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Posted by rclad | Nov 17, 2018 @ 10:30 PM | 918 Views
I've flown the 2019 Intermediate sequence many times now, and one thing that leaps out for me is that this class requires a lot more practice than Sportsman - and every day - to get decent at it!

I haven't been flying much since Regionals in mid-September - just once or twice on the weekends - so my last flight this past Sunday wasn't very good. But I mounted a Mobius I camera in the cockpit in place of the pilot figure to see the view of the sequence from the plane. This ain't precision flying, but it's a lot of fun to watch from the pilot's point of view. The airfield is Flying Cardinals in Hebron, KY. They have a geotex runway. I used Dashware to add the telemetry data. I forgot to turn logging on for the variometer, so no altimeter! This sequence typically takes me to about 900 feet AGL.

There was a direct cross wind (about 5 mph on the runway and stronger above), and temperature was 42 F.

In the first sequence I forgot the 2 point roll at the top of figure 4. and then had to break sequence as I approached the top of the cross box Humpty when I heard a POP! I thought the ESC blew. Once I realized everything was good to go I resumed the sequence - kinda sorta - with the next figure. (It is supposed to be an inverted entry to the P-Loop, then a half roll on the upline.)

A rear view camera would help to see the rolls on the upline when there are no clouds in the sky. I'll have to add that next time.

The camera really helps me see all the mistakes I'...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Nov 05, 2018 @ 10:27 AM | 1,214 Views
I bought a Mobius I camera and HK gimbal a year ago and finally got it installed in the IMAC plane I flew in Basic last year. I hadn't flown the plane since April, and it was badly out of trim, and I hadn't flown the Sportsman sequence since September, so I was out of practice. This is sloppy flying compared to what I can do with some practice and warm up, but it's fun to see what the sequence looks like from the cockpit. It also helps to see what errors I'm making on a consistent basis, like coming out of a half outside loop with right wing low. Most errors I can see from the ground, but this was one error I was missing.

The camera is mounted on a gimbal that tilts up and down with elevator input, and rotates with rudder - only the 9g Spektrum gimbal servo rotates opposite from my rudder servo. They share a Y connection, so I will have to put the gimbal servo on a separate channel to get it to rotate correctly. There is too much slop in the gears to hold the camera steady, so an upgrade to better servos is needed. This was mainly a proof of concept flight to see how much a video could help improve my precision. It looks like there is much to improve!

87" Extra 300 Flying IMAC Sportsman Sequence for 2018 (9 min 56 sec)

Posted by rclad | Oct 03, 2018 @ 11:44 AM | 1,536 Views
My Taranis Plus has been dutifully logging telemetry data for a couple years. I stopped reviewing and removing the log files a while back, so the files have been accumulating for two years. I didn't give that much thought until recently. An "SD Card Error" notice popped up on my transmitter screen during the last two flying sessions. I finally duplicated the error on the ground by flipping the throttle safety switch off and advancing the throttle. As soon as I moved the stick forward the error notice appeared.

Apparently, as soon as the throttle is advanced a telemetry log file is opened on the SD card and data for that flight is stored there. But why the error just appeared now is not clear. There is plenty of free disk space remaining, about 75% on a 1 GB card. The solution to the error was simple. I just downloaded all the log files - about 180 - from the SD card to my PC and deleted the original files from the SD card. No more error!

Kudos to OpenTx for designing firmware robust enough to handle this simple error without crashing. All controls continued working normally despite the error in logging flight data.
Posted by rclad | Sep 18, 2018 @ 01:48 PM | 1,451 Views
See the latest entry in my IMAC log here.
Posted by rclad | Sep 08, 2018 @ 01:10 PM | 1,771 Views
You can read my latest report posted under Incidents and Accidents here.
Posted by rclad | Sep 08, 2018 @ 01:39 AM | 1,608 Views
I loved listening to Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, broadcast Car Talk on the radio on Saturday mornings for many years. Although Tom and Ray were both MIT graduates, they never got too serious and were always good natured with their callers. Tom’s infectious laughter brightened my day. The puzzler they did every week was a challenge and never easy. But it was fun to try. It was a sad day when Tom died and the show eventually went off the air.

