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Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 12, 2018 @ 06:31 PM | 48,877 Views
...and it's so far, so good!

The rebirth of the Harbor Freight P-51 is coming along nice with all of the painting completed except for the anti-glare panel atop the nose. According to Greg Kenny, director of education at the Palm Springs Air Museum, the paint shop painted that panel of their real Bunny with Oak Green #212 from Poly-Fiber aircraft paints. Photos for the upcoming Callie Graphics decals won't happen for another couple of weeks while Bunny makes the air show rounds. I'm going to see if I can find a suitable military flat acrylic at the hobby shop.

I'm very happy regarding the "re-maiden" of the Adagio 280! That poor little model had been languishing in a hot garage for heaven knows how long and then incorrectly repaired. Getting the micro bind plug was easy; getting a new canopy and wing spar, not so easy since the model is out of production. The spar came from Amazon Prime and the canopy from Graves RC in Orlando, Florida. The binding plug was ordered by Rise Up HobbyTown in Palm Desert, California.

Today was its first flight in years and it didn't disappoint! All I need to do is add a bit more low rate rudder throw.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 05, 2018 @ 06:37 PM | 48,031 Views
In the last couple of months, I've done pretty well regarding the acquisition of castoff models.

In my last blog, I mentioned how I had received a couple of small foam P-51 Mustangs from Jimmy Dixon, a fun user here on RCG who goes by the handle "jdixon."

Of the two, one is flying again and the other is undergoing a major refinishing job. The latter is the one which will be representing Bunny, the Tuskegee Airmen tribute at the Palm Springs Air Museum. A link to that flying exhibit is in my previous blog entry.

A friend of mine who, sadly, is in poor health, gave me some models of his own design. He used to design and manufacture kits. A beautiful little one-off model wound up crashing due to a failed servo arm, but it's repairable. I haven't heard back from him regarding a visit so that we can fix it and I hope and pray he's ok. It'll be a real privilege to learn some wood modeling skills with the help of a master. The other models are gliders, both powered and unpowered. My goal is to get the big 2m unpowered bird ready for the big glider tow event my club holds every December. The powered models are total "old school" with brushed motors and old 72MHz receivers.

Finally, please see two of the three models I scored at the club when one of our seasonal visitors announced that he was giving away some old models. Two are shown below, cleaned up and ready. The E-flite Mini Ultra Stick is back in flying condition, but it'll need a...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Sep 11, 2018 @ 08:26 PM | 48,517 Views
Not long ago, I put out some feelers in the classifieds for a Harbor Freight P-51. I'd always wanted to convert one to brushless power, but even with a famed Harbor Freight discount coupon, the $100 price tag was a bit much, especially since all I wanted was the airframe.

Enter RCG user Jimmy Dixon, aka "jdixon" who had not one, but two Mustangs up for grabs.

The first was a complete Ares P-51 less its motor and props. My local HobbyTown franchise was unable to get the parts, so I found them on Amazon. Pictures to follow; it's untouched cosmetically. It is one of the sweetest flying small models I've ever flown and should anything happen to it, I'll buy a new one right away.

That second P-51 was a well used Harbor Freight version, complete with a handful of spare parts and a complete if damaged airframe.

My original goal was to upgrade the HF version and do it up like Bunny, the Tuskegee Airmen tribute P-51 at the Palm Springs Air Museum. That's exactly what I plan to do as work progresses on the model as shown below.

A 1000Kv brushless outrunner and an E-flite stick mount adapter along with a 20A ESC are lined up and ready to go once it's finished. A visit to the air museum is in order once Bunny returns from the Reno Air Races. From there, photos will be on their way to the one and only Callie Soden of Callie Graphics for her peerless custom decals.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Jul 24, 2018 @ 09:11 PM | 48,042 Views
In this case, the blog is "Adventures in Jeff's Land" at www.jeffbrock.me.

Jeff and I have been friends for more than forty years. While he doesn't participate in the RC hobby, he does share a keen interest in what I do both here and elsewhere online with product reviews.

Here's a CGI-animated short with an RC theme:


Anyway, please enjoy.
Posted by DismayingObservation | May 29, 2018 @ 05:45 PM | 48,403 Views
27MHz two-channel radio!

Ni-Mh batteries!

Brushed motors with differential thrust!

No control surfaces!

What was I thinking?

During holidays, Harbor Freight often sends out coupons for 25% off regular prices. I thought, heck, why not pick up an example of the infamous Yellow Bee two-channel powered glider?

