slopemeno's blog View Details
Posted by slopemeno | Aug 09, 2020 @ 02:20 PM | 5,579 Views
Dedicated to my John Higgins Alias. It's now the oldest plane in the fleet. I need to wrap up the current repairs and get it back in the air.
Posted by slopemeno | Dec 04, 2017 @ 10:15 PM | 6,860 Views
I've owned my Destiny for over 12 years- gawd- really? I bought mine from Soaring USA as some point before 2007.

Dollar to dollar, pound for pound, the best performance bargain in slope planes. Mine has been a surprising strong, fast plane that is just small enough to fit in the trunk with the wing on.

Setup: JR-9303 on 72 Mhz, three JR-341 servos, a 2000 NiMH receiver battery, Receiver is a JR-700X, with a short extension instead of a switch.

My Destiny is the early version where the v-tail is bolted on from beneath. I don't use a rudder. I use one servo on the elevator. The goofy factory pushrods seemed to be causing a lot of drag, so I made a 1/8" carbon pushrod that runs from the servo to the v-tail directly. A simple 1/32" wire v with a ball joint on each end all fit..barely- inside the stock tail stinger. Not sure how hard this might be to do now that the destiny has a built-in ballast compartment.

When I built my Destiny, I also did the following:

Fuse: Before I did anything I laid in a layer of 4-oz S-Glass inside the fuse from the nose to the rear of the canopy opening, and poured the excess resin into the nose which leaves about 3/4" of solid resin in the nose. The canopy is held on with a wire at the front and a 5mm magnet at the rear. I use a piece of 30# coated stainless fishing leader as a canopy leash. I sanded the sides of the servo tray to move it as far forward as possible while just fitting my battery. I glued in the servo...Continue Reading
Posted by slopemeno | Oct 09, 2016 @ 11:59 AM | 10,606 Views
For those of you who have read my slope catalog- here are some resources for finding additional slopes:
Acme Mapper: This application allows you to toggle (look in the upper right corner for controls) from Google earth, Street maps, contour, etc. Very handy.
Alert Wildfire: You can check out if there's fog or wind at Tick Pt here: and if you use the controls in the upper left corner of the screen, try the '15 minute" view- you can see the trees moving. Or, if you're like me you can sit in your apartment at night and watch the fog swirl...I need to get out more.
Ken Poulton's SFBay Area windspeeds: The SFO data is very close to the conditions at Tick Pt.,-122.495,5
4-Corners West windspeed:
Marin County fire cams:

Tick Point- 1 mile north of Muir Beach in Marin County on Hwy 1 at milepost 7.8. A West wind site. Park and fly. Look for the gravel turnout under the eucaliptus trees. Smallish LZ but big air. Landings can be tricky on big wind days, and you are close to Hwy 1 so use caution on the approach. Officially tolerated by the Parks system. Cam:
Slope day at Tick point (4 min 10 sec)

4-Corners- west- Near the Mill Valley and Muir...Continue Reading
Posted by slopemeno | Jun 18, 2015 @ 09:16 PM | 11,884 Views
Flew the Alula Evo at the super-secret urban slope again. Not quite as good as the previous session, but I explored flying higher up the slope, which puts me within sight of some apartments.

The thermals were small and fast moving- I was barely able to stay in them, usually getting dumped out of the back.

Flying higher on the hill was different, and I was still finding lift behind me, so maybe I need to move back again. There's a huge bush of Poison Oak to my left, so I'm always really careful about landing over there.

I got a couple of 5-minute-ish flights, and a couple of hand catches.

Oh- I almost forgot. My Alula Evo is beat by now. The leading edge looks like a mountain range. So after my last session I was thinking- "Hmm. What would happen if I taped my leading edge to cover all the cracks and dents". BIG difference, mostly in speed. It did seem to cause some down-trim effect, but it brought new life into it.
Posted by slopemeno | Jun 16, 2015 @ 08:28 PM | 11,472 Views
I just got back from a one-toss 30 minute micro-slermal flight with my Alula.
For this site I don't even have to cross a street- just sidewalk to trail to forest-to- mini slope. The air was cooling down, which made me not expect much, but I guess the trees and ground were still hot from getting sun all day, and the thermals were everywhere.

I had bought the Alula as a sort of "me too" plane. All my friends had them. It was an effortless build. Then I noticed I was flying the Alula more than all my other planes combined. Light lift? Made for it. Road trip? Behind the seats. I've flown it at Blanco, Sunset, Tilden Park, Fort Bragg and Mendocino, etc.

