phil alvirez's blog View Details
Posted by phil alvirez | Sep 12, 2013 @ 04:44 PM | 5,427 Views
finished the 2nd version of Thermalis, as i lost the 1st in the fog. changes include a more powerful motor, servos in the fin, and a little bit more tip dihedral. 30 grams heavier due to the new motor (see details of the Mk 1 on page 2 of this blog)
this time i covered the whole wing in red, instead of yellow tips of the 1st 1, to improve visibility, and covered the fuselage and stab white, and the rudder/fin black. canopy held in place with velcro, and some maple leaves in dayglo trim. they really glow at distance!
Thermalis is an idea of an electric sailplane for soaring in calm to moderate wind. it has 80" wingspan and 10" chord almost to the tip, and 764 sq in; now weighs 956 grams (33.5 oz) with a 3x1400 mah pack.
the concept: a simple sailplane for rudder and elevator-no ailerons, for relaxed flying and getting into thermals (hence the name), in moderate wind conditions. the wing is 1 piece polyhedral and the fuselage is box type, 1/8" solid balsa, like the horizontal tail and rudder. another feature that i added was the t tail, that improves the stability and makes the response more precise, as the stab is clear from the wing's wake.
am happy with the way the plane flies. very stable, and needs very little throttle. as a consequence the pack lasts longer. somehow flies different-but better. i believe that planes have personality, and when building the same, no matter how accurately you build it, each 1 behaves different.
oct 12, 2013: today i got back the mk 1 and am in the process of restoring it.
oct 21: ready and waiting for a window in the weather to try it.
Posted by phil alvirez | Sep 07, 2013 @ 05:44 AM | 4,568 Views
the idea is to see things as if i were in the plane; a pilot's view. not a film made with a camera to watch later.
and not to fly beyond eyesight. there are specialized forums for that, but it's is not my goal.
i did research and found the predator system from fat shark the most convenient. it has enough image quality and is complete. the only addition i made was the circular antenna set, as they are less prone to signal loss.
so far i have flown a plane with the predator: it's an exhilarating experience. mind boggling. you have to try it to fully understand the feeling, and once you do, you are hooked.
i have flown r/c for years, but you are watching the plane from a distance, and even if it is a great sensation, nothing compares to 'being there'.
from my brief experience i learned that:
1.-you need a spotter. always. that means, some1 near you to tell you if your plane is drifting too far, and/or where is it;
2.- google and print a plan of the area where you are going to fly;
3.-get the extra antenna.
i did none of the above and lost my plane. what happened was that i placed the transmitter antenna inside the fuselage along with it, so i got signal and then lost it-on and on-and i got disoriented.
as i did not have any1 to tell me where the plane was-or was heading-i had no idea where to steer it, and also no idea where i was.
with the stock antenna inside and along the fuselage, the things inside blocked the signal when i was turning.
if i had it outside and pointing upwards it could be way better, and even more with the circular antenna.
with a spotter i could bring back the plane. and if i had the map of the area i could find out where i was.
i did search the forums and asked questions about for instance where to place the components, but did not get any help.
but you now have my view and experience to save the aggravation. i hope this helps.
and welcome to the most fantastic experience!
Posted by phil alvirez | Aug 18, 2013 @ 06:29 AM | 4,849 Views
i would like to fly my plane and experience the same sensation as if i were in the pilot's position; to see the same that we see in those videos filmed with a camera, but with me piloting the plane.
some have started threads on long distance piloting, the so-called first person view (FPV), but that's a completely different idea, and also requires other kind of equipment, and most of it has to be made or adapted by the user.
it all started when hobby king sent me a notice of a product that they were releasing, so i went into the threads on fpv, but realized that i wanted a completely different thing. after some research i decided for a ready-to-use product (that was also way less expensive) that is easy to add to the regular gear, and start experiencing that sensation of flying the plane inside of it, not watching it from a distance. the idea is to fly within eyesight, not beyond that. i will install it in a kind of trainer plane and will keep bringing comments as it goes. as soon as i get the package i will bring comments. in the meantime am preparing my plane for that. stay adding details at the end of this post.