I did. Yesterday. I returned it today. Unused. When I read some of the threads here and after seeing some videos, I decided I'd rather have my $32 back. There's always their four-channel P-51 for use in a project, but I'm not spending $100 just to throw most of it away.

Besides, I have some other projects, not to mention the 32 clams.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Apr 09, 2018 @ 06:25 PM | 49,446 Views
It's alive! ALIVE!

My resurrected Rotor Concept HPQ-1 (aka the LotusRC T380) is finally back among my operational models! The replacement motor endbells and their tendency to pull shafts upward when tightening props were fixed once and for all by Diego, one of the techs at Rise Up Hobbytown. I had mounted the motors facing downward, an interesting feature of this model. I didn't like the looks and it was noisier. The photo shows it connected to Cleanflight while I was tuning the PID settings after I faced them upward.

There's still a hint of wobble while banking, but it flies and quite well! The frame baseplate, battery straps, landing gear, two of the arms and all four motor bases are original. I was able to retain the very nice hard-shelled carrying case as well as the original radio! It works well for this application. I'll soon be adjusting the PID a bit more until I'm totally satisfied, but for now, it's a real joy to see it fly again. Some LED strips might be called for.

Another one back in the hangar! It's a nice feeling.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Apr 02, 2018 @ 08:00 PM | 48,972 Views
Tiny Whoop motors, to be precise.

These came from Rise Up Hobbytown and they were going to be used for an online review project. The FC I received from one of my overseas contacts arrived in inoperative condition and I haven't been able to get hold of her since.

Lots of turnover, it would seem.

In the meantime, I was sitting on twenty bucks worth of motors.

I did what anyone else would do, namely get the rest of the parts and build a Tiny Whoop at my leisure! Here's the parts listing:
  • Tiny Whoop "Special Sauce" motors; 17500Kv
  • Inductrix "clone" frame, FrSky BetaFPV FC and three-blade props from Multirotor Mania
  • Lectron Pro batteries from Rise Up Hobbytown
  • Crazepony camera/VTX combo from Amazon

Sadly, MRM is all but shutting down, but Brian has assured me that their fine multirotor frames will still be available. As for the camera, it's quite good for only twenty bucks through Amazon Prime. I had to swap the power pins since they were the wrong polarity. Other than that, I now have a terrific little machine which I can use to practice some acro and advanced freestyle.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Mar 29, 2018 @ 08:22 PM | 48,492 Views
I never thought I'd ever see that old Flyzone SkyFly 2 fly again, but fly it did.

My choice of motor and prop seem a bit small; it took forever for it to lift off from a grass field. Once airborne, it flew perfectly! I added an ounce of lead weights to the nose to balance it on the recommended CG since both a 1300 3S and a 2200 3S were lighter than the old ni-cad pack which might have prevented it from rolling off. I'll fool with that once I bolt on the big Turnigy Park 400 (or 450) I'd used in its previous flight attempts. The other electronics have been totally changed with the model now sporting a pair of nearly new Ace R/C nine-gram servos, an OrangeRx receiver and a Spektrum DX6i radio.

The only other hitch was upon landing. It glided in beautifully, but it caught a wheel in the grass and it cartwheeled to a stop, breaking the brand new horizontal stab. The part is discontinued from Hobbico, but I ordered a new one from an eBay seller. I'll fix the one that's on it with some CF rods and some foam safe CA and keep it as a spare. It turned out so well that I don't want it to look like a glue bomb after only one flight.

With some more power on tap than it presently has, I predict it'll be a really fun flyer for a long time to come.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Mar 21, 2018 @ 05:39 PM | 48,471 Views
No chance yet to fly one of them, but I now have two "new" models for relatively little time, effort and money.

The rebuilt Flyzone SkyFly 2 is ready to rock and roll! Weather, repaving of the club's runway and a major two-week tennis tournament which put the kibosh on an alternate field all came together to keep me grounded, but I hope to take it up on Sunday...if it doesn't rain. The very stiff control surfaces may have led to the demise of the original servos. No problem! I had two nearly new 9g analogs which not only fit, the control arms had the same splines. Hinging the elevator and rudder of the new tail section with CA hinges was easy enough to do and it stands ready for its maiden flight. I even found the original nose wheel in the parts stash. I thought I'd lost it.

Also reborn is a Rotor Concept HPQ1, better known as the LotusRC T380. It was my first big quad, I paid way too much for it, it's been a money pit since then, it's been sitting idle since goodness knows when and that same company has the gall to sell it on Amazon for 400 bucks as I write.