I posted a puzzler recently on the Taranis Plus thread, with a not-so-hidden reference to Car Talk, and was surprised how upset some folks got. Seriously. I’m not sure what people are doing in this hobby, if they’ve become so serious they can’t handle a little fun. I set up a game with a real prize for the winner. I asked people to PM me with their answers to the puzzler, so it wouldn’t clutter up the thread. People posted directly anyway, which turned out to be very helpful, at least to me. I learned some new things about the Taranis radio, and hopefully others did as well.

There are many different ways to learn. Not everyone learns the same way. So we have multi-media to help reach as many people as possible. Sometimes we learn best by making a mistake, or grappling with a problem until we figure it out on our own. That’s true for me. It’s also true that when there are many problems to solve, or the learning curve is steep - as with the Taranis OpenTx software - we often rush to the internet to find a quick answer. With so many resources at our fingertips, why not?

RC Groups has been a great resource for me. I hope that is true for everyone who drops in here. I really appreciate all the people who take the time to share their knowledge and wisdom acquired over many years in the hobby. I hope it remains that way.

To that end, please assume the best in each other, not the worst. And stay positive, respectful of others, and like Tom, ready to laugh.

Happy flying!

Posted by rclad | Sep 02, 2018 @ 11:24 PM | 1,267 Views
See the latest entry in my IMAC log here.
Posted by rclad | Aug 13, 2018 @ 12:25 PM | 1,523 Views
Click here for the latest entry in my IMAC log.
Posted by rclad | Jul 29, 2018 @ 10:17 PM | 2,083 Views
I started this blog with a full-scale aviation story about my first solo cross-country flight and why I fly model planes. The piece is titled, “Why I Fly RC.” Now that I’ve been flying scale aerobatics in competition for nearly two years, I thought it might be time for a follow up article on why I fly IMAC.

As a Navy Flight Officer in training in the 1980s, I sat in the back seat of an A-4 while the pilot flew through combat maneuvers (before long range air-to-air weapons systems made close range dogfights obsolete). Experiencing the g-forces that occur when pulling out of a dive or turning rapidly at high speed made me appreciate what aerobatic pilots experience when they compete in the International Aerobatic Club (IAC). Flying with precision through these difficult maneuvers while experiencing high g-forces takes tremendous skill and physical strength. Watch the 2010 Unlimited World Champion Renaud Ecalle fly his Free Program, with a 9 g push from inverted at the beginning of the sequence, and you can begin to appreciate the art of scale aerobatics.

IMAC, the International Miniature Aerobatic Club, is inspired by and modeled after the full-scale IAC. The word “miniature” is a bit of a misnomer. Indoor micro scale RC planes are closer to what I think of when I see that word. The typical IMAC plane is a giant scale model of the full-scale planes flown in the IAC, and they are often 35-42% in size. My Extreme Flight Extra 330SC is small at 30% scale, but it’s...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Jul 01, 2018 @ 10:07 PM | 3,015 Views
Click here for the latest entry in my IMAC log.
Posted by rclad | Jun 10, 2018 @ 08:28 PM | 1,923 Views
Click here for the latest entry in my IMAC log.
Posted by rclad | Jun 04, 2018 @ 01:30 PM | 2,323 Views
June 24, 2018

Learning new aerobatic routines is difficult under the best circumstances. Attempting to do so low to the ground with little sleep on a windy day - with a direct cross wind - and a bright early morning sun silhouetting your plane makes for a dangerous combination. My "Battery Low" alarm also went off just seconds before entering the final figure of the second sequence of my flight, one in which I had re-flown a difficult figure several times, climbing to 900 feet or more and using up my reserve capacity. This morning, on the 51st flight of my new 95" Extra 330SC-E, that combination had me resigned to an impact with the ground as my plane augered in.

