jlballou's blog - RC Groups
Shop our Airplanes Products Drone Products Sales
jlballou's blog View Details
Posted by jlballou | Jul 16, 2006 @ 02:37 AM | 6,730 Views
I finished glassing my Stryker this last week. I used 1/2 oz. cloth, and Acrylic PolyUrethane (I didn't know about WBPU). Before I glassed it, I flew it quite a few times to check out its flight characteristics. I also installed tricycle landing gear (see post HERE
to check out photo before glassing). I found that the plane had to have a positive angle of attack to take off, or I had to hit a bump on the runway (clouseau: A bimp in the rrrrhuuud - that is what I am saying). While I went through the process, I tried to figure out how I could make it easier to ROG. Well, I pretty much suspected that the rear wheels were too far back to allow rotation that would lift the nose, since the down force required by the elevons increases as the wheels move back. So, I bent the piano wires that I used forward to place them about 1" back of the COG.

This made all the difference in the world. With trimming and practice, I was able to do more of a scale-type takeoff, with the airframe slowly rising, rather than the missle-straight-up-in-the-air look).

The main difference is in the landing. Before, with the wheels way back, the nose wheel would touch down first in most cases, which would pitch the nose up, and cause the plane to bounce to a stop.

With the new setup, all three wheels would usually touch down at the same time, resulting in smooth roll-out.

From this experiment, I would suggest putting the rear wheels about 1-2 inches aft of the CG, which will allow the elevons to lift the nose, and allow the plane to start climbing.

I'll try to post pictures of the completed plane tomorrow.

Posted by jlballou | Jul 03, 2006 @ 02:42 AM | 6,291 Views
I needed to check out some repairs to the CN2X camera wiring, and found Chuck Hill of the CONCORD MODEL ENGINEERS at the Court Lane flying site in Concord. For all you in the Bay Area, they'll be having an all electric event on October 22, 2006.

He was flying a Magpie when I drove up, so I flew my ZERO for awhile until he was finished with that model. There was a family with a small boy there, who had been trying to fly a v-tail pusher (one of the inexpensive R/C models). They apparently were not too successful, but the stuck around to see what we were up to.

When he started prepping his Typhoon, I got the CN2X ready, and we decided to try to get some stereo photos with his plane and the rest of us in the frame. Well, the airspeeds of the two airplanes were not even close to each other, and we had a hard time getting two things in the right place at the right time, but, after I got home, I found that we had more success than I expected.

Of course, the cameras in the CN2X do not always fire at the same time, and this happened when we had the shot lined up perfectly. Luckily, one of them did take an image, so it is the first one attached below.

On another pass, I did get a tolerably good stereo, and it's the second photo attached below.

Chuck, thanks for giving it a shot, and I'll see you out at the site (and on October 22nd) later.

Posted by jlballou | Jun 18, 2006 @ 01:37 AM | 6,579 Views
The plane that I'd like to talk about in this entry is my L-4 Artillery Spotter Plane (aka J-3 Cub in Military Garb) Click here for Gallery Picture. This plane was a Christmas present in 2000. It is a Great Plane 40-size kit. I built it slowly during 2001, and flew it for the first time late that year. I knew that I didn't want to build it for gas (too messy/loud), so I first concentrated on building it correctly, and dealt with the power system late in the game. The first motor that I put in it was an Astro-Flight 640G. The motor mount was a standard fork mount used for gas engines, but I used a hose clamp to hold the motor case to the forks. This worked pretty well, but it was a brushed motor. I started out with 18 cells (three standard 6-cell 3000 mAh NiMHs), and it flew pretty well, but was over 9 pounds all-up. The first time I flew it with other people around was at the 2001 Devil Mountain Electric Fun-Fly. The name tag from that event is pictured below. As you can see, it was held on September 30, 2001, just nineteen days after our country was attacked. The mood was somewhat somber, but everyone seemed determined to fly and enjoy the beautiful day. It was very warm, and there was a slight east wind at the site. This was in the closing days of the old site, which was near a golf course and a lake. The runway was a patchwork of mats that were staked into the ground, with some fencing separating the runway from the pilot stations and the pits.

