Thursday, December 28, 2017

Reflections on Free Flight 2017

Some of the best times I had this year were enjoying my model aviation hobby. After going to the 2016 Free Flight Nats and some Minnesota contests put on by the MMAC club I was primed for a winter of building more models. Some of the components and materials I had to work with were the first time for me such as covering with ¼ mylar, rolling a balsa tube fuselage, creating a folding propeller assembly, setting up DT systems with mechanical timers, learning to braid a rubber motor, and building completely from plans. I had to ask a lot of questions but people in the free flight community were happy to help and I received a whole lot of good advice.

Polecat X P30

Wilbur Oldtime Rubber Model MMAC Field

For the most part the planes I built flew pretty well, I still have some to learn about towing a towline glider; that I will work on in 2018. None of the planes were lost and most are in flyable condition, the E36 Starduster I am going to retire because I have tried to patch it one too many times. I learned a whole about trimming a power model with that plane.  From what I learned I fixed up my Super Pearl E36 and had it flying really nice at the 2017 Nats.

Super Pearl E36 at 2017 Nats

I was really happy with the Polecat X P30 model I built from Don DeLoach short-kit, this model did not need a single adjustment to fly well. I was afraid it was too windy to fly P30 at Nats but flying it in a contest in Minnesota for the first time it got a third place. My Wilbur oldtime rubber model did well after just needing some thrust adjustments.  The PeeWee 30 model Basic Yeller built completely from plans had many good flights this year, this was the first time I have used a glow engine in several years. Flying in the E20 event at the Nats I think I came in 7th with BMJR Sky Demon which might be near the middle, hopefully I can build a more competitive E20 for 2018.

Sky Demon E20

Basic Yeller 2017 Nats

E36 Starduster

After just a couple of years flying contest free flight models I do not expect to be winning against people that have been doing this for years. If I did I would no doubt lose interest, having the challenge out there for the future is what keeps me interested. For next year I am building a bigger glow powered model, Witch Hawk 500 and another oldtime rubber model a New Gollywock. For the One Design event I am building a Streak powered by a K&B .049. For E36 NOS I am building an Eureka another Don DeLoach design.

Projects for 2018

Witch Hawk 500 for 2018
Flying Aces Moth

New Gollywock

At the end of 2017 flying season or at least what normal people tolerate for cold I flew my first control line model in a long time, an old design the Prop Buster. This time it is electric powered with a system that is comparable to .15 glow engine. The first flight was too windy and I had too long of lines resulting in a crash. After minor repairs I had it flying on shorter lines. For next season I am going to build a basic .049 glow model to get more comfortable with CL flying before risking the electric model.

Electric Control Line

Thank you to everyone who has been reading these articles, seeing the number of views encourages me to keep new articles coming. I have met some really wonderful people at the free flight contests and others I only know from online exchanges.

Happy New Year
Bill Kuhl

Blog Articles on Airplanes Flown in 2017

Monday, December 11, 2017

Going Back in Time – Model Aviation

I have never thought of myself as a “luddite”, a person that fears technology, in fact I have been working with some of the fastest moving technology, computers for many years now. I have driven hybrid cars for the last several years. Building model airplanes from balsa no doubt would be considered a hobby from the past but it is what I enjoy. Free flight model airplanes are the oldest facet of the hobby and so far most of the free flight models are still built from balsa. For other types of model planes such as radio control slope gliders balsa isn’t ideal as it breaks too easily. High performance thermal sailplanes are now constructed from materials such as fiberglass, foam, carbon fiber, and Kevlar. I went along with this when I was flying RC hand launch gliders but the idea of paying over $300 for a model airplane kit is just something I have not justified.

Evening Flying of Sniffer Free Flight
Very Functional Balsa Structure

Foam and Strapping Tape Makes for a Rugged RC Slope Glider
Modern Thermal Soaring RC Sailplane - a little spendy
My desire to build some of the older free flight models I think is partially because I feel like I missed out on free flight when I was younger flying control line and radio control models instead. Recently I built and flew a control line model although it was powered with an electric motor. Some of the free flight models I am building are from a time way before I was born however, such as the Flying Aces Moth rubber model I am building, a design from the 1920’s.  The other day I ran across videos on the Internet from people who tried to live their life in another time period by furnishing their home and wearing clothes from another time period, I doubt I will go that extreme.

Flying Aces Moth
Control Line Built This Year

Several months ago I reread a book about a modeler growing up in New York and riding the subway with large gasoline powered free flight models to fly in a park. I wrote a blog post on the book, Tales of an Ancient Modeler by Norman Rosenstock. I am now currently rereading the book by Dave Thornburg, Do You Speak Model Airplane.  Although the equipment and materials available then was nothing like we have now, the interest level in model aviation was unbelievably high back then.  Another book I just purchased, The Fascination of Flight the story of famous modeler Hank Cole I will be reading soon.

