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Posted by rclad | Nov 03, 2017 @ 11:41 PM | 3,636 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
Posted by rclad | Oct 06, 2017 @ 06:38 PM | 3,617 Views
I suppose, if asked what this hobby means to us, or what purpose it serves, every person here might provide a slightly different response. So I can only tell you what it means to me. I was thinking about this long before the Las Vegas shooting happened, because there have been moments at my club that have intruded in the space this hobby creates for me. It's a common phrase now, this mental state we call our "happy place." I usually enter that space every time I enter my shop to work on my planes, or log on to RC Groups, or pass through the gate at my RC club.

My happy place is a state of mind that allows me to focus on the things I enjoy thinking about, a place where I can solve problems that interest me. RC model aviation has provided that space since I first got into the hobby in 1980. I enjoy many aspects of this hobby: the science of aerodynamics and engineering required to make a model fly, the artistic aspects where form and function unite along with one's own creative flair, the wonder of seeing months of work take to the skies, and even the sky itself, an endlessly changing backdrop that both challenges our ability to fly and enhances our experience of being borne aloft.

We live in an amazing world: we're made of matter that originated in the stars and can actually reflect back on the cosmos from which we came. We live on a planet full of wonders, traveling through space full of mystery and beauty. And then there is the flip side that...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Sep 26, 2017 @ 11:47 PM | 4,566 Views
I started flying RC sailplanes off the beach in California in 1980. Groundbreaking for the new AMA headquarters and National Model Aviation Museum in Reston, VA, hadn't even begun yet. Back then it seemed too far away for me to ever visit.

After moving to Cincinnati and eventually getting back into RC last year I was just a two hour drive away from Muncie, Indiana, site of the new AMA headquarters and museum since 1992. IMAC competition finally brought me to Muncie and the International Aeromodeling Center this past weekend. Even though I was intent on spending the day Friday practicing for the Regional Championships, I took some time to visit the museum before practice and after the event was over on Sunday. The museum is first class and was well worth the little time I had. I don't think even a full day could begin to cover all the items on display. If you are ever in the area, visit a bit of model aviation history. You will not regret it!

One of the most interesting items for me was a replica of a powered model plane built and flown in 1871 by Penaud. It looks almost modern in its conception, yet it flew successfully a full 32 years before the Wright brothers took off in Kitty Hawk. There is much to be amazed at in this beautiful display of aviation history.

I'm sorry the quality of these photos isn't the best. I only had my phone with me....Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Sep 25, 2017 @ 11:00 AM | 3,216 Views
See here for latest entry to my IMAC Log.
Posted by rclad | Sep 18, 2017 @ 12:12 PM | 3,461 Views
See here for the latest entry in my IMAC Log.
Posted by rclad | Sep 05, 2017 @ 12:42 PM | 3,273 Views
See here for latest Incident Report.
Posted by rclad | Sep 04, 2017 @ 04:31 PM | 2,952 Views
I just touched down less than an hour ago, after waiting for a lull in the wind. The forecast initially said winds up to 16 mph. OK, no problem. It's always good to get some IMAC practice in less than ideal conditions, since the weather can be equally bad on contest days.

After taking off I immediately ran into turbulent air. It tossed my big Extra around like a plaything. I had to nose into the wind hard to maintain a vertical up line. As I slowed to a stop for the hammerhead the plane drifted about a hundred feet downwind. It was a wild ride!

After landing the weather report said winds were 16 gusting to 24. I was lucky to get this bird safely back on the ground. (I can't imagine what living through Hurricane Harvey was like. It's hard to appreciate good weather until you're stuck in the bad.)

I waited two hours for the winds to calm down a bit before making a second flight, then called it a day.

Windy Day at AirMasters RC Field (0 min 15 sec)

Posted by rclad | Aug 28, 2017 @ 11:55 PM | 3,396 Views
See here for new IMAC Log entry.
Posted by rclad | Aug 10, 2017 @ 08:47 PM | 3,644 Views
Flying the 2017 IMAC Basic sequence at the AirMasters' field one week before the IMAC Burnit Challenge in Harrison, OH. 3DHS 87" Extra 300 SHP with Xpwr 60cc motor, Xoar 24x10 prop, Castle Creations Phoenix Edge HV160 ESC and 12s 6000 mAh Glacier 30C LiPo batteries. AUW is 21 pounds.

