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DismayingObservation's blog
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 26, 2013 @ 12:32 PM | 5,529 Views
Despite a slightly rocky start in which the 1SQ I bought at the AMA Expo coughed up its motherboard, all has been unicorns and rainbows (figuratively speaking) with the warranty replacement I received at the Hobby People store in Redlands, California.

Not only is this little thing a total blast to fly both indoors and out, it's even quieter than the original. My guess is that one or more of the motors wasn't working properly straight out of the box, leading to a very intermittent throttle control. Sometimes it would throttle up, often times not. Kind of a domino effect, but I'll leave that up to Hobbico's techs if they decide to evaluate it.

Flying a quad is decidedly different than flying either a plane or a helicopter, especially when doing coordinated turns. In close quarters, I've had the best success on this and the bigger quad I bought last year at the show by feeding in rudder, getting the nose pointed where I want and then feeding in bank and forward cyclic. It skids a bit in the turns, but they're nice and tight. Doing a coordinated turn in the traditional manner makes for too wide a turn.

The rainy weather here in SoCal means a delay in the maiden flight of the Foam-Tec Wingthing2 flying wing which I'm reviewing for "The E Zone," but at least I have the quad and a couple of other indoor choppers to satisfy the urge to fly.

Next on the list: Doing flips. Haven't tried it. Yet.

FYI, here's the link to the Wingthing2:

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1810733
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 15, 2013 @ 09:22 AM | 5,824 Views
What do you call someone with enough tech savvy to spread their message to a bunch of unwilling computer users via other unwilling computer users (i.e., a zombie machine) but not enough brains to market a real product or service?

If you said "a spammer," you get a gold star.

Our beloved RCGroups.com has been getting hit by spambots which promote a site called "Fullmalls.com." They've been particularly active in the comments sections of the product reviews at "The E Zone."

Brand name stuff, impossibly low prices, broken English.

Hi, buddy: The website wholesale for many kinds of fashion shoes, like the nike,jordan,prada,****, also including the jeans,shirts,bags,hat and the decorations. All the products are free shipping, and the the price is competitive, and also can accept the paypal payment.,after the payment, can ship within short time.

I mean, really! How does a mere mortal resist such a siren song?

Fullmalls, it seems, advertises brand name products that it doesn't carry. If you're fortunate, you might get a knockoff sent to you. Otherwise, it's bye-bye bread. Gone. No chance of getting it back since my research says they only accept wire payments despite the claim of PayPal acceptance.

So, the questions are these: Why go through that kind of trouble to promote a ripoff which no one with an IQ above that of a zucchini would reply to? Why not put the same effort into a legit business?

Those are questions best posed by the sociologists, I suppose. In the meantime, enjoy some funny anti-spam cartoons which do a good job of summing up the problem.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 13, 2013 @ 08:54 AM | 5,773 Views
December might bring Christmas, but January brings the AMA Expo to we here in Southern California.

I've been to several of these shows, but never before with my grandson. Just he and I.

Not only did he have the time of his little life, I walked away with one of the most precious memories I've had in years. Imagine a five-year-old steeped in absolute joy sitting in both a full-scale one-man helicopter and a full-scale glider while working the controls. Add to that a 65% Fokker Dr-I which just blew him away by its sheer size and a chance for the two of us to try out a Torrent RTR stadium truck for a few hot laps and you have the recipe for the perfect day.

We even built and flew a rubber-powered FF glider. I ran into old friends and met many of the distributors and vendors whom I work with on the authors' forum. Bruce Jenner was the featured speaker and he was as entertaining and engaging as you could imagine.

My grandson is a teeny bit too young for a flying toy - for now - so he walked out with a little R/C dune buggy among a bunch of other little freebies while I walked out with a new Heli-Max 1SQ nano quadcopter. My parents generally give cash at Christmas...and I generally wait until the AMA to spend it.

The quadcopter's battery has just finished charging as I write, so I'm off to try out my belated Christmas present!

The only downer is the fact I seem to have caught cold which started to really hit me at the end of the day. If not for that, I'd make that drive back to Ontario for the final day of the expo.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 10, 2013 @ 05:45 PM | 4,984 Views
OK, so the title is a bit reactionary, but anyone who's ever slowed down a bit too much in front of a mall kiosk can relate.