>>>the plane i choose was my 60" Elf, an all-balsa and tissue (litespan, really) high winger with undercamber airfoil (i will post pics) that is just an enlarged version of my 48" Elf that you can see somewhere in page 1 of this blog. it was electric when i 1st built it back in the 80's, and is in perfect shape despite so many...Continue Reading
Posted by phil alvirez | Aug 03, 2013 @ 03:55 PM | 4,687 Views
today went flying at dawn. did 6 flights until the sun raised. there was fog at ground level, up to 15 ft (5 meters), and above was clear and no wind.
all went well. until...on my 7th flight i climbed and cut motor and started to glide. then moskitos (yes, with k) decided to swarm on me and i got distracted for about 10 seconds. but when i tried to see my plane it was gone. fog had raised at the moment the sun raised too, and there was all around. so fast as i never have seen.
looked around but it was fog all over. put the plane in a spin, in hope that it would show, but at no avail. it should be nearby, but could not find it.
and 5 minutes later, the sky was clear again. not a single cloud or fog around. nice.
o well, i had plans to build a 2nd version of that plane anyway.
the only thing that occurs to me to avoid this is never take your eyes from your plane.
even if moskitos are diving on you en mass.
but it's hard to avoid them and keep controlling your plane...
by the way, as i was checking the readings on my telemetry (quanum) and noticed they were getting close to the limit, i was thinking that this would be the last flight.
i think the gremlins were listening to my thoughts...
i said somewhere in my blog that if you say that it is going to be your last flight, it will be. i should remember that.
april 5, 2014-an update: 2 months later, a tractor pulled in the field and the guy handled to me the plane. he said that just found it. it was all well weatherized-if you...Continue Reading
Posted by phil alvirez | Jul 29, 2013 @ 03:21 PM | 5,357 Views
have you noticed how even the experts , that can do anything, look weary when landing?
up there, they look confident, but when approaching mother earth, their knees shake and seem so worried. it is the proximity to the ground that makes things more dangerous, as up there in the wide sky you have lots of space to compensate for mistakes. it is indeed the most dangerous moment of the flight. considering that, i decided that it was the thing that i had to practice more. does it make sense? as am now into electrics, it makes easy to launch (or take-off) and land frequently, so i have been doing short flights, with about 30 seconds climb to cruise, then stop the motor, turn and land. dead stick every time. it takes about 1 minute for the whole flight, so with 1 charge am able to do 30 flights-and landings-in 30 minutes. it took me some years to reach 6,000 landings-after that i stopped counting-and that included many catches, too. now that am flying 2 meters sailplanes, and can fly with some wind, things are paying off. most of my landings are smooth and close to me. the only rule i have is that it is better to have a nice landing far away, than a crash nearby. once when i went to the nats at los alamitos nas, i had the chance to watch the guys practicing touch and go's with hellcats and avengers. so many landings in so little time! they gave me the idea. of course, you can do that: instead of landing, just when your plane touches the ground, crack the throttle and away you go! once you get used to it, you develop reflexes and things begin to look easy. you become the plane. it's like learning to walk. you don't need to think how to give each step, right? as some1 said: practice makes perfection. then landing becomes a pleasure, instead of a torture. enjoy!
Posted by phil alvirez | Jul 27, 2013 @ 05:30 AM | 5,358 Views
guys, i have to share this with you:
on thursday afternoon the sky was clear and seemed to be no wind, so got my stock radian (a 2 mt e-sailplane) and ran to the field. there were no clouds, but it was windy. anyway, i launched the radian and realized that up there not only the wind was not as strong, but there was no turbulence at all! and then, in clear air, i got into a thermal! 3 flights and the same. wonderful experience.
next day early in the morning the weather channels showed no wind, so i took 2 of my sailplanes and back to the field. arrived at dawn. this time it was zero wind, and again, no turbulence. all went well. long, wonderful flights, with smooth landings nearby. no thermals from 6 to 8 am, but still the flights were as in a dream.
memories that i will treasure forever!
