rclad's blog View Details
Posted by rclad | Dec 31, 2020 @ 11:06 PM | 7,817 Views
I imagine most people will be relieved 2020 is finally behind us. I am. With 343,000 deaths in just the United States alone, a country with 4.5% of the world's population but 19% of Covid-19 deaths worldwide, I'm grateful to be alive and healthy. With that in mind, here is a look back at my adventures in the RC hobby and the personal wins and losses that made this year unique.

I began the year by posting some poems on the subject of flying, one written during my time as a flight officer in the Navy, and others written for the IMAC newsletter, In the Box. It was January, there was still optimism for the new year, and I wasn't doing much flying. So, why not poetry? Check it out.

FrSky provided a firmware update to prevent Uncommanded Servo Movement, a glitch I experienced during the 2019 IMAC Regional Championship in Muncie. The FW fixed the glitch but created new problems with telemetry. Those problems persisted until I applied another FW patch in June. After months of flying with dire warnings blaring at me from my radio, it was a relief when everything finally worked again.

In February I made my first vehicle purchase specifically for this hobby. I bought a MB Metris, the perfect RC van, just in time for the completion of the custom build of an Extreme Flight 104” Extra 300 V2. I made the Extra electric, so I called it the EV2. It had many unique features that simplified start-up and the swapping of batteries between flights. There were some program glitches...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Dec 20, 2020 @ 02:15 AM | 7,708 Views
With a bit of snow still on the ground and temperatures in the low to upper 30s, I ventured outside yesterday to hunt for thermals. The sun was peaking out from behind some slow moving cumulus clouds, so that was promising. Time to pack up and head out.

I programmed my 2M to power off at 250 feet, to give me enough height to reach the thermals, but still make it challenging for a beginner.

First launch was a lucky one, right into a thermal. The air was really moving, and if I didn't stay in the core of rising air I was spit out into very strong sinking air. That made it both challenging and exciting!

The telemetry for the two flights is shown in the PDFs below.
Posted by rclad | Dec 02, 2020 @ 01:45 AM | 6,473 Views
I got started in RC by flying gliders on the slopes along the Southern California coast. A Mark's Models Wanderer was a great trainer and provided hours of fun. I soon advanced to more aerobatic gliders like the Ridge Rat and Divine Wind.

When I turned inland to hunt thermals with an MFA 2m High Sierra I was quickly disappointed. It was a lot of work setting up a bungee high start for a very short glide back. Thermals seemed out of reach every time, even after studying what to look for in the sky and on the ground. I put the High Sierra away and took it out only once, years later, for a single demo flight on a very windy day.

After nearly thirty years sitting in my basement I took it out for another spin recently. (See pics). The High Sierra was the only sailplane I had in my hangar. I was motivated to try it again when a new guy had moved into town and joined the club. Mark has over thirty years of experience in soaring and can ride a thermal out of sight with anything from a large open 4m ship down to a small 1.5m DLG.

He lent me his copy of Dave Thornburg's Soaring Book and shared many great tips for finding and riding thermals. After all of that I wish I could say I had success with the High Sierra. It just wasn't happening. That glider is a lead sled and just wants to get home as fast as possible.

When Mark offered to sell one of his 2m Art Hobby gliders I jumped at the opportunity. The Serena 2m (see pic below) is much lighter, has a motor up front to...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Sep 24, 2020 @ 10:35 PM | 3,860 Views
The plane is a customized Extreme Flight 104" Extra 300 V2, capable of flying two Advanced IMAC sequences in one flight. That's 20 aerobatic figures with climbs to 1,000 feet or more above the airfield.

For video of me flying the Advanced sequence to demonstrate what this plane can do, take a look here.