I hadn't been to the local mall in a long time and I had a bit of time to kill before heading to work, so I swung by to peruse the record store (which actually DOES sell records) and see what I could see. I'd just eaten lunch, so one of the rather good restaurants in the place were out of the question.

No more arcade, no more toy stores and there was never a hobby shop in the place.

There are plenty of little kiosks in the main walkway selling everything from calendars to massages.

And toys.

Had to slow down for just a moment thanks to what looked like an RTF T-Rex 450 clone...which turned out to be nothing but a big 3.5-channel coaxial.

This was not a place with such helicopter fare as that from Align, SAB, Thunder Tiger, Blade, Heli-Max or Century, among others. You get the idea.

No, this was the realm of the Double Horse Volitation and the Yiboo UJ376 along with a handful of Syma IR controlled nano coaxials and something that looked like a clone of an MRC Hoot.

It was also the realm of an enthusiastic young salesman who couldn't wait to launch a Syma IR in the air, resplendent in its LED light display.

"Look! This flies good! It has a gyro!"

I secretly agreed the thing flew well; good thing I knew what a gyro was. "No, thanks. That big helicopter caught my eye and I thought it was something else....Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 31, 2012 @ 01:35 PM | 4,947 Views
Man oh man, this is one crazy year I'm glad to see go away.

The nice thing about a brand new year is the psychological relief of knowing the calendar has changed. With it comes the promise of a lot of new and/or changed things.

Will I finally get around to finishing my nearly complete R/C plane projects? I'd like to and I probably will, time and budget allowing. However, I can't recall ever having kept a New Year's resolution, so I'm not about to start now.

Perhaps I'll compromise and say that I promise to try and finish the projects.

Happy New Year, all!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 21, 2012 @ 08:42 AM | 5,417 Views
...and all I got was a lousy T-shirt.

Guess I'll have to send off the car payment after all!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 17, 2012 @ 12:25 PM | 5,055 Views
I had the genuine pleasure this past Saturday of participating in a terrific event at my club.

The Coachella Valley Radio Control Club near Palm Springs did a warbird fun fly to support Toys for Tots. The "landing fee" was a toy valued at $15 or less and a number of flyers from nearby Hemet swung by to share the fun.

I brought along a few recent RCGroups electric review subjects including the Microaces Focke-Wulf on the current Ezonemag.com home page. With me as well were the MyRCDesigns.com flat foam P-51 and P-40, the Yardbird RC Mini Su-30 pusher prop jet and the old E-flite P-47 I used as a test mule for a motor I reviewed for Nitroplanes. The only non-review model was a World Models P-51 electric in Bob Hoover racing trim, a rebuilt and upgraded model I blogged about a while back.

Nothing too elaborate and my Great Planes .25 Spitfire stayed at home with a bad battery in the field box.

However, I did very little flying and that was my intent.

I'd arranged to host some boys and staff from a nearby group home so that they could swing by to see the event. One of the staff is a friend of mine and she was more than happy to bring the kids over for a field trip. These terrific kids had never seen model aircraft of this caliber in operation, up to and including a turbine-powered Boomerang.

The looks on their faces, their inquisitive nature and the pure fun of the day made me stop and realize just how important R/C clubs can be. We all gave back to the community and we did so with joy. It was a day to remember and I'm looking into the possibility of having those kids back for their own event, including some buddy box training.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 13, 2012 @ 12:00 PM | 5,299 Views
...but hey, that's what makes it fun!

The magnificent technology which allows me to post this blog entry is something we now take for granted, but it really came through the other day on a search for a song I was certain I wouldn't find.

It was 1968, the year my dad bought some nice stereo components. I still have all but the speakers, in fact.

To me, the beat-all end-all of the bunch was the Sony TC-350 reel-to-reel tape deck. Stereo. Sound-on-sound. All solid state. Three heads so you could listen to recordings as they were being made. One of the inspirations for me to enter the broadcast industry later in life. Prior to the Sony, Dad had an enormous tube-powered Webcor portable reel-to-reel tape recorder he used for dictation when he worked as a newspaper photographer. Huge, heavy and it smelled like burning hair whenever it was running, that is, if it were even running in the first place. The motor worked fine; the amplifier was hit or miss. Mostly miss.

