The flying monkeys got me...

Helis and fixed wing

AMA 957918
IRCHA 4345
AMA Intro Pilot Instructor

Saturday, July 30, 2016

That would be... about exactly 1-to-1

"What is your flight to crash ratio?"

"Right now? A solid 1-to-1".

I first checked out the field near me, Joppa Hill fields, that place that rips my landing gear off every single time, and there were people laying down chalk lines. I wanted to just fly, not have a lot of people watching, just fly, so was hoping no one would be there. So I drove out to Hudson with the plan to maiden the Stik and the newly repaired Trex 600E. When I got there it turned out to be Dump day, which means no flying until noon. Apparently it also means not driving up to the field to wait an hour either, according to Moose who manned the gate. So I turned around and drove to Merrimack. I was rather surprised to see no one was there flying. I unlocked the gate, and a family parked at the edge of the road asked if they could watch me fly.

It was odd gusty, but nothing significant. I took the Eflite Cub 450 out, tossed in a 3S and flew her around to their amusement. I showed the young girl the plane and let her hold it. I put another battery in and took her up again. The winds aloft were brisk and I almost hovered her, and on the downwind she did 100 mph. I turned over the trees at the south end and she got hung up in the wind, and the battery timer started sounding off.

"Wow, its frozen in the air!", I heard the girl exclaim excitedly. And it was, just hovering there, full throttle into the wind. But I was trying to make headway. Then the wind dropped and so did the cub, her battery drained and the low voltage cut out kicked in. She dropped right into the trees. She made it all the way to the ground, and broke her left wing off clean, and the prop in half.

But WAIT! There's more!

I told them I was calling it a day, and they left thankful, the dad saying he would be back, he had been thinking of joining. I suspect they were there hoping someone would show up and fly, but they got me. But I still wanted to fly. I wanted to at least hover the Trex 600E to see if the gyro would hold and check out her settings.

And that's when another family drove up (where the hell were you guys?). Their son Jacob would be joining and they came by hoping to meet some of the members.

I was already on the runway, had her spinning, checking out the match of the blades and making a few changes. Got her tuned up, and decided it was time to hover. She came up sweet, and the gyro held. I took her up and the blade paths were spot on, one disk. I decided to fly and took her up and about, flying a simple circuits, and the gyro held her heading perfectly. I brought her back in and started to turn in about 3 feet high when I noticed that the elevator was getting sluggish, and she started to pitch nose up despite down elevator. I hit HOLD and set her down, nose high and tilting left. She stopped and the blades didn't strike anything, in a cloud of dust. I checked her out and the only thing seemingly amiss was the elevator snap link had separated from the control arm. This was the same thing that brought her down a couple of years ago.  This and the fracturing of the boom stays was all the damage externally.

When I got home I found out that the boom was a sort of bent, curiously it was stove in on itself and had accordion-ed at the power-takeoff end, and the front torque tube gear had stripped. I took it apart and the torque tube was ever so slightly bent. They would need to be replaced

Parts are ordered. I fixed the elevator snap link such that it will never come apart again.  I noticed that parts for the 600e are hard to find, hoping that the EFL parts will fit, as I suspect they will.

You can see the slight bend in the torque tube, and the curious "stove in" accordion like bending of the boom.

Awaiting parts. Easy fix ahead. Had a new boom on hand, but ordered a torque tube, stays and the front torque tube gear set.

This is how clean the wing broke. I drilled two holes in the wing joiner on both sides of the gap. I used dowel wood to act in its place. Epoxied with 15 min Epoxy and she was as good as new.

New prop on.

And back where she sleeps.

I am coming to terms with my continued ineptitude. Knowing that there is always a third, I wisely packed up for the day and didn't maiden the Stik.

I have been looking for something that I can throw around, a helium-bird, like the Veloxity but not, low cost. I found this Edge 540 from Hobby King   (Videos). I have a 10 sized electric motor, new 9g digital servos, a 40A ESC, everything I need to fly this 3S with about 300W of power. Can't wait.

I am confident that between this bird and the Stik I will get my mojo back. I am counting on it.

