I first met L.A. Johnston several years ago, back when I was first learning to fly 4-channel remotely-piloted craft with some degree of proficiency.
Several of us who were the founding members of our renegade group, "The Foambusters," were using the Mt. Juliet Middle School parking lot as a makeshift runway for our Parkzone T-28 Trojans one Sunday evening. We had already been asked to explain ourselves and our honorable intentions to a Mt. Juliet Patrol Officer and had been given a verbal warning NOT to fly over, or even close to State Highway 171 (Mt. Juliet Road), so we were understandably "gun-shy" when we were approached by an elderly gentleman after he pulled his large truck behind our vehicles. He walked right up to us and asked so seriously, "what are you guys doing in MY own private flying field," then smiled and introduced himself as L.A.
L.A. watched us fly for a few minutes, then showed us what was in the back of his truck and asked if we wanted to fly a REAL electric stunt plane?
What he had was a large, relatively heavy foam profile airplane with symmetrical wings, plainly identified as "Pigi" on the top right wing against a red, white, and blue star-spangled paint configuration all over the entire plane. He explained that he had acquired this foam plane in the years that he worked at Hobby Lobby International in Brentwood TN. One of its strong points was that it was not the best at any particular genre of RC but was pretty good at everything. It was a pretty good sport flyer as well as a good stunt plane AND somewhat 3D capable. I hardly knew what REAL 3D was back then but knew enough to know that it was anything outside of the normal realm of flight, basically anything flown in a stall configuration.
After watching this old master make this funny looking plane do aerial gymnastics that at the time I thought were impossible, I nervously took command of L.A.'s generously offered transmitter and made a few cautious circuits around our makeshift flying field. My first impressions were: It was NOT as easy to fly as the Parkzone Trojan, nor as forgiving, but it did exactly what you commanded, no more, no less, and had NO bad habits. This plane's strong point was its ability to just float around at an extremely slow speed given a high angle of attack and low power setting. Its weak point was, It hadn't been produced in years and there weren't many sold as it was an expensive kit even back in the day. Here is a link to the life story of LA Johnston written by Jim T. Graham.
The Pigi was one of the first, if not THE first practical 3D FOAM stunt plane commercially available. It was proofed by none other than Jim T. Graham himself (AKA "Billy Hell") who founded the Profile Brotherhood (The Pro Bros who have an annual fall gathering at Leipers Fork, TN) and pioneered 3D flying while also employed by Hobby Lobby International. In fact, Jim Graham himself once stated when the then owner of Hobby Lobby watched him flying some close-in 3D maneuvers in their parking lot, "that's not flying, that's an abomination." Here is one of the original Pigi threads.
After being imported for a couple of years, The Pigi was discontinued by Hobby Lobby International and slipped into almost forgotten history.
Fast forward about 4 years and you find us Foambusters basically disbanded, our web site defunct and having gone our separate ways with only a couple of us doing the right thing and joining The Music City Aviators RC flying club. L.A donated his Pigi to an aspiring young RC pilot who proceeded to test the upper limits of repairability of the unique EPP foam material. I inherited a Multiplex Parkmaster for SERIOUS 3D work and got somewhat proficient at hovering, rolling circles, and several other gravity defying stunts.
Although not in the same league of capabilities as more modern designs, my fond remembrance of L.A.'s old Pigi always held a sentimental place in my heart. I had searched for years trying to find one, only to have two come into my possession almost back to back. I happened to ask Wayne Kackley of Daniells RC and he informed me that he had a Pigi airframe, then shortly after I acquired that, I had James Winstead (LJ) bring to my attention a Craigslist posting for several planes that included a Pigi that was ready-to-fly. I dubbed the RTF "Pigi 1" and the airframe, which later sported an original PJS-1000 motor, as "Pigi 2".
When Charles Waterston bought some acreage, built a nice house and moved to the Gladeville area, I noted (and demonstrated) that his yard was a perfect area for some slow flying planes like a Parkzone Super-cub, Multi-plex Easy Star, OR Pigi. Charles was so impressed with the Pigi's easy, slow-flying capabilities that he wanted one bad enough to begin a year long search that culminated in our finding a new in-the-box Pigi kit which his lovely wife presented to him last Christmas.
Several months later, John Whitehead (a friend of Charles who lives in "Merry Ole England") provided a suitable motor. This "Super-Pigi" took to the air on our first "Old Farts" gathering in the month of May, 2013. I brought my old veteran "Pigi-2" and the two of us did a photo-op together (prior to the "maiden" attempt of course). It wasn't until I saw the photos that I realized just how worn and faded my old "War-horse" really is. Still, it does the job that L.A. demonstrated it being so capable of so long ago and is one of my favored planes to put on an impromptu airshow at parks and schoolyards. The legacy of my old Pigi is it has inspired others to follow in its footsteps. Numerous younger folks have asked "where can I get one of those?" and I have to politely point them toward a Hobbyzone Super-Cub, available complete for less than $200 at their friendly local Hobby Shop.
The maiden voyage of Charles's "Super-Pigi" was a resounding success. Here's wishing him (and her) a long, happy, continuing relationship!!
|May 03, 2013, 03:00 AM|
Great up, thanks for sharing the story! Great background history of the Pigi, I didn't know it was a pioneer! I am sadden however, I thought your post was showing a return of the Pigi
The Pigi was my 2nd plane after a Firebird, running a PJS1000 and a 3S2C 1500 lipo packs. (!!) I flew the heck out of that bird, and got a second one some years later. The second one never quite flew right though.
I've attached a hilariously old photo (8-9 years ago maybe?) of me with my first pigi right after my dad and I finished building her. Even for my first plane, I was cutting lawns in the neighborhood saving money little by little to buy my planes! We added CF strips to the elevator, and left off the wingtips to increase roll rate, all per the thread you linked! She was a tank!
|May 03, 2013, 08:55 AM|
While the Pigi is probably never coming back I was at the Toledo show and saw what might be a 2013 alternative - The Visionaire. The first time I saw it I immediately thought of the Pigi.
About the Visionaire
They got it right from the EPP like foam to the colors:
|May 03, 2013, 10:47 PM|
USA, TN, Gallatin
Joined Aug 2009
Hah! Nice article there, Hark! Hope we get some decent flying weather soon. I've got some real 3D planes for sale if you want one. Heehee! Unfortunately, I've seen your T-28 so I can't imagine the Pigi being retired, well... ever!
Thanks for posting this, Jim T.
|May 13, 2013, 07:35 PM|
Rochester, NY, USA
Joined Aug 2000
Hey Jim T,
Talk about a blast from the past, I still have mine with the original PJS Nippy 3D 1000 outrunner! Remember when NiMH packs were hot items? I store it in one of my plane rooms...nose up of course.
Nice article, Brother Billy, it brought back some good memories.
|May 13, 2013, 08:33 PM|
|Jun 12, 2013, 01:26 PM|
This just in - user Keyman just tipped me off to this Pigi on sale at ebay.
Grab it while you can!
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