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Posted by BEC | Sep 21, 2018 @ 12:33 AM | 7,424 Views
Having been flying electric airplanes since the very early 1980s, I had often dreamed of having the same sorts of advantages in the car that I drove. You know the list - instant starts, and instant torque, very little mechanical maintenance, silence - that sort of thing.

Then, when the first Nissan Leafs started to appear around here I took a quick look, but was put off by some of the packaging design decisions Nissan engineers had made, and, of course, there was the whole "range anxiety" thing. At the time I was working about 15 miles from home (at Boeing's 737 plant in Renton) but there was always the possibility that I would be sent to Everett on a short or longer term basis, and a car that could only do 60-odd miles on a charge just wouldn't do it. So I shelved the idea and kept on happily driving my Mazda.

Then, in the spring of 2016, I was still working in Renton when the company offered me a "voluntary layoff" -the upshot of which is that they would pay me a lump sum of 26 weeks' salary to retire two or three years sooner than I had been planning. This set into motion a fairly large chain of events, but one of them was that I knew that I would no longer be under threat of having my job relocated to Everett. So I took another look at getting an electric car through I had never driven one - just thought about it. By this time there were quite a few choices beyond the Leaf (and the Leaf itself had been improved, but still had that funky interior...Continue Reading
Posted by BEC | Sep 07, 2018 @ 12:07 AM | 6,139 Views marked the first time I did a maiden flight on an R/C airplane I've built since - well - a long time. Probably 10 years or so. My grandson, who recently became a middle-schooler, has taken some interest in fixed-wing R/C after dabbling, with his Dad, in small quadcopters (including some FPV) for some time. This recently led to he and his Dad each building a Flite Test Sparrow (a fairly small, short-coupled V-tailed pusher plane made of foam board and assembled with hot glue).

This, in turn, led to me digging out the necessary bits to be able to do some buddy-boxing with the grandson on my Blu-Baby 33UC. He turns out to be a quick study - helped somewhat by his quadcopter experience. By the time we'd flown out three batteries or so at the local mid-school football field (not the school he attends) he had successfully taken off and landed the Blu-Baby and flown for several minutes with me taking over control only briefly to keep the plane out of the trees surrounding the field. And later in that same session I did the maiden flight on the Sparrow that he built. It turned out to be a pretty nice flying little airplane, if a bit fast for the space and too noisy for my taste (I have never liked the Zagi whine, even when it was made by actual Zagis).

Which led purchasing a FlySky transmitter (from Amazon) and buddy cable (from so I could hook up to his (and his Dad's) transmitters and purchasing a Flite Test Simple Scout kit and the...Continue Reading
Posted by BEC | Mar 08, 2015 @ 11:32 PM | 10,658 Views
Again it's been awhile since I've posted here. I'm still very much in the grip of model rockets to the point of having been somewhat active in competition the last couple of years.

I went to my first NARAM (National Association of Rocketry Annual Meet), which is the rocketry equivalent of the AMA NATS, last summer in Pueblo, Colorado. I flew in about half the events and actually managed to win one of them (Bx5 cluster altitude), much to the chagrin, I think, of a number of long-term NAR competitors.

Anyway....thanks to needing to clear out the house recently in order to facilitate spraying for fleas, I have become acutely aware of how much RC airplane stuff I have that I will never use, even when I return to more active status with airplanes.

To that end I expect I'll be posting lots of "for sale" or more likely "free for the cost of shipping" ads down in the various electric power sections of the RC Groups classifieds over then next few weeks. Heads up.
Posted by BEC | Jul 07, 2012 @ 02:56 PM | 12,192 Views
There may be a small number of you out there who have wondered where I've wandered off to, since I've not been very active here on RC Groups for about the last three and a half years or so. And since RC Groups has seen fit to bestow the "RCGPlus" status on me anyway, which includes a link to this blog in my (infrequent, these days) posts, I figured it was time for an explanation.

The short version is that I've rediscovered another flying model hobby that I was active in during the late 1960s and early 1970s - one that involves free flight models of a sort: model rocketry. This is how it happened.....

One of the things I've done for several years now is try to share my enthusiasm for things that fly with a small group of homeschool students once a week during the school year. One aspect I try to share is what is involved in actually designing your own craft. The first year I was thinking all airplanes (this is where I found and then built one of those marvelous Blu Baby foamies). But there is SO much to designing an airplane (not to mention getting all the necessary bits for a class) that only a couple of students actually got something built and only one (that I know of) got test flown.

