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Posted by rclad | Aug 13, 2018 @ 12:25 PM | 737 Views
Click here for the latest entry in my IMAC log.
Posted by rclad | Jul 29, 2018 @ 10:17 PM | 1,174 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 – yes, I’m that old). 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...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Jul 01, 2018 @ 10:07 PM | 2,273 Views
Click here for the latest entry in my IMAC log.
Posted by rclad | Jun 10, 2018 @ 08:28 PM | 1,224 Views
Click here for the latest entry in my IMAC log.
Posted by rclad | Jun 04, 2018 @ 01:30 PM | 1,604 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 | 1,569 Views
Click here for the latest entry to my IMAC log.
Posted by rclad | May 22, 2018 @ 12:57 PM | 2,781 Views
See here for the latest entry in my IMAC log.
Posted by rclad | May 16, 2018 @ 04:45 PM | 1,886 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 | 1,361 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 | 1,610 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 | 1,577 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 | 1,418 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 | 2,187 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
Posted by rclad | Mar 28, 2018 @ 11:45 AM | 1,451 Views
Last year I started a logbook of incidents I have had while flying model planes. It was titled "Incidents and Accidents," but I never defined those terms. It turns out, as far as I know, AMA hasn't made a clear distinction either. Perhaps it really doesn't matter, as long as you report any injuries caused to another person or persons while flying an RC model, or damage to property. I added the NTSB definition of those terms, as well as a copy of the 2018 AMA Insurance Summary and claim information, to the logbook introduction here. From that information I defined what I mean when I refer to an incident or accident in my logbook.

I hope we are all working on making our flying experience as safe as possible, so that we remain free of accidents - and incidents, too!
Posted by rclad | Mar 16, 2018 @ 01:27 PM | 1,485 Views
Among the many tributes to theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who died this week at 76, I heard a quote that intrigued me, one of many from his long career about the universe and our place in it: "One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn't exist.....Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.”

This must be a reference to how natural selection takes advantage of the random mutation of genes when cells divide. It raises for me an interesting question about how we who compete in IMAC or Pattern, or any number of RC events, resolve the paradox of our sport: we are imperfect beings out to relax and have fun with our friends, but we are doing so with machines and technology that demand incredible attention to detail to be safe, at a minimum, and fly perfectly at best.

Hawking's own life was a paradox. He was diagnosed with ALS at 21 and given only a couple years to live, yet he went on to pursue a long career in physics, defying the odds against him and reaching great heights, not only in the academic world, but in popular culture as well with his book, A Brief History of Time. He helped us understand that when a star dies, many new stars are born in its place. Many of the elemental particles that make life possible - carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur and phosphorus - are the remnants of stars. We are the stuff of stars.

I will take Hawking's achievement as inspiration to pursue excellence in my flying, even though the odds are stacked against us of reaching perfection. That may not even be the ultimate goal.
Posted by rclad | Mar 12, 2018 @ 01:37 PM | 2,171 Views
This is one of those moments in life that comes unexpectedly, where the impact doesn't hit you until the moment is gone. In retrospect, I would have handled it differently, had I realized how rare it was. At the very least, I should have gotten a picture of him. Now, all I have is a memory and this story. Oh well. C'est la vie.

Saturday was a gorgeous day for late winter, with blue skies, light winds and temps in the mid forties. I had to make a trip out to Mason at 2 pm, so I didn't get out to the Airmasters field in North Bend until 3:15. The gate was locked, so once again I had the field to myself. I assembled my 87" Extra and just completed the first flight of the day when I noticed a visitor pull up in the parking lot. After swapping out my batteries and getting a drink prior to my next flight, I saw that he was still sitting in his car. I walked over to say hi.

To break the ice I asked if he brought a plane to fly. He laughed through the open window and said, "No." Then he stepped out of the car, his lanky frame rising to my height or more, at least 6 feet. He looked strong and in good health. He appeared to be of German descent with handsome features and salt and pepper hair trimmed neatly on his head. He asked if my plane was an Extra 300. "Yes," I said. He said he was an unlimited aerobatic pilot and was interested in flying one before purchasing an MX... something. "An MXS?" I asked. "Yes, that's it.&...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Feb 13, 2018 @ 04:41 PM | 2,418 Views
After purchasing my first giant scale plane last year I thought it would be a while before I made another investment in a big plane. Well, the IMAC bug bit me hard last year, and as much as I loved competing with my 3DHS 87" Extra, I began thinking it would be good to have a back up plane, just in case....

