The flying monkeys got me...

Helis and fixed wing

AMA 957918
IRCHA 4345
AMA Intro Pilot Instructor

Friday, December 15, 2017

My VMU-2 Marine Drone

I decided to paint up a cowl for my HK 500 heli as a Marine VMU-2 Drone. It came out pretty amazing!

I sanded down and repaired an old cowl, and covered it in light gray primer. I printed a set of Marine graphics on waterslide decal, and applied them, then covered the entire thing in clear matte.

VMU-2 is a real United States Marine Unmanned Aircraft Squadron.  The centerline graphic is their logo.

Looking forward to flying her!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

New Swash, Tail event

I had noticed that the swash plate on the 500 was loose at the center, so ordered a replacement. I installed it today. It looks and works tight and snug.

I spun the bladeless heli up and there was a vibration, wasn't sure where from and then all hell broke loose. It was the tail. Something went wrong and the end result was that the tail feathering shaft was bent 45 degrees, distorting the stanchion that holds the feathering mechanism that attaches to the tail control rod. It broke the rod, stripped the tail belt power take-off gear at the main gear. I had to replace the tail feathering shaft. I bent the stanchion back and replaced the feathering device (the thing that takes the movement from the control rod to the tail shaft). I had to order a new power take-off gear from I didn't take pics, sorry, but it was impressive. No damage to the tail boom, but I will replace the tail blades.

New swash in place.

New left, old right.

Closer view.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Psyching Myself Out

I had a beautiful day, no wind really, even on top of Mt Hudson. I took the Waco 26cc out, and the HobbyKing HK 500 with its BeastX FBL system. I could not have had better conditions. As is common here, I was all alone.

The Waco was as charming as ever. Turns out up high there was a bit of a crosswind, so I working on my approaches and landings, I had to contend with a crosswind behind me that clears as I got closer to the ground, no muss, no fuss and it was fun. On my last roll out she tipped a bit forward and caught her prop, tipped over on to her back, and knocked her rudder loose, ending the day (already fixed). But what fun!

LOVE that sound! She ran perfectly.

Aw, I love my HK 500! I have worked hard and finally had her perfect. The setting were spot on in the programming, the gyro tight, the tracking perfect. I have been practicing on the Phoenix Flight Sim and have confidence there. IRL is the trick... Nice pre-flight photo!

I took a moment before lighting the fires and chanted to myself, "Just fly the little fucker... Just fly her!" My hands stopped shaking, and I felt in control. Pushed the throttle and as she spun up put her into Flight Mode (my normal is zero pitch all across), lifted up into hover, and she was rock solid, just like the big boys. I inched forward, and then started to fly her! I took her out in circles, figure 8, see-saw back and forth, tail in, tail out, and had her in perfect control! After 4 minutes, with another 2 left in the tank, I landed her perfectly, exactly where I wanted her, and shouted out! I jumped up and down! I have done it!  I have done this before, but was always on the edge of who-is-flying-who, but this time I was in complete control. It felt awesome!

Big Smiles! Happiness!

I felt wonderful, and having wanted to focus on getting my basic flight heli skills, have been working on it. I was moving forward! I put another battery in and did it all over again! As I was coming in from my left and began to bring her nose in, she rolled a little to her right and I corrected, my subconscious moving her left, a little gust rolled her a bit more, and I corrected thinking... in my conscious thought she is nose in, in my subconscious thought she is not. Conflict arises, panic rises, conscious thought wins and I roll to correct INCREASING HER ROLL! Subconscious hits HOLD knowing I have lost her, conscious starts the lamenting wails of all the hours and perfect setup about to pretzel into more hours! Anger and bitterness!

I am so mad I can't see straight, and the sun blinds me from seeing the screen, so I barely catch the scene of the crash, and forget to scour for cast off parts.

On the bench. Tail is pretzeled, the belt is cut in two places and I had to walk back out to find the tail rotor. The main shaft is slightly bent so will be replaced, and will check the main feathering shaft. The blades are completely delaminated. HOLD protected the main gear, and luck is mine as the servos are all fine. Not so bad after all, but will take a lot of time to set up again.

Not so happy face...

So that ended the day, as I had only brought the two. In accordance with my agreement with myself I don't count heli crashes now, as every flight is a crash and I would never make progress. I am not counting the tip over of the Waco as she is fine, just a little epoxy on the rudder hinge.

