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Posted by UpNup | Feb 26, 2017 @ 09:24 AM | 4,273 Views
In 1956, a 1948 Piper Family Cruiser carried five young men deep into the Amazon headwaters. Despite having a gun with them, they were speared three times each and left in the water. The story was made into a 2005 movie, "The End of the Spear." It was good to see the BBC capturing this memory just this week in a feature interview with Jim Elliot's daughter.

The BBC's story came right as I am nearing a winter project that is to resemble this famous plane. I hope to get to tell its story whenever people ask. In the meantime, enjoy the insights.

Posted by UpNup | Jan 09, 2017 @ 04:35 PM | 4,507 Views
My first "real" transmitter is a Spektrum Dx6e. The set-up went smoothly until I was told to "reverse Aux1i" for the Champ S+ on page 11 of the manual. It's one thing for Hobby Zone to advise that, it's another matter to actually find it on the Dx6e.

After setting up the Dx6e for the Champ S+, go to Servo Setup. Then click on "Travel Adjust" at the top heading. That is not intuitive at all, but by clicking on it, you'll find two other buried settings: Sub-Trim and Reverse. When you get to Reverse, you can make Aux1i reversed. This will allow the panic button to work properly.

This was a needle in the haystack that my LBS was patient to point out. Making progress.
Posted by UpNup | Nov 04, 2016 @ 10:19 AM | 3,555 Views
"Auger in" is one of the most horrible phrases in the RC plane lexicon. While flying today, I watched my Champ S+ (Champ S Plus) auger in.

Lessons you can learn from me and a fix to recommend:

1. The new subdivision road I visited today was really rough. The sub-grade of asphalt before the final grade bounced my Champ S+ around, but I didn't notice anything really wrong. However, the rear wheel, which is attached to the rudder to help steer the plane during taxi, was slowly vibrating the glued seal loose where the rudder contacts with the stabilizers. I took off and landed five or six times on that street. When that seal finally broke during flight, the plane nosed over and augered in.

2. When the rudder breaks free and raises up above the stabilizer during flight, it pulls the rudder pin out of the pivot hole on the fuselage. The plane lost control and corkscrewed into the ground nose first.

3. Hobby Zone -- and all owners -- need to put a small stop below the pin so that it can't pull through the pivot hole. This would have maintained the integrity enough to not lose control at least not go into an uncontrolled spiral.

UPDATE: My local hobby shop put foam-safe CA to seal the rudder on the stabilizer with the rudder pin in the hole. He said, "You'll never have that pin come out again."

4. The plastic prop adapter snapped off. If I'd used an aluminum adapter, I think it would have damaged the motor or at least its plastic mount. As it was, the foam was somewhat crinkled, but straightened out with some gentle persuasion.

5. Still learning. Still have a plane to learn on. All's well.

Posted by UpNup | Nov 02, 2016 @ 07:06 PM | 3,782 Views
Read enough about RC Float Planes, and you walk away with the clear idea that your plane is going to get wet sooner or later. And sometimes the plane will end upside down. So, it makes sense to think through some kind of retrieval system.

1. $15 Shakespeare rod & reel (Dick's Sporting Goods) includes150' line

You'll also need to add some kind of floating bob that will be heavy enough to toss about 50' off shore and use a drag line to guide the plane back to shore:
$5 Little Joe Glow Stick

2. $20 Rubber boat with oars. Opt for the manly camo version, not the kiddie pool version so your man-card stays intact.

3. $30 RC Tugster Tugboat kit and $25 for electronics, servo, and your own Tx. This is fun on its own. Beware the distraction.

4. Use a real boat, canoe, jet ski, yacht, or kayak. Ask your buddy to go out and help you. In his wet suit. Sure, he'll do the walk of shame for you. Sure he will.

5. Let the wind blow it to shore. Tick tock. Tick tock. You were flying in light winds, right? Well, they're not pushing that plane around much.

6. Swim for it. People have actually drowned, so be careful. Apparently pilots have flown when swimmers wouldn't be in the water and there was a good reason -- too cold usually and hypothermia became a killer. Your plane is just not worth it. Just sayin'.

