About Helicopter John

John J. Clark AKA HelicopterJohn


My Interests: Model Aviation, Machining & Classic Cars; all of these interests have remained with me during my adult life.



I have enjoyed the Radio Controlled Hobby for most of my adult life starting in about 1968 when I returned from military service in the United States Navy.

I started as a basic sport pilot but soon developed an interest in all types of R/C Airplane competition. Everything from local fun flies to pattern flying, pylon racing and scale competition. This continued for a few years until I developed an interest in R/C Helicopters in the early 70’s as Dieter Schluter introduced the first R/C Helicopter. Soon others followed and the R/C Helicopter Sport began to take root. I continued my competition career going to all sorts of regional and national competition. I ended up with 3 NATS trophies, one flying R/C Pattern and a couple flying helicopters. My best effort was First Place Intermediate Helicopter at the 1978 Lake Charles Nationals.

At first everyone was lucky to even get their helicopters to even hover much less do any aerobatics. Gyros were not even thought off much less manufactured. No computer radios, no governors. You even had to assemble and balance your own blades. Aftermarket parts were unheard of. So, if you wanted something better than what the manufacturer offered you had to make it yourself or have a machinist friend make something for you.

I was lucky as I lived in Florida where there was a lot of R/C Helicopter activity. We even created the Florida Helicopter Association and meet monthly at different locations within the State for sharing ideas, friendship and many great weekends filled with fun.

Bill W.D. Youmans

My close friend Bill W.D. Youmans was my mentor in R/C Modeling both in Airplanes and Helicopters. He was a retired U.S. Navy guy with a personality to go with it. I can’t thank him enough for all the help he gave me over the years.

My good friend Bill W.D. Youmans passed away on July 6, 2001 at the age of 82. He was born on September 29, 1918.

Bill was a true modeler in every since of the word.    He was a man you had to admire for the knowledge he imparted to his fellow model aviation enthusiasts.

I will never forget the first time I met him at a model airplane contest that was held at the TRAC Tampa Radio Controlled Aircraft Club in Tampa, Florida in the early 70's.  He was a member of the Imperial R/C Club in Lakeland, Florida and had come to compete at our Fun Fly Contest.   I asked my flying buddy Vince Cesario who the OLD GUY was with the golf hat and the plain looking airplane.  As it turned out the guy was Bill W.D.  Youmans and his plane was a Sea-Land which he had designed.  We found out later that it flew just as well of floats which "he designed".  Vince and I were just getting started in competition "Won a couple of trophies" and thought we were the best in the West or East as it may be.  Needless to say after the contest was over we found out that this OLD GUY from Lakeland was the BEST.  He cleaned our clocks.  After that when we went to a Model Airplane event and Bill would show up we would say "We know who is going to take first place and the rest is up to us and the other competitors".  He was always well prepared, motor started every time and ran flawlessly. He gained the affectionate title "Old Smoothie" from his fellow R/C Pilots.

He enjoyed competition of all types and even raced Formula 1 and other racing events.  Vince and I were callers for a Formula 1 event being held at TRAC.  This was second time we experienced Bill in action.  He was flying a beautiful Formula 1 airplane.  Vince and I overheard him talking to his caller during a race heat saying that one of the competitors kept pulling to the inside of him going into Pylon #1 and blowing him out in the turn.  He commented that would be the LAST time that fellow would pull that trick.  We were still pretty green and didn't quite understand what he meant.  The next lap the same guy tried the same move except that Bill did not change his intended flight path and flew right through the other competitor’s airplane destroying both aircraft.  We took notes on that race and never tried that maneuver when we raced against him.  Moral to the story - When Bill said something he kept his word.

In 1970 Dieter Schluter had the first successful flight of an R/C Helicopter in the World.  Bill and I had become friends and even traveled to airplane contests together but had taken little notice to this history changing event.

Walt Schoonard of Orlando, Florida which was also a great modeler and excellent paint and body man had taken an interest in R/C helicopter flight.  Unknown to me at the time Walt and other modelers in the Orlando area soon had imported kits from Dieter Schluter in Germany and began flying R/C helicopters.

By this time Bill was Semi-Retired and would make an occasional trip to Orlando to talk helicopters.  The next thing we knew he showed up at our flying site with a Dubro Hughes 300 kit made in the U.S.A.  This was  a deluxe kit including but not limited to: Fixed Pitch Pine Blades, O & R  gasoline engine that was converted to glow fuel - What a Joke that engine was!,  and a four channel AM  - Non-Computer radio with no gyro.  Talk about fun on the flight line - That motor spit more fuel out of the carburetor than it used.  I believe it was a reed valve engine.  Needless to say you sure learned to use the left stick - Rudder and Throttle.  Even with all that adversity Bill was able to maintain a really smooth hover - Thus the nickname "Old Smoothie".

Myself and several members of the TRAC  i.e. Don Rothman,  Jack Diedrich, Don Haas and others took to helicopter flight.  It was a pretty humbling experience when you had successfully flown model airplanes and then found yourself back in the learning curve.  It was pretty obvious that most all of us needed help, myself included.  Thus the formation of the Florida Helicopter Association.