That love/hate relationship really began when the motor driving FETs fell off of the FC like so many rotten teeth. I won't bore you all with details, but it eventually wound up with a new FC from Multirotor Mania and ESCs from Armattan. The motor shafts kept pulling out of the endbells whenever I went to tighten the props, so I paid good money (waaay more than I wanted to spend) to have them pressed back in and secured.

The end result? Quite satisfactory! The PID settings needed attention, especially the proportional since it was constantly over-correcting in hover. Really twitchy. After some tweaks via Cleanflight, it's nearly perfect. The really nice thing is that I now have two models which had some money sunken into them placed back in service.

Pictures to follow.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Feb 27, 2018 @ 08:41 PM | 51,349 Views
...because man, are they expensive.

Last year, I was given a discarded E-flite UMX F-16. I watched it crash and I later found it in a trash can. The owner gave me the rest of what he had and I rebuilt it with new E-flite parts and Callie Graphics decals. It's absolutely beautiful, it was far less expensive than buying a new one and it flies great.

It still cost a lot of bread for those parts.

I now have another wrecked F-16 which a new pilot thought would make a good first plane...and he stuffed it in within seconds. An employee at the local hobby shop gave it to me last year on their last day of business. They also had the airframe parts, but alas, they're gone.

The electronics work perfectly and I'd like to build a second F-16 in different livery.

Between this wreck and the parts I took off of the first one, I have two good wings, one good vertical stab/rudder, two good left elevons, a nose cone and all of the hardware and pushrods. I'm looking for the individual parts from a crashed model or a complete airframe with burned out electronics.

Anyone out there have one of these critters or some parts collecting dust? Thanks and please let me know. I already have an ad in the classifieds, by the way.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Feb 02, 2018 @ 08:40 PM | 49,300 Views
One of my earliest official reviews for RCGroups was for the now discontinued FlyZone SkyFly 2. Had some fun with it, but after one too many crashes and parts replacements due to a lack of power - we're talking brushed motor and Ni-Cd battery, after all - I set it aside.

I tried experimenting with a brushless outrunner which did one heck of a job of waking it up. One problem. It didn't have enough down elevator on its first test flight and wound up in a tree. The wing and tail were totaled and the tail boom broke loose.

Soon after that, I found all of those parts in the clearance bin of the local hobby shop. I still have them in the original packaging.

Since then, the motor I used found its way into a nice little park flyer and the poor hulk has been sitting in the garage. Last month, I had an idea. I was at the Gorilla Bob's booth at the AMA expo and asked for a replacement shaft for one of his motors. He didn't have one, but he was kind enough to mail one to me.

I now have everything I need to attempt to fly this thing once more less a prop, collet and some thicker pushrods for the rudder and elevator. The plastic fuselage at the tail boom is cracked, so I'll use a small hose clamp and possibly some epoxy to fix it in place. I'm also going to mount a couple of rare earth magnets to the canopy to keep it closed, replacing that funky rubber band setup.

OK, so it isn't a free project, but it sure is a darn cheap one! Pix and flight test to follow.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 31, 2017 @ 12:00 AM | 51,430 Views
Quadcopters – or drones if you prefer – are becoming more affordable with each passing day.

Such a quad is the very affordable DM95 Visitor from GearBest.com. Here’s a terrific little model for which not only delivers great overall performance, it does so at a budget-friendly price.

Actually, “friendly” is too mild a word. A basic version with a 0.3-megapixel camera is available for US$35.99 while the two-megapixel version I’ll discuss can be had for a mere $7.00 more. Yes, a whopping $42.99 nets a foldable brushed quad with a 2.4GHz radio system, Wi-Fi video/FPV and model control and even barometric altitude hold.


Aside from the fully assembled model, the box contains the following:
• Four-channel 2.4GHz transmitter with digital trim tabs, screw-on smartphone holder, stick extensions and neck strap
• Clip-on propeller guards with separate covers which install in the arms when not in use
• Two spare propellers
• 900mAh 3.7V lithium polymer battery with USB charger
• Illustrated instruction manual in both English and Chinese
• Instruction sheet for the app with QR codes for downloading

Required to fly:
• Four AA-cell alkaline batteries for the transmitter

The matte black finish with silver and gold accents do a good job of imitating a more expensive folding quad. The arms swing out and rigidly lock in place but are easily refolded.

