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TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

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Old 07-07-2009, 01:17 PM
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kingaltair
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Default TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

I can't remember the last time I was really EXCITED about something, (I'm talking "kid-in-a-candy-shop" excited), to the point that I kept thinking about the experience days later. When did YOU last feel that way? It's a shame that sometimes the older we get, the more we say to ourselves "been there...done that". Last week however, I had one of those rare "top of the world" experiences when I got the opportunity to meet Tom Brett's wife, Helen. Both Tom and Helen were involved in the hobby of early R/C pattern in different ways, and both were important members of the RCCD, (Radio Control Club of Detroit), back in the early days of pattern. The RCCD held an important meet called the Great Lakes Invitational, (later changed to the Detroit Invitational).

Tom started flying real aircraft in the Navy and later became immersed in R/C for a brief period of years before returning to full-scale aircraft in 1966. He was by profession an aeronautical/mechanical engineer, and became the 1962, (I belive) world pattern champion. He designed all of his planes...starting with his trainers. [X(]

Like contemporary pattern pioneer Ed Kazmirski, his R/C career was brief but full of innovations and contributions to the new sport. Not only did he design his own planes, all his hardware was home-made, and as an engineer, his workmanship and attention to detail was flawless. He also designed brake and pressurized fuel systems. As a complement to his short R/C career, some 35 years after his premature passing at only 48, his planes are still being built and flown today.

Tom and my father, (who joined when we moved to the area), both belonged to the RCCD at the same time. As I've said elsewhere, I went to the field with my Dad as a young teen and watched everything that went on. My first plane a few years later had his characteristic colors of light and dark blue, with yellow transparent silk. Tom always had a crowd around him, and I never took the opportunity to speak to him, but that didn't mean that he was any less a hero to me. To me, he set the example of what a pattern pilot should be like.

As described on page 70-71 or so of the Ed Kazmirski's Taurus thread, due to Chuck Winter's home movies of three Detroit Invitationals being converted to DVD, I had the opportunity to once again meet Ms Brett more than 35 years after the one chance encounter I had with her, when I delivered her copy of the video to her house during a family trip back to Michigan last week. That delivery turned into a 4-hour visit with her and a charter member of the RCCD, (formed in 1953) named Willie McMath. What an experience it was to share that afternoon with them.

After a while, we went downstairs to look at Tom's planes. In addition to the trainers, (one called "the Beast" because it hit her on the shoulder), were the Nimbus 1, 2, and 3, and a larger plane with a thicker Taurus-like wing called the Cirrus, (designed for proportional). All were in what appeared to be near perfect condition, though only part of the fuselages and the wings were visible. These planes were separated from us by several feet of "stuff' in the basement, and were not available for close inspection without a lot of work...so I viewed them from a distance. Each fuselage was sitting on the floor on its nose, so only the tail section was visible. The wings to most of the planes were held by a rack.

The main "prize" to me was the 1962-vintage travel crate, (much like the "infamous" crate from Ed Kazmirski's Taurus). It still holds "Apogee"...sister ship to the Perigee which now hangs in the AMA museum. On top of the crate rested the TBX-1, final Brett design flown by him at the 1965 NATS, (see attached for Perigee and TBX photos). I summoned my courage and asked if we could pull these planes out and clean them up for viewing...outside in the sun. They hadn't been disturbed in decades, but Helen was quite gracious and was a wonderful hostess. After a comprehesive cleaning, (it was amazing how well they cleaned up), we went outside for a photo-shoot. The planes were in at least as good a condition as the average modern plane you see at the field.

Duane
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Old 07-07-2009, 02:25 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

Duane, you are correct that Tom Brett became world champion in 1962 although strictly he was joint champion. The event was held at Kenley in the UK and Tom tied for first place with the UK's Harry Brooks. A fly off was held which Tom won and so he held the trophy. Attached is a photo taken at the event of the joint winners Tom Brett and Harry Brooks. I was at the event and it was the first time I had seen flyers from overseas, I was a teenager at the time and it was quite an experience.

Alan
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Old 07-07-2009, 02:37 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

Just awesome Duane! You indeed are one lucky son-of-a-gun! Please post pics when you get a chance, really looking forward to them!

FB
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Old 07-07-2009, 04:30 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

Wow Duane, Apogee and Nimbus 3, I have never seen a Nimbus 3. I have seen a Nimbus 1, I'm flying a Nimbus 2, (and Perigee, of course) but a 3? I would really like to piccies of all these things. Waiting, waiting...
Evan.
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Old 07-07-2009, 11:29 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

ORIGINAL: pimmnz

Wow Duane, Apogee and Nimbus 3, I have never seen a Nimbus 3. I have seen a Nimbus 1, I'm flying a Nimbus 2, (and Perigee, of course) but a 3? I would really like to piccies of all these things. Waiting, waiting...
Evan.
Unfortunately, the Nimbus models showed little more than the tail section. Still I should have taken a picture. The difference in appearance between a Nimbus and Perigee is mostly size. They all had the same shape fin, and looked very similar. All Tom's planes had the two-tone blue with yellow silk. Only the one Nimbus model was the brown/white combination. I believe that was the plane shown in both the Nimbus and Perigee articles.