Posted by phil alvirez | Jul 17, 2013 @ 09:24 AM | 4,740 Views
today i went flying at dawn, as usual, and everything went fine. but i had an unusual experience: on my way out of the field, at the gravel road, i noticed a brown hawk standing on my way. i could see its profile, like in a picture. it didn't move when i approached it, so i stopped. after a minute i started rolling very slowly, but it didn't move. it was until i was at about 10 feet that it decided to fly, but just for about some 15 feet, and that, on the road again. then, when noticed that i still was rolling in the same direction, after a while, decided to fly in another direction and land not too far. i was never so close to a hawk, so i had the chance to watch and admire it. magnificent creatures! it didn't seem hurt or tired. just landed wherever and was not intimidated by the presence of the car.
and i have witnessed this attitude of wildlife here in canada, be in the wilderness or in town, and never cease to impress me. geese, swans, mallard, gulls, whatever: they are not afraid of us. they make the impression that they own the land and know that we are not going to hurt them.
i have many anecdotes related to this attitude that i will start bringing here for whoever wants to read them.
and please feel free to bring yours too.
Posted by phil alvirez | Jul 05, 2013 @ 12:57 PM | 4,548 Views
for those old enough to remember the movie, these words may bring good memories.
this morning i woke up at 6 and look at the window, and seemed as if there was no wind! checked at the weather channels and showed the same, so got my things and rushed to the field. brought with me the radian, a 2 mt electric sailplane foamie that is the fastest gun in the west-i mean, to be in the air in no time. plugged in the quanum, that gives me battery charge available at the plane, and throwed it into the air.
there was some drizzle that kept increasing until my transmitter was collecting too much water, so i had to quit after some 6 or 7 flights that brought the plane to the low gray clouds that were all over.
but it was a pleasant window in the weather that allowed me to enjoy flying.
as the weather has been deteriorating (and still some think that there is no such a thing), the chances to fly are getting less and less every year, so i try to be alert and catch any opportunity to have at least a few flights.
i fly alone (at dawn there are no fellows as enthusiast as me-some say it's madness), and at a field that is isolated, so no 1 sees me (except the birds), but i was having so much fun, that i was laughing at clouds, really.
singing in the rain indeed.
Posted by phil alvirez | Jun 28, 2013 @ 09:19 AM | 4,910 Views
how do you answer to that question, especially if you are back from the field, and not everything went right?
usually, you answer: 'fine, thank you. and you?' (the normal exchange of lies). or 'not too bad'.

now, if you are not feeling so good, or something is wrong, and you don't want to lie, or start talking about your misery-that nobody wants to hear-why not give a better answer?
for instance:
#1.-if things are not so bad, you can say: 'am doing the best i can'. this way you are not lying, but don't want to talk about it, and have a positive attitude.
#2.-if you look 'under the weather', or things have gone bad, then: 'i have seen better days'.
(i got these 2 from movies, and use them all the time).

and above all, smile. most of the time it could be worse.
Posted by phil alvirez | Jun 23, 2013 @ 03:43 PM | 4,876 Views
for those who, like me, have the choice to fly alone or with others, it has its great advantages.
1st of all, there is less stress. no worries about collisions. you don't have to keep an eye on others, or to have a spotter (some1 near you watching for others flights-that is, if there is some1 available). no need to ask for favors-and then to watch for others.
that's a great feeling of freedom, too.
besides, you don't have to push yourself to do all just right, or not make mistakes, as some1 is watching. you know, when you are alone, as you are relaxed, most likely all goes fine, but if there is some1 you feel watched and is more likely that you will do something wrong.
also, in my case, i fly alone because i fly at dawn, and no 1 is an early bird.
all my life i had that thing of waking at 4 and watching the light begin to show all the colors of dawn and sunrise. then at the field we have the chance to fly electrics early, as they don't make noise-or almost-and as there is a farm nearby, there is a deal with the farmer not to awake them with the noise of engines.
and that's another reason why i got into electrics, too.
and you don't have to face some1 telling you what to do with your plane, too.
but then again, you can't get advice when you need it, or if you forget something.
but at the end of the day, i trade this for peace of mind.
and the fields around are so nice, all green and beautiful, so quiet...occasionally a car passes by the nearby road, that's all.
there is some wildlife, like geese, gulls, hawks, buzzards, swallows, all kinds of birds,and now and then a deer. but they don't bother you.
well, except that recently some birds chase my sailplanes when landing, as they have nests to guard.
and, as i have been a loner all my life,i enjoy my freedom.
