Our friends from Extreme Flight RC just got back from a trip to China. Ben Fisher took time to put together a tale of their adventures complete with photos! Sit back and prepare to take a trip with Extreme Flight to China!
It's lunchtime and I'm picking goose bones out of my teeth. All around me, diners are skillfully eating the same meal, and carrying on conversations, laughing and slurping, but I feel like I'm going to die. You know how you're never supposed to give your dog a bird with the bones in it because he might get a bone stuck in his throat? That idea goes double for Americans in China. Chinese people are used to eating meals featuring chopped meat with the bones still in, and they are really good at politely spitting out the shards as they eat. Nobody thinks twice about it. Me? I'm the only one with my fingers constantly in my mouth, and I figure at some point I'm going to screw up and get a ride in a Chinese ambulance.
This is the Pearl River, Zhu Jiang in Chinese, delta area in Southern China, it's one of the most highly urbanized areas in the world. It's a bit bigger in area than the state of Delaware, but has roughly 40 times more people in it. It is, essentially, one giant city that is 80 times larger in acreage than Manhattan. Team Extreme Flight is here, once again, to visit our factories, refine and test products, and renew friendships and associations.
We started our trip by flying into Hong Kong, where every other car is a supercar that would cause jaws to drop on an American street. Although Hong Kong is part of China, it's complicated and the first order of business after being picked up at the airport by one of our long-time Chinese friends is to endure the long wait for the border crossing into the interior. We travel a few hours upriver on the excellent, really excellent, Chinese highway system. In the US we'd be driving between cities, but in China we're driving more than one hundred miles through one uninterrupted urban zone.
We arrive in Wangniudun town in the middle of the night and crash in the hotel, dead to the world. For the next 3 or 4 days, we'll be fighting as we recover from the worst possible jet lag you can endure on this planet. We are up at 7 and walking to the factory. It's about a mile from the hotel and the walk is a great way to start the day. There's a McDonalds on the way, so we usually pop in for a coffee. It's December so temps are in the 60's, perfect. Summer is not so kind, as the Pearl Delta is a very humid place.
Today we're evaluating the build on a new aircraft. There are three of us on this trip, Chris Hinson, Arron Bates and myself (Ben Fisher), and we are like kids on Christmas. After all these years (between us, that's over 75 years in RC) we still get way too excited about new airplanes. We examine fit and finish details through a lot of dry fitting, and pick over the hardware options. This plane has retracts, and we're in our third iteration of these pieces. This set is excellent; we finally have what we want for actuation smoothness, accurate swing, and reliable locking. This airplane has a very complicated printed color scheme, and Arron breaks out the color charts and starts making minor adjustments to the digital files. This process will go on all week, as the colors get dialed in and registration is nailed down to the millimeter.
Our partners for these evaluations are the factory owner, the factory manager, and the factory engineer. These are great people. We've known and been partners with these same people for over a decade, and they're our good friends. They're also the most can-do people with the best, positive, problem solving attitude I've ever worked with. I firmly believe if we called them up and told them we wanted to compete with SpaceX and go into orbit, they'd make it happen. We complete a full build on the prototype over the next two days. A few issues become apparent and we revise the CAD drawings and cut out new assemblies to check fit and clearance, but already, this thing is awesome. We're excited to fly it. We wrap up the build and are ready for test-flying the next day.
A lot of life in China happens at night. People work hard here, and everyone comes out at night for shopping, entertainment and socializing, every night of the week. We head to the mall on a weeknight, and it's packed. Families are mobbing the place. The huge courtyard outside is full of people dancing or playing carnival games or shopping in one of the thousands of moveable temporary markets in South China. Once we stumbled onto a wedding dress show, and it was amazing.
Inside the mall is just as packed. There's a food court, just like a Western mall, but if you look close, there's a lot of chicken feet, chestnut jelly, and spicy bamboo. By the way, chicken feet really aren’t bad. I've sort of developed a taste for them. CityLights on Vimeo The next morning we're packed up for the half-hour drive to the flying field in DongGuan. It's a grass strip, plenty big for 35% and larger, with a nice shelter. It's divided about 50/50 between F3a pattern and 3D.
