Posted by bob57hdt |
Aug 10, 2013 @ 01:09 AM | 1,450 Views
The beginning of the end
Katie and I loved the model airplane hobby and had dedicated ourselves to it for about twenty five years. We had survived economic recessions that devastated hobby sales. During the down turn in the countries economy, the first thing that goes is the recreational items. Keeping the family fed, the house and car paid for naturally come first and if there are additional funds, and then you think about your hobby.
We had survived three business situations that were financially crippling and caused us to find another way to stay in this business we loved so much. We were surviving, but we began to doubt ourselves and our future in this business.
We had become the sole hobby shop in Lake Havasu and we were surviving because of the mail order business of Major Hobby. The sales of Hitec and our proprietary products was our main source of income. In order to be competitive with all the other stuff, we had to sell it at near zero profit. It always amazed us how customers would come in, look at a product and then order it from another mail order company whose price was the same. It was not that they did not like us but they did not want to pay the sales tax, even though they could take it home today. Instead, they would pay shipping and wait a week. We never could get use to this. Don’t get me wrong, many customers, mostly those who would come to Lake Havasu for the winters, would come into the shop and be grateful to have a hobby shop with great...Continue Reading
Posted by bob57hdt |
Aug 01, 2013 @ 10:26 PM | 1,921 Views
Trying to Survive
I felt really good about being in control of our production. We had achieved a manufacturing facility that was capable of producing a large volume of kits at a very high level of quality. We had our new oven operating very well with high quality Dura-lene fuselages. We had done everything possible to survive in this very competitive business from a manufacturing standpoint.
It is not enough to produce a good product, nor one that was of high quality, it also had to be competitive in price. Even then, you had to have a distribution network that could stock, promote and sell the volume you could produce.
Let us discuss price first. By processing nearly all of the contents of the kit in house, you would be manufacturing them at the lowest possible price. Our costs were a little higher because we rejected more parts because of flaws or stress cracks in the wood or other irregularities than most other companies.
The industry as it was in the 70’s consisted of a distributor, dealer network. In this world, a manufacturer would advertise his products in wholesale and retail magazines to get dealers and distributors to buy and stock your products. This was difficult for small or unknown manufacturers as the dealers and distributors wanted to see consumers asking for the product at a dealer before they would risk investing their money. This is a catch 22. Most small manufacturers began selling in person directly to individuals or to hobby stores....Continue Reading
We owned a home in California that we needed to sell. We had taken out a 2nd mortgage as part of the down payment to buy HOB but when it sells, we will again have some cash to operate on. At the moment, we were trying to move our home and business to another state and we were pretty much broke. Thank goodness we still had good credit and so we borrowed some money to tide us over.
When you have a lot of equipment, long kitting tables, and parts shelves, storage for boxes, plans etc. it takes a lot of room. We found a 2,500 sq. ft. building that was very reasonable and it had a loading dock. We were able to back our trailer up to it and using a pallet jack, we were able to start unloading and setting up our business.
I mentioned before that I purchase the equipment from Gene Walach to process the shaped parts for the Dura-lene kits. I no longer had the equipment to process our sheets, sticks and triangle balsa so I would have to buy them from someone. I knew the cost would be higher but what could I do.
Our newly released Talon, and the Bobcat and Pussycat were selling very well as were the .20 size ET and ET-40 power trainers and we were going through a lot of balsa and lite ply. Balsa wood is a very unique wood in that it has the highest variation in density (soft to hard) of any wood and the grain is very important to where it is used in the kit. These variables make it difficult to order and if you request selected grains, it runs the cost up....Continue Reading
Product loyalty is important to any business. If you are a consumer of any product, from cars to tools to laundry detergent, if you buy a product for whatever reason and you are happy with it, you will most likely buy that product again and if you need something else that that brand offers, chances are you will try that brand again.
Bob Martin RC Models made only slope aircraft that were intermediate to advance. Not the models that most people would choose as their first airplane or the dealer would recommend. The skill level and cost are both deterrents. We had to wait for a modeler to buy someone else’s entry level model and then ask them to abandon that brand for our brand. It would make more sense to have our own entry level product but entry level products were priced below our ability to produce them.
