A Visit to the 2000 Westchester Radio Aero Modelers RC Model Show
The WRAM Show is held each February at the Westchester Center in White Plains, New York, a suburb north of New York City. It is like a smaller, regional version of the Weak Signals 'Toledo' Show held in April, and is the largest RC model show in the northeastern US. This is not a show where the larger companies introduce a lot of new products, but you often see smaller companies that do not travel to the big shows. Most companies have products for sale, and many offer 'show special' prices, which is probably the reason that a lot of people go to the show. This year was the 32nd show - it has been running for a long time!
This year I did a couple of things differently. One is that I drove to New York, and another is that I brought my children along. And this year, I had a digital camera, so I could take LOTS of photos. Some of these photos came out great - this digital camera has a real macro capability so that I can take good closeups. But I am still learning to use it, so some of the images are not lighted or focused they way I would like.
I arrived before the show opened on Friday, and headed straight for where the side-by-side NSP and Hobby Lobby booths were in previous years. These companies are two of the biggest vendors and supporters of electric flight in the US, and much of the current growth of our part of the model airplane hobby can be directly credited to their unceasing efforts.
This year I have organized the coverage a little differently - the three biggest Electric Flight exhibitors are covered first, and then everyone else is covered in alphabetical order. Please read through all the way to the end - some of the most interesting and exciting new products were being shown by small exhibitors.
A view of the show floor from upstairs, and some of the awards presented for the static display models. The show floor is actually larger that it apprears in the photo - it extends under the upstairs seats, and there is a downstairs level that is much larger.
Hobby Lobby International
Hobby Lobby is probably the largest mail order company in the USA that primarily handles electric flight. Their web site at http://www.hobby-lobby.com now includes everything in their catalog. It also includes a short history of the company, and an introduction to the staff.
This year the Hobby Lobby booth was exclusively Slow Flyers and Park Flyers. Above are the Chubby Lady, and Jay Burkhart holding the Jodel, a built-up ARF.
Jay Burkhart again, this time holding the IFO3, the latest version of this simple, but highly aerobatic, slow flyer.
Hobby Lobby's Jim Martin with my children Samuel and Shoshana. Jim is holding a copy of the HL catalog, open to the page for the Graupner Cumulus 97, which features a picture of Sam holding my Cumulus. HL's Kevin Butts asked Sam and Shoshi to autograph the picture! The aviator Koala bear that Sam is holding came from Bell Limited (see below).
Northeast Sailplane Products
The Northeast Sailplane Products booth was again stacked to the rafters with display models, both sailplanes and electrics. The best place to find their ever changing and expanding model line is the NSP web site at http://www.nesail.com .
This year the NSP booth was even larger, with additional 'backyard' space added just for park flyers and slow flyers. Above is Carolyn DeFrancesco holding the 'Husky'
These slow flyers are the Pleaser 1 and the Butterfly. Both are ARF kits.
Above are the Virus and Pleaser 2, a slow flyer twin!
In addition to an enormous number of planes, NSP was also displaying a variety of radio gear. NSP is the USA distributor for the German Kontronik brushless motors and both brushed and brushless motor controls.
A new exhibitor at the this year's WRAM show was Multiplex USA, the US distributor of the German manufacturer Multiplex. They have an extensive web site at http://www.multiplexrc.com . The complete Multiplex catalog was available at the booth on CD-ROM, and is also available from their web site as PDF files.
The Multiplex Booth had many of their electric flight kits on display. Karlton Spindle, the 'Emperor' of Multiplex USA can be seen in the center of this photo. The PicoJet and Smiley are flying over his head.
The long awaited Multiplex transmitters were on display. All of these transmitters have a much cleaner appearance than the Japanese brands, with their bumps, fins, ridges, and chrome. The Cockpit MM transmitter was available for purchase, and I bought one for a future review. The clean, almost bump-free case is very slim, and therefore very easy to hold. All programming is done with a single knob with integrated push button - very easy to use!
Multiplex was also displaying some of their extensive line of servos, which are available in both conventional (less expensive) form and as high performance digital servos. Metal gears, high torque, nice stuff!
Academy of Model Aeronautics
The AMA had a large booth, handling memberships and selling a variety of the products available through headquarters. The Dave Brown Products simulator was being displayed on the computer in the foreground, which provided great entertainment for my children. The AMA web site is http://www.modelaircraft.org
Ace Hobby Distributors / Thunder Tiger
Thunder Tiger of Taiwan purchased Ace R/C, and after initially dropping most of the Ace product line, has been reintroducing some items. Their web site is http://www.acehobby.com. On the left are some of the Ace chargers. On the right is the Nautical Commander transmitter, specifically designed for boats, with dual throttles. I think this is the only true boat system available in the USA.