Doing a considerably lesser job of imitating an upscale unit is the transmitter. It is, without...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 22, 2017 @ 07:30 PM | 49,601 Views
OK, I admit that I was never a fan of "Seinfeld."

The single gag which has had some staying power is that of the 1997 introduction of "Festivus," a secular holiday made popular by the show and which has become a lighthearted, anti-consumerism celebration.

Tomorrow, December 23, Festivus celebrates 20 years. To celebrate twenty years of the airing of grievances, feats of strength and mystery meat for dinner, may I present my nod to the, um, season.

It's a JJRC H67 "Flying Santa" quad with a hastily constructed Festivus pole atop a borrowed LEGO block. It's a combination of a painted drinking straw from Subway, ammo from an airsoft gun, some aluminum acrylic paint and some hot glue. By the way, this is not the same H67 I featured in a recent mini-review. That was was mailed to a friend and I bought this one for myself.

Good old Wikipedia has an article right here.

Seriously though, a very merry Christmas to all of you.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Dec 07, 2017 @ 02:37 PM | 43,029 Views
As I’d mentioned at the start of my last mini-review here on the RCGroups.com blogs, the joy of the Christmas season brings out some rather fun, but seasonal, items. That marketing angle is making its way into the hobby market.

Here for your consideration is just such an item, one which also qualifies as one of the strangest flying models I’ve ever reviewed. It’s the JJRC H66 X-Mas Egg quadcopter from GearBest.com, complete with a 720p camera which connects via Wi-Fi to a smartphone. The app also allows control of the model via Wi-Fi.

It’s easy to imagine such a bauble with a fun, secular Easter theme. But Christmas? Eggs?

That got me to thinking how eggs and Christmas are somehow related – and then it hit me.

Eggnog! If ever there were a holiday treat which should be available year-round, eggnog is above and beyond my first choice. I’m kind of kicking myself for not remembering that sooner. Now that I have, let’s crack this open.


• Dimensions (L x W x H): 105 x 105 x 80mm
• Construction: Injection molded plastic body, landing legs and radials; plastic propellers; steel radial springs
• Motors: 7mm coreless
• Battery: Built in 300mAh 3.7V lithium polymer
• Transmitter: 2.4GHz four-channel with various flight modes
• Claimed Range: 30 – 50m
• Claimed Flight Time: Six minutes after 45-minute charging period
• Camera: 0.9 megapixel/720p...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Nov 23, 2017 @ 06:00 PM | 42,553 Views
There are so many fun, albeit seasonal, goodies which only seem to appear at Christmastime.

This happens to be one of them, but it’s so much fun that it would be relatively simple to convert it to year-round use. That goodie is the JJRC H67 Flying Santa Claus quadcopter from GearBest.com. Jolly old Saint Nick is represented by a clone of a LEGO mini figure which either stands or sits atop the quad itself.

The real buzz surrounding this little Christmas confection is the fact that it’s based on the Eachine H011 quad, itself a prime candidate for conversion into a Tiny Whoop. Doing a “Claus Conversion” to the H67 is just as easy since its 7mm coreless motors provide the extra oomph needed to fly the roughly 4-gram Santa “brick figure.” The cost is incredibly low as well, coming in at well under twenty bucks ready to fly.

At the time of this writing, a "flash sale" is underway which lowers the cost to only US$13.89 with free shipping to the US via unregistered air mail.

What makes this a Christmas item isn’t so much the removable Santa Claus figure so much as it’s the first RTF quad I’ve ever seen which plays music.

Christmas music. Loud, tinny Christmas music. Two songs, ad nauseum. “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” sung by a children’s chorus. There’s no way to switch it off short of desoldering the sound module’s power leads atop the flight control board or installation of a microswitch.

That said, the music adds so...Continue Reading
Posted by DismayingObservation | Oct 06, 2017 @ 08:17 PM | 10,174 Views
...and a little voice kept telling me that a heavy model like the reborn HobbyKing C-47 was going to be underpowered with my choice of motors, battery and props.

I was right. Too much control throw as well.

My club president did the honors and all of that combined with what seemed to be tail heavy balancing resulted in a very minor crash, since repaired. It nosed into the sand at the edge of the runway resulting in little more than a scraped nose, broken props and a bent landing gear strut. I ordered replacement decals from Callie Graphics and I did the "nose job" waiting for them to arrive.

I'll go up a size in everything including the ESCs. The factory units are only 20A and I didn't want to strain them. Props and motors were kept small as a result after research and, well, I now know where I have to go.