The next year, one of the students in the class suggested we start off with something simpler and suggested a model rocket. I had built and flown model rockets when I was in Jr. High and High School (even did a Science Fair project involving them) - finally stopping in college...Continue Reading
Posted by BEC | Aug 28, 2008 @ 05:09 PM | 17,336 Views
I'm on a trip to visit some family and friends in the Land of Enchantment and I thought I'd share a little of the outbound journey of me and my Mountain Models EZ Scout from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Albuquerque International on Southwest Airlines.

I'll let the pictures and captions tell most of the story, but here are a few answers to questions that come up frequently in RC Groups discussions when it comes to taking an airplane on an airplane. Questions like: What about the transmitter? What about the li-poly batteries? What about excess baggage charges, etc.? Well, this trip was a smooth one for me and my little airplane. Here's how I did it.

The airplane itself was carefully packed in a Doskocil Golf Guard golf club case that has been modified with a number of small clamps pop-riveted inside. (I got the idea from an article several years ago in what was then Sailplane and Electric Modeler magazine.) The clamps allow securing the contents with small bungees. By using these and lots of foam and some of those air-filled “pillows” I was able to pack the airplane, my DuBro Electro-Caddy (which contained various spares, the charger and two bottles of CA), and plastic shoebox containing a power supply, my covering iron and the EZ Scout's landing gear with plenty of room to spare. This case was used to take a SmoothE, support equipment (and two bottles of wine) to Ireland four years ago, so there was plenty of room.

I have not modified this...Continue Reading
Posted by BEC | Jul 08, 2008 @ 01:54 AM | 17,512 Views
I was working on a charger test/review this evening - It's a multi-chemistry charger that's limited to 50W (one of the things I just learned is that's 50W INPUT).

Anyway, I was looking for a battery I could charge to push its maximum rating. I settled on NiCd mode at 5A (the max claimed charge rate) and scrounged up a 7 cell pack made of Sanyo 1400SCR cells. This pack is made from cells that are nearly eighteen YEARS old. It hasn't been used in several years at least and was probably put away charged.

Much to my amazement it was still showing an open-circuit voltage of almost 1V per cell and to my further amazement it took a full charge at the max rate the charger could muster (really just about 4A). I will have to put it on the CamLight discharger tomorrow and see how much of that 1400 mAh I get back out of it, but I expect (now) that it will be pretty much all of it.

No way any lithium battery we would use could be this old and still do this. No way any NiMH battery could either - I was extremely frustrated trying to find one of my NiMH packs - disused for a rather lesser time - that would still take a charge at all in order to test the NiMH setting on this charger. I finally coaxed one that came with a Wing Dragon after two or three short cycles and tightening up the crap connector it came with to charge. But my sub-C sized NiMHs from the early days of such (seven years ago)? Toast - leaky cells and almost zero volts.

These old 1400SCRs are the Astro...Continue Reading
Posted by BEC | Jun 19, 2008 @ 02:26 PM | 18,542 Views
This is basically something I posted in the gigantic Blu-Baby thread in the Foamies (Scratchbuilt) forum last night. I thought I'd add a bit to it and put it here for some who don't go to that forum....

Origin of an airfoil

I was thinking of my own design for a plane made from fanfold foam a couple of weeks ago and was wondering where I could get the coordinates for the "4-40" undercambered airfoil as used on the first Blu-Baby (and other airplanes) so I could draw it accurately to any size on my fuselage side patterns. After a little searching I remembered I'd read about wings that were thin and with little camber somewhere and then it hit me - the late, great Jef Raskin!

Here's the story: "A Good Airfoil for Small RC Models"

By the way, it looks like as we're using it on Blu-Babies, especially the 42 incher, is in or beyond the upper reaches of the Reynolds Numbers where it is most effective, at least according to Jef's info.

I think I read this article in Fly RC....

More about Jef

Jef Raskin, for those who don't know of him, was one of the creators of the Macintosh computer and also a very accomplished musician as well as loving things that fly and thinking a great deal about them, among many other things.

Some of you may also have seen his "How to read a model airplane review" piece. As an occasional writer of model airplane reviews I still have to agree with most of this. I know that for some print magazine in particular I've had...Continue Reading
Posted by BEC | Jun 10, 2008 @ 01:09 PM | 18,191 Views
I was prowling some of the beginner fora yesterday looking for good summaries of basic information to pass along to my students either this year or for the next round of the Aviation class at Russell Ridge next year (of that I will have more to say later if I get around to it). Anyway, I came across one of those lists of guidelines for power levels on a watts per pound basis here .