Included are a couple early pics. The crate was very similar to what Ed's crate must have looked like, but it contained a couple drawers...a very neat crate painted a light color. The picture also shows some of the rack used to store the wings. This picture was taken just as the crate was opened. Obviously the space for Perigee was vacant.

The second picture shows Helen Brett and Willie McMath posing with Tom's TBX-1. Since I never saw the Nimbus at the local field, but I DID see both the Apogee and TBX-1, I suppose my primary interest lies with these two planes.

The Cirrus wing I believe is visible in one picture. The Cirrus was larger, (don't know by how much yet but will find out), than BOTH the Perigee and Nimbus. Of all the pattern models Tom designed that I'm aware of, the Perigee/Apogee was the smallest.
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Old 07-07-2009, 11:51 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

Duane,

Talk about neat as all heck!!!! I bet that the time you spent there went by very quickly!!! Did Helen mention what was to come of these planes since they are a piece of history?

Mark

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Old 07-08-2009, 04:08 AM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

Duane,

You lucky dog - wish I could have been there. Never heard of the Cirrus before so any further details about it would be good.

Attached a couple of scans from the 1962 World Champs - including the crate. Years ago when I fist got a Perigee plan I was amazed at how small it was. At the time I was flying a well known 40 powered sports model called the Acro Wot ( Alan will be familiar with it ) and they were almost identical in size. I guess Tom went for small and fast and Ed K went for slow and large.

Look forward to more shots from your trip.

Ray
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Old 07-08-2009, 08:34 AM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

ORIGINAL: RFJ

Duane,

You lucky dog - wish I could have been there. Never heard of the Cirrus before so any further details about it would be good.

Attached a couple of scans from the 1962 World Champs - including the crate. Years ago when I fist got a Perigee plan I was amazed at how small it was. At the time I was flying a well known 40 powered sports model called the Acro Wot ( Alan will be familiar with it ) and they were almost identical in size. I guess Tom went for small and fast and Ed K went for slow and large.

Look forward to more shots from your trip.

Ray
Ray;

Thanks for the great pictures and stats from the 1962 W/C.

I spent a good portion of last night looking at the pictures, and cleaning them up. I'll be posting more over the next few days. There ARE some surprises coming up, but I'm not ready to present them yet.

Regarding the future of the planes. Helen has kept the planes for almost 35 years now since Tom's passing. They are obviously important to her, and I doubt she would have any interest in placing them for sale. As you know, Tom's Perigee is already hanging in the AMA museum, so I doubt the remaining planes will go there; room in the museum is very limited. There are no sons, but several grandchildren, (one of them responded to a previous RCU forum about the Perigee). If I had to guess, it would be the grandchildren will eventually receive them.

Duane
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Old 07-08-2009, 03:42 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

In addition to the trainers, (one called "the Beast" because it hit her on the shoulder),
Came across this shot in the January 1961 edition of American Modeler.

Ray
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Old 07-08-2009, 04:24 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE


ORIGINAL: RFJ

In addition to the trainers, (one called ''the Beast'' because it hit her on the shoulder),
Came across this shot in the January 1961 edition of American Modeler.

Ray
Yup that's it. I thought it was a strange name for a plane until I learned the circumstances behind it. That airplane and wing were in the collection. In spite of being hit with it on the shoulder, Helen seems to remember it fondly, and talked about it several times. I think she used it to learn to fly as well.

Duane
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Old 07-09-2009, 05:41 AM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

I have never seen a Nimbus 3.
Neither have I. As I understand it Nimbus 1 and Nimbus 2 differed only in the wings. Nimbus 1 had a double taper, open structure wing with inset ( Frise) ailerons. Nimbus 2 had single ( trailing edge) taper and was all sheeted. Nimbus 3.....who knows but Duane may now have the answer.

Apogee and Perigee were identical ( basically a scaled down Nimbus 2) but Perigee for some reason flew a bit better so was used at the WCs.

Here is one of the very first ads for the Perigee kit - from MAN February 1963. Yours for just $29.95.

Also, just for the record, Nimbus 2 was published in American Modeler June 1962 and Perigee also in American Modeler January/February 1963. As far as I know these were Tom's only published designs.

