Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Free Bird Rubber Powered Ornithopter

Several years ago some of my indoor flying gang built the Free Bird ornithopter from plans found on the internet. The plans can still be found or you can purchase a kit. An "ornithopter" is a flapping wing flying device, it flies much like a bird. A bird bends it's wing in flight also besides just flapping up and down. On the model ornithopter just the leading edge is rigid and the rest of the surface is loose so it can change shape in flight.

My Free Bird Ornithopter Flying

Closeup of Free Bird Ornithopter


My friend Floyd got his ornithopter to fly really pretty well as seen in one picture it was stuck on a beam over 20 feet from the floor. Mine did fly after some help with getting the linkages bent just right.  When I did my presentation on The Pioneers of Flight I flew my Free Bird ornithopter as part of the presentation to show how man had thought of flapping wing flight since ancient times. Leonardo DaVinci had created drawings of a flapping wing machine but never did build it. I also have an electric radio control dragon fly that has two flapping wings that flies in much the same manner.
RC Dragonfly

Holding Ornithopter at Pioneers of Aviation Presentation


A friend flies radio control ornithopter.

Links to Learn More

Free Bird Construction Article & Plans

Ornithopter Zone

Bill Kuhl

Monday, April 29, 2013

Kite Flying Purchased Kites

It has been too windy for most model airplane flying the last two Sundays but it has been good weather for kite flying. I have taught several classes on building kites but I like to purchase kites also to see what I can learn from them. Some kites can be found where toys are sold and more expensive can be purchased online or from a kite store. 

Delta Kite

Yesterday the wind was not real strong so I thought it would be a good time to test out a fairly large delta kite I had purchased. Delta kites are wide and not normally so tall resulting in a higher aspect ratio. From flying model sailplanes I am very familiar with hi-aspect ratio which means a longer wingspan and narrow chord which gives a higher lift to drag ratio resulting in higher efficiency. Delta kites normally will fly in lower wind speeds than some other types of kites. This kite flew very stable in the wind conditons yesterday and was able lift to an almost vertical angle.

Box Kite
On the previous Sunday I had flown a box kite because the wind was really strong. The box kite has a rather low-aspect lifting surface because it is narrow.  Once enough wind is found to lift off the ground it flies very well without needing a tail for stability.

Why Kites Don't Fly - Single Line Stability
How Kites Work (easier to understand)

Previous Blog Post on Kite Building and Flying

Bill Kuhl

NDEP - National Defense Education Program - Great Resource

I happened to run across several science-related videos that I had downloaded last year on my laptop computer from NDEP - National Defense Education Program. Each video is a few minutes long and can be watched on the Internet but you also have the option of downloading the videos in different formats. Many schools block YouTube so this is a nice feature and a downloaded video should run smoothly not having to depend on Internet speed. These are high-quality videos filmed at many locations and use animation to explain certain points more clearly.

There are many components to the website, LABTV are the videos but there is also a section on Personal Stories that people relate their stories of how they became a scientist. There are many more sections to the website and you can read about the origins and purpose of the program.

National Defense Education Program Link

Bill Kuhl


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ultimate Indoor Free Flight Model Plane - F1D - Part 1

It is amazing sometimes what a small world we live in when it comes to the connections we make throughout our life and especially true now with the Internet.  This post is about the F1D class of indoor free flight model airplane which is the pinnacle class of competition for indoor rubber powered free flight model airplanes. Myself I have never built a F1D model or even seen one fly but my connection goes back to 2002 when I read that US Junior F1D team had won the gold at the world championships in Romania. Their start in model aviation had begun with the Science Olympiad event Wright Stuff that is held in many schools, I had helped students with Wright Stuff airplanes.

 What I had read about their win was very brief and I wanted to know more, someone told me I should write an article and tell their story.  I did not really feel qualified but many people would help me write this story Thanks to the Internet and the telephone.  The list of these people is at the bottom of my article, “Right Stuff for the Gold”.   

Now move ahead to last year 2012 when I learned of a documentary film, Float that was being produced about the F1D event with one of the young men from US Junior F1D team of 2002 as the co-producer, Ben Saks.  Like many people I donated for this film which should be shown September 2013 at film festivals.