Other planes came close to this niche. The Liftworx Swift (surprised this isn't being kitted somewhere). The 60" DAW 1-26. The lightest Zagis like the LE and THL. Bowmans had a 60" EPP sorta HLG. But Dreamflight really got it right.

What a great way to spend an afternoon.
Posted by slopemeno | Oct 03, 2014 @ 04:38 PM | 13,040 Views
Anybody here play paintball?

I used to build custom WGP Autocockers for a shop called Pacific Paintball (later known as KAPP) from 1991 till 1995. We were air smiths to the Ironmen for a season, and that opened the floodgates of custom work. Triggerjobs, ball detens, Rock regulators, color anodizing, and so on.

Tony Meno on Pacific Paintball and Early Cockers c.1991-1995 (6 min 20 sec)

Had quite a time. Hard to believe it's been that long ago...
Posted by slopemeno | Jun 07, 2014 @ 12:04 AM | 13,817 Views
With the renewed interest in flying there, let's preserve some Goat Rock links, shall we?

Vista Point is a lookout a few miles North of Jenner on HWY 1. Takes me 30min to drive from Bodega Bay in weekend tourist traffic(grrr). The grass is really tall, like 5ft in some places, my planes never touched the ground landing there today.... although I think I could land on a fence post with full crow on this spider, it flys impossibly slow, 5mph??

VISTA POINT "The wind needs to be Southwest to West though(somewhat rare around here). It was ok being South today, but noticeably less lift.

ave- "

VISTA POINT "Vista Point is a lookout a few miles North of Jenner on HWY 1. Takes me 30min to drive from Bodega Bay in weekend tourist traffic(grrr). The grass is really tall, like 5ft in some places, my planes never touched the ground landing there today.... although I think I could land on a fence post with full crow on this spider, it flys impossibly slow, 5mph??"


AVE: "Nope, Vista has the easiest/nicest landing you could imagine... especially when the grass is tall. The only tough thing with Vista is getting there when the wind is the right direction... I'd say it's decently flyable from SSW to WSW, if the buoys/coastal stations are 10kts or more it should be flyable. If you can get it when it's directly SW that is the best(like yesterday), it's very big and clean lift. I only fly there maybe a half a dozen times a year with perhaps a total of a dozen times a year having good conditions... quite a rare treat."

200 mph ds'ing"

273 MPH at Goat Rock

253 with an MC-3

Mike the Snake goes 244 MPH
Posted by slopemeno | May 16, 2014 @ 01:55 PM | 13,081 Views
I should call it Rodent 2012 or something like that... this plane has been somewhat cursed. Maybe I need an exorcism performed on it...."The power of John Higgins compels you!". Can't blame the plane though.

I bought a bunch of kits from John back in about 2007 or so. The Rodent went together easily enough- they actually aren't that much work of you're organized...I'm not though. I was very busy at work during that era, so I sheeted the wings, and there they sat. Then a month or five later I cut the servo holes and wiring tunnels. And it continued to gather dust. One Russ Tompson ply-cored tail later, and it was, what a couple of years later before I made any headway.

Eventually the Higgins-Fest came up on the calendar so I got it done. I maidened it there. Big mistake- the CG was so far to the rear it was unflyable. It crashed hard and folded the nose, well, pretty much off.

I taped the nose straight, added a ton of weight that Seth loaned me, and it did fly it, and it ripped.

Fast forward almost two years- here comes the Dale Thompson fly-in. I did all the needed repairs, shot a coat of refrigerator white on it, and test flew it in privacy.....which was a good call as I ran out of down trim. I got it back on the ground without any drama, dialed it in, and- man that plane RIPPED. I mean it's speed on a 30 mph day was just unreal. I'd forgotten how fast they are, and how quickly they accelerate.

I got my spoilerons dialed close enough, and shot enough landings that I shouldn't embarrass myself. Scratched the paint, but I guess that's a sign of good luck.
Posted by slopemeno | Feb 17, 2014 @ 11:43 PM | 14,326 Views
I spent a few days at the Beachcomber in Ft. Bragg CA over the Valentines Day weekend. I brought the Mckeown Starling and my well-worn Alula with me.

The Starling has seen better days. I bought it very used back in 2006 or so from one of our local fliers as part of an "I'm getting out of the hobby sale", along with a bunch of other stuff. I really can't say enough about the sheer long-range quality of these planes. It was probably six or seven years old when I bought it, and it showed. The naked Kevlar look had yellowed significantly with age, and there was no repainting it unless I wanted to go all out with filler and paint. I had decided to keep it simple- I replaced the servo gears (didn't even remove the servos from the plane to do it- I just removed the tape and replaced the gears) replaced the receiver battery, and popped in the right crystal.

