Talon History and some ranting - RC Groups
Thread Tools
Aug 13, 2005, 06:29 AM
Registered User
KJMDES's Avatar

Talon History and some ranting

Sorry about the short post. I was off to France in the morning and bit tight for time. Relaxing in Italy now, starring at a slope to-die-for and wondering why I left the ship in Scotland.

I thought it was about time to post a little treatment on the Talons history and some inside skinny. And also, to give you the direct URL for the SuperTalon. Go here and then click on New Designs for 2004http://www.kjmdesign.com/kjm_m04_rc.htm. Which, by the way, was of little or no interest to Dynaflite. Not that itís anything groundbreaking. Seems I had been laboring under the false assumption that there was some interest in an upgraded, high performance alternative. Unfortunately, the ARF scene has pretty much destroyed the kit market as we knew it. This wouldnít bother me so much if it werenít for the shear mass of total crap available. Donít get me wrong, there are some nice ships out there, but they are expensive and are rarely domestic. Seems we are destined to hand this market overseas as well. If this doesnít bother you, maybe it should. The implications are broader than just loosing another creative asset. It has forced the small domestic manufacturers (who once produced high quality kits) to jump ship and try to compete by consolidating with other junk suppliers. Stripping the supply of building material is just one consequence. Filling trash bins is another. OK, enough said.

Back in 1984, an old friend, Bruce Lewis, and myself, were heavily involved in designing and building RC sailplanes. Bruce was actually the catalyst for many of us getting involved in the sport back in the mid-seventies. Bruce is a master at most anything he tackles and I, well, Iíve got my points.

So, here we are in í85, Iíve started a new company, Laminar Research, and we are finishing up a new design called the LR-50. A foam and glass V-tail ship that was designed from the get-go to fit in a trunk, assembled. We generally flew at Sunset beach and we packed a lot of big stuff in. Bruce had a competition 2M slope ship design, and so did I. Mine seemed a better starting point to scale down a new ship. So we put our heads together and came up with the new ship. Testing went well and after a year and a half, we developed what was one of the first successful V-tails around. Between a foil section unique to our designs and exhaustive testing of angles, sweep, etc., we ended up with a very solid performer. I have no idea how many LR-50ís we produced, but there were a few dozen to be sure.

Sometime around í87, I was prompted to design a built-up version of the ship and in that same year I was on a hill in Cerritos, California, testing the proto when someone walked over and asked me some pointed questions about the design. It turned out to be Bob Martin, and we struck a deal to put it into production. I never quite knew if he was pulling a fast one, or genuinely believed that the Talon would not be much of a seller, but, in any event, my royalties were limited to two thousand units. Iím told sales are somewhere over a bucket-load of units at this point. The other thing that was a bit odd at the time was Bobs insistence that I design a conventional tail. We compromised by having two options

OK, lets move onto the nitty-gritty. When I received my first sample production kits, I immediately went ballistic. My original plans and sample kits delivered to Bob had specified spruce spars. He substituted balsa. There were also 1/64th ply doublers running full length, on the inside of the two large fuselage side strakes. The main foil section was also modified. I immediately ripped off a post to all the BBS sites and my own site at the South Bay Soaring Society, listing these changes and the fixes. The final insult came when he sold the kit rights to Dynaflite. The plans now credited him with the design. It took awhile, but now there is suppose to be a change to the plans, sticker, or something to correct that bit of plagiarism.

I will soon put together a list of mods that I have made to the original ship. The SuperTalon is basically the same ship with a 60 inch span, ballast tube and four servo wing. Itís a goer. Too bad Dynaflite is too wrapped up in ARFís to be interested. Or, for that matter, upgrading the Die-crunch parts. Or even, selecting balsa that is remotely close in weight, side to side. I received two sample kits from them last year and literally thru away half the sheets in order to get one ships worth of semi-matching parts. Itís a sad state of affairs. However, I would suggest that if anything is going to happen regarding kit quality, be it the Talon, or any other kit, you need to email Kevin Burner at Great Planes and lobby for the change.

