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DismayingObservation's blog
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 31, 2008 @ 05:45 PM | 3,076 Views
A few blogs and a couple of product reviews ago, I really went off regarding the horrid lack of customer support I'd experienced from an internet hobby distributor.

This is why my future purchases will be made through folks like Orange County, California's own Global Hobby.

Had a problem earlier today with a damaged part on a Global plane which, quite frankly, had no reason to break.

A couple of e-mails later, I was asked to send the broken part in exchange for a replacement. No muss, no fuss. Just great customer service guaranteed to create repeat business.

If you're thinking that a company like this just replaces little inexpensive geegaws, please read on.

A buddy at the field told me of his experience with a four-stroke Magnum engine which he'd purchased years ago.

The engine was sent back twice for rebuilding as it began to wear. Both times it was rebuilt. For free.

Sure enough, it was due for another overhaul and Global said, send it in.

This time, he didn't hear back right away as had been the case each time the engine was received and repaired. Also, no engine in his mailbox. So, he got on the phone to the tech department.

The tech apologized profusely for the delay, saying that his particular engine was no longer in production and that the tech who could have gotten it running was out due to illness.

Would it be OK with him if they sent him a new Magnum .91 four-stroke instead...?

True story, so help me.

As I pointed out in that long-ago blog, stick with the names you know and the distributors who stand behind them. The fly-by-nights (like that certain distributor in Industry, California who doesn't supply spare parts at all) may never disappear entirely. That doesn't mean you have to support them.

On the other hand, I encourage you to support those in the hobby business who do support we who participate in the hobby itself.

There's no better way to ensure they'll be there for you when you need them.

Thanks, Global.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 24, 2008 @ 08:59 PM | 3,294 Views
A little bit of work, a lot of help from other users on this site and voila! The retracts on the Align Spitfire now work!

Oh, but are they ever fast.

Leave it up to this site's users to come up with a solution.

I have a servo rate reducer on order which will reduce the transit time from "blink of an eye" down to about two seconds.

I think I like this plane.

Be right back...

...ah, now where was I?

Regarding the "ramblings," kindly do stay tuned to the RC Power segment of our beloved site for a review of a seriously fun, fast and fabulous plane. VQ Model has a winner in their 40-sized P-51D, available in something like four different trim schemes thanks to printed vinyl graphics. I sure had my issues regarding the optional retracts, but I kept at it and they at least work to my satisfaction.

This little birdie screams like an eagle on an Evolution 46, an 11x7 Master Airscrew prop and a Bisson Pitts muffler.

Frankly, I can't wait to fly it again.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 21, 2008 @ 01:14 AM | 3,281 Views
Or not.

Darned if I'm not having another hard time, this time with the little Align Spitfire 400 I picked up last week at the AMA; please see my previous blog.

For one, the plastic they used for the retracts looks and feels downright cheap. Wound up breaking one, but I was able to fix it.

Also, the recommended servo size is too tall. The wing itself interferes with it. So, unless I get a shorter servo, it looks as if I'll be doing some surgery.

I may have a line on a better fittng servo, but according to the thread, using that JR 241 servo still means surgery on the wing. You can follow or participate in the discussion at:

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showt...=1#post8977095

Manufacturers, I will ask you once more on everyone's behalf: Check your documentation. Build a production unit. See if there are any glitches in the instructions and I can tell you that yes, there are some glitches in this manual. Don't just give me a servo weight of nine grams. Give me the dimensions of the servo YOU used to make the system work, or please don't add bells and whistles which add to the cost, complication and ultimate frustration. Make sure it all fits together. Then, and only then, ship 'em out. The extra mile you go to make your product better makes you look good and brings repeat business to your doorstep.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 13, 2008 @ 03:14 AM | 3,845 Views
I had me a genuine blast at day two of the AMA. Thought I'd share the experience before hitting the hay.

Wouldn't you know I'd forget my doggoned camera.

That being said, the eye candy was incredible. On display and/or purchase were everything from folding indoor IR controlled flyers in their own aluminum carry case to a 1/2 scale Cub and Extra. Jets? More than I could count. Batteries of every description. Radios, helicopters, tools, lighting systems and even an interactive boat exhibit as well as a chance for little ones to enjoy running Traxxas Rustlers around a track. Also helping keep the youngsters entertained was an in indoor free flight area and a free model rocketry clinic in which participants could build their own rocket. Way too cool.