7. Pray. Okay...
Posted by UpNup | Oct 31, 2016 @ 06:55 PM | 3,348 Views
My first Champ S+ (Champ S Plus) wouldn't turn left. In one of my blogs, I noted how my LHS exchanged it for a new one. Well, after 35 flights, it suddenly developed that no turn left thing again. Rudder would turn right, but not left. I was about to bring it back in when I discovered the rudder pin was out of its hole. The control arm was on the right side, so it pulled freely, but when it pushed, the rudder bottom just leaned out rather than pivot and turn.

When my original plane arrived, its stabilizers were crooked. My hobby shop guy twisted them back level. By straightening them, I believe that pin jumped out of its hole. From what I experienced recently with the second plane, the rudder was facing right enough to override the ailerons attempting to turn left.

The solution was very easy and everything is back to normal.

I found the problem when I was installing a light kit. When I put the rear strobe under the tail of the fuselage, there it was. And in looking back, I caused the problem when I was trying to get my plane out of the top of an evergreen and it landed on its backside. I noticed the glue holding the stabilizers in place had broken free and simply re-glued it. But, I missed the pin being out of its pivot point.

Hope my "find" will help you if you're looking to turn left again.
Posted by UpNup | Oct 30, 2016 @ 03:01 PM | 3,021 Views
A friend of mine is a pilot with MAF - Mission Aviation Fellowship (www.maf.org). The float plane he flies in Bangladesh is registered out of Sweden.

YouTube video "How one floatplane is saving lives."
How one floatplane is saving lives. (3 min 11 sec)

Information on the real Cessna Caravan 208

I thought it would be a great way to honor him to take the only plane I own -- a Champ S+ (Champ S Plus) -- and change out the graphics and convert my plane into something that looks like his.

The MAF plane is a $2.1 million Cessna Caravan 208 outfitted for $50,000 floats. Here are some photos that shows the real thing and the ground crew. And I've added photos showing the steps I took to convert my plane over. Look elsewhere in my blog for details and a build log.

To God be the glory.

Update: The white paint was too heavy. I easily sanded the paint off and then kept going and sanded the red paint off, too. If you're looking for white foam in the first place, just use a 150-grit sanding block.
Posted by UpNup | Oct 30, 2016 @ 08:07 AM | 3,754 Views
Decided that I had to have a light kit for my Champ S+ (Champ S Plus). Eric Bolton (ebolton92) produced a very good priced set of lights for my plane.

The light kit included:
1 landing light (left mid-wing)
1 red light (left wing tip)
1 green light (right wing tip)
3 strobes (wing tips and tail)
Strip of 3 lights for the inside, lighting up the fuselage
On/off switch ($1 extra)

Plugs into front-most open port.
Switch was helpful during install, but the battery compartment is very small and so I've decided to just leave them on, when the battery is plugged in.

I was able to lift the front edge of the wing and pull wires out to the wings using tweezers.

These lights are very bright.

Eric Bolton talks post #778 on RCgroups:




Installation video #1 of 4
20160923 195148 (5 min 1 sec)

Posted by UpNup | Oct 30, 2016 @ 07:57 AM | 3,796 Views
While converting my Champ S+ (Champ S Plus) into a float plane, I ran across these great resources online. Here's an annotated bibliography:

History of float planes
History Of Float Planes (4 min 47 sec)

Building floats -- technical:

Basics of RC Float Flying:

RC Float Planes: Rise to the Challenge -- flying tips

Source for foam floats laser cut. Look at several plans to get ideas.

Converting an RC plane to floats:

Having fun with floats. Technical info:

Great Planes DIY float. Holding plans and specs:

RCgroups.com discussion about conversions and building floats:

Flat groove with straps:

Source for wire in mass quantities -- straight and spooled:
Andy Wilson Mapeswire.com
17 gauge .045
3/64 wire = 0.0469
Posted by UpNup | Oct 27, 2016 @ 03:17 PM | 3,658 Views
Here are the specs that I needed to develop my own set of floats for the Champ S+ (Champ S Plus). Two large ponds near my home were calling my name.

