The flying monkeys got me...

Helis and fixed wing

AMA 957918
IRCHA 4345
AMA Intro Pilot Instructor

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day Before...

Took the planes down and with the ones I could removed the wings, repaired the Stearman, and flight tested the repaired HDX500, and dismantled the flight lab. Packed the helis wrapped in bubble wrap. Busy day in preparation for the movers coming tomrrow for my move to Dayton. Kinda sad...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Good nite, you Princes of Gulfport!

Last day at BMF, cloudy, gusty. Stearman put down by a microburst (wicked cool, caught as I come out over the tree tops, blew her sideways, down, up, took several trys to get her down, another gust threw her 20 feet SIDEWAYS a foot off the groung, tearing off her landing gear, again, and breaking the wing tabs. It was something else! Storm front continued to move in as I was flying the HDX 500 and she had a similar flight as the Stearman when the gusts carried her away, threw her down after carrying her away, and she ended up a pretzel. Two years with this heli, never crashed, so she was due... After the thunder storms moved off and the rains passed, things cooled down, settled down and the boys flew in fine conditions. Alas, I had broken my two aircraft, and my EXI 450 Sport had a technical issue, so I had nothing to fly... So Kenny broke out cigars and we ended the day as gentlemen! Said my goodbyes, packed up, and drove away.
HDX500se before...
and pretzeled... (Already fixed, pics tomorrow).
Yeah, sexy and we know it...
Kenny and Ken

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

CopterX 250 Tarot ZYX Redux

This evening I completed the build, and the programming of the Tarot ZYX stabilization system on my CopterX 250. She is tiny, and she is now flybarless... She was a lot to handle before, as I was just learning. I am hoping that with my developing flight skills and the stabilization system she will be much more settled down. Tomorrow I shall find out!
She seems heavy. Her CG is good, but I did have to move the ESC to the side, out from under the battery tray. The canopy doesn't come all the way back, so I used rubber bands to secure it. I chose to use a voltage regulator instead of the installed BEC on the RSC as I am driving digital servos and the Tarot ZYX, so I wanted more than 2 amps. I don't know if it is necessary, but it works for me.
Did I mention I hate Torx screws?
There were just so damn many wires...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Another Heli of a Day!

Took to BMF today with my eFlite Ultimate, and my darlings, the EXI siblings, as well as my new HK500cmt. It was one heli of a day! Kenny Chandler, Jerry Gollott, Ron Johnson, and I flew, Greg Reed showed up and visited with us. It was oppressively hot and humid...
Jerry Gollot, and Ron Johnson
Looking over my bench at lunchtime.
Kenny out behind his truck brokering a deal for a new motor for his Edge from a guy on the West Coast.
I took the EXI 450 Sport out to play. Set her on my heli pad, spun her up, and she threw a tail blade within seconds. Darn... I need to start bringing things like that... Changed out to the EXI 450 FBL with the Tarot ZYX on it, and flew her like crazy. On the third pack I brought her in nose first, hovered her, she got a little close (the wind was blowing down on me), so I flew her back away, and gained some altitude. But when I came in again she got too close, I gave her full up pitch, she cleared well, but got over my head off to my right, and I had no idea what she was doing so close above me, so I dumped her and hit throttle hold. Bent the main and feathering shaft, no other damage. I decided to take her tail blades and put them on the EXI Sport, and took her up. On her second pack she threw her gyro! Total loss of tail control, brought her down to ten feet spinning like a crazy top, and finally just had to hit throttle hold and try to set her down in autorotation. She landed gear down, a bit hard with a lot of yaw rate. Broke the gear, bent the main shaft, and likely the feathering shaft. Everything else looks good! Orientation mishap with the FBL aside, I had such a blast mastering the helis. I am truly getting comfortable with them!
The bad girls in time out... after their crashes.
The HK500cmt with the BeastX FBL system flew just sweet! I had only hovered her briefly over a week ago, and she did great. Flying 6S (two 3S 2650mAh packs in series) with a lot of power, getting about 6 minutes of circuits, figure eights. etc. A couple of little tweaks on gyro gain, and I flew her for three packs. So much easier to control her than the 450s, so much more stable and less twitchy. A real joy to fly!
It is so exciting having finally moved to fast forward flight with the helis! I ordered some parts (all out of landing gear, skid tubes for the 450s). The Jesus bolt on the Sport stripped its hex head... so I had to cut the bold out damaging the autorotation one-way gear. I had one to replace it, but when I installed it I held it in a pair of pliers to rotate it and I crushed it! I did not realize it was so soft! So I had to order replacements. Put in orders for one set of landing gear, and the one-way gear from, which should arrive before the end of the week. The movers come on Sunday, so I want to have everything repaired before then!
Planning on trying to get some more time in tomorrow at BMF with both 500s and the Frankenheli 450 FBL, but have some work stuff to get done first. Oh, I found that the holes I placed for the canopy grommets on the HK500cmt were a bit close with the larger 2650mAh packs, so I had to really pull to get the canopy latched on. I decided to do two things. I ordered a wicked cool Align canopy for $25 on eBay, and I Bondo'ed the holes to redrill tomorrow. I will sand it, and repaint it, then redrill. Come to think of it, the canopy will not be ready to fly tomorrow, so I may only take the HDX500...
I am pretty sure that I will be concentrating on my helis from now on: once you go heli, you never go back... not really. Only flew the Ultimate twice. Once to warm up, and later because I felt sorry for her...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Baby gets a new pair of shoes