Bill Youmans and Walt Schoonard were the leaders of the organization providing help to all who asked for it.  Cliff Bennett (tool  and die maker) whom resided in Elkhart, Indiana was a member of our association  and worked a great deal with Bill Youmans in developing a lot of the things we  take for granted today in helicopter flight i.e. autorotation clutches, header  tanks etc.  Don Rothman also did a great job in producing fiberglass fuselages for our helicopters.  Members of the FHA even enrolled in a local Evening Adult Vocational School classes to learn about machine tools and tried with some success to make custom parts for our helicopters.  Bill always maintained that we (the wantabe machinists) sent the culls (defectively machined parts) to Lakeland.

During the 70's Bill and I traveled throughout the country going to airplane and helicopter contests, competing on a national level.   We really had some great trips and met a lot of wonderful people in the process.  I will really miss him as he was a true friend and great modeler and deserves recognition for the many contributions he made to the Model Aviation Sport.

Goodbye Bill "Old Smoothie"


During the following years my interest in helicopters dwindled and I even sold all of them to a local modeler. I continued to fly an occasional R/C Airplane but my interest in the hobby as a whole never diminished.

Shortly after my retirement one of my friends invited me to come to a neighboring R/C Club and see all the new advancements in the R/C Helicopter Sport. WOW, gyros that really worked, computer radios, governors. Man, this was like night and day from what we had. All types of aftermarket accessories. Helicopter Kits that went together like a breeze and flew really well right out of the box. I was hooked again and purchased a Raptor 30 V1 which I later converted to a Raptor 50 V1 which I still fly to this date.

Seeing all the advancements in the hobby made me think of Bill W.D. Youmans and all he did for me and the R/C Modeling Community.

One of my friends had a Robbe Nova that he was trying to setup for flight. I noticed that he had 2 small blocks of wood that he was placing under the swashplate. I asked what he was doing. He said he was trying to level the swashplate during setup to provide a smooth and accurate flying machine. His machines always flew extremely well and he even setup some helicopters for guys that flew and now fly on a national basis...I asked him if he would like me to make him a proper Swashplate Leveling (Setup) Tool.. I did and that is how my Swashplate Leveling (Setup) Tools got started. Soon he purchased a Raptor 50 and asked me to make a proper tool for that one. So the story goes on and on.

I purchased some more machine tools which leads to my next interest.



Several of my friends and I enrolled in an adult evening vocational school which offered a class in machining. It was there that I found a new hobby along with model aviation.

My machining interests grew over the years. Started out with a small Craftsman 6 inch metal lathe. I soon found a small Clausing milling machine and added that to my arsenal of machines. As time went on I found a South Bend 10K lathe that was like brand new, so the Craftsman was sold. The South Bend 10K was nice but had a very small spindle bore which placed certain limitations on the diameter of the material that would fit though the headstock. I did some research and found a Clausing 12 inch lathe with a much larger spindle bore and was really happy with it. I found a new home for the South Bend 10K. Then I started looking for a larger milling machine. After I had searched for a good used machine for months I decided to purchase a new Bridgeport. I even built a nice workshop to put all my machining tools in. Good fortune hit my family and as it turns out we sold our property. I then lost my shop and had to sell all my machine tools. Sad Day.

As time went on I found a nice piece of property and built a new workshop and a new home for my retirement years. I started shopping for a new collection of machine tools.

I retired in 2000 and since then I have acquired a new collection of machine tools. Another Clausing lathe which I completely rebuilt. A couple of Bridgeports with DRO’s, a Hardinge HC Chucker lathe, drill presses, cut off saws, arbor press, commercial air compressor a couple of media blast cabinets and other miscellaneous equipment.

My latest addition of the machine tool arsenal is a HAAS 3 Axis CNC Tool Room Mill. It has all the latest features like a 6000 RPM spindle, full enclosure with programmable coolant nozzle, chip auger, 10 position automatic tool changer and best of all it has a Renishaw Wireless Probe and Wireless Tool Setter.

I also have taken the plunge into the CAD/CAM world with the purchase of ONECNC XR2 Mill advantage software. This allows me to design my parts in the CAD portion of the program and assign the toolpaths in the CAM portion of the program for use with the HAAS CNC machine.

At 62 years of age this is like going back to school except it is an elective subject that I thoroughly enjoy.



I have always liked Classic Cars as I had a 1969 Dodge Super Bee 383 CID 4 speed back during my post Navy Days.

A friend of mine that I met through my model aviation club also had an interest in classic cars. He had a high performance GTO during his younger days.

He got the itch to restore a car. He purchased an ole 1967 Camaro RS SS. It had a pretty nice body but the engine was blown up. Another friend of ours raced Sprint Cars and had a spare Sprint Car Motor that he sold to my buddy. We installed it in the Camaro and put at Turbo 400 race transmission in it with a 3200 RPM stall converter. It also had a 4.11 positive traction read end. He had it painted candy apple red. The next thing you know we have it done and are going to the local Car Shows. Man! What a ride.

One Sunday I was watching cable TV and saw an add with Franco Harris test driving a kit car on an infomercial. It was called a Cobra. I didn’t even know they existed. I talked to my buddy and found out that they were made during the mid 60’s and were the fastest car on the circuit at the time. It was a convertible with red racing stripes. I know right then I had to have one. Shortly after that I purchased a kit and one and a half years later I was proudly driving my new Toy. I still have it today and even enjoy and occasional ride even with $4.00 gallon gas.


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