Kits and Engine for Winter Build

This past year I had great fun in flying the older designs I had built a Jetstream towline glider, Wilbur rubber model, Sniffer, and Basic Yeller PeeWee 30 model powered by a Cox PeeWee .020. For next year I am building additional glow powered models. I have obtained a couple of older glow engines a K&B .049 and K&B .19 Greenhead. In flying e20 and e36 electric free flight models I have found electric power works really well but yet I have this desire to work with the noisy and messy glow engines again. 

Basic Yeller Structure

I plan to write more blog articles about what I find most interesting in the books I am reading on model aviation history. 

Bill Kuhl

Related Links    Hank Cole story

Monday, December 4, 2017

Aviation History / Model Aviation Hobby Demo

Never do I get bored with my model aviation hobby as I have many facets in the hobby that I enjoy.  Competition in free flight and radio control sailplanes is part of it but I also enjoy flying just for fun,  model air plane building with student groups, and giving demonstration of model aviation while combining history.  My more recent demonstrations have been to older groups but I have also demonstrated in public schools and a local university.  My hope is that through practice I am getting more connected with my target audience and making the presentation more interesting. I recently did a presentation for two groups in a nursing home and they really appeared to enjoy what I presented.

Models and Posters

This blog post will be really short but I encourage those interested to check out previous blog posts on demonstrations I have done. Please consider doing a demonstration for a group, it is a lot of fun and not that hard. I have included links to some of the products I have used.

Wright Bat and Helicopter Toy used in Student Classes

Very briefly, my presentation is about the progression of ideas in aviation including the role model airplanes were part of. Then I demonstrate the progression of ideas I had starting with the very simple Foam Plate Glider (FPG-9) and then designing more complicated foam gliders and rubber powered airplanes. At the end I do a flying demonstration of some really lightweight models.

Rubber Powered Stick & Tissue Free Flight Models

Progression of Foam Glider Ideas

Rubber Powered Foam Planes

More Foam Gliders
Tiny FPV Quadcopter was Demonstrated

Bill Kuhl

Related Blog Articles

Related to Demonstration Models

Previous Presentations

Construction Articles of Foam Planes on My Website  Foam Plate and Plastic Straw Gliders  Foam Jet II Catapult Glider   Hammer Down Catapult Glider  Fantastic Foam Flyer – rubber power

Video of Practice Before Demonstration

Monday, November 27, 2017

Successful Control Line Flight

First I want to Thank all the people who viewed my first article about electric control line, Google is showing me there were over 800 views in a week.  Maybe not as dramatic I had a successful flight with my airplane on Sunday.  With my order for additional propellers arriving and a warm day for November, I decided based on suggestions people had given me, to put ends on the other set of steel lines I have and cut the lines to 52 feet. 

Happy Landing

The plane had a couple more issues that needed to be corrected before flying and I took the quick and dirty method to resolve.  Hole in covering repaired with clear tape, landing gear that was missing part of dowel attachment, I just rerouted the rubber band holding the landing gear in place. Checking the forecast the wind was 9 mph but was forecast to go to 7 mph by 3 pm.  I drive out to my preferred flying spot and realized I was missing one line connector. I had my electric RC sailplane along and thought I could just fly that but no I was not going to take the easy way out of flying my control line. It was only a couple of miles home so I drove home to get more connectors.

Repair of Covering from First Crash

I put out the lines, checked the control action and got up my courage for another flight. After pushing the start button I ran out to the handle and there was a twist in the line. I only had 20 seconds and the plane would take off, I got the twist out and the motor started to ramp up but the propeller chewed across the blacktop. Off came the small spinner, washer, and propeller. By some miracle I found everything. The threads were a little messed up but I carefully worked the spinner back on. I thought this might be another sign that I should fly it another day but no I had my nerve up.

To reinforce the landing gear I wrapped some masking tape around it, I know not a good idea but I was not going to drive home again to do a better repair. I moved the battery back slightly and in the process ripped some covering on top of the wing, more masking tape.

I double check that the lines were straight and I am ready to try another take off. This time it did not nose over and takes to the sky. It is flying pretty smooth with just a hint of bouncing from the wind. I keep it at a fairly high altitude and keep it there the entire flight. Lap after lap I fly, it was going faster with the shorter lines but the tension was good. People had warned me about getting dizzy and I was starting to feel that could happen, was this thing ever going to shutdown? 

Finally what had to be the longest two minutes ever, just as the control unit is programmed to do, it flies faster to warn of the cutoff and then the motor stops. I brought it in for a smooth landing in the grass. I was happy to say the least but quit flying the plane until proper repairs are done. 