There...Continue Reading
Posted by jlballou | Jun 02, 2006 @ 03:13 AM | 6,650 Views
Over at the AP Forum, the current challenge is "Colours". Most of the entries are of colorful places, but when I first saw the topic, I thought of our "Colours", that is, the flag. I flew the CN2X with two cameras aboard to capture a large flag that is placed on top of a hill to the north of Interstate 80 in Pinole. I got some reasonable stereo shots, and I'm attaching one of the best to this blog post. For the challenge, I'm going to enter a single photo, since I'm limited to 800 pixels wide, which is really too small for a proper stereo picture. I would enter an Anaglyph, but I'm very unhappy about the way they look after posting.

If you can view the anaglyphs on this blog, please respond to my poll in the last Stereo Picture of the Week entry.

Anyway, here are the pics.
Posted by jlballou | May 30, 2006 @ 08:20 PM | 6,517 Views
This weekend, I flew an aerial sortie to the south of the Carquinez Straits Bridges. There is a new suspension span that has been completed for some time now, and they are dismantling the center span, which was the first bridge built across the strait. See THIS stereo photo for what it looked like before the new bridge was completed, and look HERE for an aerial view before the new bridge deck was installed.

This stereo photo shows that the sections between the towers have been partially removed.

As always, the photo is offered in cross-eyed and anaglyph varieties.

If you have red-cyan glasses, please view the anaglyph and vote in the poll. I have noticed that when I upload the files to RCGroups.com, the colors are altered slightly in a way that produces "ghosting", which means that the separation of the images is incomplete.
Posted by jlballou | May 27, 2006 @ 06:04 PM | 6,462 Views
This week's stereo picture is of a B-25 named Tondelayo. This plane was named for Hedy Lamarr's character in "White Cargo", and its nose art is inspired by her role. The story of the original "Tondelayo" (which is not this aircraft) can be read HERE.

This aircraft was restored to operational condition, and is touring the country along with a B-24 (Witchcraft) which can be seen beyond the Tondelayo, and a B17 (Nine O Nine).

I toured these planes at Buchanan Field in Concord, CA on May 23, 2006. The B-17 and B-24 were open for people to crawl through. It was an amazing experience.

When I entered the B-24, there was a gentleman behind me who was hesitant to enter the plane. He was carrying a cane, and I asked him if he needed help to climb up the small ladder in the aft part of the plane. In a British accent, he said that he felt claustrophobic, and didn't seem to be able to make up his mind about entering. I told him that the sights to be seen inside were worth the climb. He hesitated, and then passed his cane up to me, and I waited as he slowly climbed the ladder.

Once he reached the top of the ladder, he looked around and sighed. I asked if he thought it was that close inside. He said, "No, I'll be alright now.", and mentioned that his father flew in the B-24s during WWII. I then said to him that he needed to climb inside, and he agreed.

I then asked what place he had in the plane, and he started telling of the...Continue Reading
Posted by jlballou | May 17, 2006 @ 11:28 PM | 6,888 Views
I apologize for the hiatus in posting this feature. I will try not to have it happen again.

This week's feature was taken at the Castle Air Base Museum. The subject is an F-105B "ThunderChief" . This one caught my eye because of the toothy smile painted on the nose.

These were widely used in Vietnam, and were affectionately called "THUDs".

The picture is presented in cross-eyed and anaglyph formats.

Posted by jlballou | May 17, 2006 @ 12:08 AM | 7,190 Views
The Story of the Wiffle Bat

After learning to handle a very difficult plane (see Chapter 2 below), I decided to build a glider that would be much easier to control on the slope, and provide the ability to use aileron/elevator/rudder controls. I got a large sheet of green coroplast and got to work with the heat gun to make a flat-bottom airfoil wing with a long pine spar for stiffness. I used hot-melt glue to put together the wing, added servos for ailerons cut from the single ply coroplast on the trailing edge, and rigged it up. The wingspan was 6', and the chord was about 10". This gave a pretty big wing area, and the ailerons were about 1.5" wide.