So there you have it. Good flying
Kevin J. McDonald
Last edited by KJMDES; Aug 19, 2005 at 01:34 PM.
Sign up now
to remove ads between posts
Aug 13, 2005, 01:04 PM
Wind Junkie
ave's Avatar
Wow, always cool to hear a bit of history. The Talon was my second plane. Thanks for sharing!

Aug 13, 2005, 01:31 PM
Int'l Slope Observer
webguyjv's Avatar

Why The Rant?

Let me preface: I have never owned an RC airplane company before, so I'm not being critical. I have no idea what goes on. I simply don't understand your rant. SO I have three questions, just out of curiosity...

1) When you say...
"The SuperTalon is basically the same ship with a 60 inch span, ballast tube and four servo wing. Itís a goer. Too bad Dynaflite is too wrapped up in ARFís to be interested..."

...Why do you wish to sell this design to another company? Why aren't you selling kits directly to consumers,and thereby ensuring the kit quality forever?

2) Why did you sell the original Talon design to another company?

3) I've always thought that when you sell a company or design, that you basically walk away from any ability to influence the product or company going forward. Is this not really the case in business? (As I mentioned, I don't own a company or design, so maybe in real-life you sign something that states that you have the ability to influence product or company policy after the sale).

Just curious

AND LASTLY, in terms of licensing the design to a third party, have you ever contacted Ed Berris of SkyKing RC? I have never dealt with him in business, but I have heard of several venerable designs that were licensed to SkyKing in the past two years. Also I have heard that SkyKing has been excellent in the area of preserving the integrity of the original design. I have heard (right here on RCGroups) of many satisfied owners of SkyKing Shrikes, SkyKing DAW kits, etc...

Happy Flying ;-)

Aug 13, 2005, 01:33 PM
Registered User
FYI... your link for ordering the How-to booklet is broke.
Aug 13, 2005, 01:33 PM
Serenity now!
80SGliderDude's Avatar
Interesting (and sad) story. I had a talon back in 88 or so. My first slope plane. Then moved up to an SOS42. Talon was a great trainer for me, but I needed speed. Do you plan on making the Super Talon with foam cores for the wing? I like the concept of a kit instead an ARF. Building is a huge part of the hobby for me. I would like to see a video of the SuperTalon in flight.

Aug 13, 2005, 07:03 PM
that's gonna hurt...
Hey Kevy - Bruce here.... good to see you posting on the board. I still have molds for the LR50 fuse, my original LR50, a light air version I like to call a LR60 - 60" wingspan, and a heavy 50 - glass over foam wing with fixed V Tail / seperate elevators for those big days in Davenport. You know it's funny, I never finished a Talon, just preffered glass and foam at the time.

Just getting back into RC after a looong break, and personally I think the ARFs are amazing. Of course part of that is due to limited build time right now. I do long to scratch build again, but am inclined to design / build a DLG right now. The kid promised to clean the garage soon, so maybe I'll start again.

Anyway,since you're doing the history thing, I'll dig out the "50s" clean em up and post some pictures. I'm sure you have some to post too!

Aug 16, 2005, 03:13 PM
Registered User
KJMDES's Avatar

Hey Brewster

I've heard the "Kid promised to" thing before. You better start on it now. Saves stress.

Got your email. Had to post.

I would be very interested in seeing what you've cooked up on the design front. A 60 inch LR varient sounds like what Ed Harris has asked me for. You want to contact him at Skyking and cut a deal. Not much I can do from here until I either build a new shop or just give up and learn to play the flute.

Left my Filip 400 in Scotland. Looking at some killer slopes here around Garda.

More later,
Salute la familia tutti
Ciao Buddy
Aug 16, 2005, 03:31 PM
Registered User
KJMDES's Avatar

OK, so ranting is a bit like pissing upwind at the slope

What can I say? I'm a designer with a modelmaking background. I don't manufacture anything. But, when I sell a design, there are legal elements which should be honored. And often are not. And often, cost more to fight than any compensation that may come from a running legal battle. So...