Link to build log here.
Posted by rclad | Sep 03, 2020 @ 10:08 AM | 7,140 Views
Details on the latest Pattern contest in District 4 can be found here.
Posted by rclad | Aug 24, 2020 @ 05:16 PM | 5,997 Views
We finally had an IMAC contest, and it was a weekend full of surprises, crashes, a spectacular fireworks show, good competition, good food, and great camaraderie. More details - and a cool video! - can be found here in my IMAC logbook.
Posted by rclad | Aug 10, 2020 @ 12:18 PM | 11,434 Views
For the latest incident on my growing list of mishaps, see my post here.
Posted by rclad | Jul 30, 2020 @ 03:20 PM | 6,892 Views
It's not only LiPo C ratings that are over inflated these days. The weight and capacity of the batteries may also not be as advertised or even match the label.

The only safeguard a buyer has is to purchase batteries from a reputable company with a record for honoring warranties. To avoid companies with fraudulent practices, do some research. A good place to start is the Battery Load Test Comparisons thread.

Once batteries are purchased, the buyer should immediately check the battery for weight, voltages and capacity. If the battery is not reasonably close to specs, file a claim to return them under warranty.

I recently purchased 4 Zippy Compact 6s 25c 5800 mAh packs from Hobby King. They are advertised as 745 gram packs, but in fact weighed 803 grams each. All four were going in one plane, so that weight difference was huge!

In addition to the additional weight, the actual capacity of the packs was only 4300 mAh. That's not even usable capacity. That's taking the battery down to 3.3V per cell!

Hobby King wouldn't honor the warranty, because they sat in my basement at storage charge for 20 days beyond the warranty. They took no responsibility for selling overweight batteries with fraudulent labels.

Buyer beware!
Posted by rclad | Jul 26, 2020 @ 11:42 AM | 9,864 Views
The original goal for my electric version of the Extreme Flight 104" Extra 300 V2 was to fly two Intermediate IMAC sequences back to back in one flight. Delays and competition last year meant the plane wasn't ready until this year. By then I had already won a Regional Championship in Intermediate with my 95" Extra, so I moved up to Advanced.

I finally achieved the goal of two sequences in one flight on Friday, July 24. But in Advanced! More details here on the attempt.
Posted by rclad | Jul 20, 2020 @ 11:55 AM | 6,618 Views
For results of the Indy Pattern Contest at the Screaming Eagles RC Club in Plainfield, Indiana, see my post here.
Posted by rclad | Jul 09, 2020 @ 05:21 PM | 9,299 Views
Monty Python's Life of Brian ends with a happy tune: "Look at the bright side of life." There's even a cheery whistle. Now that I got my Black Magic pattern plane back in the air today, I can see the bright side of the tail damage done last week.

What made the recent grounding of my only pattern plane a bit gloomy is the upcoming contest next week. The only way I could continue practicing for the event was to fly my big 104" Extra 300. I had to set it up to respond very similarly to the pattern plane, so the transition back would not be hard. One of the items I changed was a new Flight Mode (FM3) to make the entry into the spin a bit easier. I could now make multiple changes to the control response with one switch. It worked great, but I forgot I had not copied the settings over to the pattern plane.

I got a big surprise today when I flipped to Mode 3 for the spin with my newly repaired pattern plane. There was no throttle control, no aileron, and the elevator went to 100% - full rate with little expo. I ended up snap rolling the plane into a spin. I regained control by switching back to Normal Mode.

I got the plane back on the runway and immediately found the error, then added the settings for the spin mode. The next flight went much smoother when I switched to the new Mode 3. No surprises!

Anyway, the new gear sets have been installed in the old Futaba S9650 servos that control both halves of the elevator. Although only one servo was damaged, I replaced the gears in both servos, since they were well worn. In the process of installing the refurbished servos I found one of the nylon brackets on a control horn had gotten worn and allowed too much free movement of the elevator. That also got replaced. Now, no more slop!

So, look at the bright side of life!
Posted by rclad | Jun 15, 2020 @ 11:17 PM | 9,084 Views
June 13-14, 2020
St. Marys, WV
CD: Mark Radcliff

My first Pattern contest is now in the books! The Flying Wing Nutz RC Club of St. Marys, West Virginia, hosted the event, with Mark Radcliff, AMA District III V.P., as the Contest Director. The club has one of the smoothest grass runways I have ever flown on. Very nice!