I have ordered the belt, and deconstructed the wreck. Later I will take the main shaft out, rebuild the feathering shaft, and put Humpty-Dumpty back together again.

Today I cleaned up, lubed and lit up the ancient Hirobo HDX 500se. I love this heli, but parts are getting harder and harder to get, nothing left from HeliDirect. She was my first non-450 sized heli and I got her for a steal many years ago. She is a flybarred 4S heli. She flew great for years, but over the past couple I have had a problem where she electrically twitches. I think not just in power up, but also at rest, all of her servos are quiet then a sudden destabilizing twitch. It comes in quick irregular succession. For years I have tried isolating it, from grounding the frame, to oiling the crap out of the tail belt (decrease the charge build up). Nothing. The only thing I haven't changed is the motor. I have set her aside because this makes her unflyable, and since I wasn't looking to invest anything in her now, I have a cheap Assan GA 250 MEMS AVCS gyro on her. It doesn't hold her tail well at all now, though she used to (and it has on my other previous flybarred helis, perfectly). My only other Flybarred heli now is an Align Trex 600. It has a Quark gyro, which I love (I used to use Align gyros, but haven't had much luck with them).

She is a beauty.

Her CCPM mechanism is WAY Rube Goldberg in design. Its leverage system allows smaller swash servos to drive the flybar. They are all micro Hitec HS-81MGs. Pretty ingenious, but complex. 

I lit her up today, she tracks perfectly, all the settings have stayed put. She is super responsive, I had her swash pitch set to 12 degrees, and had to turn it down to ~10. Her tail drifts, and oscillates... mixed messages. She doesn't have any slop in her tail. I ran her for a bit and I think she only twitched once! Maybe that gremlin has departed. I will keep running her and see it this twitch thing comes back, and if it doesn't will pick up a new high quality tail gyro.  I fear crashing her since parts replacement is a problem, but my policy is no hanger queens... We'll see how this goes. Too windy today to do much else.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Love Hate Love

I Love-Hate-Love helis.

I love that they are so complex in their engineering and flight physics. I prefer FLYBARRED to FLYBARLESS. Sort of. I love the genius of the Bell Flybar, and the simplicity of a simple AVCS head lock gyro. But I also like the clean lines and engineering of the FBL systems.

I hate that a simple tip over results in hours of work and money. Albeit most of the time its an hour or so, and less than $20.

I love that I when I do crash, its pretty much always fixable. There may be a lot of parts to replace, but unlike a toothpicked gasser fuselage, it can be made whole rather easily.

Not that it matters much... I'm a lousy heli pilot.

I flew my little 3D capable XK EC145 today. Love this little heli. I figured out that she is still skittish in pitch with huge random departures, but in forward flight this calms down, and keeping her nose up in turns makes for a stable flight path without altitude loss.

I had ordered a new swash since a plastic ball came off the original. They sell an inexpensive metal swash, so I got that and it arrived today from MotionRC. I installed it in about 15 minutes.

The original plastic swash with missing ball, and the installed metal swash.

I had flown the EXI 450FBL a few days ago, and had to really work to remove any looseness in the rudder to get her tail to stop wagging. That's fixed. But now she has a new wobble, well, actually its been there... I had installed a 11T pinion on the motor as it was what I had when the previous one wouldn't hold its nut. On hover she would start to oscillate about the main shaft and this would just get spectacular. A touch down would stop it, re-enter hover and she'd be fine, then any forward motion restarted the oscillation. I thought maybe this was the loss of headspeed with the smaller pinion, so today the 14T came in and I installed it. Still having the same problem. She is unflyable. The oscillation is first in the main rotor disc then pitch starts to go nuts. I hit HOLD and auto down, the oscillation stopping immediately when the power comes off at the flick of the switch. I have no idea what this is. She's benched. Both of my 450's are benched, the other awaiting servos from HobbyKing.

The HK500 FBL flew today, marvelous in hover. I was shaking so much... I don't know what it is, the massive sound of the immense energy and power? It scares the crap out of me. I am still trying to find my DR/Expo settings... I seem to need low Expo, despite the twitch, flying about 35.  I landed her and twitched causing a tip, and bam... an hour replacing the main shaft, and main blades (one cracked). The feathering shaft and main gear are fine. The original main shaft is the old school longer one, the new one is the FBL shorter version. This made my swash all too high, so I had to change out the swash control arms for ones about 7mm shorter. Happened to have some. Realigned the swash, checked tracking, and put her on the bench. Will hover her later.