Saint Bernadette said: 'solitude is the happiest privilege'.
Posted by phil alvirez | Jun 20, 2013 @ 06:56 PM | 5,641 Views
i was introduced to telemetry with the quanum from hobby king. as basically i need to know the voltage of the battery in the airplane, it fulfills my requirements.
then i became curious about getting altitude changes to detect thermals, and learned that frsky has some products (variometers) that could get me this, so i ordered some components.
so far, i have been getting great advice from some experts, but am terribly disappointed, as it has been a painful experience, as the data available from the manufacturer lacks many vital information and details to get the results i need. i was not prepared to face the fact that the user has to be an expert in computers and specifically the products of frsky. i think that at the beginning of the thread (and in the manuals of the products) should be mentioned that you have to have something like a masters degree in comps and frsky telemetry to get into this.
i was used to get manuals that, even if not complete in all details, the user can get the plane to the air.
perhaps as i grew up in the environment of full size aviation, and learned to fly an airplane before driving a car, i got used to follow exactly the log in all details, and understand everything in it and check twice all, and later worked at the engineering department of a major airline where i had, among other duties, the responsibility of the service manuals, where everything has to be written precisely and exactly, that i got used to exact instructions.
i am not...Continue Reading
Posted by phil alvirez | Jun 20, 2013 @ 12:10 PM | 4,894 Views
i have been using the quanum systematically (2 sets) to keep track of the charge available in the airplane in several of my sailplanes, and these are the conclusions i have reached:
1 of them ran uneventfully for some time. no problems. after initial binding, every time just plugged the tx in the plane's charging plug of the pack (no pushing the bind button), then turned the screen on and away she went. i got readings of all the cells, and the alarms went off as scheduled.
but lately i need to press and hold the bind button on the rx before i plug it to the pack, and also to press both buttons of the screen at start, otherwise does not connect to the tx. otherwise all is ok.
with the 2nd 1 i began to get warnings of 'no signal' and the screen went blank for several seconds, then the figures reappeared. i was using the small antenna, and replaced it with the stock, keep the cell fully charged, and this has not happened so far. with this set i have to bind it every time i use it, just as i detailed in the previous paragraph. i don't know if this is happening only to my 2 sets, or also to some other modelers. i would like to hear from any1 who purchased 1 and is using it how is he doing.
in my opinion, it is a remarkable system, that provides a safeguard against packs going too low and then crashing or loosing the model, for a reasonable price and ease of operation-even with the drawbacks mentioned before. installing and using it requires no previous knowledge and the...Continue Reading
Posted by phil alvirez | Jun 02, 2013 @ 05:42 AM | 4,901 Views
i am of germanic descend, from the germanic tribes that settled at the northwest of spain-therefore my appearance and name.
in mexico i married a woman of spanish/mexican descend and raised a family.
we migrated to canada with our children.
our daughter married a guy from chile and raised a family.
our youngest son married an italian girl and adopted a chinese girl.

a typical north american family.
Posted by phil alvirez | Jun 01, 2013 @ 03:17 PM | 4,834 Views
ok guys, from all that i read here, 2 cells are better for the 9xr, as there is less heath to dissipate, and as i have some 2x1000's and some parts, i decided to give it a try. these are the details:
i happened to have some connectors (the white plastic pieces) for 2 and 3 cells connectors that match the 1s at the 9xr, so i removed the 3 pins from the 2 cells battery and plugged them in the receptacle of a 3 cells connector, so now it fits into the radio. the black wire goes to the bottom, the blue to the 2nd, the 3rd is blank, and the 4th takes the red. that's the way i understand it should go. i don't remember where i got the parts, but there is an option: removing the pins from a 3 cells battery and using the receptacle to plug in the 3 pins from the 2 cells.
it may be other ways to do this, but this was the easiest for me.
i hope we hear comments from those who have done this.
still, you have to use a large capacity pack to stay charged long enough.
i tried a 1000 but does not last very long before the alarm goes off.
