Thursday, December 31, 2015

Recap 2015 Blog Post

This is my last blog post for 2015 and I wanted to thank all the people that have been reading my blog and my website. I was rather amazed at how many people that I have met in person have told me they enjoyed reading my blog. Passing the 100,000 views mark seemed rather significant to me and apparently to the search engines, as views increased immediately after crossing the mark. This year advertising was added in hope of recovering some of my costs.

I added new material to my website this year, some has been popular and some not so much.  My relative Wayne Diercks wrote some articles on the SYMA X5c quadcopter some of which have been popular; I wrote a general article on quadcopters that hasn’t caught much attention yet.  

I had great hopes for the construction article on the Fantastic Foam Flyer which is a rubber powered free flight airplane built from foam plates and a small amount of balsa wood.  I know of several people that built this plane but maybe more important it might have sparked the idea with Ronnie Espolt as well as Gary Hinze to hold a postal contest next May for model airplanes constructed from foam plates.

In my local area there just hasn’t been much interest in the many science activities I have done in the past. It gave me more time to enjoy my model aviation hobby more.  Besides flying at all the local radio control soaring contests, I also went to some of the MRCSS contests and rejoined the club. 

When it was windy on the weekend I did even more slope soaring than previous years and improved my skills greatly in dynamic soaring, which has become almost an addiction with me. Through the Internet and the many soaring groups created by Jeffrey Sanford I have learned much and connected with many people with the RC soaring interest all around the world.

I also pushed myself to try to improve my skills with free flight model airplanes.  Over the past winter I had built a couple of scale rubber powered free flights; a Champ and the PC-6 Porter.  The Champ flew but just appeared too heavy to me and the last crash did much damage. Better performance was obtained with the Guillow’s PC-6 Porter which is still flyable. I didn’t finish the E36 electric powered free flight that I am building but put the electric components in an old glow powered free flight and had so much fun; the E36 should be ready for 2016.

For 2016 I plan to stay optimistic about my flying and science projects no matter what the negative forces are.  

Bill Kuhl

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

FAA is Forgetting Their Roots and Killing Their Future

With the installation of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) program that was rushed into place, the future of the model aviation hobby is in jeopardy. Even though it violates a law the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) worked with Congress to pass in 2012 the threat of huge fines or jail time is completely upsetting the law abiding citizens most of which follow a strict safety code and registration system the AMA has had in place for years.

Model airplanes were the test vehicles for full-scale aircraft. As far back as 1871 Alphonse PĂ©naud built a successful rubber powered model airplane and in the process demonstrated aerodynamic principles that were important in future aircraft of all sizes.  In the United States Samuel Langley spent much effort working with model aircraft in preparation for creating a full-scale airplane.

There was an article in the Chicago Tribune many years ago that 32 of the 33 astronauts had an interest in model aviation. Probably the most famous airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger who’s extraordinary piloting skills saved all the lives on an Airbus A320 by landing it without power in the Hudson River had an interest in model aviation as a boy.

In current times with so many young people with almost no exposure to even model airplanes, and I know, because of the model building classes I teach; not enough young people have an interest in pursuing a career in aviation. When there is already a pilot shortage and a company such as Jet Blue is willing to train people with no pilot skills I think this indicates a severe problem for the future.

Bill Kuhl

Additional Resources

Chicago Tribune Archives Article

Wikipedia Chesley Sullenberger

Jet Blue Launches New Pilot Training Program

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Observations - Research - Going Fast in DS

One of the biggest thrills for me is when I can make an observation and through further research find the explanation for what I have observed and then use additional information to improve what I am trying to accomplish.  This past model flying season which has extended my flying much longer than normal; has given me a good chance to practice dynamic soaring with a few different radio control gliders from a small hill. The speeds my gliders obtain have not been measured but do appear to be increasing but probably only a tenth of the new current record just set by Spencer Lisenby in California.  Flying at 50 mph it is easier to observe what is going on.  During my flying last weekend I noticed at a certain part of my circle the glider would begin to accelerate and also coming back around.  My thoughts previous to reading an article in the April 2012 RC Soaring Digest by  Philip L. Richardson was that the glider sort of bounced off the separation in the boundary layer. 

Small Amount of Snow Last Weekend 

In actuality the glider accelerates as it passes through the layer; once going up through it and again when coming back through it going down the back side of the hill.   There is also an optimum period and diameter for the circuits the glider is making.  That is something I really didn’t know either but just kept experimenting with varying the size of the circuit.  In the article it also indicates that periods of wind gusts can increase the amount of shear, those have been the times I have avoided going into DS circuit in fear of crashing in the turbulence.

Passing Through Shear Layer

Besides the theory of how the physics works learning to fly your glider without stuffing it into the hill is important also. I do seem to be improving in part because of greater amounts of practice, I have become more comfortable flying the glider. When I first started learning just the thought of diving the glider over the back of the hill scared me.  Slowly it is getting to the point of I just can’t get enough of that initial first dive. 