Around 1981 I got word that House of Balsa was for sale. This company had several things that interested me. First they processed their own balsa from logs, a huge savings as I will touch on later. Second they had a line of products that made this appear to be a self financing purchase. Against the advice of Katie and a partner that helped me buy the Hobie Hawk tooling, I convinced them to let me buy HOB. Their books were at the accountant for tax reason, so I did not see any real proof of the profits they told me about. They owned a T-6 airplane, drove a Cadillac, and had a nice home so why should I not believe them. I am old fashion and believe in a person’s word...Continue Reading
Posted by bob57hdt |
Jul 05, 2013 @ 02:20 AM | 1,507 Views
Four reasons to go to Dura-lene….First durability, second every fuselage is identical, third volume of product and once the molds are amortized, the cost is much lower.
Reason number one is obvious and the second is also but the third and fourth reasons required some soul searching. We had put a number of 1,000 kits as being the determining factor for glass or Dura-lene. We figured that our costs would be approximately $12,000.00 for a mold for Dura-lene. Early aluminum molds were cheaper but rework and maintenance brought up the costs. Later nickel molds would cost that and maybe a little more but had very little maintenance and even today, a good buffing job and they would be ready again.
Once we got the Dura-lene going with the Coyote, I designed a fuselage, very similar to the Wanderer that we sold for many years as replacements for the Wanderer, Gentle Lady and other 2 meter kits. We also made one for the Aquila and one for the Oly II/Paragon type of open class kits. All of these sold very well. We created the Katie II around the 2 meter Dura-lene fuselage.
We would always ask ourselves, “Could a new design sell 1,000 units in a year?” This is the question we would consider. When I designed the SR-7 and was being forced to put it into production, Katie and I asked each other his important question. We found that the clip wing Coyote was not popular at that time because it was difficult to fly. The SR-7 was a design I made no compromises and it had some...Continue Reading
Posted by bob57hdt |
Jun 30, 2013 @ 08:18 PM | 1,355 Views
A new plastic Dura-lene
When we finally began production of the Coyote, we had stretched the wing span to 72 inches. We had found two things that caused us to make this decision. First of all, the original Coyote I was flying, 60 inch, struggled in lighter lift. On good lift days it was head and shoulders above anything else out there, but we found that the 72 inch version was still faster than anything else fun to fly and most importantly from a marketing point of view, it could be flown in more locations, thus meaning we had more potential customers. Secondly, the additional wing span made the Coyote easier to fly. The original 60 inch plane was quick to roll and was more pitch sensitive and when we let people fly it, they preferred the 72 inch version. We were always very protective of our product reputation and did not want unhappy customers.
Speaking of product and company reputation. Why did I name the company Bob Martin RC Models? When I decided to become a model manufacturer, having built various brands of models from stick to control line to RC, I had experienced some good and some bad models. Katie and I are quality nuts and we worked very hard to make sure whatever product you bought with my name on it, it would be quality and if not….you knew who to call and complain. Some of you did call and I think we always took care of your problem.
Back to the long and expensive road to Dura-lene. I am sure this is probably boring so I will try to give you the...Continue Reading
Posted by bob57hdt |
Jun 27, 2013 @ 06:39 PM | 1,881 Views
Bob Martin RC Models is born
As I continued to search and research a plastic that would conform to my requirements, Katie and I decided to release the new creation, the Coyote, to the public. To back up a bit, Dave Lloyd of Dave’s Custom Models, a hobby shop we frequented, had created a low wing slope soarer. He flew it and when he crashed, he was not one to rebuild any thing, I asked if I could have it and he gave it to me. I rebuilt it, made some changes and began to fly it. It was fast and maneuverable and cool looking. I told him he should kit it. He says “You kit it”. I thought, how difficult can it be. Although I made many changes from the original airplane, I still gave Dave the credit for designing it on the plans.
I found a young man that was making fiberglass fuselages and he did a pretty good job. I made a plug and paid him to make the mold and asked him to begin making fuselages. I found out how to cut foam cores, located a source of 1/64” plywood but I was unsure how to make shaped parts like the tail feathers. In our club, Sierra Madre RC club, I met Gene Walach. He was making parts for House of Balsa and I paid Gene to make my shaped parts for the Coyote. Later Gene would make the SR-7, Katie, Super Gryphon and Jaguar parts until I bought his equipment and brought that process in house.