The Thunder Tiger Wisper 400 electric sailplane. In the foreground is a stack of Thunder Tiger catalogs.
Aero Craft Model Manufacturing is not well known, but many of their products are, because they make many of the kits and ARFs sold by Hobby Lobby. This photo shows the Scooter slow fly ARF, which will be sold by Hobby Lobby. Aero Craft actually builds its ARFs in the USA! They can be reached at 631-369-9319.
Aerospace Composite Products
George Sparr of Aerospace Composite Products had a busy booth packed with his huge variety of building materials. ACP is a great source for fiberglass, carbon fiber, epoxy, and vacuum bagging supplies. Check out their web site at http://www.acp-composites.com .
Airage publishing, the publisher of Model Airplane News, has started an online and printed newsletter about park flyers and slow flyers. The online edition can be found at http://www.microflight.com. The printed version is very good - although it costs the same as MAN, all of the material is electric flight!
Aveox had a lot of new products this year. On the left is the A-15, a 15A microcontroller based brushed motor control. Aveox recently introduced three lines of small '1000 series' motors, which can be seen above on the right with the new EZ-30 brushless controller. The EZ-30 is a smaller 30A controller specifically intended for the small 1" / 2.54cm diameter motors.
Check out their extensive and detailed web site at http://www.aveox.com.
The new H260 controller, and F10Comp Motor. The F10Comp replaces the F7LMR and F10LMR, and it uses a new lightweight integral gearbox.
Balsa Products sells a variety of adhesives, radio control gear from Grand Wing Servo, and lightweight covering materials. On the right is a display of LW Tissue (Airspan), GM Tissue (Litespan), and Fibafim. These lightweight coverings are suitable for small electrics and slow flyers. The Balsa Products web site is at http://www.balsapr.com
Balsa Products was also displaying very lightweight wheels and geared drive trains, similar to those shown by Maxx Products.
Bell Limited of Burke, VA sells an extensive line of aviation-oriented T-shirts and enameled pins. They can be reached by phone at 703-503-6629, or 888-662-1052 for orders only.
Bell also had some very cute aviator Teddy Bears, which my children insisted that I buy for them. They were actually quite a hit - the aviator outfits can be removed, so they repeatedly dressed and undressed the bears.
Bill Griggs Models
Bill Griggs has again expanded his line of Speed 400 class laser cut kits. Hanging in back of Bill are the Old Time Racer, Assault, Electro Screamer EDF, Tiny, and BD 10 EDF. Bill also sells all of the equipment required to fly these planes. All of Bill's models and other products can be found on the web at http://www.aiusa.com/bgriggs.htm.
Bill manufactures the 'Little Tiny' kit designed by Todd Long. He also sells the lightweight mylar covering material that is supplied in the kit as a separate item.
Bill sells the everything required to fly the Little Tiny - carbon fiber propellor, geared motor, motor control, and battery packs. I will be doing a review of the Little Tiny, and I purchased this equipment for it. Maxx Products sells mating two pin connectors for the battery pack.
BTA Automatic Piloting Systems
BTA Autopilots actually come from Israel, and are based on RPV technology. They were displayed at the Maxx Products booth. BTA can be reached in Costa Mesa CA at 714-979-8948
Bruckner Hobbies is a large hobby shop in the NYC area. They advertise in RC Modeler Magazine, and have a web site at http://www.brucknerhobbies.com. Bruckner had a busy retail operation at the show.
Castle Creations continues to set new standards for tiny electronic speed controls, and are now moving into brushless controls. Sensorless brushless controls will be available later this year. The slow flyer Pixie 7 shown above weighs 0.15oz! Castle now has a web site at http://www.castlerc.com..
Davis Model Products
Bob Davis sells the Jet-X line of 'jet' motors - which are actually gas generators, rather than explosive devices. This new version of the old Jetex motors are manufactured in the UK. The Davis Jet-X glider kits are highly pre-fabricated, with every thing cut to shape and sanded. 203-877-1670
Dumas is actually a very old model company that got out of the airplane business to concentrate on boats many years ago. They have now introduced an expanding line of laser cut rubber free flight kits that should make good conversions to electric micro RC. Dumas was showing these two Slow Flyer kits, which are not yet available. They certainly look very nice!
Dumas now has a web site at http://www.dumasproducts.com which includes some information about upcoming models.