Fred Flintstone, meet your iPod.

Dad and I used to go to the public library to check out records. He'd spin them on the Garrard Synchro-Lab 95 turntable (probably the ultimate bachelor pad accessory back in the day) while rolling tape on the Sony.

Christmas music was always the most fun and the time of year when the Sony really got its workout.

Of all the music we ever transfered to tape, a somewhat strange version of "The Little Drummer Boy" became a personal favorite.

...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 13, 2012 @ 09:42 AM | 5,240 Views
I don't know how widespread the Circle K chain of convenience stores is across the US, but I know they're all over the place out my way.

Tucson sometimes has two at the same intersection, at least they did the last time I was there. Today, they probably have three per corner.

They are now selling a rather interesting impulse buy at the registers.

Syma 3.5-channel IR controlled coaxial helicopters.

Thirty bucks.

Of course, they have to go through such hype as "originally $99.99" which is actually printed on the box and "professional quality" on the signs.

I asked my buddy behind the counter how they were selling. As of this morning, they were on their fourth case of fifteen units.

I'm somewhat glad to hear that since a decent-flying little helicopter such as this one might well spark an interest in more advanced models. It's a far better machine than the $20 random example I reviewed, a review which asked whether or not a toy helicopter was a good introduction.

In the case of my dearly departed Picoo-Z clone, no. In the case of these little Syma specials, yes. They're even gyro stabilized. I wouldn't hand one of these to a small child, but an older child will probably forego the Xbox 360 for quite a while in order to fly his or her Syma.

However, I can't help but wonder how many parts requests are going to come into the local hobby shops.

It looks as if some Nine Eagles Draco or Solo Pro parts will fit if necessary, but that's a maybe. Helizone RC, for whom I just reviewed their V911-based Lightning Bird probably has parts; it looks to be the same as their Firebird.

Anyway, it would be interesting to revisit one of the sixty lucky owners at some future point to see how many have graduated to an SAB Goblin, a T-Rex 600 or some similar machine.

Gotta start somewhere!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 04, 2012 @ 12:52 PM | 5,474 Views
I got a kick out of getting a free plane from the free classifieds.

A cordial member of the RCGroups family who lives in my old home town was giving away an old plane. It was local pickup only...or it was going in the trash.

Fortunately, my brother still lives in the area and I arranged to have him pick it up. Our family got together for Thanksgiving and he brought it to the party.

She's grungy, but she's all there short of an rudder/elevator servo mounting stick inside of the fuselage and it's undamaged.

It's a box fuselage high-wing sport plane with an O.S. .25 up front, one which hadn't run in years.

Nevertheless, I have to say again that it's all there. The photos show it totally in as-received condition. The engine bearings were gummed up, but within a few minutes of these photos being taken, I'd managed to free up the bearings and carb with some after-run oil and WD-40. The glow plug is an ancient four-stroke and the prop an equally ancient Master Airscrew 9x6.

It also has oodles and gobs of compression.

Since I've been flying electrics almost exclusively as of late, I wasn't able to start the engine since the battery in my field box was too weak. I may have left it on the charger for too long and it's going to need replacing.

I plan to post some pictures once it's cleaned up and operational. I don't plan on recovering it since the covering's in good shape. I'll definitely have to install a slightly smaller fuel tank since it interferes with the nosewheel arm.

I still have the engine from a used, long-retired combat fighter. Same as the one in this model and I can tell you from experience that little sonofagun really hauled. I think this one will do so as well.

Stay tuned!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Nov 06, 2012 @ 09:36 PM | 5,739 Views
Nothing like waiting a couple of months for a refund from China, but I got my 47 bucks back at long last for the defective LotusRC quadcopter ESC I blogged about in my last entry.

This leaves me with very few choices...and I'm not going to get it from the lone domestic distributor I purchased it from.

Ebay has one listed from a China-based company with just a fraction under 100% positive feedback. They have plenty in stock and I have some other flying projects to keep me occupied, so I'll either get it later...or I'll get some ESCs and an IMU from a third-party source. That's the fun thing about quadcopters; you can mix and match to your heart's content.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Sep 26, 2012 @ 05:45 PM | 5,685 Views
My patience has finally paid off.

