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Written by James Gamble   
Saturday, 01 November 2008 13:45

Vertigo II - A Blast from the Past

By James Gamble

Aeromodelling is one of those interests that seem to be passed from father to son.

It’s more than just an interest, it’s an engineering skill.

From an early age of around five years old I always remember standing next to my dad learning the craft of ‘don’t do this and don’t do that’.Remember those nights where the room was filled with the smell of clear dope and balsa cement and the window was wide open and control line ruled!The days of two-strokes, where noise didn’t matter, the smell of ether made you want to fly more and you sat watching the telly peeling dried balsa cement off your fingers.

Looking back over the years from when my grandfather showed me some Bonner Duramite servos to the present day, there is one model that has always been at the back of my mind – Vertigo II, which has hung in the garage since I was young and collected layer after layer of dust.This is the model I never had the ability or nerve to fly – until now.

Not to be confused with some American models of similar name, Vertigo II resulted from a series of successful low-wing aerobatic r/c models designed by Frank van den Bergh between the late fifties and mid sixties.

After placing 3rd at the 1959 British Nationals at RAF Scamptom, with his yellow ‘Sky Duster’ and with other more significant successes behind him, Frank went on to produce the more functional looking ‘Sky Dancer’ with simple clean lines, tricycle u/c, an un-silenced Merco .49 and his reliable ‘Orbit 10 superhet’ radio.Frank flew Sky Dancer to 1st place at each subsequent year’s British Nationals up to 1964 and took 4th place at the 1962 World Champs at RAF Kenley and 7th place at the 1963 World Champs in Belgium – Quite a consistent and sustained performance at a time when ten and twelve channel tone-reed superhets were the ‘state of the art’ and the development of multi-channel fully proportional control was only just beginning to emerge.

Vertigo II appeared in 1967, with strip ailerons, counter-balanced rudder, a 55in span x 10in chord with 15 per cent thick symmetrical airfoil and even simpler lines and construction than it’s predecessors. Vertigo was not aimed at competition flying within the narrow confines of the F.A.I schedule but having more compact dimensions and powered by a Merco .60 two-stroke with a modified Johnson carburettor, it ‘emulated the jets’ but ‘bucked the trend’ towards larger and slower flying models in competition aerobatics.

Vertigo placed second at the 1966 Nationals, flying most of the schedule at half throttle and won the aerobatic event at the Bath festival.An article and plan were published in the January ’67 edition of Radio Modeller and deservedly, it quickly became a popular club-flyer’s model during the late sixties and early seventies.

I’m sure that with most plan builds they start of as quick jobs, but turn out to be wonderful models, and this was the case with my dad’s Vertigo.Today’s modellers use films & transfers to create designs on their aircraft, but a few decades earlier, masking tape, patience and aerosol cans were the norm – a time consuming & tedious process!

As I am told, it flew once and my father’s after comments were ‘thank god is back on the ground’, or something very similar!

So with the dust blown and cleaned from the wing and fuselage, plus some modifications to accept a Saito 72 along with modern servos & radio, the game was afoot.

Many modern modellers buy ARTF kits, glue them together and fly, shortly followed by a crash, buy another, glue it together once more and have another go. I know this because I do it!

Older modellers first study, then study some more, and curse a lot, but don’t laugh too quickly, because these are the smart individuals who provide us with the classic proven designs that work!

ARTF aircraft seem to dominate most flying sites, but I take my hat off to the gents who have the dedication, knowledge and skill to produce wonderfully crafted models without the aid of machine.

How does it compare to present day aerobatic models?

Having flown fast and very aerobatic aircraft I must say that it fares very well. Low passes, inverted all day and unlimited vertical, fast and slow rolls - although fast is slower than today’s fast. Even spins and knife edge it just seems to do with ease.

Though I’m really attached to this model, emotions aside, the way it performs seems to close the gap between the 70’s and the present day.

My father’s Vertigo II pictured below shows me at the age of four (on the left!) and today at thirty-four, and the latest picture is with my nephew Joseph aged three.

The livery was copied from Wolfgang Matt’s Atlas of the 1975 Liechtenstein team and looks wonderful against a blue sky.I can’t bring back the past and enjoy it as my dad did, but I can fly it, and when I do, the memory of a nervous day and a proud moment now, crosses my dad’s face. Just to finish, here are some of his pictures from the earlier days!


Check out the video on it's way soon, hope you enjoy.

James Gamble