I can fly my helis of all sizes fine on the Phoenix sim. Like I have been flying them forever. But IRL I get all wonky and freaked out, because a simple tip results in so much work... I need to get over this. That, by the way, is why I don't reset my crash clock for heli accidents. I am guaranteed one with every single flight.

Monday, October 9, 2017

XK Transmitter and EC145 Heli First Flight

The XK transmitter for the XK EC145 came in today, with the extra batteries, always a fast shipper, MotionRC!

Like a good boy, I read the transmitter manual, after having read the heli manual. It was like a puzzle, a bunch of words tossed together that sort of look right but really don't say anything. I gleaned enough to sort out most of the set up, but there are still some issues.

TLDR: I flew it, she flies mostly well.

This isn't even Chinglish... More than that, it leaves a lot out and what is there isn't easy to sort. The heli manual's weakest issue is that it doesn't describe the features or the parts well. It doesn't explain that 3D is stabilization off, and 6G is stabilizing on. I think. I found the bind button on the control board, but one has to look for it, and there is not bind button on the transmitter; is that a Futaba thing? Most of this lack of features description is also found with the transmitter. I would like MotionRC to write their own manuals...


That is the control board, acts as the receiver and gyro. The ESC is under the fuse. Battery fits in the tray between the two. That silver band is the antenna, but could be mistaken for a disconnected wire. One of the connectors on the board is for the front light on the fuse, but mine doesn't light up.

After several hovers in the basement. 

So, here's how it went. I put the heli together, choosing not to glue the little horizontal winglets on so they could come off. Which they did with some hard landings and rotor strikes. The swash looks level, the tracking was clean. 

After reading the frustrating manual for the transmitter, I started setting the heli up on it. I made a lot of guesses as to settings.  I assumed the channels needed no reversing (they didn't), and there is no adjustment for aileron or elevator, so there was nothing to set there. The swash range isn't degrees of pitch, just 0-100.  I don't 3D, so I did my sport set up. I set Normal pitch to all 50% for no pitch, and IdleUp to 50 (zero pitch), 60-75-85, I think (more or less). This works because she spins up slowly so I just start her in IdleUp. This gives me a nice full pitch range, though she doesn't lift until close to 70%. Throttle curve for Normal is 0-50-100-100-100, and for IdleUp all 100%.  The DR is set at 50 and 80%, and the Expo is 30-50, but they are linked as one switch changes DR and EXPO. I need to adjust those later. I set up the 3D/6G(Stabilized) switch per the instructions, but I think its backwards, so I leave it in the "off" position. When I switch it off the heli is un-flyable, but on she is; I think this is due to swash issues because she sits nicely on the ground hands off gyro on, but gyro off she skitters over and tries to strike her blades. Directional control is fine so far in hover (in the basement I didn't want to risk forward flight). Her pitch seems to vary on its own a lot, up and down without command a foot or two sometimes.  The swash is level, but I had to hold a lot of back and left on the cyclic. I trimmed this out as much as I could, but she still needs a little. The subtrim in the transmitter doesn't move the servos at all, so I have to use the trim. I may have to adjust the control rods.

I may play with her a little more tonight, but tomorrow with try her in the garage or if winds permit, outside.

I think she is going to be fun to fly!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

XK EC145/K124 3D Heli from Motion RC

I love helis. I am a sorry heli pilot, but I do love them! I have a few coaxials (Syma's), in addition to my 450, 500 and 600 sized Align helis, for flying around the man cave. A couple of times I have tried out mini helis, like the CB180, and a couple of other Walkera fixed pitch models. I liked the CB180s, but they are fixed pitch, and other off broadway brand versions from Xheli never were quite right. Now that 3D stabilization is getting inexpensive, these smaller helis are benefiting from addition of this technology, making their tiny weightless airframes more stable and more fun.

I came across a Facebook "suggested page" for MotionRC (a favorite seller of mine) featuring a new product, the XK EC145/K124 3D capable (fully pitch variable) 6 gyro stabilized heli.  In full scale, this is one of my favorite airframes, it was priced well, and it says that while it has a Futaba compatible receiver I can change it out for a Spektrum compatible one. So I impulsively pulled the trigger. As is always the case, MotionRC shipped it quickly and it arrived yesterday. I unboxed it this morning.

Oooohhhhh..... sweet.

That right there is a very tiny box for a very tiny heli.