It could have been a lot worse, believe me!

One good thing to come out of all this is that Callie has introduced the decal set to her ordering page and she emailed me to say that she immediately sold two sets!
Posted by DismayingObservation | Sep 25, 2017 @ 07:22 PM | 5,186 Views
My friend powered up the Victor Engineering charger given to me by another friend and doggoned if it didn't work! Even the reverse polarity function worked. He tried it with an emergency jump starting unit. The input range is up to 16VDC, so an ordinary battery or a jumper pack will have plenty of oomph.

Next step is to connect it to my car's battery and give a discharged ni-cad a try. It accepts standard banana plugs, so that's not an issue since I have connectors. I'll even try the meter function with a digital multimeter just for giggles.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Sep 15, 2017 @ 05:48 PM | 4,980 Views
An old friend dropped off a bit of R/C racing history earlier today here at work.

I am now the proud owner of a genuine Victor Engineering HI-IQ Sr. ni-cad charger. This computerized beauty made right here in Southern California was the creme de la creme of chargers at one time. This little fella is complete down to the original, unused Victor Engineering sticker.

My coworker got a real kick out of the unit; she was born and raised in San Clemente!

I'll ask my friend the broadcast engineer to put some power into the thing. I'm certain it'll work and I may use it to charge batteries for my grandson's Arrma Granite truck, that is, once I pin down a power supply.

This may turn out to be a lot of fun and I'll blog more about it later.

PS: If there are any collectors interested in this unit once I determine how it operates, please feel free to PM or email me.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Aug 30, 2017 @ 01:48 PM | 5,829 Views
First, the sad news.

Our area's remaining brick-and-mortar hobby shop is no more due to the sudden and unexpected death of its last owner a couple of weeks ago. Uncle Don's Hobbies began as Uncle Don's Toys in Palm Springs, California in 1955. Original owner and founder Don DuBose, who passed away this past June, was literally the toy vendor to the stars. Red Skelton and Elvis Presley were among his regulars; DuBose was also the caretaker of Frank Sinatra's extensive toy train collection.

The good news is, the employees are regrouping to open a new store in a new location. I wish them well as do all the members of our local hobby community.

The free glider in question is a Hitec Weekender eHawkEye three-channel complete with its box, instructions and decal sheet, not to mention both servos, the brushless outrunner, the prop and the ESC. Mostly shopworn and dirty, this little glider which served as a display model at the hobby shop has been flown, but very little. It's cleaned up nicely and everything works. A test flight will be coming soon once the desert heat cools down.

I'm particularly happy that I was finally able to get that RC Leading RC126 hexacopter in the air. The new transmitter I purchased had a bad power switch and it finally quit working. Duoduogood.com cut me a pretty good deal on a new transmitter and FC board. When they finally arrived, the new transmitter powered up - and wouldn't bind to either board! My friend, a top-notch broadcast engineer, had installed some new components in the first replacement transmitter. I transferred those parts to the original transmitter and bingo! It's flying on the new FC board and I've kept the original as a spare.

The piece de resistance of all this is the completed HobbyKing DC-3, reborn as a C-47. I have some more decals to add to the wings, but I'll double-check the prototype at the Palm Springs Air Museum before I proceed. I admit to having some fun taxiing it in front of my house! No room for takeoff, though.
Posted by DismayingObservation | Aug 05, 2017 @ 05:53 PM | 5,807 Views
This has been a heck of a lot of work on a foam model, but it's been nothing but fun thus far! What's more, I'm still ahead of the game with the cost of all of the supplies compared to starting with a new ARF or bare airframe.

As of today, some details are now in place including the windows, oil coolers and skylight dome. The new Park Flyer Plastics cockpit kit was installed last weekend and it looks absolutely stunning. I'm not going to use the radial engines; according to Keith Sparks at Park Flyer Plastics, the heavy cowls with their out-of-scale engines help with the CG. The cowls themselves are painted and once I dress the damaged hubs with my Dremel, I'll tackle the remaining engine detail.

Repairs are down to the removal and straightening of the main landing gear struts and painting is down to the wheels. The prototype What's Up Doc? has natural aluminum wheels and the model, interestingly enough, had wheels painted olive drab from the factory.

The museum staff members have been a tremendous help and I was fortunate enough to get a lot of detail shots of the aircraft while it was in a hangar being overhauled. I've also been offered a ride once repairs are complete and believe me, I'm going to take them up on that generous offer.

I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel! Stay tuned for more....Continue Reading