Most of the parts were in place to become a RC Manufacturer. I had a garage to work out of, and drafting equipment and board to draw my plans. It is kind of...Continue Reading
Posted by bob57hdt |
Jun 23, 2013 @ 01:38 PM | 1,364 Views
In teaching Katie to fly was easy as she was a natural. I mentioned in the last post that I had her build a sailplane so she understood the complexities and how fragile or how strong a model is. I also mentioned that I became the builder and the one to repair all aircraft, mine and hers’ that suffered damage during the outings.
She was so afraid of hurting the plane that she had difficulty landing them. I had taught her to fly down into the valley below and bleed off airspeed as she flew up the hill. As you reached the top of the hill, if done right, you would pivot into the wind and settle onto the ground, thus a landing with little or no airspeed. It took her a lot of time to master the speed as she would carry too much speed and thus go around for another try. Eventually she mastered this landing technique but there were moments of frustration where she would grab her opportunity by giving down elevator when still a foot or two off of the ground. On these occasions and that of many other flyers frequently the nose would break open.
When I repaired her fuselages I tried many things. I would wrap the nose with fiberglass, add glass and resin to the inside, pour lots of resin into the nose in efforts to make them survive the hard impact. Soon it became apparent to me that rigid means brittle and unless I chose to carve these out of pure nickel or stainless steel, and of course they would not fly, rigid will not work.
Posted by bob57hdt |
Jun 20, 2013 @ 07:54 PM | 2,347 Views
I grew up in Boise, Idaho. My Mom was a single parent for much of my early life. We did not have very much income and so I found many ways to entertain myself. I never felt bad about our financial situation because my imagination would give me ideas that allowed me to build many things without very much expense.
These early projects taught me to find new and hopefully better ways of doing things. Before I was 14, I had designed and built a car (Featured in Popular Mechanics Magazine) designed a submarine and multi-stage rocket, that I sent into the Navy. Of course many projects were failures but I learned as much from the failures as I did from the successes. I loved science and I read that Edison had the most number of successful inventions and he also had the most failures. If you do not try, you will never know.
With this as a backdrop, picture Katie and I when we first entered the RC Sailplane hobby. Although Katie did not love to build, I made sure she built enough that she understood what it took to build a sailplane, it's strengths and it's weaknesses. Her first built up airplane was a Curio, 100 inch thermal sailplane. Katie's first sailplane was a Hobie Hawk as many of you know. The folks at the Rose Bowl told us it was a terrible airplane and not for the beginners at all, so we bought the Curio. We lived very close to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and there was a large grass area that the thermal flyers used on a regular basis. Our timing was not the best as...Continue Reading
Posted by bob57hdt |
Jun 19, 2013 @ 01:25 AM | 1,787 Views
I am truly touched by the emails, PM's, videos, YouTube, and other threads posted about the Katie Martin Global Tribute. I know Katie would wonder what is this all about, we were just having fun.
As we got involved in the hobby and looked at the technology of the Hobie Hawk and looked around and saw very little progress from the balsa stick floater kits we started thinking about What is Next?
It is late and I am tired, but in the next couple of days, I will add a new chapter or two about what we thought, what plans we made, how we achieved them, looking at what we did 30 years ago, and is there a reason to revisit our dreams.
Posted by bob57hdt |
Jun 10, 2013 @ 06:07 PM | 1,624 Views
The third annual Katie Martin Tribute is over but it was an event I am sure Katie would have been proud of.
Unless you have lost a person very very close to you, there is no way you can understand the deep emotions and disorientation that are connected with that loss. I cannot properly express the deep satisfaction that I feel at the outpouring of respect and love the modeling community, world wide, has shown this year in honoring Katie in Great Britain, Spain, Venezuela as well as here at home. Katie just wanted to be one of the guys when it came to respect for what she did. I think she would be overwhelmed at the magnitude of respect the soaring community is showing her.
Here at home, although there was a hobby trade show that ran at the same time as Katie's Tribute, there were some forty flyers and family that showed up this year. Not as many as last year but this year the weather was fantastic offering good to outstanding lift. Torrey Pines Gulls site is one that shares the cliff with paragliders and hang gliders. There is a window that belongs to the RC flyers but occasionally the paragliders need to launch or transition through the RC area which requires the RC pilots to offer safe passage. Saturday was a day that great lift, wind blowing directly into the face, offered excellent flying for both RC and the paragliders.