Dymond Modelsport USA, Ltd
Dymond Modelsport the US branch of a German distributor, and they handle a mix of European and Asian products. Some of the plane kits are very complete, and very inexpensive. Dymond has a web site at http://www.rc-dymond.com
Dynamics Unlimted is a new supplier of genuinely tiny RC systems. The Lil Skeeter plane shown here weighs about 1 oz/ 28 grams complete. The receiver and actuators weigh about 3g! They were displaying in the Bill Griggs Models booth, and their web site is http://www.slowfly.com
Eastern Tool and Supply
Eastern Tool sells a wide assortment of tools, ranging from cheap to high quality. Some of their items are pretty hard to find elsewhere. They sell some items in bulk - a gross (144) of disposable epoxy brushes is US$9, which is a lot cheaper than they would be from the usual hobby shop brands. Call them at 212-925-1006.
Edger sells a wide variety of cutting tools and cutting mats. They can be reached at 909-925-2344.
Electronic Model Systems / Jomar
EMS/Jomar displayed their large variety of speed controls, wiring, fittings, and other accessories. This is the MicroMax Speed 400 control, that mounts directly to the back of the motor. Their web site is http://www.emsjomar.com .
Flex Mask / Karoden Hobby Products
Flex Mask sells a line of very flexible masking tapes for painting models. Contact Karoden Hobby Products at P.O. Box 601, Bergenfield, NJ 07621
FMA Direct was showing their well known line of receivers and servos. This year the big news is introduction of several transmitters. Above on the left is the T-200 programmable transmitter. On the right are the T-80, with the antenna, and the T-80IR (that's right, infrared!) without an antenna. Their web site is http://www.fmadirect.com
FMA will be introducing some new, smaller receivers that are truly universal - they will work automatically with either positive or negative shift FM transmitters.
FMA is also introducing complete IR (infrared) systems for indoor RC. The receiver is the tiny block at the with all the wires plugged into it on the left - shown enlarged on the right. These receivers work with the infrared transmitter shown above. Up to 4 transmitters can be used simultaneously.
Great Planes Model Distributors
Great Planes, now the USA distributor for Futaba, took over what used to be the Futaba booth, and showed a sampling of their extensive product line. All of their products can be found at http://www.towerhobbies.com
Harry B Higley and Sons
Harry B Higley and Sons manufactures an extensive line of tools and other items specifically for the R/C market. They have a web site at http://www.members.aol.com/harryhig.On the right is their covering trimmer.
Some of the Higley products are pretty unusual. Above are a set of very strong hex keys ('muscle wrench' seems like the wrong name!) and a pair of small wire benders. The wire benders are clamped in a vise, and the wire can then be placed between the steel pins, and bent sharply. They really work; I use them all the time. The 1/16" and 1/32" sizes are especially useful for small models.
Higley also introduced a new book to their extensive line of modeling books. The new one is 'Radio Programming', and it provides step-by-step instructions for programming the Futaba and the JRXP8103. The format is 'how to do _____', with step by step instructions for both transmitters, complete with photos of each screen display.
Hitec sells an extensive line of reliable, inexpensive servos. Many of my planes are equipped with them, and I have never had a problem with any of them! Here is the newest addition to their line - the small (8.5g) HS-55. At about US$20 retail, there is simply no excuse for using oversized servos in electrics! Hitec has an extensive web site at http://www.hitecrcd.com .
Hitec has introduced another new receiver - the 7g 'Feather' 4 channel FM. It is the red cased receiver in the center.
Hitec has introduced an FM version of their 3 channel radio, and will be selling a complete electric flight system with the Feather receiver and HS-55 servos. This will allow modelers interested in electric flight to purchase a system that is exactly what they need - and not have anything left over!
Horizon Hobby Distrbutors
In past years, the Horizon Hobby booth was really the JR Radio booth. Horizon has been moving towards distribution of a broader model product line, and has established a mail order operation to compete directly with Tower Hobbies, carrying many products that Tower will not or cannot handle. Of particular note is the new Aspire ARF 2 meter sailplane, which was displayed prominently in both their booth and their catalog. An electric version of this plane will be available - unfortunately, it will be direct drive rather than geared.
The tiny JR R610M FM receiver was on display, and should be available now.
Horizon has an extensive web site at http://www.horizonhobby.com.
Lanier showed just one kit that can be easily converted to electric - the 1/2A Shrike, which can be powered with a Speed 400 system. Lanier has a web site at http://www.lanierrc.com. They do have other balsa kits that may be suitable for conversion.
Major Decals supplies a wide variety of colorful aircraft markings for many nationalities. They can be contacted at 413-525-4110.
Maxx Products Inc
Maxx Products International sells a variety of R/C equipment and batteries. Their web site is at http://www.maxxprod.com. In addition to Hitec Radio gear and an extensive line of cables and connectors, this year Maxx was showing some very interesting electric flight items.
These lightweight wheels and geared motor set should be available by late spring 00. Both are intended for slow flyers.