1. HobbyZone doesn't make them.
2. The 12" floats by E-flite are too short. I bought them and had to return them.
3. There is no rear bracket for struts and the landing gear passes through the battery compartment.

Here is some information pulled from many sites and experts:

1. Floats should be 75% to 80% of the fuselage length, so our length is 18.2" from prop adapter to the back end of the fuse. 75% = 13.65, so let's call it 14".

2. There's a general consensus that floats need to be wider than the landing gear and it should be 25% of the wingspan. Our wingspan is 27.3", so 25% = 6.8", so let's call it 6 3/4".

3. Mark your CG (Center of Gravity). It should be 1.1 to 1.4 inches behind your wing's LE (Leading Edge). Put your battery in and just use your fingertips. The CG is between that carbon fiber bar and the wiring for the servos. Make a dot with marker. While you're there, write your name and phone number under the wing next to the fuselage.

4. Floats aren't skis. They have a "step" in the middle on the bottom side. I like the "V" at the bottom. The step needs to be about 1/2" behind the CG.

5. I'm no foam sculpting master, so I contacted Mark at SeaPlaneSupply.com and ordered (PayPal) a set of 14" foam floats. Tell Mark you want them for...Continue Reading
Posted by UpNup | Sep 11, 2016 @ 05:26 PM | 3,086 Views
My flight instructor crashed my plane. I didn’t have a transmitter that allowed for linking. When I handed it off for the landing, he chose the wrong plane in the sky and despite my shouts, dove my trainer straight into the ground.

Actually, this was the best thing that happened to me in three months of trying to solo. To his credit, my mentor provided me with new wings and a fuselage. I was able to rebuild a new plane from his generosity.

After my first two wobbly flights, I was given the handle “[email protected]” by one of the older members. He loudly proclaimed that was the name they all gave to their new pilots until they began to fly successfully. I guess that’s why I never saw another new pilot trying to learn.

More than one weekend I had to go home without flying because no approved flying instructor was there even though, in one case, we had set an appointment. And flying on your own prior to officially soloing was strictly forbidden “for insurance reasons.”

Discussing planes at the beginner level makes a big difference for buy-in and long-term loyalty. Even a “how’s it going, I guess this is all new, huh?” would have been welcomed rather than, “well, you came back again, [email protected]

Interactions with the club members detracted from the hobby. Now, this clique’s cold-shoulder attitude toward outsiders is probably a social phenomenon that could happen among any group that has spent long hours together. As a very social guy, I was expecting some razzing, but...Continue Reading
Posted by UpNup | Sep 03, 2016 @ 08:03 PM | 3,396 Views
My Champ S Plus arrived with twisted tail feathers. My hobby shop gently put them back in alignment. My plane developed a weird quirk that it's ailerons wouldn't turn left. I took it in this week and they replaced the entire plane and transmitter.

Helping and being there for me as a beginner was really a good experience. Despite the 20-minute trip, the relationship has proven worthwhile.

The new plane's rudder is a bit off. Where do you think I'll take it to check it out?

My younger brother bought his Champ S Plus online. Same price. But without a hobby shop pro looking over his shoulder, I'm concerned about his flying experience.

I learned the importance of a relationship with a pro at a shop through riding a bicycle. These guys are in business just to see you succeed. They have years of experience that can be trusted.
Posted by UpNup | Aug 20, 2016 @ 11:05 AM | 3,230 Views
Just about lost my Champ S+ this morning. Above a layer of calmness blew fairly strong breezes. I didn't panic, knowing I could hit the HP/AL red button and it would return home.

Well...not everything is perfect in GPS world.

I calmly hit the "oh crap" button and waited for it to do its come-home thing. When the Champ S+ goes to lower altitude, it spirals downward in beginner mode. Each spiral upwind toward me was stopped in midair. And each downwind blew it quickly away from the park. I took it out of red button pressing firmly one time and tried to fly it. The wing-leveling and inability to dive quickly meant a repeat and losing ground. When I hit the HP/AL button again, the plane flew further away.

