Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Flying Model Airplanes from Frozen Lake

Finding large open areas without trees is not easy where I live but one local lake provides a very large extremely flat area to fly from during the winter. Now if there was only an ice fishing shack available to wind the rubber motors when flying in the cold, it might be even more enjoyable. Yesterday the wind was light and I was off from work so I took the opportunity to fly from a frozen Lake Winona with two different rubber powered free flight model airplanes.

The larger of the airplanes is known as the Air Hare, this was a kit developed by two students over ten years ago as part of a program at the Eli Whitney Museum, and unfortunately I doubt it is available any longer. In 2002 I had a contest on my website to design an ideal beginner’s rubber powered model airplane. There were not many entries but all were very good designs. I built all of the airplanes and flew them both indoors and outdoors. Neil Dennis designed the first “Denny Dart” which has been a really popular beginners airplane that he sells kits for and gives away many.

Another airplane I flew is similar to the Blue Ridge Special that has been unavailable but might be available again. This small plane features a construction that makes the wing very rigid, whether that is needed in a small rubber model is questionable, the plane does seem to stay in trim better than most models this size however. Faster high-powered free flight needs this type of wing constructions to minimize flutter in the fast climb.

 I walked out on the ice that is solid enough to hold up trucks and wound the rubber motors in temperature that was just below freezing. The airplanes flew very well and the duration seemed comparable to what I saw in warmer weather but without actually having several timed flights from the different temperatures it is hard to know if the performance is less in cold weather. My comfort level was less with cold hands and after several flights on each plane I called it enough.

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Bill Kuhl


  1. I learned from a competition flyer in Finland that the rubber motor loses 10-20% of the energy when near freezing compared to summer temperatures.

  2. Set up a little tent with clear plastic? Maybe with a folded dark tarp or something on the ice inside to absorb sun for heat?

    I've flown RCDLG on ice, and caught thermals, but it's very easy to slip and fall down! Maybe drag out a piece of plywood to stand on?

    Or build a crude rowboat and some foam models and fly there in 4 months.