The Early Days…
Inspired by the early Galloping Ghost transmitters that used only one control stick to move both the rudder and elevator, the term singlestick came to apply to those transmitters having only one primary control stick.
During the early days of analog and digital proportional radio manufacture, both single stick and two stick transmitters were readily available. It was said that the earlier (read that ‘older’) fliers preferred the single stick set-up because of it’s similarity to the earlier, often ‘home-made’ transmitter configurations, and that the two stick set-up was preferred by the ‘newer’ fliers who probably never flew the earlier set-ups, but who had come in by flying the earlier ‘reed’ radios.
Having begun my flying in the summer of 1960 with a single-channel Babcock set-up using an escapement, I soon realized the shortcomings of such a sequential control system, and began studying the monthly model magazines, looking for ways to improve my flying.
Much was being written in those days, of various types of systems that would rapidly pulse the control surfaces. Names like “Pulse Rudder”, “Galloping Ghost”, “Simple Simul”, and “Kickin’ Duck” were the latest systems to hit the scene. All were able to use just one ‘channel’ of information, since that’s all we had at the time, as the basic RF, or radio link. Using this one channel of information, and devising many ingenuous ways of pulsing the signal on and off, flyers of the time were able to get pretty decent ‘proportional control’ from their radio systems.
We have to keep in mind that most of these early radio systems were hand-made by the modeler, since radio control was in it’s infancy, and there was no mass-market for these early systems.
After flying my single channel escapement system successfully for two years, I finally began buying, and building, a number of the then popular “pulse” systems. I had a mechanical Galloping Ghost Pulser from ACE R/C, a German rudder-only pulser (which I hooked up to pulse one tone from my Controlaire 10 Channel reed transmitter), and my favorite……an ACE Pulse Commander set, complete with the very reliable, Adams Actuator.
Feedback Proportional Radio System
In 1965, I bought my first Feedback Proportional Radio System…….a Min-X Pulsemite III. This too, used a single stick arrangement for rudder and elevator, with a slide lever for the third, or throttle, channel. My closest friend, and life time flying buddy, Ron Ewing got himself an ORBIT 3+1 System about the same time, and it had a new feel to it…..you cradled the transmitter in your left hand, where a finger from your left hand just naturally fell on the third channel slider, while the main two-axis stick gave you the customary rudder and elevator control. I immediately ‘fell in love’ with this layout, and modified my MIN-X transmitter to follow the ORBIT’s layout. Flying now took on a whole new, relaxed atmosphere, since the radios themselves actually worked very well, and, since I had become accustomed to the idea of cradling the transmitter in my left hand, and flying the two-axis stick, “just-like-a-real-airplane”, we got pretty good at this thing called Radio Control Flying.
Then, when ORBIT went digital (there was actually some discussion in those days as to the future of analog vs. digital radio systems), I acquired a six-channel, digital system called the ‘ORBIT 6-12 IC’, since it was a whopping full six channel set that used ICs (Integrated Circuits), as well as discrete components. Again, you flew it by cradling it in your left hand, where a finger from the left hand fell naturally on the throttle lever, and another finger could easily ‘roll in’ whatever rudder or elevator trim you needed, without ever taking your right hand off the primary control stick.
Question as to how to add ailerons to such a set-up became pretty easy, as the manufacturers simply added a knob on top of the primary control stick, and made THAT knob the rudder function, and changed the side-to-side movement that used to be rudder, to the aileron function. Heck, we learned the new stick set-up pretty fast, since we had been flying “Single Stick” for so long now, it seemed pretty easy to just adapt a little.
But, as the Sport of Flying R/C grew, Big Business and the profit margins began to have an effect on how the Manufacturers changed how they promoted their hardware.
Single Stick transmitters were, admittedly, more complex to build, and, thusly more expensive to buy. And radio manufacturers, like anyone else in business, wanted to make as much money as they could, and so, we saw them all heavily promote the “Other” transmitter style…….the (more commonplace today) two-stick configuration.
However, many of us, who had begun flying in the earlier years simply didn’t want to make the change, so we stood by our preference for using the Single-Stick layout.
No one is producing a true, Single-Stick Transmitter……period.
Those of us lucky enough to have seen this coming gobbled up the last remaining Single Stick Transmitters, as we saw them fading into oblivion. And so today, myself, like many other single stick advocates, have a ‘Collection’ on their workshop shelves, of Single Stick Transmitters, some of which date back to the late 60s and very early 70s. Most of them were either on 27 mhz (and so, are still legal today), or, were able to be converted to the narrow band requirements which became binding on radio manufacturers over 20 years ago.
As for the future of the Single Stick Transmitter, no one really knows for sure. I talk to representatives from many of the major Radio Control Brands every year at the Toledo Conference, and all of them say there is no market for them……….and to that I simply invite all of them to go out and buy a used system (check eBay……..), install it in a trainer, take it to any reasonable sized R/C Club Field, and put the transmitter in the Impound Area. I guarantee that more than one person at that field has never seen a single stick layout before, and, when they do, and you show them how neat the transmitter nestles in your left arm, while your right hand easily controls the main three axis, they’ll all say, “that’s neat…..where can I get one…..?”
I rest my case……..I know that’ll happen, ‘cause it happens all the time when I impound any of my KRAFT, PRO LINE, ACE, MIN-X or, yes, AIRTRONICS transmitters……and I have to respond with………“Sorry, you can’t get ’em anymore……”
I love my Single Sticks……it’s the only way to fly……….
See ya at the field……..where you can pick me out of the crowd, ‘cause I’ll be flying one of those old, ‘Single Stick’ transmitters….
Duie Matenkosky AKA “Singlestic”