So I had to become a real RC pilot. I disabled the HP/AL and pointed the plane into the wind, right at me. The Champ S+ was now well over a neighborhood with fenced backyards and second story rooflines reaching upward. If I throttled up, the plane would climb. And if I cut the power, the plane would be pushed backward by the winds. I quickly found the sweet spot. I knew my flight time was nearing 7 or 8 minutes, but kept it unwavering.

A couple of breaks in the winds allowed the Champ S+ to make strides returning to the field. I used those breaks to lower altitude until I had to throttle over some pine trees on the edge of the field. When I came down below the treeline, I was able to test cutting power and watch the plane drop just enough to head toward my best landing yet -- and with 30 seconds to spare on the battery to boot.

In the post-flight walk to the car, it dawned on me that maybe I could have moved the plane into Intermediate or even Advanced mode, which would have allowed me to dive full power toward safer altitudes. I'll save that for the next flight, now that I'm an RC pilot.
Posted by UpNup | Aug 19, 2016 @ 01:07 PM | 3,081 Views
Maiden flight today with the HobbyZone Champ S+. Calm conditions, 75 degrees.

The Champ S+ has amazing technology. I used all of it except for the invisible fence, which locks controls and returns the plane when it gets too far away.

GPS: I failed to rev the engine to 100% after setting the plane down into the wind, so GPS failed to set and the plane landed on its own 50 yards away when I engaged the red HP/AL button. The plane flew with plenty of power. Dew coated the plane after several grass landings, but it did not appear to respond sluggishly from the extra weight. At 3.7 ounces, I figured it was worth testing.

The box comes with one adapter for the prop. I plan to purchase several more. The propeller won't break on a tip-over landing, but the plastic adapter from the brushless motor to the spinner will easily break.

The beginner mode is very forgiving and keeps the plane level. A hard kick to the rudder will virtually reverse the plane's course in midair, so you still have lots of control. I was glad that I was hand-launching from a large park with trees on the perimeter. The engine is much stronger than the old Champ and what I'd played with in Real Flight simulation. It just takes getting used to and dialing back the throttle.

It was nice to not embarrass myself in front of my wife. She thought I had so much control that I could fly it in our smallish back yard. I really turned down the throttle toward the end and tried to keep the Champ S+ nearby. The plane is little, but it wants to fly.

Would I recommend the Champ S+ to anyone? Yes, my younger brother was so impressed, he's working to get one today. This "drone technology" is here to stay to help old guys like me get into the hobby!
Posted by UpNup | Jun 02, 2011 @ 12:27 PM | 2,403 Views
As a photojournalist, I was assigned a gig in West Africa. The bush pilot, working for MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship), allowed me to fly around a huge thunderhead one afternoon when we were flying back to the capital city. That trip kicked off travel to more than 50 countries and 45 U.S. states. I've flown in the biggest commercial airliners in the world, once over the North Pole, down to an island hopper frame-and-fabric go-kart with wings.

Yes, I have been terrified when flying. Landing in Tegulcigapa, Honduras, will get your prayer life in quick order. A 727 flying wingtips to palm tree-tops on approach is not my idea of a thrill ride. Remembering freefalling for at least 15 seconds on a Japan Air Lines over Alaska still makes me jumpy. Landing near flight speed in Russia was, for me, coming in too hot despite the snow outside. And then there was the hydraulic problems forcing an emergency landing in Central Asia.

Because I don't have the interest, time, or money for getting a pilot's license, it's great to have a hobby outlet in rc planes. This is my second stab at it. A few years ago, I bought and sold a complete setup from a guy my daughter dated. That gas-powered plane experience is yet another story for another blog. The big electrics really caught my attention because of their zizzy-like quietness and also the helpfulness of a local hobby shop has made a difference. The old boys club is nice to have unless you're not one of the old boys. Having a clean start in a new state has been refreshing.