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Nov 06, 2017, 01:50 AM
Piscine Promulgator
surfimp's Avatar

New Video: Ninja Survive (Sig Ninja Tribute)

Ninja Survive (3 min 54 sec)

The Sig Ninja was the glider that inspired me to take up slope aerobatics back when I was a kid in the 1980s. I swooned at the thought of having a rudder and doing all sorts of cool tricks in the sky.

Fastforward 30 years and I finally got to film a good video with my Ninja

Hope you enjoy,
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Nov 06, 2017, 10:35 AM
Registered User
Ward Hagaman's Avatar

I loved my Ninja back in the ‘90’s!
Nov 06, 2017, 11:03 AM
Piscine Promulgator
surfimp's Avatar
Thanks Ward!

When I was really little - like, before I could talk - I'd spend hours looking at my dad's aircraft reference books. When I got a bit older, a family friend who was into RC would come to visit and bring me huge stacks of his RCM and Model Aviation back issues. I'd spend hours pouring over the pages of them, dreaming about someday having an RC plane of my own.

This same family friend encouraged us to give gliders a shot, as a way of getting into flying RC. The glider would be the trainer from which we'd eventually "step up" to a motorized plane.

After years of begging, when I was in middle school my dad finally caved and we got an Airtronics Olympic 650. My dad wasn't much into modeling at all, but he wanted to indulge me. We got the wing framed up and started on the fuse, but he was busy with work and I wasn't confident at all, so it sort of sat for a long time. Eventually, the friend who got us into RC came to visit over a long weekend, and helped us finish the plane and give it its maiden flight. I remember being tremendously excited watching our glider take flight for the first time!

Unfortunately, my dad wasn't too confident with his flying skills and I wasn't old enough to get to the slope on my own, yet, so the plane hung from our ceiling for a number of years as we were afraid to fly it for fear of wrecking it. A few years later, and I was in high school, and decided that a plane collecting dust might as well be in the trash, so took it to the open field across the street from our community and started hand-launching it.

Despite my concerns, I found the Olympic 650 was a pretty tough thing, and it stood up to my learning process really well. Eventually I took it over to Del Cerro park and learned to fly it properly thanks to a kind man named Homer from the Peninsula Silent Flyers. I was hooked!

After "specking out" the Olympic 650 in thermal - I got so high it climbed into a cloud and Homer told me to "Bury the stick!" to spin it down - I decided I was ready for the next step... an aileron plane. And I knew exactly which one I wanted... the Sig Ninja. The plane I'd drooled over for years in the ads from those old RCM magazines, the "Black Belt of Slope Soaring." It was designed for slope aerobatics and even had... a rudder! I was pumped.

One day while down at the Hobby Shack in Lawndale, I spotted a plane that looked suspiciously familiar... it was called a "Firebird" but I could see in an instant it was a Sig Ninja. And it was an ARF! I used the money I earned from working as a fueler at Torrance Airport to buy one, along with a Futaba Attack 4. I was stoked!

I got it built and took it over to Del Cerro. On its maiden flight, I found it was everything I'd hoped for - fast (at least compared to my Oly 650), and very aerobatic! I was loving it... right until I had a mid-air collision with a high performance pod-and-boom scratchbuild with a bagged wing. We passed each other head-on, and our wingtips crossed... the scratchbuild kept going like nothing had happened, but my plane was thrown for a loop! Fortunately, through some stroke of good luck I was able to recover and land my plane. It turns out my left wingtip had been cut clean off! It was a quick repair - just glue a block of balsa on the tip, shape, and re-cover - and I went on to have a bunch more fun with the plane.

Fast forward 20+ years and I've still got a soft spot for this thing, even with the corny name and egregiously dated advertising. It's a hot performer, to be honest - it really came alive in that 12-15mph+ lift we had yesterday.

Anyways, thanks for watching and reading (if you're not already asleep!)

Nov 06, 2017, 11:06 AM
altitude adjustment
thumbhead's Avatar
Smooth Steve! You always make it look so easy.

Nov 06, 2017, 04:20 PM
Piscine Promulgator
surfimp's Avatar
Originally Posted by thumbhead
Smooth Steve! You always make it look so easy.
Aww, thanks man. I sure have a lot of fun. I was actually really surprised at how well this thing flew... even better than I remembered.

It definitely likes a bit more lift than we typically have at Ellwood, though honestly I should fly it more to confirm this. It's always weird switching from my ultralight planes to a "real" slope glider, the energy retention is so much greater!