Bill Kuhl

Additional Resources

RC Soaring Digest April 12  article starts on page 36

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Descriptions of Project on Ideas-Inspire Website

Hammer Down Catapult Glider -  this is a small free flight glider that can be catapult launched. The wing is created from foam found in a meat tray, tail surfaces are from foam plate, fuselage reinforcement is from thin cardboard, and a bamboo skewer is used for fuselage boom.  There are plans that can be downloaded in pdf format from the website.

Foam Jet II -  is a glider that resembles a jet aircraft built from foam plates, foam meat tray material, and thin cardboard. It can be catapult launched. Plans in pdf format can be downloaded from the website.

Fantastic Foam Flyer - rubber powered model airplane built from foam plates and a small amount of balsa. Can be flown indoors or outdoors and capable of long flights. Complete building instructions and templates in pdf format can be downloaded from the website.

Model Wind Turbine - model wind turbine is constructed from cheap wood and thin cardboard. An inexpensive electric motor is also needed. Students connect to voltmeter which can be very inexpensive also to test efficiency of their wind turbine.

Mousetrap Car Construction Article and Plan mousetrap car constructed from balsa wood. Axles are created from coat hanger wire and hubs are from tarp strap material.

Simple Electric Motor - simple electric motor built using a small amount of wire, plumbing brackets, and a small board.

Syringe Hydraulic Arm - Very popular project to teach basic hydraulic concepts constructed of inexpensive wood, syringes, small tubing, and small bolts.

Water Rockets - in this article there are general construction ideas for a simple water rocket and a template file for the fins that can be downloaded in PDF format.

Bill Kuhl

Friday, December 11, 2015

Flight Club UK After School Activity

Equally as interesting to the people I have connected with all over the world because of my activities in model aviation and project-based learning is learning a little about the area they live in. Most recently I connected with Jon Kemm in the small town of Rye in East Sussex UK. Jon teaches computing and STEM but has recently started a model airplane club at the school known as Flight Club. Club meetings are during lunch and after school.  Jon had connected with me through the Facebook group I had started, “Simple Foam Free Flight Airplane” that is currently at 149 members. 

Flight Club Members Hard at Work

Jon had messaged me about his plan to have the club build a glider version that was similar to the Fantastic Foam Flyer rubber powered airplane on my website. Instead of using foam obtained from foam plates, Depron foam was purchased.  Jon sent me a short video of his son launching a prototype glider in the house; it looked to fly pretty well.

Prototype Tests

Weekly flight report articles were published on the Flight Club website which included short videos also. I am really amazed at how well this plane flies as a glider, I thought maybe with so much bend in the wing airfoil there would be too much drag for gliding. Their design was changed from mine in that the flat center section of the wing is larger and the tips are smaller.

Besides the shared interest in computers and STEM projects, Jon also flies radio control slope soaring gliders and has a webpage for that known as General Tom Foolery. Amazing scenery and big hills where they fly from; while I fly my slope gliders from tiny hills. I checked out more pictures from the area, reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows Doc Martin.

Bill Kuhl

Related Links

Flight Club RC

GeneralTomFoolery Website

Rye College

About Rye East Sussex UK

Fantastic Foam Flyer

Simple Foam Free Flight Airplane - Facebook Group

Foam Plate and Plastic Straw Gliders - article on

Flight Club Gliders - Hall Flying Shenanigans

Friday, December 4, 2015

Dealing With Frustration - Model Aviation

After working on model air powered car this past weekend and being stuck on a particularly frustrating aspect in testing for air leaks and spending so much time conquering the problem; I thought of the great frustration encountered in my model airplane hobby over the years.  I have to believe it has prepared me somewhat for frustrations in other aspects of my life.  In the summer project building class I have been teaching for several years, I often see students get frustrated really fast and give up rather soon.

Old Sailplane Crash - Too Much Stress on Launch

Getting Valves Working Really Frustrating

Many Students Found the Walkalong Gliders Frustrating 

Thinking back to when I was their age and just starting in model aviation,  my friends and I were really presented with the frustration of spending so much time building a model airplane and then seeing it crash into so many small pieces. No doubt there could have been times where an already damaged airplane was further destroyed by stomping it into the ground in frustration. We never gave up because of that. Sometimes I think the risk factor made it more exciting.

Radio Failure RC Sailplane After 10 Years

Still in the hobby as an adult it is frustrating to see your model planes broken or worse yet fly away I think I handle it better now. In writing this article I read a couple of articles on frustration written by psychologist; in both articles they said some frustration can be good as it makes a person try harder in pursuing their goals.  What the articles did not mention is what I see as a “high” you feel after working through something frustrating. 