Thanks to fellow club member Barry for the video!

IMAC Practice - Basic Sequence for 2017 (8 min 3 sec)

Posted by rclad | Jul 27, 2017 @ 11:23 PM | 3,774 Views
My 87" 3DHS Extra 300 now has a new Xpwr 60cc motor, replacing an identical one that blew a bearing a couple weeks ago. After being grounded with only my little Extra for practice, I was looking forward to getting this big bird back in the air.

Unfortunately the weather wasn't cooperating today. I got to the field after work in time to see some rain rolling in. The usual Thursday crowd was absent, so I had the field to myself. I got one good 8 minute flight in before I had to shelter for a while. When the skies started lightening up I put my Extra on the taxi way again, inserted the batteries and waited for a hole in the clouds. Instead they closed in, and I got caught in more rain. After an hour of that I had a 15 minute window before it got dark, so I squeezed in one more flight.

I love this plane! Compared to the little Extra, the big one flies like a dream. It just floats, flies with precision, climbs vertically with power to spare, and lands like a pussycat.

Summer in Ohio means dodging thunderstorms, flying in crazy winds, sweating through heat and humidity, and sometimes, getting caught in the rain. As long as you keep the electronics dry, the plane, and pilot, don't seem to mind.
Posted by rclad | Jul 23, 2017 @ 04:40 PM | 3,764 Views
Art is arguably a very subjective field. What captures the imagination of one person may be of no interest to another. Art can be as ephemeral as the moment it portrays.

I'm not a photographer, nor consider myself an artist, but I have an interest in both. Out of the thousands of photos I have taken over the years, only a few stand out in my eye. Because it is so difficult, especially when the subject is moving fast, I'm always impressed when someone captures a good photo, even if the subject is mundane.

Here are a few of my favorite photos that I have taken. They may not reach the level of "art", but they capture for me some element that makes this hobby both inspiring and captivating.
Posted by rclad | Jul 20, 2017 @ 10:27 PM | 3,999 Views
The Cincinnati Warbirds EAA Squadron 18 hosted the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati, July 12-16. One of the planes that flew in for the static display and rides was "Fifi", a B-29 Superfortress built in the last weeks of WWII. (I captured this short video on my cell phone, so quality is not great.)

Tucked away in an upper room of the airport is a small museum. On display is a beautiful, very detailed, scale RC model of a Stinson Reliant. (I'll have to go back for a photo - sorry!) I asked the curator about the unusual tail hook on the bottom. He said the full scale version was used to pick up mail. The pilot had to fly about 25 feet off the ground and within a 12 foot wide zone to catch the cable, then a crewman reeled in the bag. They rarely missed.

B-29 Superfortress "Fifi" at Lunken Airport, Cincinnati, OH (0 min 41 sec)

Posted by rclad | Jul 13, 2017 @ 10:05 AM | 7,349 Views
This actually happened to my plane the other day. I was flying my electric 3DHS 87" Extra 300 SHP, practicing for the next IMAC contest, when the wings suddenly rocked. It wasn't air turbulence. My first thought was a glitch in the radio, or interference. It was that violent. I went on to make a couple more flights and all was normal.

The next day (yesterday) as I was preparing the plane for the first flight I found the cause of the glitch. Embedded in the side of the canopy was a micrometeorite, complete with creases radiating out, similar to fractures found in glass struck by a bullet. It was small, under 1 mm in diameter, but they typically travel at 11 km/s. Even weighing in at only 10∧-6 grams (in the typical weight range) the force of impact would have been approximately 18 newtons or 4 pounds. That's 4 pounds pushing on a 21 pound airplane. It's about the same weight as all the batteries on board - combined.

The odds of a model plane getting struck by a meteorite, especially in the canopy - about the only place the evidence would remain or be seen on a balsa/ply airframe - must be extremely low. Ahem, astronomically low.