Ray



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Old 07-09-2009, 08:07 AM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

ORIGINAL: RFJ

Neither have I. As I understand it Nimbus 1 and Nimbus 2 differed only in the wings. Nimbus 1 had a double taper, open structure wing with inset ( Frise) ailerons. Nimbus 2 had single ( trailing edge) taper and was all sheeted. Nimbus 3.....who knows but Duane may now have the answer.

Apogee and Perigee were identical ( basically a scaled down Nimbus 2) but Perigee for some reason flew a bit better so was used at the WCs.

Also, just for the record, Nimbus 2 was published in American Modeler June 1962 and Perigee also in American Modeler January/February 1963. As far as I know these were Tom's only published designs.

Ray
Ray;

Thanks for explaining the differences in the Nimbus airplanes. As far as a NIMBUS 3 is concerned, I may have misunderstood Ms Brett, and have contacted her asking for clarification. I'll let you know.

I just looked over the Perigee article Ray spoke of above. Just for a little background, when Tom made the USA W/C team for 1962, he fully intended to fly Nimbus, but when he saw the schedule of maneuvers, he concluded he would need more power and a smaller, lighter airplane....this was the birth of the "Nimbus Apogee and Nimbus Perigee", (he needed two planes for the W/C, and he named them for the close and far points in the orbit of an object. Even in the article he retained the Nimbus roots of the design, but eventually the "Nimbus" was dropped, especially when the kit came out.

Willie McMath told me "all Tom's planes, (Nimbus,Perigee/Apogee/Cirrus), flew like carbon copies of each other". The primary difference was size with some engineering changes that are detailed in his article. All Tom's planes with the exception of Nimbus-2 had the same characteristic blue-on-blue with yellow transparent silk. To add to what Ray said earlier, Tom at least partially attributes the difference in flight between Perigee and Apogee to a wing warp in Apogee that might have been the result of the repaired wing. He states that Perigee never required trim of any kind, and was the best flying of the two. Apogee required some corrections to fly some of the maneuvers...it was not flown in Europe, but was there as a backup if needed. It points out the truth that no two planes are built identically.

The article speaks of Tom's frantic building schedule, especially after the crash of Apogee on the maiden flight, (cause was never determined). An interesting side note to this was something contained in a scrapbook Helen kept of Tom's R/C career. In it there are two calendar pages showing January and February of 1962. (To put this into a time reference between Tom and Ed Kazmirski, the planes were built prior to, and Apogee was first flown successfully DURING Ed's trip to Africa). The calendar shows that Tom worked on the planes (at least a little), seven days a week. In the corner of each day was a description of what was done that day, (ie started silk and dope...finished silk and dope etc). To me this was a very interesting way to relive the birth of these planes, and shows the attention to detail in Tom's work. There is also a picture of the ill-fated first flight...really interesting stuff.

BTW-Tom is a very good author, and writes in a very interesting, conversational way with bits of humor and personality throughout. It is well worth the reading to follow Tom's thinking process in creating the Nimbus and Perigee/Apogee. You can get a print-out of these articles by contacting Jackie Shallberg at AMA HQ).

Pictures coming soon.

Duane
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Old 07-09-2009, 02:30 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

Hi Duane, Great job on your report about meeting Helen Brett and seeing Tom's airplanes. I'll mention again, that I would like to update my DVD with pictures or videos of relevant information of the "Golden Era" of pattern flying. So much was accomplished in the late 1950's into the 1960's. It appears that when radio control systems became more reliable the R/C hobby flourished. I could rename my DVD "The Golden Era of Pattern Flying" or something like that. Their is so much great information OUT THERE it would be a shame not to put it together for future interested person's. I would like Input's from any interested party. Col. Chuck Winter PS, Arden engine powered Free Flight, 1946..
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Old 07-09-2009, 02:46 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE


ORIGINAL: CHARLES WINTER

I'll mention again, that I would like to update my DVD with pictures or videos of relevant information of the ''Golden Era'' of pattern flying. So much was accomplished in the late 1950's into the 1960's. It appears that when radio control systems became more reliable the R/C hobby flourished. I could rename my DVD ''The Golden Era of Pattern Flying'' or something like that. Their is so much great information OUT THERE it would be a shame not to put it together for future interested person's. I would like Input's from any interested party. Col. Chuck Winter PS, Arden engine powered Free Flight, 1946..
Chuck...I will send you many of the Ed Kazmirski pictures from the Ed Kazmirski's Taurus thread. You can determine if the quality is good enough for a DVD.

Still pictures are wonderful, but one of the greatest things about your DVD is that the pictures "moved", and came to life. The people in the video are "alive" again. Still..... I believe you probably know the best way to artfully combine the best in still photos of well-known R/C pioneers, and the video footage you have preserved.