For a fuselage, I attached two wiffle bats together with the dowels that I used to rubber-band the wing on, hot-melt glued some tail feathers on, put the receiver/battery/elevator servo in the nose, balanced it, and headed out to the slope.

The AUW was over 2 lbs, as I recall, so it wasn't light. However, it proved to be pretty stable for a straight wing plane. This was because the spar tended to bend, and produce dihedral whether it was flying level or inverted. It did take a pretty good breeze to keep it up, but when the wind was right, it was a blast to zip around the slope. Landings were usually pretty hot, but it helped me to practice attitude control while the plane was approaching me, and cement in the reverse direction roll control that is essential to R/C flight.

After watching me try (...Continue Reading
Posted by jlballou | May 07, 2006 @ 08:42 PM | 6,841 Views
Well, it's been a month since I last saw my Christen Eagle. I posted a stereo picture on my blog about 6 weeks ago, and was just starting to enjoy its capabilities when I launched one day when I shouldn't have (the wind was up a bit).

I was just doing some aerobatics, and the wind took it downrange a little, and when I started to bring it back, it nosed up into a stall, which pushed it further downwind. Well, I kept my cool, recovered, and got it coming back to me, only to find that it would nose up again. To make a long story short, this continued until I finally decided just to bring it down in the residential neighborhood so it didn't go into the next county.

Well, I just let it go down on its own, and got in my car and went to look. I didn't find it, so I made up some flyers and posted them on light poles. Still no response. It rained several days after, which took out the flyers, so I posted them one more time with no response.

Well, now for the lessons learned: First, I didn't have any identification on the plane. That was the worst mistake, and the easiest one to fix before the fact. All my other airplanes have my info prominently marked, but on this plane, I forgot.

Second, I used a short-range receiver on this plane. The antenna was taped to the fuselage. This meant that when the plane is going directly for me, or away, the signal strength at the receiver is at its minimum. Lesson: Use full range receivers, or, at least, lengthen the antenna to roughly 1m length (1/4 wave for 72 MHz).

Third, don't launch when the wind is up, or, at least, always fly upwind so that you have a chance to bring it down before it's gone.

Well, today, I maidened its replacement, much the same, but with a larger battery and a different outrunner. It flew great, and came back in the car with me.

Just the right antidote.
Posted by jlballou | Apr 29, 2006 @ 10:56 PM | 6,601 Views
It has come to my attention that there is a large amount of radioactive material in the earth. This material seems to be distributed unevenly around the world. We do know that it is found in Niger and other parts of Africa (since that's one of the places that "yellowcake" is found), as well as in America. See HERE for the Wikipedia page on Uranium. It is found everywhere in the earth.

This is unacceptable. We must find a way to eliminate this dangerous, hazardous material from the earth. If we do not do so, we are all at risk of becoming contaminated (which is worse than being exposed to radiation). Just by being outside, you are being exposed to trace amounts of Uranium. Even the wallboard in your house contains trace amounts of Uranium, which produces Radon, a gas that can be found in most homes.

I propose that we begin the long task of removing these materials from the earth's crust to save us from this menace. Mining companies could be induced to begin the arduous task of separating out the hazardous, radioactive elements from the earth in order to de-contaminate the earth. Once that this material is concentrated, it could be placed in secure areas where it can be monitored, controlled, and protected. Only then will we be safe from this menace.


Actually, what I proposed above, tongue firmly planted in my cheek, is what we are actually doing when we build and operate nuclear power plants.

...Continue Reading
Posted by jlballou | Apr 20, 2006 @ 02:06 AM | 7,258 Views
This stereo picture was taken on a flight from the top of Leavitt Peak, the highest mountain near Sonora Pass, CA. For a web page that I put together describing the trip along with other pictures, click HERE.

This page also has one of the few pictures that I have of me launching the old LocalHawk - and keep in mind that all around where I'm launching is nothing but open spaces, and thousands of feet down. Also, the winds were pretty strong every time I've been up there. All in all, it was an exhilarating experience, and I was very glad when I brought it in for a landing.