So, here it is, another 3DHS plane! This time it's an electric only airframe, and it's going to carry 8000 mAh 12s 30C Glacier batteries for an estimated AUW of 20 lbs, about 3/4 lbs lighter than my 87" Extra, which only has 6000 mAh batteries. The extra capacity will allow me to fly two Sportsman sequences with plenty of time to spare for practice at home, or loitering in the air for those contests that run dual flight lines.

Power will be a Motrolfly DM 5335 5 kw motor with Jeti Mezon 135 Opto ESC. Receiver/servo power will be either 2x 1300 mAh Lipo 30C batteries or BEC with Optipower Ultra-Guard.

Stay tuned for the inevitable customization to make life at the field easier. Since this plane is designed for electric only, though, I'm hoping I won't need to do much to make things work for me.
Posted by rclad | Feb 07, 2018 @ 03:45 PM | 3,058 Views
As a fan of electric power for both my RC planes and the car I use to transport them, I love the PR coup Elon Musk pulled by launching his personal Tesla Roadster into space yesterday. The Roadster was used in place of the usual dummy load of dead weight and launched on top of the new Falcon Heavy rocket. The live feed of the car in space is simply stunning. Beautiful views of earth and Starman, the "driver" in the car, as it slowly rotates on its trajectory to the asteroid belt. It was supposed to enter a similar orbit to Mars around the sun, but got more of a boost than planned. Oh well, still a fun ride! Congratulations, Space X, for a successful launch!

Live feed can be viewed here.
Posted by rclad | Jan 01, 2018 @ 10:13 PM | 2,187 Views
Our club was going to have an informal fun fly today, just a few members who fly regularly gathering to mark the start of the new year. Of course everyone was welcome.

Naturally, the weather had its own plans. A polar vortex brought frigid temperatures that won't be warming for a while. The event was cancelled, and I planned to just stay home for the day.

When the day began with sun and clear skies I started having second thoughts. I survived a short walk in my neighborhood at noon, so how bad could it be? Drawn by sun and blue sky, I decided to fly.

Problem was I had nothing ready, so I scrambled to charge batteries, solder some EC3 connectors on a new LiPo pack (twice - in my rush I soldered on male plugs instead of female), bind and install a new receiver and get my little Sport Cub all trimmed up. I wanted the plane ready to go, minus battery insertion, to minimize exposure. I usually fly my 87" Extra, but I wasn't about to attempt assembly outdoors in these conditions.

The Cub didn't seem to mind the 11F temperature and flew great, although a bit bumpy in the wind. Even caught some thermals. I had to warm my batteries and transmitter on the dash, so I parked facing the sun. Tx glove worked great. You can see tracks from a touch and go (with cross wind, so not very pretty). Two flights - about 4.5 minutes each - were all I could handle, though. Packs were brand new, so I wanted to go easy on them. Turns out I used only 22 to 25% of the 2200 mAh packs.

By warming the transmitter on the dash and using a transmitter glove, my hands stayed warm during the flights. I did wear some bike gloves, which have the finger tips open.

Enjoy the pics and don't mind my ugly mugshot. After getting back home I realized I forgot about my new Mobius camera. Could have gotten some nice video. Sorry about that!

Happy new year to all!
Posted by rclad | Nov 03, 2017 @ 11:41 PM | 3,141 Views
In my early RC days flying slope and power planes I looked forward to a quiet airfield and having the sky to myself. It rarely happened while living in Southern California or stationed at a Navy base. I sometimes went out of my way to find secluded places to fly, driving to hidden coves along the beach, inland to a remote hilltop, or up into the mountains where the giant scale sailplanes flew in some serious winds, piloted by guys with more guts than I ever had.

Now that I'm finally competing in aerobatics and need time and airspace to practice, I have mixed feelings about arriving at my club's airfield to find the gate locked and no one there. I have opened that gate after work and on weekends, and locked up long after sunset, more times than I can count. We have 85 members at our club, yet I am often the only one flying at our field.

Granted, I will fly in less than ideal conditions: in gaps between thunderstorms, in strong winds, in the heat and cold. Competition has made that a necessity. We did have a few pilots come out for our Chili Fly last Saturday, when the temperature was struggling to get above 40 degrees and the clouds threatened rain at any moment. I went back to fly again the next day, with the winds a bit stronger and the thermometer stuck at 40 again, and I had the field to myself. On a Sunday afternoon. I went after work today, with the air feeling balmy at 52 and the sun finally pushing back a week of gloomy skies, and once again I arrived...Continue Reading