That is flown using a very tiny 1S 700mAh battery that comes with its own tiny charger.

With very tiny useless instructions... Well maybe useless. There is nothing suggesting how one works with the transmitter in regards to what channel does what in regards to the gyro stabilization other than how to calibrate it. Which is probably actually quite useful if one has the compatible transmitter.

Quick inspection and my familiarity with helis of this size quickly revealed what I suspected. One CANNOT simply swap out the receiver. A) Its integrated into the gyro board. B) It would have to be very, very small, and Spektrum ain't likely got one with 6 gyro stab.

It has what I am pretty sure is the worlds smallest brushless outrunner motor. The wires will need some adjusting to keep them away from the outrunner spinning right underneath. 

This baby bird is very fragile in appearance, and tiny, but the parts all seem to have that in mind. The sticky out parts, like antennae, are soft flexible rubbery, and the shell while thin seems rugged and flexible too. MotionRC sells replacement parts, and they are inexpensive. Nice package altogether.

I was only slightly disappointed as I expected that the receiver swap was a myth and thought, like Walkera's it would be integrated. I contacted MotionRC through their chat about returning the heli. Brad thought it was clear that it was ONLY Futaba compatible, but I redirected him to his page on the heli.... 

While we chatted I remembered that the model was sold RTF for about $40 more with a Futaba compatible transmitter (one presumes that if the receiver if Futaba compatible, so is the transmitter, though Brad at MotionRC wasn't sure and the page for the transmitter doesn't say).

So... I decided to buy one, and picked up a couple of extra batteries, ever hopeful. This is the XK 6ch simple transmitter sold by MotionRC.  I am kinda hoping its truly Futaba compatible so I can maybe fly some small simple aircraft with Futaba Receivers in them. Have always thought about an option other than my Spektrum systems. The transmitter will probably be here in less than a week, and I will see how it all works out. There is very little info on it. I hope it has Flight Modes, IdleUp, DR/Expo, trim and subtrim. I have no idea how the rotor setup works... if tuning it is even necessary, as the manual offers nothing like any kind of pitch range or blade tracking adjustments. This will be interesting! It will be nice to have something I can fly indoors or in my yard to develop my heli piloting skills.

BTW, Brad said it really is 3D capable... I have no idea what the headspeeds are on this small thing to make it 3D capable, but not to worry, I can't dance 3D.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Simply Awesome Day!

I knew today was going to be perfect. The weather was cool with cloudless skies, the winds calm (for Mt Hudson, where there is always a breeze). I headed out and got there around 1130 with the newly repaired HK EPP Sbach, the always reliable 10cc Stik, and the yet to be flown tbis year 30cc Breitling MXS-R.

"Must be in the front row!"

Somebody's day went poorly...
Left over from the Fun Fly I presume.

Always start with a predictable favorite.  She's a tad heavier than before the repairs, but still flew amazingly spry!

Das Stik. As always, had to retune the engine, but that took a moment and she flew wonderfully. Near the end her idle was too high and I couldn't settle it down. Didn't feel like messing with it so parked her after several flights. Worked onapproaches and landings, all perfect, with and without stabilization.

The MXS-R. She hadnt been started until today and kicked right up, ran true, and flew beautifully. Also worked on landings with her. Sweet, every one, with and without flaperons.

That sweet sound.

All the way down there...

Perfect skies, always a breeze, SNHRCC at "Mt Hudson" is still the best place to fly around Southern New Hampshire!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sbach and Cosmic Wind Ready!

Recent posts have described yet another crash with the HK EPP Sbach that I tend to throw around like it doesn't matter but kinda really like, where I destroyed the motorbox. In the past I have just sheared it off, but this time I powdered it and had to come up with a way to make a new one that I felt could take the forces I put on it. That was done, some fixes in the foam and the inside wood skeleton, a little paint, and voila, back in flying condition! The Solar servos came in from Hobbypartz today (they have picked up their shipping game, got here within a few days).

The Cosmic Wind did a cartwheel and cracked her fiberglass fuse, just cosmetic, but her charm is her smooth lines giving her lightning speed, so I had to fill and sand, then repaint.

Didn't feel like running up and down stairs or moving cars to paint in the garage, so... The first rattle can of Testors paint was one I've had a while failed and paint poured out of it all over the place. Good thing I have a paint box. Hit my local hobby shop (ABC Hobbies in Salem, NH) and got their last can of #1231 Bright Red Gloss, and put a finished coat on it.