I flew the Starling everywhere. It wasn't the fastest 60"er out there, but the acro was off the hook. The plane could loop and roll right in your face like no other glass 60"er I'd ever flown. I had taken it right to the limits of my vision at Civic Center, DS's it at the same spot, and taken it with me everywhere I flew, since it always seemed to work.

These planes were very popular here in the North Bay. The Kevlar construction made it incredibly strong and able to soak up damage that would level your average glass plane. While every little insult showed, that plane kept on flying and...Continue Reading
Posted by slopemeno | Feb 11, 2014 @ 10:06 PM | 13,700 Views
(Or how Sonya, Casey, and Jeannie taught me the meaning of life)

I had been warning my manager that my father in law, who had been in assisted living for about five years, was not doing well. We were in a pretty busy phase at work so when my wife told me we were headed to New Jersey *now* I knew it was bad.

"Jim- I have to bail to New Jersey. Charlie's gone from assisted living to Hospice, and they took his feeding tube out"

"Go. Now". He'd been through it with his parents. "We'll take care of everything here"

This was the first week of January 2014, and the storms back east had been heavy. At one point we were going to take a 71 hour Emeryville/Chicago/DC/Philly AmTrack ride. Luckily, the weather broke and we were able to catch a plane to Newark.

My first step out of the terminal to the Hertz rental office was onto ice, and I barely stayed on my feet. It was 6:00 PM, dark, and c-c-cold.

We found our way to the Hospice in Lakewood NJ. I used to deliver janitorial supplies to places like this. The patients looked at us like they were looking for someone... else. The sign on the door read "This is not a Sabbath Door".

Charlie was in #211 along with a room mate. Charlie was breathing heavily, but unresponsive. In case you missed it-Alzheimers is a horrible disease. My wife held his hands and told him who she was and he stirred slightly. I felt like the interloper- I didn't have much, if any, skin in this game, I...Continue Reading
Posted by slopemeno | Aug 19, 2013 @ 11:23 PM | 14,240 Views
I took a very enjoyable vacation to Oregon with the wife last week. We managed to get all her childhood friends and us together in Seaside for a couple of days, and I have to say that was one of the best vacations I've had.

Beth, one of my wife's friends, makes a Brisket that is outstanding. I've been hearing about it for a decade or so- and I have to say it lived up to the hype:

In this case it was 5 lbs of brisket.

The "glaze":
16 ounces of whole cranberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup of cooking sherry
one can of onion soup mix

Cook for 3-4 hours at 300 degrees

It was outstanding, and I'm going to make it again soon.
Posted by slopemeno | Jun 29, 2013 @ 02:31 PM | 14,224 Views
It had been a busy Friday and my wife needed the car. She dropped me off a mile of so from the house and I wandered off towards home through rush hour traffic.

I cut through a wooded area as I knew a trail that came out on my street. About halfway through I came on cleared area maybe 300' long, 100' wide, and bordered by very tall trees on both sides. And the wind blew right up this cleared hill. I could fly here. The Alula would be perfect.

I came back Saturday at around noon. The air was just warming up, and the wind was about 5 mph out of the SW- right up the hill.

I launch and landed a few times. This place was narrow, and the air was rough, but flyable. I got a decent launch and headed south. The Alula showed me a thermal and soon I was specked out- and about 150 yards from my front door.

Five times that day I was able to climb to the limits of my vision. But the air was unpredictable, and landings were hard to nail. The trail I launch from has a 3/8" steel cable as a fence, and my Alula's leading edge is worse for wear. I broke the nose off the Alula *again*, so I taped the nose on. By now I had been flying for about 90 minutes with about 20 launches, and 5 speck-outs.
Posted by slopemeno | Jun 24, 2013 @ 03:24 PM | 14,478 Views
Just thought I'd pass this on. I live in the SF Bay Area, and I've been able to see missile launches from Vandenberg for years. I've read of people as far north as Portland OR and as far inland as Central NV being able to see the missile.

You can have email updates sent to your inbox. Best launches are either before sunrise or right after sunset. Solid rocket motors are was more visible than liquid fuel motors.


Brian Webb
Ventura County, California
[email protected]

2013 June 23 (Sunday) 16:43 PDT

by Brian Webb

Given clear skies and bit of luck, observers over a wide area may be
able to see some portion of Wednesday's offshore NASA satellite
launch. Launch is targeted for 7:27:34 p.m. PDT during a launch window
that extends from 7:27 to 7:32 p.m.