I felt like I could fly it okay after not flying control line for many years but not overly confident. There was a period of 10 years I did not fly radio control either and thought I could fly with no help to start with. First flight of my RC plane after the long time away ended with crashing my plane in the top of a tree shortly after takeoff. I had someone stand by me the next few flights.

Bill Kuhl

Monday, November 20, 2017

Adventures in Electric Control Line

The first really successful model airplanes I built were control line model airplanes powered by .049 glow engines. My two best friends in the neighborhood flew control line also, I can remember saving allowance for glow fuel and 1 ½ volt dry cells. I still have a .35 powered control line a Goldberg Buster in flyable shape; I should try flying it again. 

Prop Buster CL Electrified

Before Covering

My new interest to try control line came from a desire to try it again and see if I can do better and also the fact the airplanes can be flown in smaller locations. Now with the availability of electric systems for control line, I thought I could fly it in places that glow engines were not allowed. It seems that many of the people who fly free flight model airplanes, also fly control line also. The other thing I had ran across the Shugemery channel on Youtube and was impressed by his passion for control line model airplanes.

Electric Motor has Rear Bearing Mounted in the Plane

ESC and Controller

In my basement stash of model kits I happened to have to control line kits I purchased at a hobby shop before it closed. One was a ½ A size but the other was a Ringmaster Jr, I thought first I would build the Ringmaster Jr as electric but then remember many years ago I had started on a .15 size plane the Prop Buster from MAN plans. The Prop Buster plans were on the back of a RC plane plan for the Oily Bird that I had built. 

My Old EZ Just Handle, I have New Plywood Handle Also

My big worry with electric control line was what it the plane crashed, what will stop the motor from stalling and burning out a component?  The system I purchased from RSM Distribution should automatically shutdown if too large a load is encountered. Slowly I finished the Prop Buster and a week ago I was going to fly it but realized the ends were not on the control line cable I had. It was a rather calm day so I flew my electric RC glider instead and ordered lines with the ends on, I will finish putting the ends on the other cable later.

Takeoff Blacktop, Fly Over Grass

It is getting to the time of year in Minnesota that many more reasonable people quit flying model airplanes outdoors but not me. It was rather windy on Sunday but the sun was out and it was almost 40 degrees, I was going to make one flight and call that enough. The wind worried me but I thought maybe the hills would block it some. I had planned out a spot it could take off from blacktop and then fly over grass.

Crash Scene

I attached the lines, checked the controls and pushed the button to start the electric motor sequence. It runs for a couple seconds to show that it is active, waits 20 seconds, and then runs for 2 minutes. This is the default settings which can be changed. I was scared something would go wrong but I had to go through with it. The last time I flew a large control line I was a teenager but it was rather like controlling a RC plane but only in two dimensions.

With me at the handle, the plane takes off, wow it is really flying. Pretty soon it is getting really wild, the plane is bouncing up and down and the lines wanted to go slack when upwind. Right away I am thinking I really wish I could cut the throttle. It is bouncing up and down but I managed to miss the ground through maybe 6 laps. The line would slack and then jerk as it got closer to downwind leg. I was thinking should I try to dump it when it was close to the ground or try to fly for the 2 minutes.

Despite my efforts to keep it airborne, it hit the ground while the lines were slack. Impact was pretty level and did not have excessive speed but still it did some damage. Vertical fin and stab were knocked off, a dowel that was a stop for landing gear broke, there was a crack in the fuselage, and the propeller was broken.  When I got home I noticed a rip in the covering on the bottom. Most of it is fixed and more props are on order.

Next time I will wait for less wind and be checking out the control better to make sure there are no binds.

Bill Kuhl

Related Link

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What I like About Free Flight VI – Nostalgia

In working with computers as a profession I deal with some of the fastest changing technology, I do like learning new things but not everything new do I find wonderful.  Even in my model aviation hobby I tried model helicopters and quadcopters briefly, had some fun and became bored with it. I have purchased several of the RTF fly RC airplanes and become bored with those too fairly quickly.

Witch Hawk 500 Construction

Free flight model airplanes were the first model airplanes and are still the favorite type of model airplane for a good number of people. For many it has held their interest for their entire life although some people fly other types of models too, like I do.  I do not have the great memories of flying the old free flight airplanes like some people do but I do remember seeing the kits and motors in hobby shops plus in magazines. Now I feel like I want to live some of those free flight experiences now.

RTF RC Sbach

Finding that same merchandise in hobby shops today will be difficult but thanks to the Internet it is easy to find most of what was available years ago. New kit laser-cut kits versions of the old models are normally even better than the originals. With the new high powered electric systems the noise and mess are gone but yet I have this desire to build some free flight models with the noisy engines I had avoided for several years flying radio control. 