For the horse traders among those attending, the "swap shop" had such goodies as vintage model aircraft magazines, vintage gas engines, vintage tether cars and some insane deals on good, used stuff. Almost picked up a nice Thunder Tiger 42 with plenty of compression. Asking price: $30. I also came close to picking up an incomplete E-flite P-47D Thunderbolt 400 with a brand new, uninstalled horizontal stab for only $20. Wound up with a new 2100 mAh Ni-Mh transmitter battery for less than I would have had to pay to replace the original 600 mAh Ni-Cd. The big catch of the day was a brand new Align Spitfire 400 park flyer with a painted fiberglass fuse and balsa/ply wing and stab for $70. It retails...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 11, 2008 @ 05:52 PM | 4,915 Views
I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. Ontario is a little more than an hour from my house. I've never been to an AMA convention and I kick myself each year when I see what kind of loot my buddies bring back.

Tomorrow dawns a new era!

To other matters, the new retract servo for the VQ P-51 arrived yesterday. It's a top-of-the-line Airtronics and if this servo doesn't raise those retracts, nothing will.

I'll have the additional advantage of being able to talk face-to-face with the man who made the model available for review.

This is going to be fun.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 08, 2008 @ 01:31 PM | 3,465 Views
The new retract servo for the VQ P-51 should be here by the end of the week and, weather permitting, will be flown this weekend.

That is, of course, if I don't go to the AMA convention in Ontario.

Which I likely will.

Enjoy some beauty shots in the meantime.

PS: Note that the landing struts are mounted backwards. That was how they were shown on the box; no installation instructions given. They've since been swapped from side to side. All better.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jan 01, 2008 @ 06:56 PM | 3,396 Views
In an earlier entry, I mentioned how I was going to write to Model Aviation regarding a comment by some guy who claims that ARF and RTF pilots are "lazy." Worse, the January issue has a poem, of all things, by a woman who flies free flight and disdains radio control. That was the last straw. You'll find it on page 146, by the way.

In the meantime, feel free to enjoy the letter I just sent MA's editor:

"When I read the letter from Norman Weiler in the November '07 'Aero Mail' section, I saw red. Mr. Weiler, it seems, is of the opinion that those who purchase ARF and RTF models would 'rather bore holes in the sky than put any effort into the hobby.' He concludes: 'Most are just lazy.' Especially ironic was Bob Hunt's 'Modeling Spoken Here' column on the preceding page which sang the praises of such models.

"Mr. Weiler, while your geographic location of Lansing, Michigan likely precludes you from doing any flying during the winter months, let me assure you that those of us who got started on the models you so disdain have increased their flying skills logarithmically thanks to planes such as these and insulting a vast number of modelers with your elitism is uncalled for. I've gone from a two-channel HobbyZone Firebird Commander to three glow-powered planes (a large .25 warbird, a .25 combat plane and a .46 warbird), two high-performance electric park flyers (a scale foam warbird and a balsa/ply 3D stunt plane), two relatively docile foam...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 23, 2007 @ 09:52 PM | 3,170 Views
The more I get to work with the folks from some of these great hobby companies for the author's forum, the more convinced I am that they have the greatest gig in the world.

I'll be working directly with one of those company reps and together we plan to iron out the kinks in the documentation of my current project for the authors' group.

I think I may have come off too harsh in my assessment of a model's hardware in my previous blog, especially after reading the blog of the gentleman in question who supplied me with the plane in the first place. He's been to factories all over Asia and seen first-hand the real craftsmanship and care that go into these ARFs of ours. The factories are clean and orderly, the employees well-compensated.

As Vietnam grows in stature as a producer of goods, so too will issues like the ones I've had with hardware disappear. Buy with confidence in the meantime and if you have to spend a few extra bucks on hardware, so be it.

In any event, it's my pleasure to continue to work out these minor issues now so that you won't have to later.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 17, 2007 @ 10:38 AM | 3,030 Views
Friends, stay tuned to either RC Power and/or The E Zone for my first of two new reviews, this one being a terrific new 41" electric Yak 54 from Carl Goldberg. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Still having issues with the VQ P-51, all of which could have been avoided either with better documentation or better hardware. However, that's the point of these reviews. I run into the problems, the distributor and I work 'em out. Badda bing!