A converted airliner will carry a Pegasus XL rocket containing the
IRIS satellite from the Orbital Sciences Corp. facility at Vandenberg
Air Force Base to the launch point high above the Pacific about 70
miles southwest of Monterey. When the L-1011 reaches a
three-dimensional point in space at 36.000 north, 123.000 west, and
39,000 feet, it will release the rocket. After a five-second fall,
the Pegasus first stage will ignite and IRIS will begin a 13-minute
climb into orbit.

Observers along the California coast between...Continue Reading
Posted by slopemeno | Nov 11, 2012 @ 12:09 AM | 15,635 Views
I finally go to maiden my long-brewing Higgins F-20, and it was GREAT!

I bought the kit from John back in 2007, I think? A long tome ago, in any case. I had quickly sheeted the wings and made a laminated tail (1/16" balsa, 90-degree 1/64th ply, 1/16" balsa, glassed) and then, as my projects often do, it started to gather dust. Oh, I glued on bass tips and oak LEs to pretend I was making real progress. I sanded out the LEs up on my rooftop deck when I lived in Pacific Heights, enjoying the views and drinking a beer to "keep the dust down".

Then life began to get in the way. Without going into too much detail 2008 worked it's magic on our lives much as it did to a bunch of other people.... We moved out of Pac Heights and found an apartment that wasn't bad- I did get a building room out of it.

I got tired of just looking at that forlorn Higgins F-20. I sat down one night and opened up the fuselage cut enough to slide the wing in, and I think that set the hook. Suddenly it began to feel like it had some "life". I placed the fuse/wing on my bench where I saw it every morning on my way to work. Hmm. Wouldn't take to long to cut out the tail slit, would it? I dug out the dremel and a cutoff wheel- sssszing. Now the tail was in it. I could feel some sort of momentum building. It felt like it was downhill to the finish.

I scheduled a week off from work, and took the wife to her job on Monday morning. I picked up a coffee from...Continue Reading
Posted by slopemeno | Jun 26, 2012 @ 05:32 PM | 15,025 Views
Well, I finally got two weeks off. It's Tuesday, I have three planes scattered in pieces around the kitchen, I'm snow blind from looking for pinholes on a white primed wing, I smell like Kilz Primer, and I'm in the middle of a Seth Penery-esq *BUILD FRENZY*

At the moment I'm closing out the ailerons on my Higgins F-20. Made some torque rods with 4/40 hardware. Got the tail mounted on it this morning after taking the wife to work. I can't stress how much I hate cutting ailerons- is it just me? Actually, If I could just force myself to sit down and do one part of the build from beginning to end these planes really go together quick- but I can't seem to get more then 10 minutes a night at the bench when I'm working.

I'm also doing some cleanup on last summers Rodent- I figure it's time to paint it. Basic white primer is sub-optimal in the fog days of summer. I bent the nose off of it at the Higgins-fest, and I've managed to do all the repairs- now it's just a matter of the cosmetics. Probably go with a Rustoleum white and some high-vis patterns on the wings and tails. I also need to hinge ailerons with E-6000- that makes a strong hinge.

I'm also getting two NSP Hillbillys repaired and back in the air- they're cheap fun, and loaded up fly quick and have a nice moldy whistle. Three full size servos too, which makes them a candidate for some recycled gear.
Posted by slopemeno | Oct 09, 2011 @ 08:33 PM | 15,371 Views
"Drop your sticky scissors.." the DJ on KOZT said "And go outside!"

I was cruising north on Hwy 1 near Manchester beach in Mendocino County CA, checking out the trees waving in the wind. It looked like about 20-25 mph NNW. I knew a spot.

I pulled into the parking lot of the Navarro Bluffs County park and the wind had picked up. The Navarro Bluffs sit just north of the Navarro River, and form a 'wind cheat'- the wind climbs over the bluffs rather than make the sharp turn into the mouth of the river.

I picked up my Performance Composites Starling and my Alula and walked to the lip. It was *going*. It was good. I should have left the Alula in the car... The 50' cliff drops straight off into the Pacific Ocean, and there's only a tiny beach over to the right to bail out.

I plugged in the Starling and wiggled the sticks- deep breath. It's going to be OK. I walked to the edge and glanced over. 6' high waves crashed into the rocks. I chucked the Starling out, and it shot up in a solid band of lift. Even though the wind was NNW the face turned the air WNW, and made a really nice stack of lift that seemed to go up 250' or so.

