by Greg Pedersen

Do you remember late in November 1998 a New Kid appeared on the block with a brand new flying toy? You may know the one I'm talking about. It looks like a toothpaste advert - coloured stripes along the sides.

Anyway, no-one wanted to fly this thing except a certain mad Colonel who tried in vain to break it on its first flight and subsequently tried again to break the sound barrier and blow up the engine simultaneously an hour or so later.

Pity, he never succeeded. It would have saved the then happy owner much heartache, heartbreak, cursing and swearing, because little did he know what was in store was to earn him a name that will probably stick for a long time.

So, later that day the happy owner was observed climbing into his toy, after the Colonel had worked it's case, and declared it fit to fly. Some-one overheard the Colonel gleefully saying "Jas" - like, this thing can glide hey!!!".

As the weeks wore on fellow pilots noted that the happy smile had faded somewhat because the toothpaste advert spent more time on the ground than in the air, for some reason. Someone plucked up the courage one Sunday morning, taking their life into their own hands after witnessing thunder and lightning emanating from the main hanger, to enquire what the problem was.

The miserable reply was "I've got to do something about this bloody racket from the propeller. I can't hear myself think let alone talk, and everyone can hear me coming for miles around."

The "fun" had begun for the hapless owner because what was happening was exactly what he didn't want. He obviously had hoped his idea was to be a STREAK ahead of all the other toys on the field and that it would be so quite all that would be seen was a SHADOW passing over the ground.

So after weeks of adjusting the fan pack, pulling it off and putting it on about 300 times, the kid started looking further afield for something that would be quieter. Through the grapevine he had heard of this black composite fan pack that others raved about, from the other side of the world, that was supposedly quieter. So a few dozen phone calls later and a thinner bank balance to boot the "saviour" fan pack duly arrived.

However, there was one minor problem, the blades were too long. Someone had botched the measurements, but no-one will say who.

So the hapless kid went to one Mr Plane Builder and asked for advice.

"Give me the prop, I'll sort it out".

A short while later the fan pack was re-delivered somewhat shorter - success - it now fitted. So now back to the test bed.

After much adjustment and only a little swearing, the toothpaste toy took to the skies once again, but things were still not quite right. The new fan pack was not much quieter and there were now new rattles and vibrations developing to boot.

"Give me the bloody prop again. I will rebalance it", said Mr Plane builder, "but I'm telling you it's not the prop because it was done correctly the first time!!"

A day later back on the toothpaste toy it went. No joy, more vibrations and consternation.

Dark clouds were now looming on the horizon. The Kid was now becoming a volcano ready to erupt at the slightest vibration and noise, from whatever source it came from.

Get rid of the prop was the call - it's a dud!

Off it came and a willing buyer gleefully snapped it up almost immediately.

On went the original fan pack again with all the noise and vibration - the vibration!!!

Where did that come from, that was not there with the original fan pack!!!

Big problem, big problem. It was not the prop after all, but certain engine adjustments that the Kid had overlooked somewhere along the line, something to do with the mags I think, only firing on half the plugs. What a wally.

Doom and gloom prevailed once again. Even the volcano died like a damp squid.

Now what?

Someone has a bright idea.

They knew of some distant gentleman, somewhere east of the airfield, who resided in the middle of no-where surrounded by trees and some "indigenous" plants, who spent his life carving pieces of wood into a myriad of fan packs of all shapes and sizes.

Give him a call came the cry.

Reluctant, dejected with cap in hand and tripping over his bottom lip, the Kid headed for the bundus to seek out this carver of note.

The sad story was duly related in great detail. Taking great pity on this green horn the carver of note capitulated then quietly and diligently went ahead and carved a adjustable prototype fan pack based on what was already available, and what the Kid wanted and needed.

Hooray, the light had appeared at the end of the tunnel for the first time in months.

A new day had dawned, the new prop was now ready for the test.

The carver of note cautioned knowingly "don't get excited just yet Kid, it's only a test prop." Shit it worked!!! The toy left mother earth. It was quieter than ever before and the Kid was ecstatic. A set of teeth finally appeared from behind the canopy.

Weeks of fiddling, adjusting and messing about were then endured by the carver of note with the Kid requesting all sorts of goodies to be added and then duly taken off for the best possible performance.

However, with all the messing about, and with the Kid snapping at the carvers ankles almost daily, the carver by now had also been solidly caught up in the feeding frenzy of this project.

Sadly this prop landed up on the scrap heap after being hacked to buggery by the happy duo. Oh well, it was only a prototype anyway.