For One Design Contest 2018

This past year I built and flew my first glow powered free flight which was powered by a tiny Cox PeeWee .020 with the fuel regulated by what was in an eyedropper tank. This plane I built entirely from plans, which was a challenge but the resulting model flies really well. For next flying season I am building a much larger glow powered plane the Witch Hawk 500 using a .19 glow engine for power and also an .049 powered old design the Streak which will use an old K&B .049 engine.

Flying Aces Moth

Last year I built the old time rubber model the Wilbur which I had flying pretty well by the end of the season. For the coming flying season I am building the New Gollywock and a Flying Aces Moth. My current discus launch glider which is a relatively new type of free flight plane came apart in the rain at the Nats so I need to build something new for 2018.

 Bill Kuhl

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What I Like About Free Flight V - Contests

Just getting my free flight models to fly consistently without crashing is fun but I am increasingly enjoying the competition aspect of outdoor free flight.  Psychology Today article had this to say about competition:

For most people, there is something inexplicably compelling about the nature of competition. Perhaps that’s because, as some scholars argue, “competitiveness” is a biological trait that co-evolved with the basic need for (human) survival.

Happy Free Flight Contestant

The time I spend at a free flight contest goes by the quickest of anything I have ever done. Maybe too much so as I really do not spend much time socializing with some really nice people.  I also fly some RC sailplane competition which keeps one busy also because you are either flying or timing a flight at smaller contests.  Larger RC sailplane contests can have you waiting a fair amount of time between flights; I only have entered one of those. Amazingly I received a third place trophy mainly because I flew fairly consistently without crashing. In my younger years when I flew RC pylon racing, the spare time was spent standing under a pylon to watch for “cuts”.  I also raced electric RC cars for a time and spare time was spent replacing broken parts or being a “corner marshal”.   

Small RC Sailplane Contest

The competition that I have participated in has been the “objective type: as opposed to the “subjective” type where maneuvers or appearance are scored by judges. To me a contest that can be scored by time keeping is the most fair. With free flight there can be a huge number of factors that result in those times. I also flew indoor free flight and did pretty well after several contests; the indoor environment is rather controlled compared to all the factors present flying outdoors.

Registering Free Flight Models at 2016 Nats

Flying outdoors the conditions can change during the day.  Often the wind starts out very light and increases during the day but it can also get stronger or weaker at anytime.  Thermal lift usually gets better later into the morning. This is where strategy comes into play, do you try to get flights in during calmer air with less likelihood of thermal lift or fly later when the wind is blowing harder and your plane is more likely to drift off the field.  Then you probably have so many flights to get in with all the events you are flying, waiting very long to fly is not an option.

Young Winners at Nats Free Flight

Winning at an outdoor free flight contest I have no experience in yet but I sure plan to keep trying. From what I have seen in outdoor free flight; that if your plane is built and adjusted to a fairly good level, a relative new person does have a chance at winning. With the other radio control events I do not think there is much of a chance for a beginner to win.

Bill Kuhl

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

AMA Alpha - Pre-release Impressions

I was fortunate, along with other people to get a sample of the new Alpha rubber powered foam and balsa model airplane. The one I received came in a very attractive box and even included a 20:1 winder plus 80 inches of rubber strip. Assembly is very quick but there are a couple of areas you might find a tight fit and need to be careful.

AMA Alpha

The slot on top of the rear of the fuselage was rather tight when I tried to insert the vertical fin. You need to grab it near the bottom in the rear and carefully pull it into the slot. Too much force and the foam can buckle.

Contents of Alpha
Take Care Inserting Vertical Fin

Inserting the propeller nose piece over the balsa fuselage was rather a tight fit also. I sanded off the edges at an angle ever so slightly to make it possible to push the assembly over the balsa. Gary Hinze suggested pushing the balsa against a hard surface to compress it slightly, probably a better idea.

Propeller Nose Piece can be a Tight Fit

Another tight fit is the plastic wing clip that attaches the wing to the fuselage. There were a couple of very thin metal pieces that are to be used in the front of the wing at the center joint, I have not done anything with those yet.

Clip to Hold Wing Halves

Anxious to get some short flights in, I flew my Alpha in a local park on my lunch break. It was windy at times and cold but I did get several flights in using very limited winds in the rubber motor. With the wing held on by the clip it is easy to adjust the CG by moving the wing location.

I hoped to give a longer report on the Alpha after I have flown it from a larger field. The AMA Flight School website has more details on the Alpha and a couple of lessons in PDF format.

11/12/2017 Additional Flights

I replaced my first flight video with two new ones where the wind was lighter.

Bill Kuhl  - AMA Website Alpha Details - Purchase Alpha