Posted by jlballou | Apr 17, 2006 @ 02:39 AM | 10,034 Views
While flying at Court Lane with the Concord Model Engineers, I was impressed by the F-27 Strykers that some of the guys were flying there. So, when I got some cash for my birthday, I ordered an airframe without the radio/motor etc, and built it up. I maidened it on Friday, using a Mega 16/15/7 that I used on my wiffle bat plane, which never really performed all that well. I do have a 4-turn from the same series on order, which should arrive this week. The first picture below shows the plane as flown for the first time. It had surprisingly good performance, but it's clear that the motor is not matched to the plane.

After trimming it out, I decided that it needed to have tricycle gear attached to make it complete. I'm not really trying for speed with this plane, or I'd just leave the gear off. And the gear wouldn't be much good unless you could steer it.

So, I mounted small rectangles of light ply to the bottom of the airframe as shown in the second and third pictures, with a tailwheel bracket on the front. Then, I drilled 1/16" holes through the break in the fins straight down through the lite-ply. To attach the piano wire to the airframe, I cut the fin about 3/4" toward the front and dug out the foam to make a place for the wire to be glued in. After bending the wire for the wheels and bending the top to fit in the recess, I used epoxy to attach the wire to the fin, while drawing down epoxy into the fin and the lite-ply. Bending the wires to make...Continue Reading
Posted by jlballou | Apr 13, 2006 @ 02:25 AM | 7,005 Views
This week's picture is one I really wanted to put into my RCGroups Gallery. It is an orthogonal view of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier that is now a floating museum. This stereo picture will only be shown here as an anaglyph, mostly because a side-by-side picture would be too narrow to see much detail. As it is, this picture is reduced in size by around 55% so that it will fit on most people's screens. I have a version printed that is 16 inches long, and when you put it on a tabletop and view it, you feel as if you can reach down and pick it up.

To make this picture, I flew the CN2X above the Hornet, flying as high as I dared over the length of the ship. At that height, it was only possible to get about 3/4 of the ship in the frame. So, I stitched together four pictures (two for the right image, two for the left), and assembled them into the stereo pair. It was also necessary to "flatten" the two images, since it seemed that the deck was not level. The best way to view this is to print it out, and lay it on a flat surface so that you can look down on it.
Posted by jlballou | Apr 07, 2006 @ 02:55 AM | 6,580 Views
This week, I have a picture of Preston's Pride, a B-17 that is part of a Veteran's Memorial near Highway 99 in Tulare, CA. I had to climb up on top of my car to get this shot, so that the fence doesn't block all of the plane.
Posted by jlballou | Apr 07, 2006 @ 02:26 AM | 6,544 Views
After I had gained some experience with the Electra kit-bashed glider, I decided that I wanted to get some experience with an aileron plane. The motivation for this was watching the more experienced pilots at the Donald Drive in Orinda. For the most part, they had gliders that were much easier to turn than the polyhedral rudder/elevator planes. For several reasons, I settled on the (since discontinued) B-2 glider from Zagi. One of the reasons was that this plane did not require a mixing radio, since it had three servos: One for each aileron, and one for an elevator. The elevator was the middle part of the trailing edge, and the ailerons were outboard of the elevator.

It didn't take long to glue it together, cut out the servo bays and the receiver/battery areas, and prepare it for flight. It proved to be a frustrating exercise trying to control it. I experimented with different throws on the control surfaces and the CG, and eventually found a combination that allowed somewhat controlled flight.

Since I am a pretty persistent cuss, I was able to fly and land it most of the time. It really took a beating while I was doing this, and I was glad that it was made of foam. I learned to roll it, but loops proved all but impossible. In retrospect, it would have been helpful to add ballast to it to increase its penetration.

In retrospect, this airplane taught me important skills in recognizing plane attitude, knowing when the airfoil is flying and when it is...Continue Reading
Posted by jlballou | Mar 29, 2006 @ 01:58 AM | 5,408 Views
This week's picture was taken some time ago from a park near the shipping terminals of Oakland, CA. You can see the two spans of the Bay Bridge, and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. The mountain is Mt. Tamalpais. The shipping cranes in the foreground were the inspiration for the AT-AT walkers in the Star Wars movies.