Or so I thought.

The replacement ESC for my Rotor Concept HPQ1, aka LotusRC T380 quadcopter arrived after a three-week trip from China.

It arrived in a lightly padded paper envelope and a bit of bubble wrap.

Would you be surprised to learn that the dangblasted thing doesn't work?

It initializes, but it sends no signals back to the control board. So, the quad just sits there, mocking me in its silence.

I now have to ship the board back to China. The company has been very cooperative and I will likely get a refund on my shipping charge.

Xheli.com out of Los Angeles just started carrying that quad, but they've told me that no spare parts are available just yet since they only recently started carrying it.

If they do, that will mean a decent domestic source for parts.

In the meantime, I'll be pulling that board and sending it back to where it came from.

Oh, well. I have other things to fly, but man, is that quad fun when it works.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Aug 31, 2012 @ 02:23 PM | 5,983 Views
There are few models in my "hangar" with which I have a more love/hate relationship than my Rotor Concept HPQ1 quadcopter.

I've had a ball with it, but man, have I had problems, starting with paying twelve bucks for a propeller nut.

No bigger nut than me; that was my last purchase from Rotor Concept, but not my last purchase for the model.

I've been through five sets of props, four motor endbells from Goodluckbuy.com courtesy of trying to overtighten propellers which wouldn't snug up, some motor bearings (thanks, Align) and the discarding of the nightmarishly bad radio system.

All this before I'd even repaid my friend who fronted the dough to buy the thing in the first place!

On this, the day of my final payment, I decided to take it up for a little spin since it had sat idle for quite some time. I'd forgotten that the front counter-rotating motor was acting up.

When it decided to stop working properly this morning, it wasn't hard to see why.

As I picked it up, a small, black thing fell from it.

It was a small eight-pin IC chip from the ESC.

Yup. A chip came loose. I have never seen anything quite like this before.

It turned out that the ESC lost not one but rather two of these chips. The one I was able to recover wasn't burned nor did the board smell overheated. From what I could tell, the chips were the victims of cold solder joints.

They merely vibrated loose.

I imagine that I could simply get a low-wattage soldering iron and a couple of chips (I hate soldering ICs), but that would probably cost nearly as much as a new board and there's no guarantee that other components weren't damaged.

I found it under the LotusRC T380 parts listing at Goodluckbuy.com for the rather odd price of $47.79 with free shipping as opposed to more than 65 bucks plus shipping and tax from Rotor Concept.

Frustration, thy name is Quadrotor.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Aug 29, 2012 @ 06:42 PM | 6,009 Views
Or to put it more accurately, helicopter tails and grass don't mix.

To wit: A few days ago, I had the Skyartec Wasp X3V I'd reviewed with me and I thought it would be fun to do a little bit of flying at the park.

All was A-OK until I went to bring it in. I ran it a bit too long and the battery was dumping, so I eased it into some thick grass not far from me.

Bad move. The brief contact between the tail rotor and the grass was enough to strip the tail rotor shaft. One quick phone call to Max Ettinger at Park RC Models netted me a new shaft. That marvelous little machine is now as good as new.

Max is a straight-up kind of guy; he simply couldn't resist a gentle chiding.

Today, I took the HK 450TT Pro for a spin at - you guessed it - a park. I've flown from that soccer field countless times without an issue, but today was a bit on the windy side. Instead of my usual gentle spot landing, I bounced it on the skids, catching the tail rotor in the grass.

Not a good thing with a torque tube tail. The resulting crunch was a sure sign that I'd stripped the umbrella gear, only the second time I'd ever done so.

Off to the hobby shop tomorrow for an Align brand replacement and some fairly involved dissection to set things right.

UPDATE: Taking that tail drive apart was easier than I remembered. It only took me 20 minutes to do this morning. My wallet is ten bucks lighter, but I have the parts and they'll go in tonight after work. A good thing to be sure, but the weather is lousy! I hope to be able to test it tomorrow morning.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Aug 28, 2012 @ 02:04 PM | 5,681 Views
Thanks to a minimal infusion of cash, my honked-up SkyFly 2 returns to the fleet in glory!