Duane
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Old 07-09-2009, 10:50 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

Here are a few pictures of Apogee and Perigee. Perigee and Apogee look identical except for the name badge. The workmanship is fabulous. Helen told me the "Apogee" name was cut out on a piece of tape, but it looks like it was applied with a pen. Note the FAI stickers for the W/C competition like the Kazmirski Taurus.

Perigee hangs in the AMA museum in Muncie, In. Unfortunately, it's a cluttered environment, and you can't get a real good look at it without getting on a ladder, (as I had to do with the best picture of Perigee (attached). Still, it's there for visitors to view.

It's so great to be able to take pictures, hold the plane, look at it from all angles...up close...and outdoors.

Duane
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Old 07-09-2009, 11:50 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

If anyone is interested I can get a copy of the original Hobby Helpers Nimbus 2 plans. Sent to where you are at cost.
Evan.
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Old 07-10-2009, 02:42 AM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

I understand Tom was a (design) engineer for the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. Do you think there is any connection between the Nimbus/Perigee fin shape and the back of a '61 Thunderbird....perhaps not....just wishful thinking

Ray
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Old 07-10-2009, 07:00 AM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

I understand Tom was a (design) engineer for the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. Do you think there is any connection between the Nimbus/Perigee fin shape and the back of a '61 Thunderbird....perhaps not....just wishful thinking
I thought he worked for General Motors (GM)? Either way, Tom was a talented aircraft designer.

Duane, got any more detail shots of the Apogee? They would be very helpful on my Perigee restoration. I'm in the primer stage and jusy about ready to start on the colors.

FB
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Old 07-10-2009, 09:55 AM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

I think your right FB. In that case perhaps this Perigee finned '61 Cadalac Eldorado...

Ray
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Old 07-10-2009, 11:04 AM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

Gotta love finned cars from the 60's!

FB
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Old 07-10-2009, 11:20 AM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

ORIGINAL: Free Bird

I thought he worked for General Motors (GM)? Either way, Tom was a talented aircraft designer.

Duane, got any more detail shots of the Apogee? They would be very helpful on my Perigee restoration. I'm in the primer stage and jusy about ready to start on the colors.

FB
FB....No more detailed pictures of the Apogee. I DO have pictures of the Perigee (taken at the AMA Museum), from different angles. Any painting detail is the same on both planes. I have more pictures of the Apogee and TBX-1 together which I will be posting soon that may show more of the rest of the plane.

Tom DID work for GM. Some of his coworkers thought GM was in the business of designing airplanes. The Perigee/Apogee was the sleekest, dare I say sexiest pattern design for the time period IMHO. The styling still looks very good today, and the color scheme can't be beat.

Duane
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Old 07-10-2009, 10:40 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

Here are a few more pictures of Apogee and Tom's last design the TBX-1 together.

FB-I've included one picture of the bottom paint, and vertical fin of the Perigee for your paint scheme.

I'll be discussing the TBX-1 in more detail soon.
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Old 07-11-2009, 06:36 AM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

Thanks Duane, I appreciate the pics!

That TBX-1 is just awesome. I'm glad that it still lives. Like the Simla, it would be neat if a replica of it could be developed.

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Old 07-11-2009, 05:07 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

Thanks for sharing this important discovery Duane, I think these airplanes should be documented, especially the TBX-1. BTW, do the airplanes still have their radio equipment installed?
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Old 07-12-2009, 01:22 PM
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Default RE: TOM BRETT'S DESIGNS-UPDATE

ORIGINAL: Michaelj2k

Thanks for sharing this important discovery Duane, I think these airplanes should be documented, especially the TBX-1. BTW, do the airplanes still have their radio equipment installed?
Thanks Michael.

To answer your question, the radio was sold some time ago. We will be discussiong the TBX-1 in more detail soon. It is a distinctive looking airplane, that flys well enough as can be seen in the video. I especially like the wing...its variable width and its sweep.

As often happens in these threads, one thing leads to another. I received an e-mail from an RCCD club member named Larry. His father took the attached picture at the 1962 Detroit Invitational. At this time, Tom had just won the 1962 W/C, (tied for 1st with Brooks for our UK friends), about a month earlier. Ed had just won the 1962 American NATS 1-1/2 months earlier, (note the same wing found on the Jan 1963 MAN issue with Ed on the cover).

It's information from private pictures like these that adds so much to the overall knowledge of the times. Thanks Larry for your trouble, and I hope more photos like these are available out there somewhere.

These pictures were made from a scan of an old slide that apparently has since been lost. I believe only Kodachrome slides retain their true color over time which accounts for the color changes, but I am very happy to receive documentation like this almost 47 years after the event. We are fortunate than ANYTHING like this can be preserved that long in our present age of moving all over, and throwing old stuff out.
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