My aerobatic mentor, Unlimited IMAC pilot Ray Morton, has been talking me through a new Unknown sequence on every flight. We do a short brief before the flight to go over each figure in the sequence. We determine, based on the current wind conditions, which direction to roll for the cross box elements. Then I take off, fly my Known sequence, then fly the Unknown with Ray calling each figure and the elements in it.

I was going into the last figure, an easy 270 degree aerobatic turn, but I entered low - between 50 to 100 feet - and close to the deadline, which is parallel to the runway, just 100 feet out from where I was standing. I started the maneuver about 400 feet past me and to the east. The crosswind was blowing in at 17 mph, so I should have done an easy pull on the elevator after...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | May 30, 2018 @ 01:24 PM | 2,316 Views
Click here for the latest entry to my IMAC log.
Posted by rclad | May 22, 2018 @ 12:57 PM | 3,479 Views
See here for the latest entry in my IMAC log.
Posted by rclad | May 16, 2018 @ 04:45 PM | 2,701 Views
I worked hard over the last few days and all through the night on Monday to finish my new Extreme Flight 95" Extra 330SC-E for a maiden flight Tuesday morning (yesterday). I tried to minimize modifications to make the build go faster, but couldn't resist a few changes. One of the time-consuming mods I made was to automate arming of the ESC. That added a total of 1.5 ounces to the AUW, which came out a bit heavier than expected at 20.6 pounds. That's with 5 pounds of batteries! (8000 mAh Glacier 30C LiPos) At least it's lighter than my 87" Extra, which has 6000s.

ESC arming is controlled by a micro DPDT switch mounted to the fuse right below the fail safe pin switch. The pin has a "Remove Before Flight" flag attached to it, which covers the arming switch when the receiver power is Off. That provides a reminder not to arm the plane until I pull the pin and power up the receiver. The ESC arming switch has no power, though, until the pin is removed, so there is some redundancy there.

Fail safe was checked and tested this time!

A couple other minor mods was adding a nylon spacer to extend the wheel axles. That provided a resting point for a support block glued to the inside of the outer wall of the wheel pants.

I didn't add a custom battery tray to this plane to save weight, and I miss that already after two flights! To avoid the hassle of removing batteries stuck tightly to the deck with velcro, I used rubber stops supplied by Aloft...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | May 06, 2018 @ 01:59 PM | 2,043 Views
The weather is perfect now for flying, but I'm grounded until I finish my new plane, a 95" EF Extra 330SC. I hope to fly it in the first IMAC contest of the season (here in the Midwest) May 19. With all the work that goes into building and preparing it for the maiden, then trimming and tuning flights, it sometimes feels like I'll never cross the finish line, like running a marathon.

Cincinnati just had the twentieth running of the Flying Pig Marathon today. If pigs can fly, anything is possible, right? I've run many 5K, 10K and 15K races, and a couple mini-triathalons, but never a marathon. My son ran it for the first time today and finished in about 4.5 hours. Congrats, Aaron!

Now, back to my build....
Posted by rclad | Apr 24, 2018 @ 12:03 PM | 2,302 Views
One way to save money when competition takes you on the road is to camp. Hotel expenses can add up quickly for every weekend away, but the investment in camping gear is a one time expense. I plan on going to more IMAC events away from home this year, and since I already had a lot of the camping gear I needed, I decided to try camping as a way to stay on budget.

I just had to install a hitch on my Chevy Volt, buy a rack and cargo bag, and find a simple way to prepare easy meals while on the road. One of the coolest (hottest?) gadgets I found was an MSR Pocket Rocket. This little one burner "stove" folds up into a small plastic container that fits into the palm of your hand, weighs only 2.6 ounces, and when attached to an Isobutane-propane tank, burns super hot. It can heat up water or a meal in just a few minutes.