For more stereo pictures, click HERE for more stereo pictures in the RCGroups archived Gallery.

As usual, the left hand picture is a cross-eyed picture, and the right is an anaglyph. Use red/cyan glasses to view the anaglyph.

To get anaglyph glasses, either Google "Anaglyph Glasses" or click HERE for a link to a site that will let you order 10 at $0.50 each.
Posted by jlballou | Mar 23, 2006 @ 02:54 AM | 6,160 Views
This week's picture is one that I took right after I got a 3.2 MP camera in 2003. The bridge is the Concord/Benicia bridge, and you can see the Carquinez Straits bridges in the distance. I enjoy this one because of its composition, and the strong stereo effect.
Posted by jlballou | Mar 22, 2006 @ 11:27 AM | 5,502 Views
Have you been feeling let down by the closure of the gallery? Do you think that the addition of blogs, while good in intent and great for other purposes, does not provide for the broad viewing of your images?

Here are two suggestions:

1. Click HERE to go to the gallery home page. Scroll down to the bottom, where the random images appear. Click on ones that you like to increase the views of those pictures. If you don't like any you see, click the "Reload" button on your browser, and different pictures will appear. By doing this, you are increasing traffic to the gallery contents, which may help convince the owners of the site to reopen or revamp the gallery in some way.

2. Click on one of the advertisements on this site. Then, send them an e-mail stating where you saw their ad, and tell them that RCGroups is trying to limit traffic to their site by eliminating the gallery, and thus reduce the number of views that their paid advertisement is going to receive. This may also convince the site owners to reconsider their decision.

Do you have any other suggestions for action?

Posted by jlballou | Mar 19, 2006 @ 08:15 PM | 5,949 Views
POLL: Please click on the "Comments" link above this post to vote in my poll on stereo pictures. You may select as many answers as you wish.

Well, I destroyed my Shock Flyer , so I needed a place for the electronics to live. At trip to the LHS helped me find another plane. I chose the Thunder Tiger Christen Eagle, a biplane, since I had never built a biplane before. A couple of evenings later, I had the thing built up, except that I only had a 2S 1100 mAh lipo pack to run it. I knew that it would be underpowered, but it should be enough to get it in the air. Well, it flew, but the CG was a bit far back, which made for active flying. I landed it in some tall grass, and that took out one of the wheel pants, but it was (just barely) controllable. I got a 720mAh Thunder Power pack today, and that should be well-matched to the brushless that I'll replace the stock motor with.

Here's a picture of the bipe before launch (stereo, of course), along with an anaglyph.
Posted by jlballou | Mar 17, 2006 @ 12:34 AM | 5,421 Views
Well, it's time for the Stereo Picture of the Week!

The picture below was taken on Wednesday of this week as I was trying to get a stereo pair of birds for the current contest. I did get one pair, but I'm going to try again before the contest period is up. So, at least I will have an entry.

The picture below is a self portrait taken from the CN2X AP Platform , which mounts two Aiptek PenCam SDs, triggered by a switch made by Roger Mihara. It was taken at the slope soaring site in Pinole, CA. It is a prominent hill that can be seen from Interstate 80 near the Pinole Valley Road exit, and has two slopes: one that can be flown with the wind from West to WNW, and another that works for South to SW. There is also terrain that produces some pretty strong thermals, so it's fun. The best part is that it is only about 10 minutes from work, so lunchtime flying is possible.

A note about viewing these pictures: The one that has the pictures side-by-side is a cross-eyed picture. In order to see the stereo effect, you need to cross your eyes until you see three images. The one in the middle will show the stereo effect. The image with the funny colors that looks blurry in spots in an Anaglyph. To view these, you need the glasses that have red for the left eye and aqua (blue-green) for the right eye. Some people find it easier to view anaglyphs, but obviously, it loses the color in the process.