[Edit: The good folks on the Astronomy dot net forum are skeptical it was a meteorite. Terminal velocity by the time it reached the lower atmosphere would be too slow to have that kind of impact. Someone suggested a shotgun or pellet gun - or even slingshot! Our runway is about 1,000' from a hillside, so a gunshot would have echoed off the hillside. I would have heard that, and it was quiet the entire evening. ]

What do you think? Post a suggestion, if you think there is a more reasonable explanation.
Posted by rclad | Jul 11, 2017 @ 11:57 AM | 17,124 Views
The AirMasters airfield where I fly has a runway oriented NE/SW, so flying in the morning on the west side of the runway means the sun will be in my eyes. I usually fly late in the afternoon (after work) when the wind is calmer, the thermals have gone, and the sun is not an issue. Flying in an IMAC contest, however, means I sometimes have to face the sun. That is not a good situation.

I was introduced to a simple solution to this problem at my first IMAC contest. Someone had made a sun blocker, a simple disc mounted on a pole inserted into a tripod. It worked great! I eventually got around to making my own for my home airfield. In my haste I used a plastic picnic plate as my disc. I just strapped it to a wooden dowel with a couple zip ties. At the last IMAC event the wind was so strong it just ripped the plate off the dowel.

So, I came up with a more permanent solution. I cut a disc from some scrap fiber board I had on hand. I sealed the face with some primer and glued a doubler and some cleats to accept a dowel on the back. My daughter agreed to provide a little artistic flourish to give it some color. (Her picture also helps to explain the purpose of this device, as the members of my club kept asking me what the previous sun blocker was, and "How are you supposed to hold it and fly at the same time?" when I brought the latest version to the field unassembled.)

A brick in the bag attached at the bottom of the tripod provides ballast, so the disc won't fall over in a strong wind.
Posted by rclad | Jul 10, 2017 @ 09:10 AM | 18,611 Views
I'm posting this log as a reminder to avoid making the same mistake twice. As in full scale flying there are endless ways in this hobby to hurt oneself or others, damage or destroy an airplane, or damage someone's property. Sometimes, it's a string of events - poor choices made in haste or carelessness - that lead up to an accident. A little caution and good judgment will go a long way to prevent their occurrence. We can't make life risk free, but we can free ourselves from unnecessary risks. As a banner in a Pensacola Navy hangar reminded me, "If there's doubt, there's no doubt." Think about it....

What is the difference between an accident and an incident? I'm not aware of any real distinction by the AMA. They seem to use the terms interchangeably. (See Insurance Claim info below.) Obviously model planes don't carry passengers, but here are the NTSB definitions that can help make a distinction for us:
In Part 830, the NTSB defines an accident as:
  • an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and when all such passengers have disembarked,
    in which any person suffers death or serious injury,
    in which the aircraft receives substantial damage.

Substantial damage means damage or failure which adversely affects the structural strength, performance, or flight characteristics of the aircraft. This type of damage would normally require major
...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Jun 15, 2017 @ 04:15 PM | 5,025 Views
Occasionally a creative genius or talented videographer with the skill to produce an exceptional video will cross our paths, and you have to stop and admire their work. Until you have tried to produce your own video, it's hard to appreciate the skill it takes. Here are some of my favorites:

By Gdranker2011, published on YouTube in 2015:
ToyStory with Eflite Super Cub 25e (7 min 12 sec)

By Xjet, published on YouTube in 2016: The opening scene on this next one is well done:
E-flite Super Cub (7 min 27 sec)
...Continue Reading
Posted by rclad | Jun 13, 2017 @ 10:47 PM | 4,689 Views
Just got back from a successful maiden of my new 87" Extra 300 SHP. Winds were calm or very light with no cross wind. Perfect!

Other than a hard bounce on first landing attempt - I was not use to the new throttle curve, which is very flat on the low end - the flight was uneventful. I couldn't resist a victory roll for completing a long six month build and getting all systems working so well for the maiden. I did one hammerhead stall turn and got a low cell warning from telemetry, so at least one cell dropped below 3.70V for more than 2.5 seconds. After resuming level flight the main batteries were OK. Packs are brand new and have never been cycled before, so I should have gone easy on them.

The plane kept tracking left during taxi tests, but we didn't discover the cause until after the flight was over. The left wheel pant rear was dragging in the grass, causing a pull on that side. These are not adjustable wheel pants: the blind nuts were pre-installed and the holes in the CF landing gear are pre-drilled. I'll have to "move" one of the holes, so I can re-align the wheel pant to match the one on the right side.

