TARMAC (Toowoomba Amateur Radio Model Aero Club) (Vale View, Queensland, Australia)

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May 17, 2016, 09:00 PM
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Build Log

1/6 scale Bowers Fly Baby

After visiting this section of the forum dedicated to TARMAC several times and becoming somewhat enthused by seeing what the other members are up to (hats off to Graeme for all the pics), I thought I might join in the fun and share the progress of my own recently started project: The 1/6 scale Bowers Fly Baby designed by Gordon Whitehead which was published in Radio Modeller, October 1974.

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After several abortive attempts at getting a build project going, I finally settled on this one after it was uploaded onto Outerzone a few months ago. I've long admired this little model as shown in Gordon's fantastic book on the subject: "Radio Control Scale Aircraft Models For Everyday Flying". Finally getting a hold of the plan was all the encouragement I needed.

This will essentially be my first build for radio control and seems a nice balance of simplicity and scale attractiveness. The Fly Baby is a single-seat homebuilt aircraft first flown in 1962 and was the winner of the EAA design competition of that same year. Over 500 have now been built. The model presented here is fairly conventional for the time in which it was designed, both in construction and performance with 4 function radio and, for a small model, .15 power. My aims for the project are:

1. Successfully build and fly an attractive scale model

2. Learn a great deal about model aircraft

3. Have plenty of fun!

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There will be a few modifications to the design, though nothing to detract from the original character. The most significant of these is increasing the wingspan to scale proportions. It should have a span of about 55", but according to the article Gordon reduced the span by one rib bay each side, so as to fit fully rigged into the back of his car! Whilst it is sorely tempting to do the same for the benefit of my own limited transport arrangements, I can't resist a scale wingspan. Other than that we're talking basic stuff like:

- bolt on wing and undercarriage, instead of rubber bands
- mini servos for the ailerons
- detachable and separate tail planes with functional rigging
- other scale bits and pieces like non-functional flying and landing wires, dummy engine etc

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The engine I've chosen is the AP.15. The great thing about this little engine is the compact muffler arrangement, ideal for scale projects with close fitting cowls. It can be rotated 360 degrees for convenience.

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That's about it for now. Just working on the plan at this stage, tracing it into Flash and drawing in my modifications. Then, after a good old garage tidy, I'll be all set to start cutting balsa on this thing. Very keen to pick up on any advice along the way.

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May 21, 2016, 09:44 AM
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It reminds me of the old Veron rubber powered free flight models.
Of course they were much smaller than the model you are proposing to build.
May 22, 2016, 03:33 AM
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Yes indeed. Even the full size looks like a scaled up model. Of course its designer, Peter M. Bowers, did like his models...

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Jun 19, 2016, 08:04 AM
Captain Kangaroo
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G'Day James ....
Just wondering how things are coming along with your Fly- Baby.
A lovely project !!

Jun 19, 2016, 11:39 PM
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Thanks Ray. A little progress, working on parts for the fuselage and hopefully should have the basic box built in the very near future. Gradually making the transition from my head to the building board!

Couple of pics here of the one I intend to model, one of the more conservative schemes and with that real vintage look...
Jul 03, 2016, 04:47 AM
Captain Kangaroo
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G'day James .....
Just thought I would drop by to thank you for the advice you gave with regard to the application of Coverall ...
All seems to have gone well so will continue with my rebuild of a 79" Green models Tiger Moth.
Hope the Fly-Baby is progressing well !!

Jul 03, 2016, 06:13 PM
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Nice one Ray. Proper fabric covering on a Tiger Moth, flippin' fantastic! Only way to go.
Jul 10, 2016, 03:56 AM
Warbird nut
Can't wait to see the progress James...Any pictures at this stage???
Jul 10, 2016, 10:04 PM
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Many thanks for the interest. Getting dangerously close now to gluing some bits and pieces together. Having some last minute reconsiderations about the thrust angle has held me up a bit. The original plan calls for 4 degrees right, none down. Sounds a bit unusual doesn't it? Any thoughts?

I'm thinking this might be a bit of a leftover idea from the old free flight days. I'm thinking of something more conventional like 2 down with no side - I don't mind using the rudder and trim as required. My preference would be to build the thrust angle into the firewall from the outset, but I suppose minor adjustments could still be made later on. Been doing a lot of reading on the forums about side thrust, reasons for etc, and am leaning towards the conclusion that it's unnecessary, like I say, providing you're prepared to use the rudder and trim. Plus there seems to be a lot of similar models that do quite well without it. Still, I'm a bit hesitant in making such a significant departure from the original design.

Taking advantage of the recent good weather for flying doesn't help the project either. I'm hoping that careful planning at this stage will result in easier and quicker building later on without any big mistakes, that's the idea anyway. Unfortunately the copy of the plan I have seems to contain a few errors like incorrect sizing of parts. You can tell that it's been automatically traced by some form of software, i.e. not the original, and there's quite a few elements not be trusted, easy to get caught out. Still, problem solving must surely be half the fun!

Having said all this, it really is something quite simple to build and perhaps I'm being a bit too cautious. I expect it'll be all worth it though, she's a real cutie.

Great job on the Pup by the way. Really looking the part.

Jul 11, 2016, 03:02 PM
So I'M meant to be in control?
Colonel Blink's Avatar
Hi James - I'm amazed! I've just started contemplating this design myself (always had a soft spot for the Fly Baby!) and I searched RCG and up popped your recently-started thread. So I'll be along for the ride.

Like you, I would put the extra wing bay back in - it'll reduce the wing loading a little as well. I'm also trying to find a decently sized 3 view because I'm not sure that the cockpit isn't proportionally a little large and the nose a little deep - though that might just be my eyes.

Actually, it may be worth you relocating this thread to the 'Balsa Builders', or even the 'Vintage' forums, because (and this is meant as no disrespect to the able TARMACers) not only will you get more coverage, knowledge and advice, but also I know that Gordon Whitehead himself is registered and visits RCG on occasions. He would be able to answer the question concerning the downthrust!!!
Jul 11, 2016, 07:17 PM
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G'day Colonel, nice to meet another enthusiast. Hard to resist this one isn't it? Just seems to scream out "build me!". With you on the 3-view as well, I've looked around for something decent to no avail. There's a few other Fly Baby designs on Outerzone though and some look like good plans, a look at them may confirm your suspicions about the profile.

Thanks for the suggestion about moving the thread, I'll consider it and I'm humbled by the interest.
Aug 10, 2016, 08:58 AM
Registered User
Thanks for posting those delightful old photos of Gordon Whitehead's Fly Baby. I followed all his plans published in RCM in the States, but I this one wasn't one of them; I saw photos in an article he wrote for another magazine. Always wanted to do it, good for you!

I do agree the OZ plans look a little dubious (the wingspan correct is very helpful). They are CAD drawings someone made from an old plan.

Regardless, looking forward to your build! I agree with moving the thread. I found this on a search, never would have spotted it otherwise.

Aug 10, 2016, 03:51 PM
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Here's a 3V from the "unofficial Fly Baby website".
Aug 10, 2016, 06:15 PM
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Cheers Jim.

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