My how those numbers have changed! The very first entry in the table says one needs 70-90W per pound for trainer performance. Now when I started flying electric powered airplanes over 25 years ago, that same range was what we aimed for to get "sport aerobatic" performance. And THAT was with ferrite brushed motors (or, if we were lucky, Astro Flight cobalts), NiCd batteries, motor control often by a servo-operated switch, and no receiver battery eliminators. In those days 35-50W/lb. was the trainer realm. One targeted the upper end of that range in order to get reliable takeoffs from the ground on surfaces other than pavement. Getting an airplane to have a nice honest 90W per pound and fly for more than three minutes was a real challenge.

Now one can have 120W/lb. and 20 minute flights without much trouble at all. This change, while enjoyable (I now feel cheated if I can't get at least 15 minutes - and just about everything I fly is set up to over 100W/lb.), signals a big change. One of my friends for many years, who was, with me, one of the guys flying electric here in the Pacific...Continue Reading
Posted by BEC | Jun 09, 2008 @ 09:46 AM | 17,922 Views
An e-mail I got last night reminded me I even HAD this blog. That tells you how much I generally feel inclined to spout off at random about things. I type enough about little airplanes here as it is. In the intervening months between my last "blog" post and this one I've posted another 1660 messages (including this one) on RCG. I still need to get a life, it sometimes seems.

Be that as it may - here are a couple of widely disparate blogs I read regularly. The first is probably the best place I know to get info on what's going on in the world of airplanes that people get into and fly (including the ones I have a small hand in getting created in Renton):

The second is one put up by a good friend of my wife's who is a teacher of small children, an Irish dancer (and teacher of that) and working on being a cancer survivor:

Speaking of creating airplanes to be built in Renton - they were supposed to put power on the first P-8A this weekend. Perhaps later today I'll find out how that went, or walk out to the line and look.

But first I have my last session in a wild ride into teaching kids that I had gotten myself into this year. I was given the topic "Aviation" to do something with for a group of homeschooled kids that come to what is called the Russell Ridge Center for Parent-Partnered Education in the Tahoma school district (Maple Valley, WA) and we had an...Continue Reading
Posted by BEC | Jan 14, 2007 @ 12:56 AM | 19,841 Views
Well, it happened. I've reached 10,000 posts on RCGroups. Is there any more proof than that needed that I spend too much time here?

I can only think of a couple of others who are currently active who have passed that milestone - Tres Wright and Martin Hunter. But I don't think I'll ever catch them

I hit 10K and didn't even notice which was the milestone post. Odd, that. And this is even though I've been spending a bit more time over at the Chiff and Fipple discussion boards. You might say that Chiff and Fipple is to pennywhistles what RCGroups is to electric R/C airplanes. It even has, as we do here, participation from a number of vendors who make the products the rest of us use (in this case whistles), and lively discussions about the merits of various instruments. get onto airplanes for a moment....

I did some on-skis flying of the now battered and beaten "silent afterburner" Dandy Sport yesterday over at the Weyerhauser meadow. I had to make some use of the several inches of snow that made it so hard to get home from work Wednesday night. But by now I'm tired of ice an inch thick on the street in front of the house and would really welcome a return to a more "normal" damp Seattle winter.

And today, after taking the chains off my car, I wound up being the sole accompanist (on recorders and in one case a whistle) at our 5 PM Mass tonight. Our regular pianist was stuck on her icy hill and couldn't get down to church and my wife (who plays Celtic harp and recorders) was stuck waiting to pick up the 16 year old from an archery tournament.....

I'm rambling, aren't I?

I guess I'm still trying to figure out what this "blog" thing is - at least for me - if anything at all.
Posted by BEC | Jan 06, 2007 @ 07:34 PM | 19,579 Views
Well, after resisting the idea for a long time, I've finally decided to start spouting random things on the web alongside the bazillion other folks who are already doing it. I think what pushed me over was my wife going and joining MySpace a few days ago, making her at least the third member of my immediate family to do so.

It seems I already spend too much time on RC Groups, often writing long-winded answers to short questions about motors, batteries, chargers, or electronic speed controls (my particular focus for quite a few years). After all, I'm closing in on 10,000 posts!!

But I suppose having a blog would be a place to go on about things other than model airplanes and related equipment that are also part of my life - things like pennywhistles and recorders (the musical instrument sort of recorder), or cars, or even kids and now one grandchild....

So here I sit in the Tully's Coffee store in downtown Tacoma waiting for my 16-year-old son to turn up after his Tacoma Junior Youth Symphony rehearsal (he's a cellist) so we can head back up to Auburn and get on with our weekend. As I sit here I wonder if my Powerbook's battery is going to last until he arrives (I've been here now for 2 1/2 hours and it's down to 14% indicated).

What I should be doing is working on one of my columns or other articles. But, maybe later.

For your edification, here is a blog that I found via a link from the pennywhistle equivalent to RC Groups - a site called - that I enjoy reading. There is much more to Mr. Duns than whistles.