On the left is a tiny radio system, suitable for slow flyers. On the right, with surprisingly little fanfare, is one of the most exciting new products of the show - a cobalt 'speed 400' size motor! No real details yet, but it should be available by late spring.
Megatech / America's Hobby Center
Megatech sells several electric ARFs. They have web site at http://www.megatechrc.com. The B-2 shown above is quite different from the one sold by Global - it has a single pusher prop on the rear, and is larger.
I have mentioned Micro Fasteners in my columns and kit reviews. They had lot of little bags of little parts on display, and they have a web site at http://microfasteners.com . Lots of nylon bolts and hex head screws. If you need any sort of hardware for a model, they can probably provide it - in bulk.
The newest item from the ever-prolific Tom Hunt of Modelair-Tech is the Elipstik 260, a baby brother to the Elipstik 460 http://cgi.ezonemag.com/articles/1999/oct/elipstik/elipstik.htm which I reviewed a few months ago. There are several more flying wing designs on the way. I have already purchased an Elipstik 260 kit, so sometime in the near future I will write a review of it, too. On the left is the Tumblewatt fun flyer for direct drive Speed 400, which was introduced last year.
Check out their web site at http://www.modelairtech.com , and tell Tom the E-Zone sent you! Some of the show specials - or comparable deals - may still be available from their web site.
Mr. Nicad - E.H. Yost & Co. / Batteries America
Batteries America, also known as EH Yost or Mr. Nicad, sells both pre-made battery packs and loose cells. They can make any sort of custom configuration that you want - I usually just fax them a sketch, and they build it. They are a very good battery supplier. Check out the Batteries America web site at http://www.batteriesamerica.com
National Balsa is a distributor of stick and sheet balsa, in addition to plywood and veneers. Their web site is at http://www.nationalbalsa.com.
Norvel is the distributor for the Folding Flyer for Speed 400 electric. Their web site is http://www.norvel.com.
Peck Polymers sells free flight and rubber power kits and supplies. Some of the larger kits are suitable for conversion to micro electric RC. Peck Polymers can be reached at 619-448-1818.
Robart has been making retractable landing gear for many years, and now has several small sets that are suitable for electric flight. The Robart web site is at http://www.robart.com
Robbe Modelsport (H.U.I Robbe Schluter)
The extensive Robbe Modellsport line from Germany is now being handled primarily by H.U.I. Robbe Schluter of Avon, CT 860-677-7278. The main Robbe web site is at http://www.robbe.de.
The Robbe display was primarily helicopters and boats. Electric aircraft will continue to be available from Aveox, and some items may be sold by Hobby Lobby. Robbe publishes very nice catalogs, several of which were available at the show.
Sailplane and Electric Modeler
Sailplane and Electric Modeler is the most significant print competition for the E-Zone in the US, and they put out an excellent magazine. Editor Wil Byers was selling back issues and hats. Check out their web site at blank. On the right are the Bob Benjamin videos about electric flight and converting glow kits to electric power.
Scale Skins makes highly detailed wing covering and overlays for large (1/7th to 1/4) scale planes. It looks like a real time saver if you are into scale detail! Their web site is http://www.scaleskins.com
Shive Specialties/Penn Valley Hobby Center
Shive Specialties is the manufacturing side of the Penn Valley Hobby Center in Lansdale, PA. They had a lot of free flight and old timer kits on display, many of which are suitable for conversion to electric flight. Check out their web site at http://www.pennvalleyhobbycenter.com.
The Slegers booth had a large variety of beautiful sailplanes, and a few electrics. The Slegers web site is at http://www.slegers.com.
Larry Sribnick of SR Batteries, sitting below examples of his X-250 laser cut Speed 400 sport plane.
This is the X610 electric sailplane, a big brother to the X440 (Little Star). Also on display were the large variety of SR battery packs. SR has a web site at http://www.srbatteries.com . The web site includes additional information on the X250 and X610.
A Few Closing Thoughts
Electric flight as a part of the R/C industry continues to grow. The companies covered above have at least some connection to electric flight, and are perhaps 40% of the exhibitors at the WRAM show. This is even more remarkable when you consider that the show includes cars and boats, too. Slow flyers and park flyers seem to be the biggest growth area, probably because they appeal to anyone interested in R/C - they can be flown almost anywhere. Even better for the manufacturers, it is such a specialized area that any equipment a modeler already has will not be suitable - so they have to buy a lot of new equipment. Many companies that previously had no connection to electric flight are getting involved in slow flyers.
This document and every single one of the photographs is copyrighted (c) 2000 by Steven Kranish, and may not be copied or used in other forms of publication (electronic or paper) without written permission from the author. I will probably grant permission, but I would like to know about it, so go ahead and ask.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at skranish(at)ezonemag.com
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