On a crow, forest fires and friendship.

During the last couple of weeks, George B. has been corresponding more than usual with Bill Hannan, an avid and accomplished model builder. Bill lives in Magalia, a few miles from Paradise (in Northern California) which is under serious threat from raging wildfires.

Bill's car is packed (no models,) ready to evacuate at a moment's notice - it's a tense time.

But not tense enough to stop Bill from working on a strange model sent to him recently by George B. Here are some emails and photos that tell the story . . . .

These photos are from Bill Hannan, a good friend of mine, though we have
met only once. Bill has authored many books on model planes and operates a"book store by mail" from his home in Magalia, near Chico , in the hills of Northern California. At the present time a major fire is spreading in all the forest nearby and Bill and Joanne have their car packed ready for evacuation as already has happened in the adjacent town of Paradise. A very sobering thought to realize that the majority of your life's possessions and treasures would be lost. We all hope that does not happen to Bill and Joanne, a real shining light for aero modellers, especially rubber free flight enthusiasts.

Bill, for many years wrote a monthly column for the Model Builder until it ceased publication. I wrote to Bill shortly after reentering the world of stick and tissue planes, after a 50 year lapse and said how I had built one peanut model but I had purchased $500 of materials, tools and supplies to aid my building, much to Bill's amusement and surprise.Bill has contacts with modellers around the world and has a vast file of knowledge stored both in his head and I am sure in many filing cabinets. We are fortunate to have his knowledge, plans and advice still available through his mail order business and we wish him well at this stressful time. G.B.

Howdy George,

Started on the little "Crow" kit you so kindly sent, yesterday, figuring it would be a cinch to assemble.

Not exactly...

First off, the designer's name seemed familiar, and it turns out he was a customer of ours a few years ago.

As of this morning, the model is about half completed, however I made numerous small "adjustments" along the way. The instructions are not quite as obvious as they at first appear, and I made one error through not studying them thoroughly enough.
Easily rectified, fortunately. I have had very little experience working with foam, so that required a bit of education. I chose to employ white glue rather than the included type, with some Titebond alaphatic resin glue in certain stressed areas.

A few of the foam parts required a bit of trimming for improved fit, etc. Of course my tendency is to overdo everything, which soaks up time needlessly. Trimming the flash from the plastic prop hub, for example...

Meanwhile I heard back from the fellow in Japan who designed the paper version of the Crow. He was familiar with the kit version, and says that it performs very well indeed. We hope to find out soon, however this morning we are under a dense blanket of smoke and ashes, and all residents are being advised to stay indoors. Some people who need (or want) to be outside are wearing dust masks.

Never any dull moments, and working on the model is helpful diversion to darker thoughts!

So thank you again,



Howdy George,

We're still here, and I've managed a bit more work on the crow.
As shown in this photo, I couldn't resist adding a bit of "decor"...

Actually, the project has been rather soothing, taking my mind in a more relaxing direction, even if only for brief intervals!

Everything is completed except for adding the wing outer panels, which looks to be a bit tricky. We'll see.

Again, many thanks for your reassuring phone call,



Howdy George,

Thanks again for your caring phone calls!

Completed the Crow this afternoon, and was rather surprised how long is is, at over 20 inches, with nearly 17-inch wing span.

Another surprise was the weight, which is less than 3/4 of an ounce via hand-held postage scale (The box cover says 0.64 oz.) Close enough.

The balsa wood members are quite hard (heavy) as is the reed?) tail boom. Of course the foam is very thin and light.

Obviously I have a great deal to learn about working with foam, but to my Luddite way of thinking, it makes me appreciate balsa all the more...

Any how, it has been a sort of catharsis project, and again, thanks for sending it !


Howdy George,

Still here !

The first photo I sent to you, some days ago, showed the paper Crow model atop the Crow kit box. That model is grey. The model on the kit box appears to be black.
The Japanese 1889 original(?) seems to have had only some sort of vintage fabric covering and a black four-blade airscrew.

I left the stark white syrofoam as is, not wanting to add the weight of paint (or more importantly, add additional fumes to our air!).

My "decor crow-head" is black and yellow paper, with a bit of augmentation via felt pens.

It seems to me that natural balsa wood would look more "authentic" than stryro...

Thank goodness for the steady parade of helicopters again yesterday (Joan counted about 6) dipping water from our reservoir, which is only about a half-mile away.


Hi Wonderful Family and Friends,

Just to let you know that things are looking much better today. The evacuation has been downgraded to "precautionary" rather than "immediate threat" and people are able to go back home. Many of our friends were evacuated, but we were fortunate to be able to stay. The fire was a few miles from us and if the winds had picked up, as was predicted, we would have had to scoot.

Yesterday they were able to do many water drops with the helicopters. There was one after another going over, which is usually pretty scary, but this time we felt only gratitude.

What a week! Thank you all for your powerful prayers and PLEASE keep them
up. We're apparently not out of the woods yet, but we're getting there.

Much Love,

Joan and Bill


dave W. said...

Experts say that forest management policy in the USA has been badly misguided for over a century and catastrophic fires will continue to be a problem unless we adopt a more natural approach. I believe there is much room for improvement in this regard.

I saw several Japanese free flight model kits, including the crow, at an interesting little store called Atys (not a hobby shop) on Union Street near the intersection of Fillmore Street in S.F.

planecrazy said...

Interesting project! It would be interesting to find out how well it flies.

I too know Bill and Joan Hannan pretty well, although it has always been via the Internet and by ordering quite a few books from their "Hannan's Runway" book selling business. Very nice people. It's always sad to hear when people you know personally are suffering from some natural disaster. However, in this case as Dave points out, it appears that we have brought this one on at least partially ourselves by moving into areas that are risky and exacerbating the problem with poor forest management policies and actions. I fervently hope the Hannan's will now be OK.


planecrazy said...

In case somebody might be interested in building the "Crow", Tim Goldstein has the kit for it available at www.peck-polymers.com. Go to "Model Kits", "FF Rubber Powered" and scroll down near the end of the page. Neat, and different!