I have decided that now that I can actually fly my helis, and they are all up, I would revisit my CopterX 250Se. She was one of my first helis, back before I understood how challenging helis are to fly and that the smaller they are the harder they are to handle. Some of my first heli blog posts were about the CopterX 250. I remember somewhat her last flight, but a search of my blog reveals I may not have written about it. I don't think it was that crash on May 6, 2011, but it may well have been. It would be odd, because she has a new Align tail boom on her, and I wouldn't have stopped there; I would have finished her. At any rate, it has been scaveneged for its servos, including its tail gyro, its reciever, and its ESC, and the blade grips are missing.
So today I inspected her and have been ordering parts. I have Solar 11g digital metal gear servos for the swash, and ordered an Align DS420 for the tail. Found a good price, around $25, and it weighs less than the Hitec HS-5084 I used to have on it by half, at around 12g. Its good to save weight aft since the Tarot ZYX weighs a bit more than a standard gyro. I ordered a HURC 22a ESC. Since I will be flying all digital servos and installing a Tarot ZYX FBL system, I opted to cut out the 2A linear BEC, and purchased a 3A SBEC to replace it. And as I mentioned, I purchased a Tarot ZYX 3-axis stablization system with a Tarot 250 FBL rotor head, from In working on her I found that the tail servo mounts were missing (the blade grips are missing too, not sure what happened there. Its one of the reasons I decided to go FBL since I needed to buy head parts anyway), and that the tail boom support bracket doesn't fit well. This heli uses Torx screws, those star shaped ones everyone hates because they are guaranteed to strip. One did on the boom bracket, and then it snapped off when I had to use Vice Grips to remove it... so I had to order another boom bracket. I also ordered a couple of feathering shafts. I have the intact original CopterX fiberglass canopy, but I have a nice Tacon 250 canopy I will use. All of these parts have cost me about 4x the original cost of the flybarred heli!
These parts, other than some blades I ordered from China, should all be here when I get back from my trip next week to Meridian. I will have a couple of days before I leave for Dayton to finish her up and flight test her. I will have the swash servos in tomorrow so that will save some time. Hopefully I won't crash the helis I take to Meridian and won't have to spend time repairing them... Maybe I will just take two?
So in addition to my two 450 FBL helis, and one 450 FB heli, and my two 500's, on FB, one FBL, I will have this baby heli, the most challenging to fly in my fleet. I think she is a prime candidate for the FBL system which should make her much easier to fly as it will tame down the impressive twitchiness 250s a known for. I wanted something small to fly in the parking lot of my apartment in Dayton, and I just can't have a complete heli frame in my lab that I haven't built to flight readiness (that's how I ended up with Frankeheli. I had a complete 450 heli, just in various parts, so lf course I had to put one together)! Besides, the 250 nicely rounds out my heli hangar, and when I get the 600 blt, and step up to a 700 in a year or two, why then I will have a complete set!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Full nest: EXI 450 Sport Completed!

