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Jul 07, 2011, 09:40 AM
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my years of indoor free flight


"fragile beyond description", is the way H. G. Wells describes the inhabitants of the surface in year 802,701 on his book "the time machine", and it fits the duration models flown free flight indoors.
1.-i was always fascinated by all that was published on these models, but it was until in 1992 a fellow modeler invited me to watch them flying in a gym, that i had the chance to see them in real life. i still could not imagine what they could do in a gym. all that i read was done in huge dirigible hangars, but eventually i went.
they were flying peanut scale models, stick and tissue, and they were fast and sometimes bouncing on the walls and ceiling and falling pathetically to the floor, so i was not impressed. then, a fellow began flying a penny plane. those are 18" span and weigh 3.1 grams, and are covered with clear vinyl. that was better! slow and flying longer, and rarely hitting the walls. but then, another guy opened a shoe box and pulled a tiny 7" plane of the cathegory called 'mini-stick', wound a tiny rubber band (they call them 'motors') and launched it for a 1-1/2 minute flight. it flew so slow, and the prop, you could count the turns! i was hooked. it took me 1 year to learn all about where to get the specialized stuff, and how to deal with such fragile things without breaking anything, but eventually i began to fly my planes-in my living room!
the thing is that there are very detailed rules for these minis, and they perform beyond the wildest dream. from a living room, to the largest dirigible hangar-and hit the ceiling. no other plane can do that!
it happened that, at the time, i was diagnosed with melanoma and was operated and luckily it didn't spread, but my doctor warned me to stay away from the sun (and wear everything to block it-that's why i wear hat, long sleeves and gloves). anyway, with that scare and warning, indoor came up handy and i embraced it. at the time i was flying my Elf 60" span, with a leisure ferrite 05 geared, and an 11/6 folding prop, my Elf 48" and my Elf 36". i put them on storage (and unearthed and updated 2 of them in 2007). so the minis became my passion. i wrote to all the guys on the magazines (no internet yet) for advice, and got lots.
2.-first detroit... then 1 day a fellow from detroit came to fly with us: terrific flyer! so i learned that some flew there, and went and saw lots of planes and kept going every other week. also began practicing at the gym of my community center where i swam 3 times a week. built many minis and props; tried everything that came to mind. then i learned from the guys at detroit that there were competitions at some places.
3.-then the world! i went to flint-about 1 hour drive-to a golf dome 90ft-what an experience! so much space around! and the weather outside had a large influence in there. so much to try, to learn, and all those great guys around. then went to kent, ohio, a place with low ceiling but with challenges, and again met all those guys. but when in 1994 i went with a friend from detroit to johnson city, tennessee, that held the usic (united states indoor championships), at a futbol stadium with 117 ft, and met about 150 of the best flyers, i was up on a cloud. once 1 of them told me: 'i see you smiling all the time', and i answered: why not? am in heaven! 4 days of 12 hours practice and competition (i entered pennyplane, unlimited pennyplane, and ministick), trying all the planes, props, motors, trims, everything! i managed to survive due to that i took a shower at noon, and had a beach chair where i rested while watching my planes. but at first i hung 3 of my minis, 1 after another, and 2 pennies, as i had no idea what size motor and prop to use for that place (later i retrieved 4 of them).
first, what is a ministick? the structure is like this: wing has leading and trailing edges of 1/32" square (no spars); ribs are 1/64x1/16, fuselage is: motor stick, 1/16x1/8x5, and boom 1/16sq tapered to 1/32sq. if you put 1 sheet of paper 8-1/2x11" on 1 side of a scale, you need 10 ministicks on the other side to balance. that's right: the minimum weight is 0.43 grams without rubber, that weighs about the same. the wingspan is no more than 7", and the prop can be up to 7", and believe me, most of them are 7". that means lots of torque for the size of the plane-more than any other class in proportion. that's the major challenge. and handling 1 of them without breaking it is another 1.
4-1995: 2nd time to johnson city. this time i had a very good idea of what to do at that place, and practiced 3 times a week (3 hours) at the gym of the community center where i swam. besides, i brought more planes and better rubber. by now they extended the event to 5 days (of 12 hours!), so it was even more demanding. wonderful days! testing, timing others, which gave us the chance to talk about planes and know each other better, exhausted but happy. this time i got a 2nd place at the mass launch of minis, and climbed some steps on the ladder of places. really, with thermals and layers, you aim to get with the top 10, and then the rest is luck. then 1996, when i got a 4th on mini: 11:47. back on 1997, again a 4th on mini with 11:42. again, i couldn't reach that elusive 12 minutes mark!
by then, i had the chance to fly also at lakehurst, with a ceiling of some 180 ft, just practice. i hung my minis twice, and a penny too, but managed to bring them down with a baloon. memories...
5-time out-then i decided to learn painting (oil) and took 5 years at the school of fine arts-a long delayed dream (some 55 years) so i did nothing on planes for 9 years. but the itch made me come back on 2006. practice place lost, 9 years older, the rubber for the motors getting old, too, but here i was. i went for the first time to Champaign. illinois, and also to moscow (idaho), both hi ceiling futbol domes (about 120'). also went to johnson city. at moscow i was able to improve my time to 11:51, but never reached the 12 minutes mark. but i realized it was too much of an effort-all those changes when traveling-and my goal has been to have fun, so that was the end of it. but it was well worth, for all the memories, meeting those great fellows, flying with them at those fantastic places, learning so many things...
6-back to r/c: besides, i learned that in radio control there was a revolution in technology: 2.4, lithium, and motors: outrunners, coreless, brushless, ball bearings, gear boxes, smaller everything...so i had to learn all again. and here i am, still learning and having fun.
7-but forgot to tell you that at johnson city i watched Rob Romash flying an r/c plane that looked very much like an enlarged ministick. he was flying it with a plantraco r/c gear. i built 1 inspired by his. it weighs 4.7 grams and is 12"ws. throttle and rudder, for indoor flying. shown on upper left pic. that was my return to r/c.
Last edited by phil alvirez; Aug 10, 2011 at 07:37 PM.
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