Free Flight Wing Hard Landing

In the model aviation hobby I have seen some very good role models in dealing with frustration, especially in the competition world.  How these people see so much time and money invested destroyed so quickly and then pick up the pieces with a smile on their face is truly amazing.  They have accepted this part of the hobby but are normally very vigilant in learning from their mistakes if it was caused by a mistake. 

Wing Broke Off in Flight

Not all the frustration in model aviation results in a crash; much can be encountered in the building process as well. It really teaches one to think ahead on how building processes must be done so as not to glue pieces together too soon and then not be able to complete another step because gluing the new parts are inaccessible.  With the really lightweight balsa airplanes breaking the airplane during construction can happen often. For me covering models and trying to get all the tiny wrinkles out can be equally frustrating.

Breaking Model During Construction

In reading this if you have stories of frustration in model aviation that you would like to share, leave a comment.

Bill Kuhl

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Electric Free Flight Test Model

I am always looking for new challenges in my model airplane hobby which consists of radio control and free flight models. My free flight models for the most part have all been rubber powered or gliders of different launch methods. In 2014 I had so much fun with a free flight discus glider until it finally flew away in a thermal. For 2015 I planned on building an E36 electric free flight the Pearl E202 , over the winter the wing and stabilizer were built. When spring came my thoughts were on flying and some repairs to keep the various models flying. 

Hank Nystrom of Texas Timers had been after me to get the E36 flying; I had purchased the electric components from him. As it had gotten well into summer and I still had not finished the Pearl E202 it occurred to me that I had a ½ A glow powered model that someone had sent to me without the motor, maybe the electric could go into this model for a test bed. That is what I did; electric motor, speed control, timer, and DT were put in the model that I would learn was a Starduster. 

With everything installed I set the timer for a very short motor run and a DT in 30 seconds. I was amazed at how this model that is considerably larger and heavier than typically E36 climbed so fast. I had visions of it smashing into the ground but it didn’t although the field had tall grass but was very small. The climb was to the right and a pretty good transition to the right.

The next chance to fly the Starduster was on a somewhat larger field with grass. I launched again but the plane had too much right and hit the ground breaking the motor loose. It was Labor Day and the auto parts store down the road was closed so I could not buy any epoxy, there was a grocery store open so I found some super glue.  With the field repair I had the Starduster flying again, flight after flight. The Tatone timer that was still on the plane came off so I added a bunch of clay for balance; looked like heck but it flew.

I had one chance to fly it from a large farm field where I didn’t have to worry so much about it drifting too far. That was a short flying session because it was getting dark. On some flights the DT was rather hard as it got close to the ground it went into a spin.  I added a wire landing skid but didn’t get a good chance to try that out.

The end of the 2015 flying season was rather windy so I have been RC slope soaring. I have resumed working on the Pearl E202 and plan to have it done for sure for 2016. There was much I learned with the Starduster but I am no expert on power free flight.  I look forward to more challenges.

Bill Kuhl

Related Links

Texas Timers
Pearl Free Flight


Friday, November 20, 2015

Applying the Words of Charles Grant to My Model Flying

After building and making test flights of the Charles Grant designed Cloud Tramp rubber powered free flight airplane recently, I got out my copy of his book Gateway to Aero – Science Fundamentals of Aviation Demonstrated by Building and Flying Model Aircraft and started reading it.  Although the book is rather outdated I was struck by some of his insights at the time, so I copied a few things down.

Xplorer RC Sailplane Amazing Performance

Charles Grant Designed - Cloud Tramp

“The aerodynamic form and contour of the modern airplane are determined by the performance required of it.”  “Drag increases at the square of the speed” and “to further reduce drag all corners and angular contours were replaced with smooth curves”.   It had me thinking about what I had witnessed mainly in radio control sailplane flying this past year and how the performance differs so greatly with the aerodynamic form of the sailplane.

Shadow Left - Gentle Lady Right

Having participated in more thermal duration contests this year I was amazed at the performance of the top designs such as the Xplorer and Supra. In studying the form it is evident that angular contours had been replaced with smooth curves where possible. In flying in thermals the speed is normally not so great but zooming off the launch or flying out of sink reaching a higher speed is important. I realize there are many other factors why my box fuselage Gentle Lady sailplane was so much lower in performance than a Supra but extra drag is part of it. A couple of years ago I did a hand toss test between my Gentle Lady and a Shadow 2 meter sailplane which is very sleek but heavy.  The length of the glide of the Shadow was many times that of the Gentle Lady.

Curves in Fuselage of Dart Slope Glider
Low Pass

Foam Super Scooter Has Lots of  Drag

This past year I have done a lot of slope soaring from small slopes and the drag of the sailplane makes a huge difference there. It is the difference between not being able to fly for more than a few seconds or being able to slope soar for several minutes. On one slope I have been dynamic soaring and the sleek glider not only will stay up longer, it is also much easier to fly.