On the bright side: Hardware isn't expensive, the distributor has taken genuine interest in working with the factory to correct the problems and best of all, this plane is going to look stunning in the air. That is, once I get it there.

Stay tuned to our magazines!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 11, 2007 @ 09:18 PM | 3,163 Views
Wow, have I been busy!

I have not just one plane to review. I have two. In the interest of expediency, I've been working like the proverbial one-armed paper hanger to get these birds ready.

Bird number one, a hitherto unknown Carl Goldberg Yak 54 electric, shall take to the air on Thursday.

Bird number two, a VQ Model P-51 Mustang 40, is nearly finished. That plane's had a few assembly and hardware issues, but they're pretty much sorted out. I predict that Vietnam will soon be an RTF force to be reckoned with once they address some minor problems.

I haven't written Model Aviation yet regarding a letter that someone wrote regarding the laziness of those who assemble ARFs, one page over from an op-ed praising the proliferation of these models which have allowed those without the room or the time to build a kit or scratchbuilt to hone their piloting skills.

Frankly, this guy has insulted a whole lot of us and I'm calling him on it.

I've learned to fly in record time on RTFs and ARFs. I also happen to have a kit waiting in the wings; I can't wait to start in on it. For that matter, I have two assembled kits in need of repair (see my previous entry) which will require the same modeling skills a kit does. This will be a fun part of the hobby that everyone should try.

That is, if they have the room and the time.

Doesn't sound like laziness to me.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 03, 2007 @ 07:23 PM | 3,016 Views
I can't help it, I tell you. I have a soft spot for old stuff with some life left in it. One of these days, I'll talk about the mangled 1900 Conn cornet my musical instrument technician friend and I bought back from the dead a few years ago.

Yesterday, our flying club had a really fun R/C swap meet. I bought a few small items to sell and I actually did sell some stuff. Bought a few small items as well, so I broke even financially.

As the event wrapped up, the club's VP asked if I wanted a plane he couldn't even get five bucks for. It's an old Global Hobby Raven 40 profiler that he built from a kit. Except for a bad case of "garage grunge," it's all there less radio and engine. Pushrods, clevises, everything including a 1998 AMA membership decal. I even have a brand-new 8 oz. DU-BRO fuel tank which I was trying to sell, but I'm glad I didn't since that is precisely the tank this model calls for.

If I didn't take it, it would have been off to the stomping pile just before it would have hit the trash can.

Not good. The stuff that did get stomped was crashed beyond repair. Not this little 3D. There simply isn't anything wrong with it beyond a slightly damaged rudder servo box.

The other wayward (or is that "wayweird?") orphan is a Piper Cub 40 which was also a kit build. Again, pretty much all there except for one missing wing strut, one broken wing strut, the landing gear and some torn covering.

I would have passed it up and...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Nov 22, 2007 @ 10:47 AM | 3,394 Views
I think the worst may be just about over where the VQ Model P-51D is concerned.

The basic assembly instructions are fine, but the retracts with the optional spring-loaded struts were a nightmare.

Three reasons.

One, too much preassembly on the part of the factory. The wing halves came with the wheel wells preinstalled. Leaving them in meant interference problems with the optional spring-loaded retracts as well as making it impossible to install the pushrods regardless of whether or not you pop for the spring-loadeds. Interference wouldn't have been a problem if I hadn't already cut the existing struts to use as stubs on which to attach the spring-loaded ones. Removing the covers nearly resulted in damaged covering and a damaged wing.

Two, no instructions whatsoever on how to install the spring-loaded struts. None. The distributor contacted the factory; it seems they were aware of the oversight. The only other online instructions I found for installing the spring-loaded units involved major cutting, drilling and tapping. Thankfully, the actual solution is considerably less involved.

Three, the pushrods themselves. I don't mind having to bend my own, but the given dimensions were wrong. Not only that, there were no full-scale drawings to refer to other than split drawings showing the necessary bends at either end.

As far as the covers were concerned, I trimmed off the perimeters and tacked them back on with contact cement to hide the damage. I'...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Nov 16, 2007 @ 06:18 PM | 2,966 Views
I, like you, see a lot of strange things in the course of a day which make me wonder just where the heck our civility has gone. Usually, these things manifest themselves in a general lack of courtesy, especially when some jerk sits behind the wheel of his car. Someone's who is going to drive with road rage will do so even if his mom is in the passenger seat. Or, consider the nincompoops at coin-op car washes who wash their car in the stall and then proceed to dry and detail their ride in the stall instead of in the drying area. It doesn't stop at the highway. People are just, well, puckered up.