1. You don't cost-cut without notification. Was in the contract.
2. You don't redo the plans and substitute your name for someone elses. Thats not only illegal, its wrong.
3. I just wanted to piss upwind

Hope this answers your question. I don't mean to sound crass, I appreciate your concerns and you are right; when you sell a design, you are giving up certain future rights. But it really depends on the contract and nature of the design. Sometimes, you take the money and walk away. Other times, you have some long-term contractual obligation to maintain said design or future iterations.

Aug 16, 2005, 04:07 PM
Registered User
KJMDES's Avatar

One more thing

About ARF's
I have nothing agains't the concept. I buy semi-kits myself. And some ARF's. My problem is that they are part of an evergrowing problem of proliferation for proliferations sake. If you were to take all the ARF model designs produced and separate out the junk, you'd have enough raw material to power other market needs. We are spending less quality time with our kids, less time in activities that involve patience and stress relief and replacing it with instant gratification alternatives.

From my perspective, having spent a few years in Asia, a year in Europe and forteen years in the Pacific Rim, I see certain aspects of this thinking in a pretty depressing light. You cannot tell me that Asian workers are better off building some of this crap than the alternative. You have to see it for yourself. And we are driving it. Sorry, but thats how I see it.

As for the kit-builders. They are a diminishing breed. Or are they. There choices are narrowing a bit and its getting harder to find a hobbyshop that carries kits or parts for aircraft, but they are there. If you talk to manufacturers, you get a mixed message. On one hand, they say they don't sell the percentage of kits they used to. On the other hand, they say that there is a better sales margin in ARF's. Who's driving what? Whats driving what?

I don't have any real answers. But I do wish we could be a little smarter about how we regulate our desires. It was just brought to my attention that there is a real apathy of action on the part of forum contributors. This is not uncommon in any consumer market in the states. The power of one short letter, multiplied by thousands can make or break a company. Americans still don't realize the power they have. Or don't care. Here in Europe, it is very different. If a product is packaged in an environmentally unfriendly way, it is the source of untold complaints and is gone in no time. Most central Europeans just won't stand for it the way they won't stand for junk design. Unfortunately, there are signs of a shift. Just like the U.S. thirty years ago.

Like I said, I don't know. I would hope that we get smart about what we will accept on the shelves, how it got there, and at what expense to the planet and public health. In my business, I tell people that they can produce something of quality, or something totally crap from the same pound of raw material. Its our choice. We just have to speak up.

Aug 16, 2005, 05:35 PM
Int'l Slope Observer
webguyjv's Avatar

On Pissing Upwind

I can relate. I made a rant a few months ago about how dissatisfied I was with the Slope Soaring column in Model Aviation magazine. It received mixed responses.

One thing for sure, most respondents basically stated "If you don't like it, make contributions to the magazine (articles, photos, etc...). I never did do that. I'm relating this cuz it corroborates one of your points -- lots of people (like me) don't go far enough to try to make things better. For whatever reason, we could improve things, but we often shy away from the chance.

As for your models -- I hope you can get a quality distributor (like SkyKing RC) to pick some of them up. There is a local guy (I just met him for lunch as a matter of fact) that I bought some accessories from. I gave him the name of a brand new LHS in our area. I hope he can get this guy to carry his line of RC slopers. I think it would bring more revenue for this guy, and it would realy round out the product offerings at this LHS.

Keep up the good work -- and enjoy your time in Europe. I, for one, am really jealous ("relaxing in Italy...")

Happy Flying ;-)

Aug 16, 2005, 06:10 PM
Registered User
KJMDES's Avatar

Relaxing is a relative term

I am so ready to work again. Layed up almost two years just about did me in. I'm in discussion with Skyking and hope I can do something to help both of our efforts. I'll see what dynaflite wants to do about the Super. If they sit on their hands, I'll make other arrangements.

Out of curiousity, if you had to pick a ship, would you go for the Squirt, or the Twist-o-Flex? I'd like to get some sort of concensis before I commit to doing new drawings. No stress, just wondering. I'm here for the duration and may not retrieve the original designs anytime soon. So I need to pick one to start.