Posted by phil alvirez | May 27, 2013 @ 08:26 AM | 6,593 Views
although my experience has been only using the basic readings of volts, and this with quanum, i think that it could be of some use for some.
1st of all, what is the good thing of quanum? well, it is independent from your radio, so you can use with any radio. no electronic link, no programmimg the radio. the only connection it has is with the pack that goes into the plane, as it takes power from it, from the other end that is used for charging.
so, what is it? the 16 grams basic unit (that goes into the plane) is a transmitter with a built-in voltmeter. that's it. (you may add an amps/temperature probe too). what it does it senses the volts on your pack and sends readings of all and every cell it to the receiver (screen), that can be mounted on your radio (transmitter) or on your wrist, like a watch. there you see what's going on in your plane. it helps to avoid draining your pack below limits so you don't reduce the pack's life or, more important, to run out of power while in flight.
this is the product:
1.-once you get it, unwrap it from its nice package that has instructions for binding-but no more, and charge the screen (receiver) by plugging the usb cable to your computer, or with the adapter to your cigarette lighter in your car. it will show full charge at the icon on the lower left corner, that is like the 1 on your cellular.
2.- now remove that sticker from the screen. at least,...Continue Reading
Posted by phil alvirez | May 07, 2013 @ 04:32 PM | 8,249 Views
akropolitan (from greek=inhabitant of the heights) is a hybrid that uses the fuse/tail/avionics of a fox 2.35 meters ws: and a wing that i designed for thermaling, so it has the looks that i like, and flies more to my liking.
i enlarged the wing to 100" with undercambered, thin airfoil, 10" chord, 960 sqin; 2 pieces wing with gull dihedral to lower the center of gravity, and raised tips. 1/8x1/4 over/under spruce main spars with 1/64 webs, and 2 sets of 1/8 sq over/under spruce spars. 1/16 v trailing edge, 1/8 cf tubing leading edge. 1/4" dural join bar plugged in cf tubings. covering is hangar9 HANU950 transparent red, and solarfilm SLF125 tr yellow tips. auw is 1100 gr (about 39 oz) with a 3x1300 pack. i also enlarged the tail by adding 1" to the chord of the elevator and rudder. balance is at 33%, and the pack sits at the back of the canopy. after further tests i added 1" more to the rudder, as it was sluggish. i added quanum telemetry (16 gr). elevator is very sensitive anyway. although not intended for it, recently i flew it in extremely windy and gusty weather. it handles it well but there is wing flutter when climbing on full power. but on calm to moderate wind it is ok.
Posted by phil alvirez | Apr 22, 2013 @ 05:29 AM | 10,253 Views
i have been flying my planes for many years, but it has been in warm weather...until now.
in those years, i got into thermals regularly, and grew under the impression that it had to be warm weather in order to climb with the help of hot air (the so called 'thermals'). but recently i have been flying near freezing, and have witnessed my planes climbing and staying up there for a long time. some say that is the differential temperature that makes air go up. that is, if there is air at, let's say, -20c, and surrounding air is -10c, that mass of air will go up. so if in freezing air, and then we encounter not-so-freezing air, that makes planes go (or stay-up) there, why call them 'thermals'? shouldn't be more correct to call them something like 'rising air'? or 'risers'?
the original word comes from greek: therme=heat. see:
i found this in etymologies:
from Greek therme "heat," from PIE *ghwerm-/*ghworm- "warm" (cf. Latin fornax "an oven, kiln," formus "warm," Old English wearm; see warm). Sense of "having to do with heat" is first recorded 1837. The noun meaning "rising current of relatively warm air" is recorded from 1933.