That all changes at the flying club.

We swap stories, swap advice, give each other parts and accessories and generally have a great time flying model aircraft. I've seen that same camaraderie at the local R/C dirt track. Even the most aggressive competitors will come to each others' aid in the pits.

Maybe the world needs to stop playing violent video games and start playing with something real.

Just my two cents'.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Nov 11, 2007 @ 11:27 PM | 3,092 Views
It's been a heck of a weekend.

Our club just wrapped up a two-day "fun fly" to benefit Toys for Tots. Saturday started out rather windy which I believe harmed attendance over the course of the meet (not to mention the remote location of the place), but it was an unqualified success nevertheless. The meet managed to attract quite a few pilots from out of the area; one vacationer from Switzerland put on one heck of a great show!

Models of all sorts abounded, from the club's big, lazy .60 trainer which any spectator could control via a buddy box to a 119 mph .60 delta wing to a gorgeous giant-scale P-51D Mustang complete with full cockpit detail and pneumatic retracts. One guest pilot, as I understand, is one of the leading large-scale electric pilots in the nation. His planes were simply incredible. He sported a smoking hot Corsair, a drop-dead gorgeous Beechcraft Staggerwing (I believe it was the Top Flite version) and a ballistic P-38. I kid you not when I say that the big Corsair probably touched 90 mph. Heck, we even had a one-time U-Control champion out on our brand new CL and helicopter pad!

Next on our list is the "Best in the West" national turbine meet in January. If you're in or near the Palm Springs, California area, check us out! Find some info at www.cvrcclub.com.

Happy Veterans Day!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Nov 02, 2007 @ 08:50 PM | 3,061 Views
There are those among us who seem to think a model aircraft is a toy. Sure, it's a diversion to an adult or young person much like a toy is to a child, but "toy?"

Toys don't julienne your hands if you contact a moving propeller. Nor do they set you back several hundred hard-earned monetary units in the event of an "unscheduled landing."

My boss, bless him because I really do love the guy, told me of a meeting he had earlier today with a marketing group. His mission: Tell the group about some of his employees. I was described to this august body (affectionately, I might add) as a "big kid" who "plays with those motorized planes like the kids do."

Did I mention that one of his hobbies is trying to get under my skin? He does it well.

His cousin, who co-owns the company, is the opposite. He's fascinated by R/C planes and is looking to get into the hobby. He and his parents have been to the field; his dad flew a Liberator in the war.

In any event, my boss likes golf and tennis. I give as good as I get...why, I ask, does he spend his precious free time hitting a ball with a stick?

Isn't that what KIDS do...?

I'm such a rat.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Nov 01, 2007 @ 02:30 PM | 3,169 Views
Not me. Spammers. I reported three of 'em. Our ever-vigilant admins clobbered all three.

How dumb do these people think we are?

Sadly, there are those who'll answer ads like the ones these idiots posted. I prefer to think that if we have the time, money and discipline to pursue a hobby in radio control, we're more likely to recognize spam for what it is, ignore the links and holler at the admins. They respond in record time, I might add.

One of those spammers was a hoot. "He" was making like a "she." I also prefer to think that women have better things to do than to go link spamming. "Her" first (and last) post was along the lines of, "Hi! I'm new here! I like fashion, shopping, what about u? And oh, my mom buys me laptop batteries from (insert spamlinks here). I'm told that these are 38% off for the Thanksgiving Day!"

The Thanksgiving Day?

Such a generous mother, too. Even my dear mother isn't that generous. Actually, she is. She just hates computers.

You blew it, sweetie. I never answer spam unless I'm promised at least 40% off.

I wonder if she'll follow my suggestion and hook up a li-po to an automotive battery charger.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Nov 01, 2007 @ 01:52 AM | 2,932 Views
At least it was for me earlier today.

Our club president has started an aerial photography business. His platform is a massive gasoline-powered 26cc Century helicopter which will easily lift fifteen pounds. Or if you prefer, seven kilograms.