OK- half pipes. The air was a touch rough down low, but the half pipes were big and effortless. Loops, rolls, a loopchevak or two.

Landing approaches are a bit touchy- drop below the shear and your plane rockets ahead. Fortunately the LZ is huge- a hundred yard square.

If you're in the area and the wind gods are in your corner- try this spot.
Posted by slopemeno | Feb 26, 2011 @ 08:49 PM | 16,284 Views
This is NOT a for sale/wanted thread, but are you like me- do you have that que of planes in your head that you want to build, maybe*again*, and the kits are long gone?

Here's what slopemeno would like to build again, or have stuffed in the rafters for a rainy day, or be able to hand off to young Alex, his nephew:

Another TG-3 kit or two (or three) :That was the VW Microbus of slope soarers back in the mid to late 90's. The first one I was was owned by Phil Lonz. It was such a cool, simple idea that I had to have one. Mine flew great- it would hang with the CR Climmax in light lift, but would dive so fast it was ridiculous. I flew it in every kind of condition from flat-field off of a high start to 40 mph at the coast. I finally gave it to a kid I met when I was flying on a slope in Oakland in the late 90's. I hope he got some use out of it.

The Zipper: That was a fun little plane- I'd probably go for the 48" version though, and the other airfoil- the less pitchy one- this time please. I'm putting servos in the wing of the next one too. I need a canopy if anyone has one.

The Bowmans Ruffneck/Commanche. Not fast- not even super maneuverable, but they were fun. I picked one up off the want ads a few years ago but I'd like another. I'm surprised someone hasn't copied it with a more modern airfoil and issued it, like Skyking, or L2 etc.

The original Zagis- made from white foam with no EPP. They were cheap, thin, fast, and flew like nothing we had...Continue Reading
Posted by slopemeno | Oct 05, 2010 @ 03:55 PM | 16,279 Views
So Neil Walker got me thinking..."Lets do a Goat Rock deal"

If you haven't flown Goat Rock when is blowing, you're missing out. It has a DS groove, as well as some serious front side compression. I've flown my Higgins plane there and been freezing, with my nose and eyes watering, and not wanting to land.

Anybody up for a Goat-Fest in, say, March of 2011?

The site about 1 hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Sonoma County, CA, just south of where the Russian River empties into the Pacific Ocean, just off of Hwy-1. Landing is fairly easy, and the site is friendly for everything from PSS to foam. It's about as close to a park-n-fly as you can get. Neil also made the suggestion that we take over a campsite somewhere where we can barbeque after the shin-dig.

It'd be nice to get all the Bay Area locals out to one flying spot at one time. Who's up for it?
Posted by slopemeno | Sep 20, 2008 @ 11:13 PM | 17,424 Views
More perfect days at the Civic Center slope...

I was driving out to tick when Joe Strakowski called me and warned me that the fog was in at the coast. He said that he and Bruce were going to head up to the Civic Center slope. I wasn't up to climbing that thing today...or so I thought.

So I headed out to Tick, and the fog was heavy. I hung around and though.."Hmm. Do I want to freeze in the fog, or hike up Civic Center?"

I headed to Civic Center. We've been talking about a new route up that would allow you to carry a few more planes than the little trail will, but take less time than the single-track "Canary" trail would. I parked at the new trail access point, saddled up and headed out...Man this hill is WINDY today. The new route keeps you cooler with almost constant wind blowing across the trail
and a lower grade than the "Joe" trail. The walk was about 1/2 I brought too many planes...My Me-109, my Miraj, Shredder, and Mini-Acacia.

Up at the top I could hear Bruces "Cloud Climber" TD plane screeching around on the front side. That plane makes more noise than a 737. I wheezed up and dumped all my gear and took a break to get my wind back.

The wind was cool and coming in at about 10-15 mph, and lifty. I started out with my Mini-Acacia, and jumped right into the DS groove- man this this thing is *stable*. After a bit Joe put his Destiny up and really put on a show ripping up the groove.

I flew...Continue Reading
Posted by slopemeno | May 07, 2008 @ 12:23 AM | 17,810 Views
I got the chance to see The Breeders at Slims here in SF last week. Simply brilliant...

I've seen them four times previously from 2001 on...twice at Slims, the Fillmore (amazing show) and at 19 Broadway in Fairfax. Lineup changes, addiction, rehab...none of it matters. They ROCK.

Did I mention I shook Kim's hand?