Yesterday, many of us received word that FAC Hall of Famer, Dennis Norman passed away on the 22nd. Dennis had been in deteriorating health for several years, but still wrote an article on Scale Free Flight for “Model Aviation” (AMA magazine) – you can read his AMA writer’s autobiography here.
I first met Dennis when I started out in Free Flight traveling from central Ohio to participate in the contests hosted by the (now defunct) Cleveland Free Flight Society – the Stork Squadron of the FAC. Dennis was always very friendly and helpful and always interested in my young family. Dennis pushed the boundaries of what Free Flight Scale could be by building many rubber-powered twins and multis, with a landmark construction article published in MAN in 1966 of his twin-propped single-rubber motor 24″ span Mosquito. You can tell by reading the article that successful rubber-powered twins were virtually non-existent: “Flights in calm or slightly breezy conditions average 40 yards or better with the model seldom rising higher than ten feet.” (You can read the article and download the plan on Outerzone.) His B-24, in 1990, has been immortalized by Tom Hallman’s video:
He also built and flew an Avro Lancaster. Dennis’ work was surely the inspiration for Chris Starleaf and his multi-engined models, which took Free Flight Scale to new heights and which is now carried on my Wally Farrell, Tom Hallman, Vance Gilbert, and virtually anyone who dips their toes in the multi-engined rubber powered arena – Dennis dared to show what “could” be done.
Dennis was always developing something. I remember in the early-90s he developed an early method for transferring markings to tissue. If I recall, he used “Chart-Pak” artist’s markers. He would put white tissue paper over an appropriately-sized 3-view of whatever model he was working on and then color the tissue with the Chart-Pak pen. The solvent that carried the ink would dissolve the xeroxed markings and transfer then to the tissue. This would require pens of many colors – and this was long before we could print on tissue paper. For example, here is a photo (taken today) of his Peanut BF-109 that he gave to my son, Jack (Jack was in grade school at the time). You can see how he would have to do each color of the camouflage – and even the blue under side was done the same way.
Dennis continued to innovate. When I last saw him at the Toledo Show (about 3 years ago?) he was still selling pre-printed tissue for several models. You could always find Dennis at Toledo paired up with Roger Wathen – this was mentioned in his last AMA article just a month or so ago.
One thing I observed about Dennis’ models – they always seemed to be built heavily. The Peanut above is built with hard balsa and has a ton of clay on the nose and, because of all this, is powered by a loop of 3/16″ rubber. Regardless, he built them and he flew them – and he was an inspiration to all of us.
Requiescat in pace, Dennis.