Master and student were now both happily hooked!!! "Let's get this second one right" and a second set of blades were speedily laid up.

Disaster !!! Not again, damn!! There appeared to be a problem. Too much heat transfer from the engine to the prop hubs, the smell of burning wood, not clever!!!

Bottom lip hit the ground again with a big thud.

The carver assured the Kid "Don't worry, minor set back, I will carve a solid three blader until we sort the other problem out."

Happiness reigned once again.

Things again became rosier but the three blader slowly shrank in diameter with the intrepid duo trying all manner of things, and their little tricks. They were up to buggery again. Then came the bright idea. "Let's make a four blader prop, reduce the diameter but increase the blade area." The carver had now engaged into overdrive, was really fired up and ready to burn rubber.

The game was on once again.

Hell, were these two ever going to let up - wood was flying everywhere. This was now the fourth prop.

Someone overheard a comment being passed one Sunday at the bar in the Club that this toothpaste Kid was changing props, pulling them off and on faster than the average guy changed underpants, hence the name Mr. Prop was born.

Recently in their enthusiasm, Master and Student over experimented with the solid three blader and that has now also been resigned to the scrap heap- Shame. So now all that remains IS this minute four blader which the model aircraft guys down the road could probably use.

But wait, what's this I see!!! Another new three blader prop has now appeared on this toothpaste toy, five fan packs in all including the first two composites.

Are these two ever going to give up!!!!

Oh well, they are both still smiling and merrily buggering around.

The Saga continues
Extract from the Natal Cato Flying Club Newsletter, April 2000

Now for a lighter side - again

Let us continue the Saga of our very own toothpaste kid and his sad adventures in the prop world.

Do you remember the last time, to re-cap a tad, the kid and the carver of note were already up to five fan packs, the latest being the new three blader!! Well guess what, it worked. The kid was not as ecstatic as before but none the less pleased that progress was been made at last, and about time to. The kid had become a talking point and was becoming a little embarrassed to show himself to the rest of the mob, for obvious reasons, and duly crept into the main hanger over the week-ends, through the back door, to tinker quietly and hope no one would notice fat chance. Anyway the toy had to come out some time and show its colours to the world, so early one Sunday morning the tooth paste toy slunk out of the back of the hangar and crept down to 09.

Checks completed and radio calls done the toy puttered down the runway and hopped into the still morning air with a roar. Ya!! You guessed!! Still rather noisy. Anyway the kid was still fairly happy and putted around in the vicinity for a while, eventually joined the circuit, landed and duly hid himself back in the hanger.

In next to no time the usual critics, namely one little short man with hands in the pockets and one resident rookie pilot from the main hangar, with one of those toys from Australia, came sauntering up with "little" grins on their faces.

"Put your old prop back on, its quieter "!!

 The kid was slightly gob-smacked for a second or three, but never said a word. "We're still working on it" he said "ya ya, heard that before", said Mr hands in the pockets.

In the next to no time the three blader was whipped off and the miniature four blader hastily bolted back on, to the amusement of Mr hands in the pockets, and a few others, in order to save face. The toy was duly thrown back into the air a short while later to prove that all was well. And so that Sunday ended peacefully with no further ribbing.

However back in the bush, east of the airfield, the carver of note was again taking a bit of strain from the kid, who by now was a regular camper and an eager student, still learning about new prop ideas at every visit.

The carver of note had to find something to amuse this kid so that he could finish the kids props.
It just so happened that the carver of note, one afternoon, was scratching around in his junk shed through this huge pile of scrap wood, which included old bugged battered and bent fan packs.

Suddenly his eyes lit up with glee because from under this dust laden bug infested pile of wood, appeared this old buggered two bladed prop. "My saviour" echoed the carver, with a wicked grin on his face. Something for the kid to chew on at last. You see what the carver of note had found was a "very early" experimental two bladed prop which had been made for one Mr plane builder, back in the year dot, to fit onto those ali-num-num engines imported from Kangaroo land down under which were strapped to the back of similar toys as the kids.

"Look what I've found, look what I've found!!!" exclaimed the carver, as the kid hovered in one Sunday afternoon like a dragon fly after a day at the "ridge", and I've even balanced and cleaned it for you."

The kid's eyes come out on springs. Mouth dry and hand quivering the kid inspected this old piece of plank in disbelief. "Sheese where did you dig this up from?"!! The story was related to the kid.

The game was on once again but with a difference.