Brent Daily, Scott Baude, his son Carter and I arrived on Friday and we nearly had the slope to ourselves all day. The lift had come up by the...Continue Reading
Posted by bob57hdt |
May 22, 2013 @ 01:55 AM | 2,222 Views
For those who may not know what the Super Gryphon looked like, here is one of the test photos Neil Nissing took for the label. In the back of the Super Gryphon instruction manual there are some drawings of ideas you may want to make your Super Gryphon. Other than stock, we offered three other ideas.
Posted by bob57hdt |
May 17, 2013 @ 09:35 PM | 5,712 Views
Today I was speaking to Joe Pierson who is trying to get his Super Gryphon ready for the June 1st Tribute to Katie. During our conversation he asked questions about the gap below the wing on the fuselage and I thought some of you might be interested in why that gap exists.
In the late 70's a gentleman who owned a model airplane distributorship approached me and told me he had just purchased the rights and tooling to the Gryphon flying wing from Ron Neal. He wanted to upgrade the kit and re-release it with a Dura-lene fuselage and asked if I would consider designing a fuselage and supply him with Dura-lene fuselages. I informed him that I would design a new fuselage, make a mold and all accessory part molds and supply him with Dura-lene fuselages, however I was not aware of the market numbers and therefore he would have to pay for the mold and I would offer the fuselages at a discounted price. He agreed and I went home and began thinking about a design that I thought would make the Super Gryphon attractive and modern in appearance. I got a Gryphon kit from him, built it and began flying it. It was a very cool flying wing, the first I had flown and had a lot of great qualities. I wondered if just changing the fuselage would be enough to spark new interest in this old design. I began to experiment with different airfoils to put a little more zip in the performance. Eventually I settled on an airfoil that I thought might be attractive to the potential market that I had in...Continue Reading
Posted by bob57hdt |
May 11, 2013 @ 02:15 PM | 3,442 Views
In the early days of Bob Martin RC Models, most of our flying was done at Mt. Washington or Avenue 37. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/27000...=kh.google.com .It was a location that was above Lincoln Heights overlooking the train tracks and beyond was Dodger Stadium. It was inland and when strong winds blew, because of the hills where Dodger Stadium is, the air would be very turbulent. If the winds were 15 mph or less the air was very nice with the two bowls creating very nice waves to fly in. When the winds were very light, those of us adventurous flyers would launch, fly out over the homes below and catch huge thermal activity. If we did not find those thermals, we usually had a long hike in store. That was OK because we could not fly so what else was there to do. This site was the birth place of the Coyote, Katie II, SR-7, Super Gryphon and Larry Hargrave's Jaguar. It was pretty predictable as far as early to late afternoon we would have enough air to fly. This site we considered our home turf and I have fond memories of Katie and I flying with and teaching many many enthusiasts to fly. One thing that made this site so special, besides being close to home, was you could park, take your plane out, check for frequencies and toss it off within 30 feet of your car. (Many house have been built since we flew there and it is not flyable today.)
As I have mentioned before, slope soaring was infant at the time. In our travels to trade shows across the country everyone seemed to...Continue Reading
Posted by bob57hdt |
May 03, 2013 @ 11:25 AM | 2,056 Views
I received an email from the Treasurer of the Santa Fe Dam RC Modelers requesting a short history of Katie for an article to be published in the Model Aviation magazine. As hard as I tried, I could not keep the story short...how could I. If you knew Katie, you knew that to describe her life briefly was impossible. I do not know if the letter I wrote can be released before the magazine, but if so, and you let me know you would like to read it, I will publish it here.
I have several projects to be completed before the Tribute....so I better get going....
Let me know,
Today I received in the mail a large envelope addressed the Katie Martin. My curiosity got to me so I opened the envelope and I found a beautiful dark blue folder framed in gold with the AMA logo on the cover. I opened it to find a very brief but touching letter from the Santa Fe Dam RC Flyers club officers to the "Friends and Family of Katie Martin..".
Where ever Katie went, she left friends. She had such an infectious smile and laugh but most importantly she always was sincere and when she tackled a project, she would never quit until she had done all she could to master that project and has many accomplishments to her credit that pay tribute to her energy and devotion to our hobby.
I had the honor to accompany her during her short life and I will touch on this more in future blog entries but now I present the photos of this very touching gesture by the Santa Fe RC Flyers.
I am doing much better. I still have a energy issue....always tired and difficult to get things done but I am improving daily.