Oh. And just after the heli went down the Dad asked me what my flight to crash ratio was. 

"Right now? A solid 1-to-1".

(Shamefully resets Crash Clock...)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Big Stik Build Update

The CG was waaay off forward, as I expected. I moved the Ignition and Receiver packs as far aft as I can, and they are now underneath the wing hard-point aft of the elevator and rudder servos.

Even then she took 3 oz (88 grams) of weight to balance. I opened the underside just forward of the Vert Stab and inserted this weight, epoxied it in, and closed the opening, coted it and voila, nice and balanced. The fuel tank is mostly forward of CG so there will be some nose heaviness.

In trying to tune the engine the other day I learned a few things and burned out the throttle servo.

The plane dry weight is 7.2 lbs. The Master Airscrew 13x8x3 triple blade runs at 8000-8200 rpm and develops 6 lbs of static thrust. The Master Airscrew 14x8 twin blade runs at the same rpm and develops 6.6 lbs of static thrust. I went with the twin blade, and a thrust to weight ratio of 0.91.

The small amount of resistance in the throttle control arm, from the slight bend as it exits the firewall to the plastic pipe that covers it as it moves aft was creating enough resistance that the throttle servo burned out. I lubed it up with some silicone, but will need to put a small bend in the control linkage as it attaches to the throttle to alleviate any side bending force increasing the resistance. It seems to move okay... maybe it was just a bad servo? We'll see.

I have debated adding some additional hard point attachment to the fron of the wing. The solid single hard point seems more than adequate.

The ignition works fine. But tuning this engine reliably is troublesome.

Lastly, the Spektrum AR7610 7-ch receiver that was in the ill fated Spitfire won't bind... I suspect it did take some water damage.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Rocket Man

Yeah baby! 16 inches of pure rocketry right there. Estes Bull Pup AGM-12D. Finished building her and look forward to flying her soon. (Need to get a clearer photo...)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Great Planes Big Stik Build Days 2-3 or so...

I've made some progress on my Big Stik 10 cc gasser build. It's required a few modifications, and trial and error solutions to problems, adding hours of work and re-work. It was at times frustrating so I didn't take as many pics as I could have...

The 260cc gas tank. It stops at the front bulkhead, not the firewall, which is as I would like it. The nitro tank is designed to fit into the middle hole of the firewall, but this would crowd the air intake for the gas engine's carb which faces rearward. I need the space between the foremost bulkhead and the firewall for the ignition, and I want some of the increased weight being a gasser back towards the CG. This means that the tank was sitting on the middle bulkhead like a teeter-totter, so I build a small base to support it anteriorly. This went in just behind the foremost bulkhead.

I put darts on half of the underside of the horizontal stab.

The horizontal stab only used three CA hinges, which I thought a bit weak. I am using Dubro nylon hinges on all of them, and added two CA slots.

I am making mine a tail dragger. I wanted a steerable tail wheel and MacGyver'd this. It clears max deflection of the elevator. Took a couple of attempts with fresh wire to get this right.

This is how the tail steering rod comes out on top of the horizontal stab and attaches to the rudder.

A full view of the tail mod. Let's hope it lasts. Worst case it casters.

I put down a piece of plywood to give the underside where the tail wheel attaches some oomph it lacked for this application. I used it to further secure the horizontal stab, which was simply epoxied into place.  I secured it with RTL Fastners servo screws (long ones). Love those screws.

On Day 1 I installed some plywood to establish a sound platform for the landing gear so they would lay anterior to the CG. The holes at the bottom of the pic are the original blind nuts for the tricycle configuration, which I did not use. In this pic you can also see how I shouldered the bulkhead to help the longer tank pass.

I covered the screws with a little foam. You can see where I had to cut the middle bulkhead to get the tank in.

Tank lined in and the servos installed. There were several steps and mis-steps to get here. The issues were that I didn't want (nor needed to) drill any holes for the throttle control arm. I needed to change the connection to the card a couple of times before I found a nice combination that did not bind and was secure. I completely invented the upside down station for the throttle servo. The stock design has all three servos in that bay. This would require  significant geometry issues getting the rudder and elevator control rods to the servos. This eliminated most of that angle issue, but there is still a little angulation as you can see. I toyed with using the servos externally on the back of the fuse, but decided on the cleaner internal location.  As part of the throttle servo box I reconstructed the cross bar of the original middle bulkhead I had to remove to fit the tank.