This had to be a stealthy, clandestine secret operation so that no one knew, and the kid was not again embarrassed trying out yet "another" fan pack. "I'll sneak up late one afternoon in the middle of the week " thought the kid, normally no one around, and try this old plank out.

So late one Wednesday afternoon the kid crept up to the field and slunk into the back of the main hangar, not before "bob" and his noisy female entourage had aroused the entire neighbourhood, and duly chased the local indigenous populous around, trying to prove who was "baas van die plaas". Off with the four blader and on with the two bladed! Here goes.

"Hmmm, 1 will have to use 35," the kid thought after nipping through between the "Red Socks" and main hangers, noting some uncomfortable rattles. Oh no, oh no, oh nooo!!! don't panic, relax, just wave, don't look, ignore them.

There standing by the front hangers with beers in hand was none other than Mr plane builder, his colleagues and relevant hangers on to boot, perusing over the Australian glass fibre birds.

All eyes were now glued on the toothpaste toy as it rattled past the curious, amused bunch.

Kid was a bit nervous but none the less went through procedure and duly lined up on 35.

One quick look at the Mob at the hangers. All eyes were in the direction of the toy, no one spoke. The kid had no idea what this prop was going to do.

Throttle to the stopper, rattles vibration and shaking the toy lurched forward. The kids eyes became the size of saucers. Much kak and consternation and noise as the^ toy clawed its way skyward. The kids eyes were now the size of dinner plates from the Vibration. "Get this damm thing down fast, he thought." The toy turned and dropped out of the blue faster than a downed pheasant on a shoot, and landed halfway down 17, What embarrassment, the mob were holding their stomachs with lots of teeth showing as they walked off into the front hanger with tears in their eyes. What a letdown. The plank was duly "ripped off and thrown into the back of the kids car. Even "bob" had the sense to disappear.

"Can't keep anything to yourself in this place, including the bugger-ups".!! muttered you know who. A short while later the kid was seen heading back for the bundus with a miniature thunder cloud in close pursuit.

........THE SAGA CONTINUED ......

By Greg Pedersen Copyright 2000


E-mail to Terry Aspinall explaining the problems Greg had with his prop!!!!!!!!!

Here are two funny articles I wrote about myself, laughing at myself.... in the very early years, for the Cato Flying Club Magazine on all the propellers I went through, eight in all....to try and find the best performance and smoothness, and aptly earned the lasting nickname of PROPWASH at the airfield.

The articles were scripted to be funny...but was in fact a very serious and frustrating time, as this aspect of the build gave me the most headaches, as I was determined at the time, to find the best happy medium with respect to a suitable propeller for the Shadow.

Now just imagine the crap David Cook would have had to endure, with the British Authorities, just to achieve this, or be allowed this sort of experimentation...but of course what did we do here in SA...just kept on carving new ones in the bush... until we found the right combination.

Without mentioning names at that time, in the two articles, and the way they were written...that cunningly left everything open to speculation, but of course everyone knew who was who in the club, and who had said what.... and these were:
The "Mad Colonel", Jas who did the first test flight...and you will be able to relate to what was said by Jas in some of the original video clip of the first flight.

The fun started as you will hear from the footage...how loud the prop was... which I was not happy about...and that's what started the whole saga off with my quest for a better, quieter propeller...

Mr 'Plane builder" was Len Alford where, and in whose factory, I helped build and put my Shadow together in.

The "Tooth Paste Advert/Toy" is the Shadow, as it is like a toothpaste advert with all the stripes down the side, which was nicknamed thus by one of the club members, and which stuck.

The second "Black composite fan pack" that was dumped was a Warp Drive from America, which was a disaster, and that was sold to a Trike pilot as it was far too rigid and vibrated.

The "Carver of note" was an amazing caring very patient gentleman, George Killey, who was an expert in wooden propeller making, a long time retired pilot as well, and hand carved all my wooden propellers thereafter at that time, and was as enthusiastic as I was, to develop the best custom built propeller.

We both finally settled on the beautifully hand carved four blader shown in the current pictures which was practically vibration free, flexible very well balanced, and further soaked up engine vibrations, which actually was the second one he made, the first one having a too fine a pitch, therefore over revving the Jabiru engine.

"Bob' was our friendly resident dog on the airfield that everyone took care of and lastly the 'kid" and "you know who" was me..

Unfortunately no further articles were penned by me, as by this time the four blader propeller was working well and all the fuss had by then died down, and was the last made for ZU-BFO.

Enjoy some of my antics, of the early years of ZU-BFO.

Greg : South Africa.