Today I was in Staples picking up printer cartridges....boy are they expensive...when I ran into a friend that I use to work with at Magic. He too is retired now and we spoke for some time. I mentioned the Katie Tribute and he asked when....I told him and he says he would like to attend. He also mentioned that he has always enjoyed flying sailplanes more than the powered ones. I hear that a lot and I concur that for me sailplanes are far more enjoyable to fly than the powered ones.
It seems that there are dedicated flyers around the world that are making plans to celebrate Katie's Birthday and honor her on June 1st. How about you....if you are following the thread please chime in and let us know if you are planning on joining us at Torrey Pines. I would like to meet all my old and new friends in person.
This past week has been very tough for me. I have had the good fortune to have led an incredibly healthy life. Tonsils out as a baby, left lung collapse at 17, scoped knee at 36 and kidney stone at 65. I have not spent a night in the hospital for me since I was 17 years old. Although the personnel were very nice and polite, there are the constant interruptions of sleep or whatever for them to take blood, check this or that. You tolerate this because they are trying to find out what is wrong and fix it for you. I had many thousands of dollars of tests and was released from the hospital without knowing neither what caused my problem nor what to do from here on out.
I am not near death or anything like that, after all I have an appointment June 1st in Torrey Pines, right Katie?
A friend, Larry Tate, sent me a couple of links to some history corrections about a man I was fortunate to talk to a few times while we were doing the Schneider Cup RC event here in Lake Havasu. ( www.schneider-cup.com ) His grand daughter speaks of history and if we do not record it correctly, someone will come along and make up their own stories. For many of you the Doolittle Raid took place before you were born but it was certainly a very important event in our final victory in WWII. Things I thought to be true about the raid have now been corrected.
Posted by bob57hdt |
Apr 10, 2013 @ 01:15 AM | 2,796 Views
In the History of the SR-7 below, I tried to offer a little insight as to what, when and how the SR-7 came into existence and what shaped it's design and purpose. As I mentioned in the text, the original SR-7 fuselage was wood and in my opinion not as classy as the fiberglass and Dura-lene ones. I promised to look for the pictures and I found these old prints. The first picture shows the original SR-7 ready for covering and painting.The fuselage was glassed with light fiberglass, filled and painted with Pactra Formula U spray paint. Notice the lightening holes in the vertical and horizontal. Initially I thought I wanted it to be light and this helped to balance it without a lot of lead in the nose. During testing, I learned two things, first at high speed, the broad wing dominated the horizontal. Almost all aircraft have a different angles to the wing and horizontal referred to as decalage. The wing has to have a positive angle of attack to create lift, so this angle is built into the horizontal allowing the fuselage to fly level or slightly nose down. When I would dive the SR-7 and attain high speed the plane would snap one direction or another. I learned that the wing would lower it's angle of attack making the horizontal have negative angle and with the lightening holes, the horizontal would warp causing these unexpected maneuvers. For those who have built an SR-7 you will notice the multi pieces of wood grain going different directions to make it as stiff as possible....Continue Reading
The original Coyote was a 60 inch plane. The airfoil was a NACA airfoil that transitioned to another NACA at the tip. The root was thinner and sharper entry for speed but the tip was blunter and thicker percentage giving it a gentle tip stall characteristic. I bring this up because a number of posts have referred to the earlier airfoils, those before Selig/Donovan did their remarkable and valuable studies, as ships curve, or shoe sole airfoils. I am not sure about everyone else, but we put a lot of time into developing airfoils from data available at the time. The Coyote flew fantastic but was very fast for the time. In order to make it more marketable, i.e. fly in wider lift conditions and be a little more gentle and slower, I chose to make it a 72 inch plane for production. I always flew what I sold. I never believed in demonstrating a model that was specially built and tuned for me, so I flew a stock 72 inch Coyote where ever we flew. Occasionally we would fly somewhere that a local flyer would have a one of a kind slope plane that was very good. I did not mind when his plane would out perform the Coyote but I had thin skin and when he would make a big deal out of trying to embarrass me or challenge my skill as a designer, I wanted to do something besides going over and punching him in the nose. Katie was aware of my frustrations and would say that the 5 ft. Coyote would fly better than his. I knew that but we sold a 6 ft. Coyote. What else could...Continue Reading
Ski Area Manager, Banker, moto-cross racer/promoter, Executive Director SCORE off-road, Racing/promotions director Modern Motors Off Road, publisher, advertising director, model aircraft designer/manufacturer, Powerboat Designer, Reno Pylon Judge
Things that fly, especially quietly and Reno Pylon Judge where they are really loud!