and the last 1 brings the key word (relative), as i mentioned when i said that it is the differential temperature. 'relatively warm air' means that what matters is that some mass of air is warmer than the surroundings.
there is some interesting data about their shape here: http://www....Continue Reading
Posted by phil alvirez | Apr 12, 2013 @ 02:50 PM | 4,826 Views
at the beginning, sailplanes flew from slopes, like at elmira, new york, where an upward draft kept them airborne. no need to go anywhere, just stay into the upward wind. like the planes at slopes do, so a shorter wing was better for smaller diameter turns.
then they began to get into thermals, and as they gained altitude could go somewhere else and get into another thermal. so distance was the goal, and then wings began to get longer and thinner-the trend that we see today. but models that copy the shape of full size narrow wings find themselves into trouble, as they tip stall easily. the problem is due to the air density, that makes the smaller wings less efficient the smaller they get (that Reynolds number thing).
and if we look at birds, sure those that stay around, like buzzards, haws, and eagles, have short wings, and those who go places, like albatross, have long, narrow wings. and the chord of all is almost the same all through the wing. no taper nothing. just the tips. so they may know better, after millions of years of evolution. and they use turbulators too. just think about it.
Posted by phil alvirez | Mar 30, 2013 @ 05:49 PM | 5,395 Views
radios with nicads or similar.
i came back in 2006, just at the time when 2.4 was released. i got a DX6 and soon realized that the battery in the tx (8 nicad cells) didn't last long. then some1 released a 3 cells lipo for txs and have used it for 6 years, and since i have had no problems-with that radio.
last year i got 1 DX6i, that comes with 4 nicads, and used it with them. last season began to experience power failures. i had several planes crashing. i began exchanging rxs, then escs, replaced connectors for larger, also larger packs. nothing helped. then began to suspect the towers nearby were the cause. or the windmills that were installed not far away (they operate with microwaves). then 1 day when i landed, walked to my plane and at the moment i was going to switch the tx off i noticed that the screen was blank-and the switch still was on. i thought that my tx was history.
but at home i decided to check, starting with the easiest thing. and when pressing the cells i noticed that the screen came back to life: it was a false contact! i decided to install a 2 cells lipo (the largest that fits is the 2x610-and i had it), so i did the mod similar to the way of the orange tx . (see last picture on the right). melted a rectangular hole and fitted a male connector, and adapted the pack to match. as i have a lipo charger that charges and balances at the same time, and am familiar with lipos, i didn't have to get anything else. now the radio operates flawlessly. i strongly recommend to do this to all radios that use batteries of single cells, as are prone to have false contacts unexpectedly, as happened to me.
Posted by phil alvirez | Mar 30, 2013 @ 12:20 PM | 7,315 Views
(see conclusions at the end)
Lynx was developed to find out if a sailplane with 1.5 meters wingspan and same weight and wing area than a 2 meters (like the Rex) can get into smaller diameter thermals.
the 460 sq in wing that sits on top of the fuselage and is held in place with 1 nylon bolt, has an undercambered airfoil with 8" constant chord and tips tapered to 5", 4 polyhedral panels. over/under 1/8x1/4 spruce spars with 1/64 ply webs, 1/16 'v' shaped trailing edge, 1/8 carbon fiber tubing leading edge and 3-1/16x1/8 spruce turbulators. covering is ultracote transparent orange; the auw is 510 grams with a 2x1000 pack.
the fuselage is made from the foam remainders of the 1st fuselage from the Thermal Rex, that was replaced with a spare that i was lucky to get when i got the asw28.
the nose section was badly damaged, but from the wing trailing edge aft was in good shape, so i adapted a balsa and ply front section that runs from the trailing edge of the wing to the nose, using a foam insert between the trailing edge and leading edge so that section is solid foam. the sides and bottom are 1/8 balsa with 1/64 plywood, and i added a plastic canopy from sig mfg. motor/prop/spinner/esc/pack are the same as the Rex. when checking the elevator pushrod i learned that there was too much drag, due to the 's' shape trajectory, so i replaced it with a servo near the top of the fin. now i get a smooth, precise response.
i still have to have good weather to compare both, but from the preliminary short tests they are stable and perform well. it is going to be an interesting evaluation in thermals.

conclusions. fall, 2015
it was until now that i was able to fully evaluate this plane and compare with the way more popular 2 meters class.
and now i understand why: although it flies fine, the performance of the 2 meters is so much better that this size is hard to justify-unless you have space limitations.