We run into Andy, a hardcore Extreme Flight fan and he owns a lot of our aircraft. He's tearing it up with a 91" Extra and a 60" Extra. Like most of the 3D pilots here, he's not afraid to get low. There are plenty of EF aircraft and a few other brands, but there are also some ARF's we haven't seen in the USA market in years and years. The pattern pilots are super-serious, and their setups are expensive.
We are carrying two prototypes, a new 3D/XA aircraft for Extreme Flight and the scale plane we have been working on. Chris maidens the aerobatic plane, and the local pilots are all watching. It even draws a crowd at the fence. This is a final pre-production sample after a long development process. It flies great, and this project is finally done. We put several more flights on it, getting lower every time, and finally we tear the rudder off. Fun factor confirmed, it's ready for production.
Arron assembles the scale bird, tests the retracts, checks all controls and points it into the wind. It flies on rails from the first moment. This is to be the second Aces High product, and it's a playmate for the Focke Wulf. Gear up, flaps up, and full throttle from the XPWR T4016 motor and it makes a beautiful guns pass. Stall test, spin test, flaps down slow flight, and a few dirty passes. It's solid. Gear down, flaps down, leave some power on and she settles in beautifully. Change the lipo. Now we can start the aerobatics.
I won't lie. Testing aircraft is fun when things work. We pass the transmitter for the next hour and discuss this bird. We're satisfied with the aerodynamics. Anyone with aileron experience can fly this thing, and it meets our goal of being very light and aerobatic for a warbird. We're building these planes using 3D construction techniques and it's paying off. We tear down and head back to the factory.
The next day we split up, and I travel downriver to Zhongshan. I'm heading to the factory which has been prototyping our 79" Slick 580 project. Chris and Arron will stay behind in Wangniudun to work on warbirds and start a brand new giant-scale aerobatic project. I'm going to oversee final details on the Slick and get started assembling prototypes of several airplanes, including a new Cody Wojcik design. The second factory is also a long-time supplier and run by another bunch of good friends of ours. I start the visit with a day-long factory tour. I spend time at every build station, watching our products go through the process. Chris is doing the same at the other factory, and by spending time we get to discuss improvements with the people who are doing the work. Maintaining quality in ARF production is a constant battle, and this is how the battle is fought – on the ground. ExtremeFlightFACTORYfilmNALL on Vimeo We're deep into new materials technology in our production right now. We have started using composite laminations in new ways in our demonstrator aircraft, and we're deploying this tech across more products now. I get to test a lot of process samples. Some processes prove to be righteous, and some need more work. There are a lot of variables in composite work, and it's not as simple as gluing carbon cloth to wood or foam. Thankfully, our factory team is patient and dedicated, and we're getting the results we want. This will result in lighter and stronger aircraft.
BTW, I have to mention the tea ritual. Every business meeting in China always, always begins with tea. There is a complicated series of boilings, pourings, cleansings, and re-pourings that goes on for some time before you actually drink any tea. All of this takes place on a tea tray in the center of every office. At first, I was impatient to wait through these, but over time, I've come to see the wisdom. Everyone calms down. Everyone is thoughtful. The tea is good, too. I start the build on the 79" Slick, and I'm a happy camper. We've been working on this aircraft for about a year, and it's almost ready. The design brief for this one is an aircraft that can deliver true XA performance on a 50CC engine. Our big 88-92" aircraft are popular and fun, but now we all think of them as 60CC aircraft since they have a lot of drag and are pretty darn big. We know there are a lot of DA-50's and DL-50's in toolboxes and drawers and so we have designed an aircraft that will make them fun again. This particular one is an advanced prototype with almost everything completed. I'll be finalizing the hardware and looking for any build problems. There are none; it's super smooth. This aircraft uses our printed covering technique and it's gorgeous and glossy. We have two different wingtip designs to test, so I set up two pairs of wings, and we have two different rudders we'll fly, but everything else is figured out. Since this plane is destined for abuse (it does gyroscopic maneuvers like a demon, so we know what everyone is going to do with it) it utilizes a lot of carbon laminate in its structure.
