Franz Kavan

I don't have a great deal on the founder of the company Franz Kavan however, below is the story as taken from the first edition of Kavan News.


For the last ten years whenever I have met modelers, they have asked me what I had done before I started to manufacture model airplane accessories. This question is asked mostly by people who already know my products, use them and appreciate their technical perfection. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you my story.

Before I started seriously to change my hobby into a business, I was occupied with manufacturing ball point pens used for advertising purposes. The produc­tion run was a few million pieces per year which enabled me, financially, to get into a hobby that really is not the least expensive one around - R/C flying. I have been fascinated by this hobby from the very beginning, and still am. I started off flying R/C gliders with a wing span of approximately 8 feet. Later this glider was powered by a 1.5-cc Cox engine and was fun to fly. It did not take me long to discover that it was not quite as easy to fly these models as I had thought.

To find out why, I traveled 20,000 miles in one year in order to visit all the R/C contests for fixed-wing models. I wanted to discuss the problems I had found with experienced flyers. Exchanging my experiences with hundreds of model flyers, I was somewhat disappointed to learn that these professionals were still fighting the same problems that I had come across as a beginner. They blamed their failures on the radios as well as the servos and the electric motors for the servos.

At that point, I decided to test and check each and every accessory for those model airplanes thoroughly. I went as far as visiting companies that manufactured the real sport planes and passenger planes. I spent a few days with each company in order to acquaint myself with their methods of calculating and manufacturing rudders and elevators, etc. I found out that the most important point to them was to manufacture those parts with as much technical perfection as was known at that time. The same safety standards that applied to the real airplanes had to be applied to models; this has been my goal ever since. After many informative discussions with the engineers of these companies, I decided to manufacture model airplane accessories of the best possible quality.

The first item for my production should have been control links. But the first tests were interrupted as the engine I used for the tests kept failing. I therefore decided to wait with the production of accessories and first develop a carburetor for the Super Tiger 60 that I used at that time. In the beginning, I would not have believed that it would take me 10 months to develop a carburetor. After a nearly endless series of tests, however, I had a carburetor that has been and still is very popular. Since then, the name, Kavan, has become well known. On the occasion of the world championship in Corsica, France, I introduced my carburetor to the model flyers from all over the world. Without a lot of advertising, simply by word of mouth, this carburetor became famous almost immediately.

This was the beginning of my business and my success, but there were some people who were not quite as thrilled about my success as I was. Manufacturers of model engines wanted to keep on selling their fairly simple carburetors. However, after several years, they accepted the need for better quality and workmanship. To this day, a few manufacturers copy my carburetor, carefully avoiding any conflict with my patent rights, but they are just not the same; they are poor copies. You cannot achieve the same quality of one product simply by copying it.

As soon as the development of my carburetor had been completed, not only to my own satisfaction, but also to the satisfaction of the many modelers who were using them, it was time again to go back to the production of model airplane accessories. During the first flight tests, I was wondering why I had to trim my model in flight, after the start. This happened not just once, but almost every time. Of course, I too, blamed the radio and the servos. Here, I was glad about the experience I had gathered while visiting the manufacturers of the real airplanes. I remembered the accuracy applied to the production of the control links and I soon found out that this was the cause of the problems the flyers had with their models. This holds true not only for the links manufactured years ago, but also for some of those on the market today. Then as well as now, manufacturers were using normal steel for their links, not spring-steel. In order to keep the shape of the link, the modeler is instructed to put a rubber band or a piece of fuel tubing around it. All this trouble is necessary so that the manufacturer can save the cost of the fairly expensive spring-steel. The fuel tubing that should hold the link in shape instead causes a squeezing or friction to the control. Consequently, as the rudder has to overcome this friction, the trimming of the model becomes more difficult and the receiver battery will also discharge a lot faster. It was hard to believe that I could fly three times as long with my model after I had solved this problem. Also, the rudder did not have to be adjusted once it had been set properly. There was no question for me as to which metal I would be using for my links. Since I started manufacturing and selling my spring-steel links, the sales of rival links have gone down considerably.