Most of all, it was really, really nice to fly a wooden glider again. I've been flying so much foam, for so long, it was a nice change of pace. I'm hoping I'll get some more fun days with it, would be cool to get it down low for some VTPR passes

Nov 07, 2017, 08:10 AM
And Repairs
TyFlies's Avatar
Hey, I just noticed at the bottom of the page there’s a “similar thread” by you in 2003 with a title asking for the CG recommendation. Maybe one of your first RCG threads, judging by your Joined date. Looks like you worked the CG out. : )

It is interesting the difference between your light foamies and the Ninja.
Ultra smooth and in control.

Thanks for the stories and background.
Nov 07, 2017, 09:48 AM
Piscine Promulgator
surfimp's Avatar
Heh, yep, that's an early one!

To continue the Ninja story: in college I'd picked up the bad habit of smoking cigarettes and by 2003 I was up to a pack a day. Nasty!

My wife and I went on a really long hike at altitude while on a vacation in early January of that year, and, because I was out of shape and smoking so much, it was an extremely bad experience. At the summit of our hike, I couldn't catch my breath, I just panted for close to an hour. My breathing didn't return to normal till we got back down to lower altitude. Suffice to say it was "Aversion Therapy" of the first order, and the cigarette I smoked before going on that hike was the last one... ever!

I decided I needed to find something else to occupy my time, and realized that the money I'd been wasting on cigarettes was already budgeted for and could be applied to something more edifying. I came across Danny Chapman's excellent Slope Soaring Simulator (now known as PicaSim) and got really inspired to get back into RC gliders, something I'd enjoyed before heading off to college but had never fully gotten "in to" in the way I'd wanted.

I went to visit my folks and dug the Ninja out of the rafters and brought it home. My internet searches also yielded a local flyer who was producing kits out of his garage. While the kits - small flying wings of unusual shape made from some newfangled material called "EPP" - didn't appeal to me very much at the time, I figured he'd be a good person to ask about local flying sites.

I wrote this guy, Michael, an email and he invited me to meet up with him out at Ellwood. Upon introducing myself, he shoved a transmitter into my hands for an already-airborne plane, and I was flying. The plane was called a "Weasel"...

And thus my RC slope soaring adventures began!

Nov 07, 2017, 10:21 AM
And Repairs
TyFlies's Avatar
That's great. You both do a lot to support the hobby.

Last night I finally figured out how to get Picasim to recognize my controller through Windows -- so now I'm on a mission to actually start using the rudder for more than just smoothing out a turn. Wish I would have started thinking about the rudder years ago. Maybe part of the problem is that shortly after getting into RC I gravitated toward flying wings and my left thumb didn't have to do much. Trying to re-learn that now.

Thanks for taking the time to edit and post your videos.
Nov 07, 2017, 10:46 AM
Piscine Promulgator
surfimp's Avatar
It's easy to get "stuck in a rut" with stuff you like flying, and miss out on all the other experiences in the hobby.

On the other hand... if you're having fun, you're doing it right!

For my part, the last couple weeks I looked at all my regular flyers and realized I had been flying foamies almost exclusively for 10+ years. I mean, I fly a few of my moldies - the Voltij, Wasabi and Discus 2b - from time to time, but my "bread and butter" has been my lightweight aerobatic foamies.

They're great planes - they are purpose-built to excel at local flying spots and their very light conditions - but I kind of "hit a wall" internally and felt a deep craving for flying planes made out of something else. That's where wistful thoughts of the Ninja, and images of the great vintage slope soaring videos that John Woodfield has been publishing lately came to mind.

I mean, sure, it's "only" a rudder elevator plane, but he's basically flying VTPR!

Sinbad glider (1 min 42 sec)

So anyways, who knows what the future holds, but in my case, there's a whole "undiscovered country" waiting out there for me in the form of wooden construction. I think about how neat it would be to combine traditional building methods and finishes with modern theory. It's not an original nor a unique idea, but I'm hearing the call and think there's something fun there for me to explore, just for my own satisfaction.

On to the next adventure!

Nov 07, 2017, 06:48 PM
Registered User
Ward Hagaman's Avatar
Awesome video!
Nov 08, 2017, 04:51 PM
the occasional flyer
rothlisburger's Avatar
Back in the 80s, my brothers and I were flying balsa slopers at Point of the Mountain in Utah. They were flying Scorpions from RCM plans, and I was flying something of my own concoction, which I just called the blue plane. There were a couple of buddies flying Super Cheetahs, with Duralene fuses and wire cut and sheeted EPS wings. They would knock each other out of the sky, giggling all the time. Then cut out new wings and be back next week.

The Point is a special place. Massive lift, and excellent grassy/sandy LZ. I moved on to grad school in Virginia, and work in Mississippi. Neither place was conducive to sloping, but I dragged the blue plane along. I finally ended up in New Mexico for a year, and decided to get the blue thing fixed up and flying again.