I completed the recycling of the Dynam Erazor, though I did end up putting new Solar 11g digital servos on the swash of the new EXI 450 Sport. Over the course of a couple of days she came together. Yesterday I dismanteled the Erazor, my old friend. She taught me to hover and to embark on my first forays into Fast Forward Flight. She took a beating, as you can see, but was pretty tough. I abandoned her because I want to stock parts for one make, and since her parts were unique and not Align compatible, as she aged it was time to decide to let her go. Hello new friend, good bye old friend, hail and farewell.
There were a couple of issues with the EXI 450 Sport I received from The landing gear are one piece, which is fine, I will replace it someday. The issue was it was molded for a single midline screw attachment to the frame, not the 4 corners the frame base was molded for. I had to drill in the new ones. No big deal, but odd for a quality make. A second issue, a bit more perplexing and possibly significant was discovered when I set up the swash pitch. It tops out and bottoms out mechanically at the hard stops of the head and the frame at +/- 11 degrees of pitch! I usually fly 12 degrees, with a lot of room to spare. The main shaft is exactly the same length and drilled the same as a genuine Align 450 shaft I have on hand, and the rotor head, linkages and swash are also all look standard (maybe the rotorhead on the Sport is a pot longer that the Pro, and that could explain it). I plan to keep this a flybarred heli, so maybe at some point I will replace it.
Introducing my newest addition to my heli nest, my EXI 450 Sport! Excited for the maiden flight!
The entire hangar is all ready to fly!
UPDATE: I just learned on the interwebs that the Sport does have a shorter Pitch range of motion by design. While capable of 3D it is designed for the less aggressive pilot.
Had to make one alteration to the canopy to fit the main gear, just on the left side, much like I did on the EXI 450 Pro. Also added some stickers.
UPDATE: Just maidened her in the driveway! She is quick, snappy on pitch change. A couple of small tweaks, and she is flying sweet. I did have an odd problem where a tail belt seemed to shred off layers of fluff that spindled on the tail shaft and the power takeoff from the main gear. I had to unbuild the tail, pull all the fluff that had wound itself on and around both tail gears (power takeoff and tail shaft). It covered the power takeoff such that the gear teeth no longer engaged the belt. Changed out the belt too. Problem solved.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Gang's All Here!

Spent the day getting my helis back on line. Yesterday I replaced the tail boom on Frankenheli, and ended up also having to change out the tail assembly. The boom that was on there was a remnant of the 450 Stretch project, where for some reason, I guess wanting a bigger heli, I went with the 345mm longer blades, which necessitated using the longer Outrage boom, and a longer belt. I could never get the longer blades balanced right (they balanced fine, but there was always a bad vibration in flight, no matter what I did. This went away when regular blades were put on her. Never figured it out). and gave up on it. So I replaced the boom with a standard sized boom, and rather than take the entire tail assembly apart to replace the belt, I opted to replace it with a new one I had on hand, already with a belt. Loctited it, and as has happened before, when the feathering screws are tightened it would not move. I did the best I could, installed it, and put the entire tail back together. Today I put the Tarot ZYX stabilzation system back on it, rechecked its programming, and replaced the bent main shaft. Took her out for a spin and hovered her in the driveway several times. Eventually, fortunately on the ground, she threw a tail blade, grip and all. I replaced it with a good one I had setup before, and she is good to go.
I also installed the Tarot ZYX on the EXI 450 from which I had stolen the BeastX for the HK 500cmt. This was a brand new one, and though the box was a little crushed and the device floating around inside it, it worked fine. Installed it on 3 of the thin foam pads provided, wired it up, then programmed it easily using the USB and my notebook. She is ready for flight testing.
Lastly, I put the final touch on the HK500cmt, installing the Tarot FBL head. These are the best inexpensive quality FBL heads out there. Just look at this thing. Solid, well designed and well built. Bolted on in an instant. Did have a little trouble with getting one of the plastic link end thingys on and substituted one from the HDX. The turnbuckle was threaded but on this one particular end would not screw in right. Managed to get it in place and secured but it took a lot of work. Took the head apart to inspect and grease the thrust bearings and Locktite everything, then installed it easily. Programmed the BeastX with the head, having preprogrammed most of it before the head arrived, and took her out to maiden hover in the driveway. She spun up nicely, but as the disc came up to speed, she suddenly leaned over to the right in an uncommanded ground roll. I hit hold and tried again, same thing. Took her upstairs to the lab suspecting a programming error, but she responded exactly as she should to manuevering. Then I decided to remove the main blades and spin her up to see what would happen. This is what I saw:
There was a vibration that really became evident at certain rpms suggesting an imbalance, and this vibration coincided with a reliably reproducible uncommanded roll. I removed the tail blades and spun her up, and the vibration, as well as the roll, was gone. Inspected the blades, removed a chip, rebalanced them (off by 0.1 gm) with some tape on a blade balancer (I do this for all my helis now). I suspect in the initial spin up a piece of the tail blade came off, the chip. Now that they are balanced, put them back on, spun her up, that vibration was gone and there was no roll command from the BeastX. Put the mains back on, took her to the driveway, and she spun up and flew perfectly on her maiden hover! Perfectly!
So all of my helis, save the Erazor which is being replaced with an EXI 450 Sport as I write this, are up and ready to go! Can't wait for the weather to clear to fly them!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Woe be wood