Bill Kuhl

Related Articles

Volare Cloud Tramp Review 

Dynamic Soaring One Year Progress

Slope Soaring Heavy 2 Meter RC Gliders

Comparing Two 2 Meter RC Gliders


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dynamic Soaring One Year Progress

I was looking back at my progress in dynamic soaring for one year. This was from the same small slope, which works for south or north winds. The north facing side is higher creating more lift on the front side but the wind is more commonly from the south. Most common is south-southwest which works with a more efficient glider.  The very first time I had any success with DS here was using a RC discus launch glider, Art Hobby’s Hyper DL.  This is also the glider I have used to get my largest number of consecutive laps which is almost 50.  As I also use this glider for thermal flying, I have been hesitant to fly DS with it.

Diving just barely over peak of hill with Dart

Foam Super Scooter

Hyper DL

Most of my DS attempts this year have been with a foam Super Scooter which is no longer available. Even though this glider did not stay up too well trying to DS on this small hill, I became more comfortable diving to the backside and turning towards the hill. There were a lot of crashes but only minor repairs were needed. I practiced flying as smooth as possible; if I pulled too hard on the elevator it would start to stall.

Starting turn on bottom

Towards the end of the season I had my Multiplex Dart flying which was an old RC hand launch glider. I added ailerons and stiffened the wing with carbon and covered with Monocote. This glider will stay up for most conditions and flies fairly fast.  In fact when flying on the front side it must be kept flying fairly fast or the wing will start wiggling and then it can stall.  On my last flying session a friend took many pictures of it flying DS circuits.

Coming up from backside

Back to Front Side

After a year of flying DS from this small hill, I have improved but feel I have a ways to go.  In watching videos of really good DS it looks like their glider is on a track making an almost perfectly consistent path lap after lap.  There are times when I feel my pattern must have been good as the glider will start to accelerate quickly but I don’t seem to keep this going. 

Circling the Front Side

Over Peak to Back Side

This has really been fun and the number of repairs required has been diminishing. With another season I have a 2 meter glider that I want to take to the back side.

Too High on Backside

Bill Kuhl

Previous Blog Posts on Dynamic Soaring

Friday, November 13, 2015

Volare Cloud Tramp Review

Until I can get to some free flight contests again about the best way I can feel somewhat connected to people with this shared interest is to enter “postal contests”.  In the Internet age sending flight times recorded by the honor system can be sent over the Internet along with images and video. This past Labor Day Weekend I had entered the Sky Bunny Postal hosted by Gary Hinze and had a lot of fun flying the same airplane as other people around the world.

Cloud Tramp in Flight

Volare Cloud Tramp Kit

Early August is the Cloud Tramp Postal which really isn’t so much a competition but the simultaneous flying of the rubber powered free flight Cloud Tramp model designed by Charles Grant who is famous in both full-scale and model aviation.  The entire name for the event is “Charles Hampson Grant Memorial International Mass Launch Of Cloud Tramps” which is hosted by the website “The Cloud Tramp Homepage”. 

Cloud Tramp

Volare Products sells a laser-cut Cloud Tramp kit for a reasonable price so I had purchased the kit along other items in my order, there is the option to purchase the kit with a balsa propeller blank but I used the included plastic propeller. Building the kit can be done easily in a single evening; it is all sheet balsa with no covering needed. The plans had appeared originally in Model Airplane News magazine, August, 1954. There is a copy of that article along with modern instructions.  You are given parts for the option of using an “L” bracket for the motor hangar or use a prop button; that is the option I used.

Needed to Move Wing Back More

On the Cloud Tramp the wing is below the fuselage and the rubber motor is above which is contrary to new designs where the rubber motor is always below.  This can be an issue in that when the rubber motor is wound real tight it will bend the fuselage upwards causes the stabilizer to rise in the rear and the propeller shaft in the front. Until the tension of the rubber motor reduces; this can give excess climb to start with when there is already excess climb from the power burst of the rubber motor. It has been suggested that gluing a non-stretch string such as Kevlar to the bottom of the fuselage will cure this problem.

Veterans Day 2015 was my only flights of my Cloud Tramp model and the weather was not ideal. As high wind and rain was forecast later that day so I got out early for some flights. It was windy at times and the temperature was only in the mid 40’s. After pushing the wing back to cure a bad stall, the Cloud Tramp made some good flights. It appeared to fly stable even with the wind. More right turn was needed so I bent and glued a rudder tab and flew again early afternoon before it started to rain.

Always Landed on the Wheels

Bill Kuhl

Related Links

Cloud Tramp Homepage

Cloud Tramp Articles on Endless Lift by Gary and Darcy

Volare Products Cloud Tramp kit

Charles Grant Biography AMA Website

Gateway to Aero-Science - Charles Grant book from AMA