I were big fans of the Sleek Streek. If you had some spare balsa sheet on hand and were old enough to be trusted with an xacto knife then you could make mutant planes with stubby wings or extra long wings or make a tandem sleek streek by joining two planes at the wings. None of them were tremedously successful but they were fun to try out.
posted by gamera at 12:08 PM on September 23, 2019

Great post. Now I want to buy some sheets of balsa and try to make some gliders with my kids. I bought them some safety glasses over the weekend and they're itching to make something.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2019

Might I suggest as an alternative, or as an additional activity: whitewings paper airplanes. They are a bit more involved in the construction (you are cutting out shapes from card stock and laminating them together with white glue), so it takes longer to build them, and precision cutting and gluing are rewarded with amazing flights when they are finished (and properly trimmed). Typically hand launched or rubber band catapult launched, though, so you miss out on the prop winding and that coolness...
posted by coppertop at 6:07 PM on September 23, 2019

whitewings are great, elegantly engineered planes. Often the principal designer relies on laminate construction principles which, once mastered, can lead to interesting individual designs. One of my favorite varieties of toy plane.
posted by mwhybark at 6:43 PM on September 23, 2019

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