I have never been a trusting soul when it comes to wood heli blades. I just couldn't imagine how a wood blade could stand up to the forces. I know that they work for a lot of people, and I know that I weakened the blades ability to cling to the rotor head by having to remove the lower plastic support to get them to fit. I also knew that I could have put the fiberglass blades from Frankenheli on the Erazor so I wouldn't have to worry about it. But what the hell, right?
So it was the last flight of the Erazor, which I am retiring anyway. I spun her up, and she promptly tossed a blade at me. Went whizzing past me, and she twisted herself to death. Over in an instant. Nobody died. Good thing I drove only a couple of minutes to get here... Butcher's bill: Blade, flybar, tail boom, tail control rod, and the elevator servo. Rather inglorious final flight...
Barely left the pad... Tossed the battery too.
Blade some 10 yards behind me. I saw it fly by at knee level.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Cost of My Education

Paul Verger once lost a beautiful giant sized plane that disintegrated in flight when a wing folded on him. It came down as confetti for several minutes. I was new to the hobby, and to me this was one of the most spectacular ends to a flight I had ever seen. I was speaking with him later as to me he seemed entirely non-plussed. He said something that has stuck with me throughout the high cost of my education in RC flight. He told me,"If you don't want to crash, don't fly."
Anyone in the sport will tell you that there comes a point where you just have to let go and fly. You have to let go of the fear of a crash, any thought to the hours that will be spent putting the aircraft back into flying condition, and that a once pristine, unblemished aircraft is no longer virginal. A corollary to this is, "Don't fall in love with an airplane, it will break your heart." And it does, not just for damaging something you've worked hard on, but to know that a split second decision was often the mistake that changed it all.
Flying RC is incredibly rewarding. Like in golf there are those moments you are about to give it up and you make that one sweet, perfect swing that brings you back to the fold. RC flight has its challenges. When you get them right, they make you fall in love with the hobby all over again. For me, the biggest challenge has been learning to fly helis, and recently I had that crossing over event when I just decided to start flying, and it all came together. Since then I have had several excellent flights, but every now and then, I shank one. I have learned not to let those mistakes spoil it for me, and chalk it up as the cost of my education. I bet this has been true for most of us. This is why I strongly recommend learning to fly with a flight sim, and putting these skills out in the field using a good quality clone. You will fly. You will crash. You will get very good at repairs. And you will fly again! And in time, you will crash less, and for more complicated reasons. And it is all worth it!
Today I took Frankenheli up, and flew a couple of packs. That vibration came back; I think its the cheap FBL head I have, that I couldn't get apart and grease. I know I shouldn't fly it this way, but what the hell... I already have a good Tarot head coming to replace it, but I wanted to do some light flying. Got into a low nose in hover and the vibration kicked up, and she dipped in roll and struck a blade. Saw it coming, hit hold. Only damage was the tail boom bent. No big deal.
I noticed in preflight that the Erazor's tail servo stopped working, and I didn't want to field fix it. Got it back to the hotel, and it was just a loose connection to the gyro. A little nervous about flying with the wood blades, the only ones the local hobby shop had, especially since I had to remove the lower plastic hub fairing to get them to fit. But for my pattern flight it should be fine. Looking forward to flying her tomorrow!
Up here in Meridian for a couple more days. When I get back I should have received all the parts to complete the FBL on the HK500cmt, and to move the parts on the Erazor over to a new EXI 450 Sport from Ant the Tarot FBL head will go on Franky whan I rebuild his tail. Psych!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mobile Hangar in Meridian, MS

Working up in Meridian, staying in a very nice hotel for the week. I brought up the Eflite Ultimate, the Frankenheli Tarot FBL, and the Erazor 450. I found a dirt field behind my hotel, and I went out to fly the Ultimate and the Erazor there today. It was very dusty, and my aircraft got a lot dirty. Not sure this is going to work, won't likely fly there again... I had planned to use the abutting road as a runway, but despite being off the main roads there were too many cars, more public than I expected. So I flew off the dirt... Very smooth, but unforgiving. Broke the wheel pant off the Ultimate on one side. I flew the Erazor, and for some stupid reason kept putting the nose down in nose in hover when I wanted to bring it back. I knew I was doing it but kept making the same mistake, and on the third time I over reacted and pushed the nose even further forward, and she dropped. Hit hold, leveled her out but suffered a blade strike. I think part of it was being very uncomfortable flying in this field because its not home... my focus was off. Another part was flying with my head up my ass: always on edge flying the helis. Dropped the Erazor, delaminated one main blade but that was it. The feathering shaft looks good, surprisingly. I am not so sure the main shaft is unaffected, but I spun it without the blades and it spun pretty damn true, no vibration. I didn't bring any extra stuff up, forgot the heli boxes at home. If I can find some in town she'll be flight ready again. I need to find a better flying field, one with more privacy. Trying to find the local field, Meridian Aeromodelers don't have a website. My boss thinks the local club flies out of Topton Air Estates where a closed runway exists, not far from where I am staying. I may try to run out there tomorrow and see what's up.
In the meantime, doing repairs in the hotel room! Wonder what the maid will think?