Before I release an item for sale, it has to withstand various tests. These are conducted not only at the factory, but also in actual flight. I use a unique telemetry link from airplane to ground: Engine RPM in the air is converted to a frequency sig­nal by means of a strobe disc on the back side of the spinner and a photo diode. This information is transmitted to the ground. A miniature I -oz. transmitter in the airplane and a VHF receiver on the ground do the job within a 3-mile distance. The receiver is coupled to an ultra-precise digital frequency counter. RPM read-out is exact to 1 revolution per minute!

The same thoroughness and accuracy are applied to the development and pro­duction of all my products. In case you are not yet familiar with the quality of my products, I suggest that you compare for yourself. As an example, just take the link mentioned above, a fuel tank or a glow plug and you will find that I am right. If you have not tried a Kavan starter yet, I recommend that you have a closer look. It's worth it. Again, you will find that I am not producing and selling a converted electric motor from the automobile industry, but a starter that has been specially designed for model airplanes and model helicopters. So far I have sold approximately 100,000 pieces.

I do not want to discuss each and every item at this point. You will read all that on the following pages. I just want you to know how products are developed, tested and manufactured at Kavan. This goes for item // 1 through item // 133 and also for the helicopters and spare parts.

Let me talk about my helicopters for a moment. Again, my intention was not to design and produce just any rotary wing model aircraft, but a scale model to the last detail. After a series of test flights, I succeeded in having a model helicopter that not only performs all the maneuvers the real helicopter does, but is the first aerobatic model helicopter in existence. The history of the Kavan Bell Jet Ranger is discussed in a brochure that came out on the occasion of its wind tunnel testing. Although the Jet Ranger already seemed to perform properly and had given its owner’s success at most contests and championships, this wind tunnel test appeared necessary to me. I wanted to know more about the reaction of a model when it is exposed to different wind forces, how it reacts with more or less weight, etc. The cost of the wind tunnel test was rather high, but was valuable experience gained. Not only the company, but also the model flyer will profit even more from it, and you can rest assured that in the Kavan Jet Ranger and the future Alouette 2, you have safe, fully tested models.

The already popular Alouette 2 helicopter has meanwhile gone into production at Kavan. Again, this is a true scale model of the real French helicopter. With about the same flying ability and performance, the Alouette 2 will sell for approxima­tely half the price of the Jet Ranger and therefore, will be desirable for a lot more model flyers than the Bell type. The Alouette 2 is a model that does not scare off the newcomer to model helicopter flying, but is still interesting enough and exciting for the expert.'

Whenever I meet with people, the question arises," What is new? Instead of saying "Nothing", I tell them about new projects and modifications we plan on already existing products. Of course, the danger here is that other manufacturers take advantage of my original ideas, to state the Alouette 2 as an example. They hurry to copy the idea, and nail together, a flying object to be the first coming out with a new type of model without caring too much about technical perfection. When I first have an idea, or even show the prototype of a model, it still is a long way to the final product that by my standards is good and safe enough for the modeler. My model builder, foreman, factory flyer and myself as a team test all possibilities and options there are. Kavan enthusiasts sometimes have to be a little patient, but it is worth it. The many letters from satisfied Jet Ranger owners prove my system to be right.

The large Kavan range of R/C accessories together with the helicopters has opened the door to a world market. I export to over 35 countries where exclu­sive importers and distributors are handling my products. At the beginning of 1974, 1 established a U.S. branch in Santa Ana, California. For all the model builders and flyers who care about quality, I will endeavor to improve the exist­ing products whenever possible; I will definitely keep on searching and ex­perimenting, because our hobby seems to have endless possibilities.

Do not save costs in the wrong place. An item that might be cheaper at first can cause problems and crashes that eventually cost you lots more. Besides, too many repairs take away the fun of flying or building. The use of Kavan products will lead to the success that I wish for each of you.