The landing gear installed for the tail dragger config. Note the opening underneath just behind the firewall. This allowed me to access the fuel tank fittings and to pass the Hall sensor wire to the ignition (the only new hole I put in the firewall. I didn't want to use the center hole as I don't want to obstruct airflow to the carb. This is also where I put the ignition box. I Dual-Lock Velcro'd it to the side of the fuse inside there. The fuel line nib is on the opposite wall.

The access hatch is in place with the spark wire, fuel line in and out of the QuikFire fuel filter and balancer (the blue thingy) emerge from it. When I was having trouble with the first 10cc I took it off, but am using it again.  Its very light, effective in all it advertises. This is the RCGF-USA 10cc gas engine and ignition from the ill-fated Spitfire. The ignition worked after the soaking, but I don't know if its damaged. I have a replacement from Hobby King coming in case, but that's gonna be a while as its coming from Hong Kong. The ignition and receiver packs are likely toast. I pulled them out and they looked ok, but I squished one and foamy water came out... I opened them and they are corroded, so tossed them and have new ones coming. I thought about using LiFe, but only my base charger can charge them, so went with NiMH. And yes, I finished installing all of the engine mount screws.

I am getting to the end of the build. I want to add some more support to the front of the wing, Right now it only has the single post that is built in, and that's likely enough, but I want a little insurance. I will also be testing the receiver, which seemed dry from the crash: it looked like it was just above the waterline that ended with the packs partially submerged. The switches and the receiver seemed to be dry, but time will tell. I am using the Spektrum AR7000 from the Spitfire. So wing mod, electrical to include receiver, remote cut out, and switches. Then she will be ready to start and tune. I hope that goes well. I ran the motor after the soaking and it ran. I wanted to see if it would, it did, but rough. I learned during the demolition recovery that the clunk had wedged anteriorly and attribute the odd running to that, but I still don't know about the state of the ignition.

More to follow. Couple of days of work-work ahead, then play.

ADDENDUM: By the way, I learned a couple of things. Dubro wheels HATE alcohol, and bubbled up like poison ivy on skin where ever it touches. I cleaned a hub and watched a wheel blister... And when grinding off an axle, those sparks will leave hundreds of tiny little holes in them where they melt in.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hobbico: Another Awesome Customer Oriented Company!

About 2 years ago I bought an Onyx Dual Charger from Tower Hobbies or an affiliated seller. I don't have the receipt and I have no idea where I got it... A few months later the right screen failed and I didn't need a single charger (that's where I made the dual charger with two inexpensive single chargers).  I was on FB the other day and a suggested FB site for Hobbico popped up, and I  LIKED it. As I perused it I saw a post about this very nice charger, and I mentioned how mine went brick. Hobbico responded suggesting I contact them. A couple of weeks later I sent it in with a note that I had no receipt nor recall from whom I bought it. A week later it was in the mail, they turned it around in a day, repaired! I know its mine as I changed the output leads to bananas to allow a wider range of charge leads. 

I love this about Hobbico, Tower Hobbies and Horizon Hobbies! No one provides better customer service. 

Thanks, Hobbico! I can now charge two planes at once with my two dual chargers! They have earned a place in my favorite vendors (see the links to the right!).

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Great Planes Big Stik 40 Build Day 1

The other day the UPS man left me a box from Tower Hobbies! What a nice man.

I had today off so broke open the box and got to work.

Das Box.

I wanted something different so I removed the Iron Cross from the right side and used a WWII Era US aircraft insignia.

I busied up the underside of the wing. I need more white. I plan to use some white on the bottom of the fuse as well. I want strong contrast top from bottom.

I decided to go with the taildragger modification.  I custom cut a piece of plywood and epoxied it inside to the bottom of the fuse. I wanted it to get support from the entire compartment.