I had one week to prepare, since the old Black Magic pattern plane I bought recently had to be converted from glow to electric. That was completed and flown on Saturday, June 6. I got 17 flights on it before heading to the contest the following Friday. The canopy still needed paint, but at least it was flyable.

There were seven pilots, including me, flying in the Advanced class. There was some tough competition. Flying an average of 80% percentage of perfection might have gotten me a first place win in IMAC, but here I only managed to squeak in a Third place finish. Still, I was very happy with the performance of the plane, and I was happy to put in a solid effort without a single zeroed figure. I even managed a 10 for a slow roll and a perfect landing.

For contest scores click here.
Posted by rclad | Jun 06, 2020 @ 10:49 PM | 7,375 Views
Yesterday (actually early this morning) I finished the conversion of a used 2 meter Black Magic pattern plane to electric. Today was the big re-maiden.

I'm not sure who was more excited to see this old bird fly again: me, or the original owner, who was there to assist me with the flight and setting all the mixes to get it flying straight. It didn't take much. Just a bit of up elevator trim after take off on the first flight, then we checked CG - right on. Knife edge needed some aileron mix in same direction as rudder, and up elevator. High throttle needed some right rudder, and no throttle needed down elevator to keep it from pulling to the canopy on the down lines. By the fifth flight it was flying knife edge and vertical up and down lines straight as an arrow.

I still need to finish painting the canopy. And the biggest item overlooked in the rush to finish was adding an opening in the firewall and an exit hole in the bottom of the fuselage for airflow to cool the batteries. How I missed that, after all the past conversions and other electric planes I've put together, is beyond me. Must be getting old.

Anyway, the Black Magic is my first pattern plane. After years of flying scale aerobatic planes like the Extra, with their draggy airframes, it was amazing to experience a sleek thoroughbred again. (I got started in sailplanes, and there is nothing more clean, aerodynamically, than that.) The power to weight ratio, while similar to my 104" Extra, translates to...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | May 29, 2020 @ 03:50 PM | 7,705 Views
I've been wanting to try Pattern for a long time, so I finally bought a used 2m Black Magic to get started. It was originally set up with a glow engine and tuned pipe. The original owner took that out and sold the plane with a Plettenberg Xtra 30-10 Evo brushless motor.

While I put that together I've been practicing the Advanced pattern sequence. I finally have the sequence memorized and flew it correctly without a caller yesterday. My 104" Extra has a similar thrust to weight ratio and wing cube loading as the Black Magic, so it's a decent substitute, for now. At least to get the sequence down.
Posted by rclad | May 06, 2020 @ 05:35 PM | 9,784 Views
...the more they stay the same. I found the comment below, from the first issue of Model Aviation to be a fascinating peak into the early years of the hobby. The talk of geared motors (rubber powered, apparently) caught my attention, as my current giant scale project uses Aeroplayin's StinGR with a 3:1 gear ratio.

As much as we need to follow sound scientific principles when designing something new, especially when a poor design could pose a risk to person or property and involves a large investment of time and money, in the end it's a hobby. We do it for pleasure, whether that's the thrill of competing with a high performance machine, or just the satisfaction of completing a long and complicated build, then watch as it takes flight.
Posted by rclad | Apr 29, 2020 @ 05:16 PM | 11,155 Views
After a couple months in the shop for an Extreme Makeover, my Extreme Flight 104" Extra 300 EV2 took flight again on Monday, April 27. We had beautiful blue skies in Hebron, Kentucky, and temperatures in the mid-sixties, but the air was a bit choppy and gusting to 13 mph with a cross wind close to 90 degrees at times.