My little experiment did in fact work well. Almost too well. The CG seems to be fine, but it almost doesn't want to come down. Climbs great, though. Takeoffs are darn near vertical and if you've never seen a SkyFly 2 go vertical as it lifts off, you're in for a treat when you do. It's hilariously funny. I'll try some ballast or a heavier battery, but space being limited, I used a Turnigy Nano-Tech 1000mAh 3S for the maiden which fit perfectly. All that power makes it one heck of a powered glider; I almost didn't have to run the motor once I got it up a couple of hundred feet or so.

Best of all, I had an entire radio system I could devote to the project, one which I'd forgotten. It's the Spring RC TG661A six-channel 2.4GHz "el cheapo" I pulled from my Rotor Concept quadcopter when I updated it with a Spektrum AR660 receiver. It may have worked poorly in the quad, but it works to sheer perfection in this project. It not only cost zilch, it no longer collects dust.

Also no longer collecting dust is the ExceedRC 40A ESC I'd pulled from my second-hand The World Models P-51 electric when I updated it to a SuperTigre .10 outrunner. The timing was all wrong, so I bought a SuperTigre ESC and shelved the ExceedRC for just such an occasion. I was going to use an old Sonix 18A controller, but I figured that the cushion I'd get with the 40A was worth it since it's spinning...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Aug 21, 2012 @ 08:16 PM | 5,683 Views
Well, I did it. I broke down and coughed up 30 bucks for a blow-molded plastic fuselage for the stalled Flyzone SkyFly 2 brushless conversion.

Now all I have to do is to take the bits and pieces off of the old, damaged fuselage, put them on the new fuselage and - with any luck - I'll have a fun, flyable three-channel thermal chaser.

As I learned on these boards and pointed out in a recent entry, misalignment of the boom with the pod results in a model plane which will not fly. Really. It scooted nicely across the ground, but no takeoff. The somewhat weak original power system contributed to a few rather bumpy meetings twixt model and ground. It did in fact fly and fly well prior to the fuselage failure.

This new part should take care of all of that and I'll have what is essentially a new plane.

I guess the thing which made me tumble was an article in Model Aviation in which a contributor made several unusual airplanes out of some clearance sale-priced Flyzone Sky Hawk parts.

Still deciding on a receiver. I have a presently unused Airtronics 92254 2.4GHz six-channel, but it's slated for a future review project. I may go the 72MHz route with a four-channel Berg Microstamp and dust off my trusty old Hitec Laser 4 in the meantime. If this monstrosity refuses to fly, I'd rather stuff it in with a tiny little Berg than a pricey Airtronics.

This should be fun!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Aug 15, 2012 @ 11:58 PM | 5,511 Views
There is certainly nothing like the sounds, smells and sights of a nitro engine. I remember the first time I flew nitro in a .25 combat plane and from there, I was hooked.

However, I also have a newfound love of modern electrics.

Charge up, plug in and fly. This is especially helpful at one of the places where I fly. That field allows anything and everything electric, but no nitros. My guess is the noise level given the field's proximity to a housing tract.

I can fly anything at that grass field from a simple park flyer up to a high-performance FunJET or 450-class helicopter and not have to mess with pumping in fuel, hooking up the ignitor, starting the engine and tweaking the needle, fun as those tasks may be.

Problem is, all my nitros now need receiver batteries due to lack of use!

On top of that, I don't know what kind of condition my fuel is in.

No matter. As cool as the new electrics are, the nitro birds are going to get some receiver batteries one at a time, starting with my Great Planes Spitfire .25 and going from there. On top of that, I have two nearly completed nitro projects in the wings (no pun intended) and I picked up a good used K&B .45 for a third project simply in need of a new engine. Got that engine from the same fellow I got the project from in the first place and it's one of the sweetest flying birds of any kind in my "hangar."