I was unable to get the aileron trim adjusted so the wings would remain level. It needed a half-click to get it right. I was able to adjust this later by changing the trim step setting on my Taranis Plus from medium to fine.

I have plenty of telemetry data to review! Motor, ESC, batteries, radio and flight telemetry from GPS.

I need to dial down the control rates and do some trimming flights, then it's off to my first IMAC contest with this plane eleven days from now!

Thanks to my co-worker Ed for taking the video and Jim for assisting with pre-flight checks and flight trims.

Enjoy the video and post-flight pics. See my build log for pre-maiden pics.

New 87" 3DHS Extra 300 SHP Takes to the Sky - Part 1 (9 min 43 sec)

87" 3DHS Extra 300 SHP Takes to the Sky - Part 2: Landing (1 min 0 sec)

Posted by rclad | Jun 05, 2017 @ 09:13 AM | 5,842 Views
My hometown airfield, the San Fernando Valley Flyers, hosted pattern contests when I was growing up. Watching the pattern pilots fly their maneuvers with incredible precision inspired me to work hard at flying with the same precision and grace. Several decades have past and my flying skills still have a long way to go, but I still think precision flying is a worthy goal. I took a step closer to flying pattern myself while flying for the Navy, but I was on the move too much and didn't have the space, tools, or time to build the pattern plane I bought, or practice enough to be competitive. So I sold the plane and stuck with sport flying.

After getting back into RC last year, a fellow club member talked me into giving IMAC a try. IMAC is the International Miniature Aerobatic Club. They promote scale aerobatic competitions modeled after the full scale International Aerobatic Club, the IAC. I had some time on my hands and a good field less than thirty minutes away, so I finally had no excuses. With only a week to get ready and only a small Great Planes Extra 300 to fly, I entered my first contest last September. I flew more practice flights in that one week than I typically flew in an entire year. I enjoyed the contest, nerves and all, and decided to go all in this year with a new giant scale plane.

This log will keep track of the contests I have flown and results: scores, ranking, and lessons learned.

Latest Entry: September 18, 2018
Posted by rclad | Jun 03, 2017 @ 09:54 AM | 5,929 Views
Frankenstein Jolts to Life!

This won't be a complete build log, as this plane has been around for nearly a decade, and plenty of people have documented their builds. This log will just cover custom modifications I am making (or just completed) for those interested in that sort of work.

I completed the Jeti Anti-spark Connector/Arming Plug installation last night (at 1 am), so I had to try firing this baby up as a quick test of the complete set up: the quick connect battery tray (see separate build log), the ASC arming plug, and the newly soldered leads on the new FrSky RB10 redundancy bus. Results? As soon as I pressed the arming plug into place, the Castle Creations ESC sang it's little tune. I flipped off the throttle safety switch, advanced the throttle, and for the first time (in the plane) the massive Xpwr 60cc motor came to life. It's alive!

More to follow, along with photos.
Posted by rclad | May 31, 2017 @ 07:22 PM | 5,186 Views
I just got back into RC last year after nearly fifteen years away while raising a family. So at the moment I only have two planes that are in flying condition, and a new one, my first giant scale plane, about ready to maiden.

First pic is of the last plane I flew before taking a break from the hobby. It's an old Ace Seamaster that I converted to electric back in 1997. I posted this on AMA's Generations of Flight. The wing, engine pod, MaxCim brushless motor and ESC, and the twenty cell NiCad battery pack I soldered together still sit in my hangar, waiting for the day they can fly again. Well, all except the NiCads, of course. With a LiPo pack the plane would have a slower stall speed and much better vertical performance. If I had lighter batteries back then, the plane might still be flying today.

The first plane I bought last year was a 69" E-flite Super Cub 25e. I thought this would be an easy plane to fly to make my transition back into RC, but I was badly mistaken. It may look like a trainer, but it's a handful on the ground and prone to tip stalls in the air, if flown too slow. I crashed it on its second flight, but repaired it and added some modifications along the way. It has an airspeed sensor - note the pitot tube on the right wing. Combined with haptic feedback on my Taranis Plus transmitter, I have the equivalent of a stick shaker when the plane gets close to a stall. It makes flying the pattern and touch and go's much safer. The photo...Continue Reading