I went up to Muncie, Indiana, this past weekend to attend the IMAC Judging School and do some flying at Site 4. I brought along the family tent with the idea that it could double as a hangar for my 87" Extra 300. That worked out even better than I hoped. I was able to set up my tent right next to the runway at Site 4. AMA only charges $5/day for primitive camping, and I had access to restrooms and a hot shower (very welcome on this trip, since temps got down into the thirties at night!), with water on site and outlets for charging my plane. The plane fit in the tent with wings on, leaving plenty of room for a full size air mattress, duffel bag and other odds and ends. All I had to do in the morning was roll the plane out, put a fresh set of batteries in, and take off. In the evening I was able to hang out by the fire with the other guys (staying in RVs) and enjoy some company I would have missed, if I had stayed in a hotel.

Camping is a lot of work, but it does have many advantages. I was pleasantly surprised how well my first adventure worked out, and look forward to many more trips this year.
Posted by rclad | Apr 23, 2018 @ 01:45 PM | 2,291 Views
Part of the fun this hobby provides is the opportunity to tinker with our aircraft to get the most out of them. For those of us who get restless after a build ends and we've flown it successfully for a while, it only seems natural to start looking for ways to make improvements here or there, or maybe fix those minor problems that catch our attention during a flight. There is, however, that little voice that sounds an alarm: "Don't fix what isn't broken."

After flying my trusted 87" Extra 300 in a number of IMAC contests and racking up over 250 successful flights using my FrSky Taranis Plus transmitter, I wanted to upgrade my gimbals and sticks. I had been using the same transmitter for more than a year and half for all of my planes, and even though I hadn't noticed any wear in the gimbals, I wanted to be sure it was not contributing any slop to my input for precision aerobatics. Also, there were a couple heart thumping moments when I was pulling out of a vertical dive and the right stick (Mode 2) slipped out from my thumb. As a thumb pilot (vs. pinching the sticks with thumb and forefinger) this creates a potentially disastrous situation when pulling out close to the ground, and at best a loss of points in competition. It also causes a loss of confidence that you can maintain control of the aircraft, especially when it is needed most.

With that in mind I removed the stock gimbals that use a potentiometer with small contact brushes that can...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Apr 05, 2018 @ 10:58 AM | 2,083 Views
Eviation, an Israeli based aviation startup company, is working on an all-electric commuter plane named Alice. It's expected to go into service in 2021. Fossil fueled jets won't be going away any time soon, but the future is looking more hopeful with cleaner, and greener, modes of transportation. Charles Dodgson (writing as Lewis Carroll) had quite the imagination when he wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, but I doubt even he could have imagined the strange new world we're about to see.
Posted by rclad | Apr 04, 2018 @ 10:21 AM | 2,889 Views
The weather has been a bit extreme here in Ohio, with wildly fluctuating temperatures. We woke up to snow yesterday morning, then saw temperatures in the 70s this evening with tornado warnings and rain as a cold front barreled through. I haven't been able to do much flying, other than on a sim.

I've been doing some spring cleaning in my basement to make room for a new plane, an Extreme Flight electric-only 95" Extra 330 SC. If I could move today I would buy a house designed around the ideal RC workshop just a few minutes from a good airfield. Oh well, not gonna happen any time soon. My basement is far from ideal: it has a low ceiling, a concrete floor sloped toward two drains, a narrow stairway for access in and out, and it has been accumulating boxes, left overs from remodeling projects, scrap lumber, and all sorts of junk for the past 18 years. Even though I have four workbenches, there wasn't an inch of clear space anywhere.

I managed to reclaim an old oak cabinet and drawer from the original kitchen I tore down thirteen years ago, bought some storage bins for all the RC parts left over from last year's build, and threw out a lot of scraps piled up under three workbenches to provide storage for all my RC gear. Now I finally have some clean workbenches, one for storing and maintaining my 87" Extra, a 4x8' table for the new build, and one for my scroll saw and Dremel belt/disc sander. I also added a new 4' shop light and wired in a new outlet for the Dremel...Continue Reading