Thanks again for the support. And hey, we can always change our M.O. Change is good. And it affects change in other things. Want to see where my mind wonders in the wee-hours, check out my other site http://www.optionbe.org

Aug 16, 2005, 06:28 PM
Registered User
KJMDES's Avatar

Vulcans for John

Took these in Scotland
Aug 16, 2005, 06:33 PM
Registered User
gavoss's Avatar
There are thousands of reasons a designer would want to sell his design to another company. I do own a modeling company, www.soaringspecialties.com. I mainly sell Airtronics radios and specialty sailplane parts, like servo wire, hinge tape and control horns.

I used to manufacture the BAe Hawk and the One Fun Design sailplane. I purchased the rights to the BAe Hawk because I wanted a kit and the designer wasn't making them any longer. I designed the OFD because Charlie Richardson wasn't going to produce the Fun One any longer and we still used that plane catagory at the Midwest Slope Challenge (MWSC).

I had separate companies making the fiberglass parts,and I did the rest of the parts. Unfortunately, my health deteriorated to the point that I couldn't serve my customers properly, not being able to get the kits out in a reasonable amount of time.

Some people don't want a second business building airplane kits or flyers for other people. They most likely have a day job and they want to see their kids and spouse when they get home. Also, when you start kitting airplanes, it becomes a job and some of the enjoyment is gone. Let's face it, how many wings do you want to bag in a week?

From a designers standpoint, getting royalty payments on say 2000 kits and getting a lump sum payment may be much more desireable than spending your free evenings putting balsa parts in boxes.

Continuing this thought, if the designer doesn't have the knowledge to produce say a fiberglass fuse, that will need to be farmed out or he'll have to learn to do it himself. The same goes for cutting foam. If the plane needs die cut or laser cut parts, they too will have to be farmed out.

And then there are the customers. Most customers are very nice and very understanding if you don't have a product in stock. However, there are a few that if they don't get their parts or whatever in 2 days, they post it on RCG and RCSE that the MFG is trying to rip you off.

I did have that happen one time. I thought I was going to get a part out on Wed. and it took until Friday before I could ship. I went out of town Friday morning for a contest and didn't have email access until I returned on Sunday afternoon. I had no less than 5 emails stating I was trying to rip the guy off and if he didn't hear from me by Saturday, he was going to post it on RCSE. Needless to say, I didn't email him on Saturday because I was out of town. Since I've been around for years, many people stuck up for me and told the guy not to worry. I emailed him Sunday afternoon and explained I didn't get it shipped until Friday and that he'd probably get it on Tuesday. He got it on Monday. Do you think he went on RCSE and told everyone that he finally got his part and that there was a legit reason it took an additional 2 days to ship the item? You already know the answer.

Who wants to deal with people like that? It takes patience and some people don't want to put up with the hassle. They would rather sell their design to a full time manufacturer that can supply kits in a timely fashion.

Another reason is having to deal with outside suppliers. When I get low on Bird of Time 'glass fuses, I order 5 more. It usually takes the guy 2-4 weeks to get fill the order. This last time it's taken 3 months! No email responces, no phone responses and no fuses either! I tell the customers about the situation when they order that I expect them in x-weeks, expecting the MFG to supply them in the normal time frame. However, in this case, I keep having to tell the customer I really don't know when I can expect fuses in. As stated before, most customers are patient and understanding, and then there are those that honestly can't wait. They have a certain amount of building time available and they need the fuse right then.

So there you have it, one manufacturers comments.

George Voss
Last edited by gavoss; Aug 16, 2005 at 06:43 PM.
Aug 16, 2005, 06:41 PM
Registered User
gavoss's Avatar
duplicate post, sorry.
Aug 16, 2005, 07:58 PM
Fun ain't cheap!
droydx's Avatar
If you don't mind me asking, what is going to become with the BAe Hawk kit? I've seen one of these kits, I believe it was when Doug Buchanon was making them and it's a wonderful looking item. A good flier too, I hear. Is it going to go to bed for a while, or will somebody else pick up the torch and make them available in the future?
Andy D.

Thread Tools