Young Ben Saks with Wright Stuff Model

Move ahead again to 2013 and I would make contact with Rob Romash by email who was the USA Team Manager for the World F1D Championship in 2002.  Rob has been active with model aviation as a hobby and works in the toys industry.  I had mentioned to Rob how I had seen so much interested in the simple rubber powered free flight airplanes I build and he thought I should give some exposure to the fascinating model airplane that is the F1D.  

Additional Resources

Vignette # 1 Video Used in Making of Float - Might Not be in Final Video

Link to West Baden Video of F1D  - 2 minutes

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Little Bit About My Father

It has been three years now since my father passed away, he was an amazing man.  Best known for his inventions and work related to farm machinery. He was one of those people that could process in his mind just how parts would come together and build a working item without any plans. These were no minor projects; these were 4-wheel drive tractors that hinged in the middle, a pickup camper, and a pontoon boat as examples.

Mike Kuhl in Younger Years

In the future I will write more about my father, luckily I had created a 22 minute video of him before his death that I had showed to several groups and at his funeral. He had taken some 16 mm film of his farm machinery that I had converted to digital for the video. A short segment I uploaded to YouTube and can be seen at the end of this post.

Champall Forage Wagon

My father grew up on a farm back when it was really back-breaking work and tried to come up with inventions to improve on the way it was done at the time. His forage wagon design was built with a steel frame underneath when others were using wood frames. This design would not only be built by his company Champall Manufacturing but he would receive royalty payments from other companies.

4-Wheel Drive Tractor

Pontoon Boat Aircraft Wing Tanks
Pickup Camper With Electric Lift

Bill Kuhl

Champall Manufacturing History - my 25 minute video of my father's business

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Start in Indoor Radio Control Airplanes

Amazing how one article in a magazine can spark so many ideas.  In the March 1997 issue of Model Aviation Magazine was an article by Dave Robelen for a model known as the “Turbo Sport”.  What was so special about this airplane was it was an inexpensive method to build a radio control airplane that could be flown indoors in a gym.  It utilized an inexpensive radio control unit that was sold for use in a small helium-filled blimp, we (my flying buddies) always called the radio Twin Turbo. 

Extended Wing Version of Floyd's Design

After reading this article my friend Floyd decided to design his own airplane that had similar specs to the Turbo Sport and friend Leon built the Turbo Sport.  After seeing those planes fly, I used Floyd’s plans and added to the wingspan for lighter wing loading. At this time we had to use small nicad batteries which were much heavier than the current lithium battery technology.

Side View

Controlling these planes was a little awkward also, there were two sticks on the transmitter that controlled the speed of two motors that have small propellers.  To fly the plane straight you pushed both sticks ahead an even amount, to turn you pulled back on one stick and the plane turned towards the side with the lesser amount of thrust.  Not real precise but we thought it was great we could finally fly a radio control plane indoors. 

Easy to Fly Indoor RC with Conventional Control

Floyd decided he would design a more conventional type of indoor airplane with lightweight radio control equipment that controlled the rudder, elevator, and motor speed.  The first flight of this plane looked promising but the motor burned up on the first flight.  Floyd found a better electric motor for this plane, HY50B and that has worked perfectly. He would later sell the plane to me and I would teach people to fly radio control outdoors with it when it was really calm. It flew so slow and was so stable that some people could solo on the first flight.

Converted to use Air Hog Aero Ace Equipment

Another plane that Floyd designed for Twin Turbo radio to fly outdoors he gave to me before he moved from Winona. I put the radio system from an Air Hog Aero Ace plane and it flew wonderful even though it was much bigger than the Air Hog plane.

Video of some out first indoor RC flying - no sound and quality poor but interesting:

Autobiography of DAVID B - Academy of Model Aeronautics

Bill Kuhl

Wisconsin AfterSchool Conference Update

On April 20, 2013 I taught a class for the Wisconsin AfterSchool Conference at the Marriott West in Madison Wisconsin on building foam gliders. This was my second time teaching for this conference and I was pleased that two of the attendees to my previous class on building mousetrap cars were the first to be in the classroom.  One person told me she had shown the mousetrap car to many people and one student was inspired to create a science fair project on mousetrap cars.