Engineering an electric plane of this size is not easy, especially when it is designed for competition. The goal was to carry enough battery capacity to complete two Advanced IMAC sequences (see PDF below), while keeping the weight below 29 pounds. I managed to achieve the weight goal, even with all the bells and whistles I added: electric canopy locks with LED indicator lights, electric arming switch, and a battery tray that automates all the connections to the ESC and telemetry.

The goal for flight time was 9.5 minutes at a 40% power average. The plane is very close to reaching that. The first flight was an easy warm up at a 33% power average and lasted 9.28 minutes and used only 65% of the available battery capacity. That was with brand new, never flown or cycled, 6S 65C Dinogy V2 10Ah LiPo packs in a 12S configuration. The second flight was at 43.5% power average and lasted 8.45 minutes and used 81% of the battery capacity. That was with packs that had flown a couple times already at partial throttle. The last flight was another easy one with the new packs that lasted 7.23 minutes.

The second flight pushed the batteries hard. There...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Apr 14, 2020 @ 10:29 PM | 10,307 Views
Some people never learn. I must be one of them. Eleven months after the first incident of a mid-flight pack ejection I lost another set of batteries while practicing the 2020 Advanced IMAC sequence with my Extreme Flight 95" Extra 330. Details here.
Posted by rclad | Apr 14, 2020 @ 12:44 PM | 11,075 Views
When I finally set up a rig several weeks ago to get an accurate measurement of the final all-up weight of my new EF 104" Extra 300, I was surprised at the results. I had carefully weighed each component that went into the plane and expected the final weight to be around 29 pounds. The scale measured 29.53 pounds (fuse RTF minus wings: 393 oz + wings: 86 oz - rod and cord used to hold fuse: 6.5 oz = 472.5 oz = 29.53 lbs). This plane will be competing in the Advanced class in IMAC, so I need it to be as light as possible. It not only has to perform well in all the Advanced aerobatics, as an electric powered plane it has to be able to retain enough power to complete two sequences, or a total of twenty aerobatic figures with multiple elements in each figure. My goal was to keep the weight at or below 29 lbs, so some weight reduction was in order.

To accomplish that goal the Extra went back into my shop for an overhaul, after just two flights! Below is a list of changes and weight savings currently underway:
  • Replace 1/4-20 x 2.5" steel motor mounting bolts with 1/4-20 7075 T6 aluminum - 46g
  • Replace 60T gear in the StinGR gear reduction unit with one that has machined holes - 77g
  • Replace EF spinner backplate with Falcon backplate - 24g
  • Replace EF fiberglass wheel pants with Precision Aerobatics CF wheel pants - 112g
  • Move rudder servo from tail to cockpit to maintain CG - 28g

Total weight savings = 46+77+24+112+28 = 287g = 10.12 oz = 0.63 lbs
New AUW = 29.53-0....Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Mar 12, 2020 @ 08:12 PM | 11,194 Views
Like full-scale pilots we could benefit from the use of checklists to make sure nothing gets missed prior to a flight, especially a maiden flight. The larger and more expensive the plane the more critical it becomes to use a checklist to avoid a costly mistake, and possibly injury or worse. Below is a checklist I made for the maiden flight of my first giant scale plane, an electric one, a few years ago.

As useful as these checklists are, they leave out something that is just as important, if not more, than getting a plane ready to fly. That is getting ourselves ready! We have to prepare, too, both physically and mentally. The physical part is relatively easy. Get some sleep! How many times have you stayed up late the night before a maiden to finish up a plane or all the settings/programs that are now available to help us in flight? I'm guilty! Lack of sleep can have the same effect as alcohol, slowing down our reaction time. We need to be mentally sharp and focused to fly well. I nearly lost a plane flying the day after pulling an all-nighter.

Beyond getting rest we also need to be mentally prepared. Again, the bigger the plane and the more time we have put into the build, the more that will play with our nerves. This may not be an issue, if you're maidening your umpteenth giant scale plane and your hobby budget is unlimited, but for the rest of us it can be a big deal. It is for me, anyway.

My most recent build (EF 104" Extra 300 EV2) took over a...Continue Reading