I had found good local (if rocky) slopes. I took my kids out to a cliff in Las Quebradas, stood at the brink with my plane in my right hand, and transmitter in the left. I stood there for a while savoring the old feeling of wind in your face and a plane bucking around. Then I threw it. It sailed off, nose down, going out straight and rising slightly. A little left bank, so I fed in right aileron. It rolled left and hit the rocks.

Remember to check that your servos are not reversed..

Only damage was a missing nose, so I rebuilt the fuse, and flew it again. When I moved to Idaho, the next year, I found local slopes there too, and the blue plane flew many times. At that point, I'd never heard of VTPR. But I was doing simple straight low passes along the lip of the cliff. I was passing from left to right. As my head turned, following the plane as it sizzled along the rocks, I noticed a fraction of a second too late one rock jutting out more than the rest. It completely powdered the fuse, and destroyed the wing. Literally a poof of wood and Monokote, blowing away to my right. I shouted Holy something, to no one in particular. I salvaged the tail, and most of the wing. Then I bought EPP, and have been thoroughly converted.

Nowadays, my brothers and I make an annual pilgrimage to the Point in April. Last time we were there, some old geezer showed up with a Duralene-fused plane. It was one of those Super Cheetah dudes. It was the first time he'd been back flying in decades.

I love balsa planes, but they are so fragile on rocky slopes. Good thing you live in Cali.

Last edited by rothlisburger; Nov 08, 2017 at 04:58 PM.
Nov 09, 2017, 12:32 AM
Piscine Promulgator
surfimp's Avatar
That's a great story, David!

I have yet to properly blow up a balsa plane, but that's only because I've spent so little time actually flying them. Previously, I wrote about how our Oly 650 was intended to be our RC trainer, to get us ready for flying power...

Well, when I finally did get to fly power - this was sometime at the end of high school or early in college, if I remember correctly - I did it with an old, somewhat heavy .40 size high wing thing (it was the RCM Trainer design, if I remember correctly). We were at high altitude - I was working in Montana for the summer on a ranch - and the plane basically had to be flown at 3/4 to full throttle to comfortably stay in the air. And we had to take off from a janky "runway" made of some overlapping 4x8" plywood, because the hay field was a bit too bumpy to successfully lift off from for the overweight and underpowered plane.

It was basically a recipe for failure, but somehow I managed to get the plane off the ground, get it up to "pattern" altitude and then proceed to fly around at close to full throttle, with the two stroke engine whining and a thin stream of exhaust trailing through the air behind the plane. Eventually, after a few minutes, it ran out of gas and then the fun REALLY began. I dead-sticked the thing down through a passable approach and managed to grease the landing. I have no idea how or why I succeeded, by rights the plane should have been dead, I can only credit the Ninja flying experience with preparing me for the moment.

Shortly thereafter, my dad flew the plane, got mixed up on the controls while flying towards himself and rolled it into the ground. To his credit, he did patch the pieces back together with liberal use of epoxy, but the "War Wagon" (as it had come to be known) was now approaching true lead sled status. We decided it was ready for the rafters.

Suffice to say, my first brush with power flying left me pretty underwhelmed. I hated the noise, I hated the stress, and especially hated the mess awaiting afterwards - so THAT'S why they call them "slimers", yuck! I basically decided that I really loved gliders, and that if flying power was a "step up" from soaring, I was quite happy to step right back "down" to the thing that made me happiest.

I've since mellowed in my attitude towards power planes, and enjoy all variety of flying toys, but gliders are definitely in my sweet spot to this day. To say nothing of the fact that it's far easier to find a place to fly slope here in Santa Barbara than it is to find a power field! Sad but true.

Anyways, yeah! I'm stoked on these older designs, not really from any firsthand nostalgia, but just because they look so darn cool. And I suspect that many of these designs - like the Ninja - are capable of far more exciting flying than a modern conception of their capabilities might infer. I'm excited to find out! And I'm sure my day of "blown up balsa" is coming

Last edited by surfimp; Nov 09, 2017 at 12:38 AM.
Nov 09, 2017, 11:02 AM
the occasional flyer
rothlisburger's Avatar
I love building balsa ships..

Here's the Skorp:

Nov 09, 2017, 01:30 PM
the occasional flyer
rothlisburger's Avatar

First: The blue plane at the Point, when it was still a V-tail
Second and third: The blue plane in Idaho, while it was still alive
Nov 10, 2017, 07:57 PM
CaptDH's Avatar
Ninja was my first slope aircraft flying out at Bluff park, Long Beach. I was the guy who actually landed it in a big pile of dog #$%@.......Someone said "that's where it belongs"

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