To start the class out I had them build the FPG-9 glider with the outline already traced out on the foam plates.  I explained how the FPG-9 had been my inspiration to try the various variations of foam gliders and launching samples of these gliders across the room appeared to impress the class.  They did well with FPG-9 and some people took extra plates with the outline for a template.

We proceeded next to build the foam plate and straw gliders as described in my website article.  This went faster than I thought it might with me only needing to help a couple of people with small issues.  The teachers were better at looking at the completed samples I had created to answer building questions  than young people normally are.  They did some glides in the room and then we converted the gliders into rubber powered airplanes and then more test flying.

I was satisfied with how well the entire lesson had gone considering it was the first time through this. From comments it seemed most of the teachers would like to at least start with the FPG-9 gliders. Hopefully I was able to get across how a simple idea can be taken and expanded on in so many ways.


Bill Kuhl

Friday, April 19, 2013

Rubber Powered Free Flight Airplanes Dominate on Facebook

Now I need to qualify that statement.  On my ScienceGuyOrg Facebook page I consistently notice when I post pictures of rubber powered free flight model airplanes there is considerably more interest than postings about radio control model airplanes.  Just as interesting the audience to this page is more female (52.25%) in the 45 –  54 age group.

I can give recent examples but I have seen this for some time.


My posting of to my blog story about my gas engine radio control plane shows 44 people saw the post.

According to the viral number no one shared it.


The link to my blog post on Indoor Free Flight saw 68 people and 11 viral.


RC Soaring link to blog only had 24 views and 0 viral.


Now look at the picture I posted of Guillow’s Lancer 111 people saw post 1 share.

But look at the Viral 74!

Bill Kuhl


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Aero Commander 100 Large Gas Engine Model

Back in the 80’s I was not only listening to great rock n roll, driving my American-made muscle car but also flying a model airplane with a wingspan of 9 feet powered by a McCulloch chainsaw engine.  Other people were just starting to fly these large model airplanes and my father converted a chainsaw engine for model plane use and put it in a big model plane he had purchased at a club auction. The plane was called the “Omen” if I remember correctly. It was too much airplane for a glow engine of the time but flew well with the gas engine.

Aero Commander 100 at Sig Contest

I decided I would design my own airplane for gas engine power, this was a 30cc engine.  In a magazine I spotted a picture of a boxy looking airplane the Aero Commander 100 that I thought would be fairly easy to make a model of.  The construction of my plane used some framing of pine and then covered with foam board but the wing was mainly balsa, no foam.  It all seemed like it should be strong enough but how was I to know.

Fueslage Framework and Engine

The plane flew really well, it looked so realistic taking off and landing. Then I had radio problems destroying the prototype model airplane.  At that time I decided to invest in a new Kraft radio system which was topshelf at the time but the company went out of business.  One Sunday I was flying the plane at Rochester field and a visitor from Florida saw it flying and was in awe. His name was “Charles Cessna” not related to the airplane manufacturer as far as I know. He wrote letters to me from Florida encouraging me to produce kits of the plane.  I started trying to do just that, started out cutting out a bunch of pieces and had an advertising flyer created.

Fuselage Covered With Foam Board

I flew the airplane at a contest at Sig Manufacturing field in Iowa and the aileron control seemed mushy but I landed fine.  The next big stress test for the airplane was when I was demonstrating it to a family friend who was thinking about taking up model airplanes as a hobby.   I must have put too many G’s on the wing during a loop because it ripped off the fuselage which came down like a ton of bricks, buried the engine in the dirt at least ten inches.  The spectator must have found a different hobby.

 Bill Kuhl


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My Start Into Indoor Free Flight

Karl Gies Picture of Comet Firefly left and Phantom Flash right

Like many people I built a few free flight model airplanes as a kid but never had too much luck with it because I had no mentor. A kid in the neighborhood and I started flying Cox .049 control line airplanes at around 10 years old and went into radio control in our early teens.

                          These are Phantom Flash Models Enlarged the one at the end of video was Floyd's

Many years go by I had given up model aviation for awhile and when I started flying radio control again I would learn of Floyd Richards, an expert in indoor free flight. The first time I met Floyd he demonstrated some indoor flying and handed me a copy of plans for the Phantom Flash. He told me I needed to order the really light balsa and to purchase a book on indoor flying by Lew Gitlow.