I custom fit some triangle bracing and added support to the bulkhead forward, and a solid hardwood across the middle. The forward tray is where the landing gear blind nuts will be installed. This puts the landing gear just forward of the CG. You can see the stock blind nuts behind the middle bulkhead, under the servo tray.  The instructions a call for some sanding down of the bulkhead to fit the small stock fuel tank. I am not sure, I think it's about 200cc. I am putting a 260cc tank in. The stock calls for the front of the tank to exit the center hole in the firewall. This will crowd the air intake on the carb... My tank will be set up a bit aft of the hole and I will need to secure it from creeping forward. I am still not sure where I will put the ignition. I really don't want it outside the fuse.

I also installed the motor mounts but forgot to get photos. It was tricky getting the mounting nuts on the bolts... that forward compartment is long.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Heli Day

Its been a very, very long time since I have flown a heli, let alone setup a CCPM or programmed a FBL (flybarless) system.

I started with the Trex 600e, a flybarred heli that has been one of my favorites. I crashed it some three years ago when the elevator servo control ball link snap separated from the control rod and she did a 360 flip onto the ground (I thought I had posted on that, one of my last day at MCRCC in Biloxi, but I can't find it. Since that crash I had rebuilt the heli, and moved a couple of times, and then found problems in a pre-flight check. I discovered that like many of my helis with Align gyros, in fact, all of them, she had a tail twitch I could not program out, even trying to reset control lengths etc to reduce sensitivity. I kept wanting to buy a Spartan Quark, but I didn't want to spend $100+ to find out its not the gyro. Finally I found one NIB on eBay and ordered it a few weeks ago for $60. Today I finished installing the Quark and programed it, and fine tuned the CCPM on the 600e. A week ago I reviewed some videos on CCPM setup from, and it all came back to me. A few tweaks and I set her up for 11 degrees pitch and 6 degrees aileron and elevator. Lubed her up, and now she is ready to go. Her head speeds on 12S are scary high, so I plan to create a throttle curve at about 80%, and may fly her 10S on 100% curves.

I moved on the my HK500FBL that has a BeastX on it. I wondered if there was a Mac software for it and found that they is one now and installed it. It is a manager, not a programmer, so after I updated the firmware on the BeastX, I spent the evening programming it. Its easy, and I found some things I hadn't done quite right before. I used the BeastX digital bevel box and tuned it to a pitch tolerance of 0.2 degrees. Sweet. I had to replace a weak ball link snap, and the new ones wouldn't fit! After a while I got the idea to heat the control rod and the new snaps went on easily, cooled nice and snug and custom tapped to fit! She is now ready to fly! I love the wheels, but it does make her a bit tippy. I remember this being a challenge on spinning her up unbalanced as she will wobble and tip over. I also need to find a better way to secure the wheel cowls to the landing gear as they can vibrate a lot in the current arrangement.

I have honed my skills on the Phoenix Flight Sim, and think I like about 35% expo. I fund flying planks that I don't like 40% and have dialed those down to 35, and will likely end up there, or perhaps 30. I have always flown 25% expo, but think as I age I need to loosen that up a bit.

I am excited to get back into my helis. I plan to re-tune the 450's which both have Tarot ZYX FBL systems on them. I've pretty much stopped flying the 450's liking the stability of the larger helis.

And I still have the Trex600 EFL Pro NIB with all the parts and electronics that I have never gotten around to building, including a Spektrum AR7200BX 7-channel receiver with BeastX. A couple of years ago I rounded up the parts after accidentally winning the airframe on eBay. I think its time to build! I plan to build it along with the Great Planes Stick. After that I am going to put off new aircraft until I get my mojo back!

A couple of days of work work, and then its back to the lab, and hopefully some nice weather to fly!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Great Planes Stik 40

When my Spitfire met its demise and challenged by loyalty and dedication to r/c flight, a very nice gentleman was flying what I believe was a Eflite Ultra Stik 25e. I watched him fly it simply, gracefully, enjoying himself. I have forgotten what thats like since I lost my mojo. For a long time I have wanted to have a simple basic plane with no bad habits and some performance. I have been thinking about the Ultra Stick 40 or 60, but for some frickin' reason they discontinued it (I mean, come one, seriously? It had everything! Simpliticy, performance, stability, flaps...). Hobby King has a nice one, but it needs at least a 15 cc engine.  I love the performance of the Ugly Stik, but never was fond of the odd lines and the scalloped ailerons. Since I can't find a left over Ultra, I went ahead and bought the Great Planes Big Stik 40 with the plan to take everything from the Spitfire and use it on the Stik.