Final dry. Will let it air out a week or so and then oil it down. Love this sweet flier, just wish she could land on the grass. 

Winds were hellish today, not even the ducks were flying, so I spent the day not flying. Yesterday was disappointing, my planes got broke and my landings left a lot to be desired. I wanted to fly today to practice my landings and remind myself I am good at flying, if not a master. 

Tomorrow is a work day, will be watching the weather.

Greg Gimlick on EC5: Are you frickin' kidding me?

Did I not just lament for the millionth time how half the time my EC5s never seems to fit? Well, this month's Model Aviation (Oct 2017) on page 83 has a nice piece by Greg Gimlick, "EC5s are EC5s... right?", that has one photo that completely revolutionized my relationship with EC connectors...

So, there are plugs that go in from the back, pushed in, like the familiar Horizon Hobby EC5s (the original), and there are ones that are backed in through the front, and you can tell by which way the flanges are set on the metal connector. REALLY? Thats it? Genius IQ, a couple of degrees, 8 yrs of angst wondering if this order of EC5s would work properly... Wow. I ran downstairs to my shop and I have both jangling around in my EC drawer. This explains everything! This is so... jeez.

Thanks, Greg! You have given me back my EC happiness!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Flew the Waco, New iCharger in

Windy but gorgeous day on top of Mt Hudson. I had to go up.

Took out the Twinstar, the so long not flown Cosmic Wind, and the Waco 26cc. The wind was a gusty 90 deg crosswind from behind me. One moment almost calm, the next roaring. Usually Mt Hudson conditions. I stood and waited, trying to decide to flymormnot, understanding that as I had in Mississippi, if I want to fly I need to learn to fly in the wind.

The Twinstar flew well, but was 45 deg off centerline on approaches, which was challenging, and she for some reason needed to come in hot or she sunk hard and fast. Flew a couple of packs, and more or less did fine with landings.

The Cosmic Wind is one fast little bugger, and needs to go fast. And I found out she really doesnt fly upside down at all. At. All. I took her inverted and she dived despite full elevator and power. At the last moment I pulled full up and she looped hard, disappearing below the hill line, and whew, came screaming back up! Aviate, navigate... Landing this tiny plane not on Geotex is always a challenge. She comes in hot, and the moment her gear touch the grass she flips hard and fast. I brought her in, hot... can't lift the nose or she rockets up. Last minute cut the throttle, and ease back on the elevator, and FLIP! CARTWHEEL! Battery comes flying out, ESC comes off its velcro in tow. This plane is all fiberglass, so she now has few cracks I am repairing. But man, did she fly sweet and fadt, even in the wind.

Ah, the Waco, my favorite plane. She started sweetly, ran smoothly. She has an OrangeRx stabilizer system on her, but I took off without it. The crosswind was brisk, and on takeoff she dropped her upwind wing hard. I corrected, and she was off. She did keep wanting to drop the upwind wing, and it took a few minutes to get her trimmed in the wind. Constantly correcting dips and dives, she gets pushed around with thw wind. I turned on the stab system and everything smoothed out! She became a joy to fly and her behaviors settled down predictably. Landing in the crosswind was a challenge, she really floats with it, and I managed a decent 45 deg approach. She floats on any up elevator. On touchdown I botched something and her wheels touched and she flipped coming to an unseemly wheels up rest. No damage, but I really sucked the landing. Needs work. I flew her a couple of times and each landing ended rough. 2 out of 3 flipped. One take off she flipped on takeoff power despite up elevator, apparently not enough. I was rough on her, but she took it wel, no damage.

The new iCharger arrived today. Slipped right in, fired up familiarly despite being 8 yrs newer than it predecessor. The quality of the build is better than its already quality build. Glad I stayed with it and ProgressiveRC.

Sbach Motor Box Rebuilt

The motorbox was crushed into toothpicks with my last attempt to drill her into the ground. She is designed to be ultra light, and I wasn't about to be able to make a strudy wood motorbox, so I designed a box around using standoffs. No matter what I did, this was going to be heavier. She is, a bit, and I ended upmputting 15gms on the tail to keep CG.

First I removed what remaind of the original firewall.

And rebuilt it. I tend to overbuild...

And I built a box to mount the standoffs.


Waiting for the elevator servo to come in, and decided to also replace the rudder servo which was getting a little wonky. They should be here in the next week. I hope she flies as well as she did. HK stopped producing it...