Darcy Whyte Photo

I was flying a Sig Cub model pictured above at local RC field when a guy told me I needed to contact Floyd Richards. The Sig Cub was lost in a thermal at the field but it got me excited about free flight.

From the flying demonstration by Floyd I knew he knew what he was talking about and I did just what he said. I built the Phantom Flash and Floyd gave me a balsa propeller he built using a form with wet balsa wrapped to it and baked in the oven. He had a jig to get the blades perfectly aligned.

With Floyd's advice on adjusting the plane I would progress and I built other indoor models. He then talked me into going to indoor contests two hours away from Winona. I did not do well at first but I kept coming back. Within a few contests I was actually winning some events, I remember one win in particuliar in penny plane. My plane had a midair collision with another plane but then broke loose and flew for over 7 minutes to give me first place in that event.

Phantom Flash One Design Contest   Thanks for link Thayer!

Phantom Flash Plans  Thanks for link Gary!

Bill Kuhl

Start in Radio Control Glider Flying

I took a hiatus from the model aviation hobby for several years, partly because I was busy returning to college and because the radio control equipment I had was no longer legal to use. The change by the FCC was for the better in that more channels were set aside for radio control use but older equipment had to be converted.

Electra Electric Powered Glider

When I started working for the City of Winona, someone was selling a used radio control car and I purchased the car. At the time there was a club in Winona that held races which I became part of it.  I started thinking that I really did miss the model airplanes too and purchased a new radio control system to fly one of my old glow engine powered trainers. This lead to joining the local model airplane club in Winona and meeting more new people.

After getting the feel of flying radio control again I decided to try some new variations of model airplanes. First it was rubber powered free flight airplanes and later radio control gliders. About this time I started on the Internet which gave me the ability to find all sorts of information. I discovered there were guys flying radio control gliders in LaCrosse Wisconsin 30 miles away and I joined them to watch.

Holding Unknown Glider

From flying the rubber powered airplanes at the Winona radio control club I heard of Floyd Richards that was an expert with indoor rubber powered airplanes. So I contacted Floyd and he got me started with indoor free flight flying. It turns out Floyd also did some radio control glider flying and he sold me a Carl Goldberg Electra Glider. Later he gave me a larger glider which I do not know the name of.

The first day I was flying the Electra glider, the glider got into a good thermal and it was going up and up. Floyd yelled to me, "you are getting too high man, bring that thing down".  He was right, the glider had to be put into a spin and it took what seemed like forever to get back down to where I could easily see it. When the glider landed I was shaking, it could have easily crashed because I lost sight of it a couple of times.  Just the same what a thrill that was, I just would not let a glider get that high again.

Bill Kuhl

Monday, April 15, 2013

NASA Teleconference - Winona Friendship Center

I attended a teleconference at the Winona Friendship Center today that connected with NASA's Johnson Space Center Houston Texas. Video stream from NASA was projected on to a large screen and the sound went through a sound system making it easy for everyone in the room to see and hear the teleconference. When someone in Winona needed to ask a question a remote microphone could be handed to them and the person at NASA could hear them very well. The video displayed well enough with almost no stops or bad audio.

What has been learned from International Space Station

I thought the presenter at NASA did a very good job of explaining the subject matter and answering questions. The first several minutes were about background to current NASA activities such as International Space Station and how underwater training is done to simulate weightlessness. The command center at NASA was shown as was a view from the space station.

The major topic was NASA's use of robotics and the presenter started by displaying the two famous robots from Star Wars. Everyone in the audience did moves to simulate the three major types of motion for robots which are also used in aviation; pitch, yaw, and roll. Many different robots were shown such as the type seen in factories, rover types like Curiosity, and a human-like robot. The presenter paused after different subject areas to check if there were any questions from Winona, there were a few.

I think this a wonderful community service provided the Winona Friendship Center making it possible to communicate with the world in a way never possible before. Not only were there regular Center goers present but also several high school students.


Winona Friendship Center

Senior Learning Network

Bill Kuhl