President, chopper and professional grade camera platform were all present and accounted for at the field this morning. The equipment has been present quite a bit, in fact. That's because "Da Prez" has been doing a lot of flight practice with and without the platform.

He had set up the platform with a Nikon digital SLR instead of the usual Panasonic digital camcorder. The platform, which operates from its own discrete radio control system, uses an ordinary Hitec mini-servo and servo arm to sweep in and engage the shutter via a spare channel. Tilting the camera corresponded to the throttle; panning the camera corresponded to the ailerons.

Wouldn't you know it. I got tapped for duty to operate the platform while the helicopter was in hover. Oh, darn.

I'm fortunate and very blessed to work in radio broadcasting, but the emphasis of my broadcasting education was in video production. Couple that love of playing with TV cameras with a love of R/C flight and you'd better believe I was in heaven.

Not only did the setup work, it worked perfectly. No blurring, no glitches. While the tilt function just affected the camera, panning actually rotated the entire platform beneath the 'copter. That was a possible bone of contention, but as it turned out, it didn't affect flight in the least. A lot of the credit goes to the inherent stability of that Century, but the rest goes to the amazing helium-suspended gyro which flawlessly kept that platform in check. Simply amazing and I'll post pictures soon.

The best part? I may be "assistant cameraman" as his business grows. Video production will be a real blast with its 2.4 GHz monitoring downlink. Talk about "eye in the sky!"

As I posted in a previous blog: I dig this hobby.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 25, 2007 @ 09:25 PM | 2,761 Views
Wow, am I ever grateful for all of the hits my article on the Raiden Tech Zero Fighter-25 over at "RC Power Magazine" has received! Thanks, all. I sure do hope it'll be of help.

I'm up to ten flights and all is well. The only weak spot is the landing gear. The wire is way too soft. Even the gentlest landings bend 'em up, popping off the decorative covers and basically making the plane a bit pigeon-toed on its way back to the taxiway.

Some 1/8" piano wire is about to be procured and worked.

Do follow the build thread another user had left in the comment section. Apparently, not all of Raiden Technology's models are the clear-cut bargain this one is. If anything happens to this model, I might even soften my stance against the company's lack of parts support and customer service and order up antoher one.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 13, 2007 @ 01:53 AM | 3,132 Views
UPDATE BELOW! Too funny. Do read on.

I promise: No more after this. You can call me on it if I do, OK? I'm only ranting since it's somewhat relevant to the hobby of R/C.

So here I was, giving my one more try, um, one more try. Frankly, I'm fresh out of ideas for new content and playing "whack-a-mole" with vandals, spammers and the generally clueless gets tiring.

I'd seen a newspaper article not long ago on a historic toy store-cum-hobby shop here in the Palm Springs area. The Palm Springs Historical Society was actually giving out authentic samples of the store's very distinctive wrapping paper which they'd acquired from the original owner of the store.

I found the article archived online. The notability factor sure looked like it met standards. Thought it might link nicely to the Riverside County category.

No sooner had I finished the article than WHAM! An editor whacked it with a deletion proposal tag.

I saw red. Big time. In fact, I had the closest thing to a cyber-hissy fit one can have. I'll leave out the details.

To make a long story even longer, the subsequent deletion discussion is now roughly three times the length of the original article which took less than ten minutes to bang out in the first place.

Has any good come out of all this, you might ask? Yes and no.

The no: I just stressed out over a little "stub article" that wouldn't pass muster in an eighth-grade composition class, it was so...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 12, 2007 @ 07:15 PM | 3,147 Views
...but my HPI Savage needs tranny work. Again. My fault.

The centrifugal device that holds the two-speed gear cluster together and allows it to shift up and down is factory calibrated based on RPMs. There's no rough baseline, say two turns in. Adjusting it too far inward will squash the little coil spring that makes it happen. Surprisingly delicate part for such a brutal machine.

I squashed the whee out of mine when I cinched the bolt all the way down, thinking all the while I was tightening the retaining bolt.

Needless to say, the thing doesn't shift. Out the tranny must come.

A new retainer is on order. Another eight bucks goes bye-bye. Oh, well.

However, the high winds that are currently plaguing my part of the world weren't bad this morning, so up went the Zero for flight number four. A couple of flying buddies were there who fly considerably larger birds; they were impressed. One of them might be getting one for himself. He plans to stuff a .28 in it and go dogfighting.

I dig this hobby.