I so want to just build it like its designed... I don't want to modify anything, just build it, and fly the crap out of it. But I already am putting a 10cc gas engine on it. That changes the weight distribution and I am not sure it will fit without modification. And then I want to make it a tail dragger to fly off rougher runways, which means moving the back landing gear forward, which means getting some self setting nuts and strengthening the fuselage. This too changes weight distribution and flight dynamics. And if I do that, why not add flaps? Change the shape of the vertical stabilizer? And voila, a complex, long build...

I think I will build it stock and enjoy flying it, and then someday later modify it. I will change some of the colors though. She is notorious for being difficult to determine orientation on as the top and the bottom of the plane are the same. 

Fast, aerobatic, stable, predictable, gasser, easy to build, easy to fly, easy to repair.

Hmmm... maybe I will just make the tail dragger modification. And... maybe the vertical stabilizer.

The Day I Quit

Our hobby is like an affair, a dangerous thrilling passion. Its pulls us away from our responsibilities to play the fool, it costs us money, sanity, and oh does it cost us patience. It teaches us, it makes us better people, and it keeps us out of trouble. As it loves us it threatens us, and all we hold dear. It is passionate, exotic, full of challenges and taunts, moments of exceptional pleasure and sheer anger, joy and terror. And on some days, it makes us mad as hatters. And yet we are drawn to it, and like the proverbial moth to the flame it burns us for loving it so.

I hate it with a passion that keeps bringing me back.

I finally maidened the 10cc Spitfire. First flight, she took off wonderfully and flew like a gem. Very little trim needed. I put her through my first flight tests. and everything was perfect. The engine ran flawlessly in all phases. She performed basic flight maneuvers well, stalled a bit intensely but predictably. After about 10 minutes I decided on one more power off stall, gear down throughout the entire first flight. She stalled dropping a wing harshly, I recovered and she clipped the tallest tree on the field and dropped like a stone into the creek.

I quit right then and there.

I found her in the creek under the tall trees, the wing separated from the fuselage, floating wheels down but intact, and the fuse hanging vertically right next to the wings, only the cowl under water. The receiver was dry as were the switches and the remote cut out. The engine and the ignition were under water. At first glance she is surprisingly undamaged. The wings were torn off whole and the right wing was fine, the left one apparently is the one that hit the tree. The outer 10 cm has a dent, and about mid way in the leading edge is crushed. The fuse has a few cracks, especially large one near the tail, but internally a bomb went off and several of the frames and the stringers are completely gone. The cowl intake on the bottom was sheared and the cowl would need to be replaced, though I could do the glass repair. It wouldn't take much to fix her. And that's just it. I was bummed, but really, I have zero interest in rebuilding her. Zero. But thinking its just a phase, I stripped all the parts (all of them survived, except I think the ignition), and I stashed the fuse and wing in storage in my workshop. The engine started and would run, but like it was poorly tuned, and its behavior changed as it ran. I suspect the ignition did not take the bath well... the spark wire covering is frayed, but the ignition looks otherwise fine.

Before her flight, during pre-flight checks.

After the recovery...

The wing looks pretty good. The landing gear would not retract or extend, but after things dried out they work fine. 

THe underside. 

The fuse looks well too, but internally took quite a beating.

This crack looks innocent enough, and should be easy to repair but it will be extensive work.

When the wing came off if took a lot of the internal framing with it.

I've take all the electronics and servos out, and they all work fine. I removed the engine. The plane is back to its shell...  I already have a project in mind, and its the reason I decided not to quit.

By the way, I forgot the name of the kind man who was there and helped me bring her back, risking the poison ivy. Thanks so much for your time, kind words, support and timber bashing!