One thing is for sure: I won't be wiping castor oil off of the FunJET anytime soon.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jun 11, 2012 @ 08:11 PM | 5,146 Views
All is now well with the Blade 400 after some nurgling around with the throttle curve. In fact, it's never been better. It's now running the HobbyKing HK401 gyro that was originally in the HK 450TT Pro review heli. The 450 in turn now has a terrific Hobbymate gyro I'm in the process of reviewing. The great folks at Horizon Hobby determined that nothing was wrong with the E-flite gyro that an expert heli pilot friend of mine said was working improperly, so they sent it back. I'm torn whether or not to reinstall it on the 400, but for now, I have the HK401 dialed in. Personally, I never had problems with the E-flite gyro, but I like that little 401. It seems to hold the 400's tail better than it did that of the 450.

My friend who sold me the 400 in the first place has a stash of parts and rarely if ever flies his 400, so I asked if he had a set of carbon fiber blades he'd like to sell.

He did. Brand new, still packaged. He also had an aftermarket CF vertical tail fin and a new tail boom.

Which he gave me. The whole megillah. He insisted.

I in turn now owe him lunch, which I hope to do this week. Maybe I'll actually fly it with the CF's before then. For now, I've merely installed them and they look terrific with the blue flame canopy. I'm kind of sorry to see this marvelous helicopter stricken from the Blade lineup, but based on the good stuff I've been reading about the 450 and 450X, Horizon Hobby has made some definite progress.

Lots of busy time with some upcoming reviews of some really great helicopters, not to mention the gyro. Some high-discharge batteries might be coming as well to aid in that review.

Would you believe a 65C discharge rate?

This promises to be good, so stay tuned.
Posted by DismayingObservation | May 01, 2012 @ 05:53 PM | 5,057 Views
The E-flite Blade 400 is -or was - a really great helicopter, bumped off its perch of prominence by the Blade 450 and now, the insane Blade 500.

People have been lamenting the stock servos for years; they don't even respond as well as the very affordable, metal-geared Turnigy servos in my HK 450TT Pro.

The forward cyclic servo decided it was going to go blooey a couple of weeks ago. I have more stick time on that 400 than almost anything else I own and I knew soon after liftoff that something wasn't right.

The inevitable crash which was only the fourth one in its history was relatively low speed and from a low altitude, but it wasn't until I started dissecting the thing that I realized there was hidden damage, things like a slightly bent tail boom and a main drive gear with a couple of teeth knocked out.

Money heals all crashes and after a reasonably priced cash infusion, it's back.

Sort of.

I upgraded the firmware in the Castle Creations Phoenix-35 while I was putting everything back together.

So, the ESC has the very latest firmware...and now the throttle curve is completely weirded out. It lifted off just fine, but the head speed wasn't nearly as fast as it should have been. Changing the governor setting helped a bit, but it still lacks that marvelous head speed that an E-flite 440 helicopter motor can generate and has generated in the very recent past.

Tweaking the throttle curve on a DX6i is no big deal, but I have a friend who is, quite...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Apr 18, 2012 @ 06:44 PM | 5,344 Views
Aw, nuts.

The refitted P-51 went up yesterday and for all intents and purposes, the flight was a success.

I was afraid that it would be underpowered, but hoo boy, was I wrong.

She lifted the tail and was off like a rocket. The ailerons were a bit twitchy, but not bad.

It ripped through the sky at 3/4 throttle; full throttle blasts made it nearly ballistic.

Nothing but fun.

I bounced it a bit on the rather springy mains when I touched down and I knew I could do better.

Since the flight was only about two minutes long, up it went once more for a quick trip around the pattern. I was absolutely ecstatic at the results.

Turning from base to final would be the last time that poor little bird would fly.

I suspect the old Zippy battery I used for the test may have given up the ghost with the combination of the 1400Kv motor and 9" prop because it, well, simply kept turning left, augering itself into the clubs helicopter/control line pad. No evidence of any failed servos or control linkages at all.

I had far more time than money into the project, but it was a shame to see what was a castoff return to the air in such a spectacular manner only to fail just as spectacularly.

That leaves the World Models P-51 EP and the brushless Sky Fly 2, both of which are just fine.

I'm going to be phasing out all of my remaining 2200mAh off-brand packs for some 2100mAh Venom packs. Great reviews, multiple plug choices through supplied adapters...and only $20 a pop.

On to the Great Planes Ultimate bipe...