With that build finished, I start on the sample of Cody's new design, and it goes together with only a few notes. Cody is an aerodynamic genius, and so we're pretty excited to test his work. I also am deep into the build of two new parkflyers we're evaluating when Chris and Arron arrive. They're carrying photos of the final warbird weathered color scheme work and it looks fantastic. We gang up on the last two builds and knock them out. Flight testing tomorrow. There aren't a lot of hobby shops in China. A few, yes, but none are very near the factories we work in. So, we end up carrying a lot of stuff with us. This time, my checked bag held 2 electric motors, 3 ESC's, 22 servos, a bag of extensions, 4 props, a bag of servo arms, a bag of connectors, and various hand tools. The other guys' bags were equally stuffed. We end up leaving most of it in China to be used again later. I am sort of mystified that I never hear my name over the PA system at the airport. I can only imagine what all this crap looks like on the X-ray machine.
In Zongshan, there is no club field, so we test at a vacant lot. It's pretty good, but every time we have to spend a half-hour cleaning the runway of rocks and sticks first. It's near a busy street…come to think of it, every square inch of South China is near a busy street…so we do get a lot of spectators when we fly. Cody's plane flies spectacularly. It's another winner. I take a lot of photos every time we fly, and as usual I burn up the memory cards. After one of these Chinese testing sessions, I typically have 500-1000 photos to weed through. We put several packs through the first plane, and then switch to the new parkflyers. Again, we're happy. Both planes are solid performers. It's not always like this, but on this trip so far everything has been really satisfying. Now it's time to fire up the 79" Slick.
The "runway" we're using today is short. Really short. So, we have to harrier land giant-scale planes on it – one of a kind prototype giant scale planes. This makes things exciting. Arron takes the first flight, and starts beating on it. We're on wing set #1, which are the ones we've been testing in the states, and they work really well. The plane is perfect in high-alpha, stable as hell, and then gets up and moves due to its 15lb weight and under-80" span. Chris takes the next flight, and twists its tail. He's happy, too, and we're ready to land and change wings when- Crap! A flameout! There's no way it's going to make the field. The lot is scrub brush and trees except for our little clearing, and Chris is thinking fast. He opts for a parachute approach in-between two trees and it goes down level into 6-foot tall brush. I'm bummed. I really wanted some flights on the second set of wings to check my ideas, and that's going to set us back months to do it in the States. I stay by the vehicles, dejected, while Chris and the Chinese team go look for the plane. Wonder of wonders, they come back with an intact aircraft! Carbon fiber, baby, you can't beat it.
We check it over. Hitting a limb tore the screw pads out of one SFG and scratched up the covering a little. The factory manager repairs the SFG and we change out the wings and prop. We get our remaining flights in and decide #1 is still the superior set, so we stay with that wingtip. By the end of the day we're dragging the tail through the grass and having a ball.
We load up the next day. We still have two more factories to visit for electronics and accessories, so we're off. After two weeks, we're back on the big Airbus A380 for the flight home. All in all, a successful trip, and you guys will see the results during Spring and Summer of 2016.
Great story line..
Too bad Ben was being a bit cryptic about the new up coming planes.
Btw... Chicken feet are pretty good.
Once you get passed the idea that you're eating chicken feet you'll find them to be quite tasty, Gelatinous, and unctuous,... finger food at its weirdest.
United States, NY, Stony Point
Joined Apr 2001
Maybe if everyone was a modeler there would be a lot less hate in this world and we all really could "just get along".
Something about this hobby of ours, in whatever form, just seems to draw people together.
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