Saturday, June 27, 2009

First Shot at AP

I have had some great flights in the last couple of weeks. Most of them have occurred during the early mornings on the weekends. Last weekend I tried strapping my old digital Camrera to the SC 2.0. I simply used the rubber bands that hold the wing on to seccure the camera to the top of the plane. Well, I had a very difficult time getting the plane off of the ground and the landings where hard. The above video will give you a feel for how it went. I would like to get some nice shots and video from the air, so I am looking into a good AP plane that can actually carry the payload. More to come...

Also, I had a bad crash on the F4u. The F4U flies nice, but at times it is difficult to tell which way it is heading due to the dark colors of the fuselage. Long story short... nose dive. I bought a new cowl and need to do a little work to get her back in the air.

Here are my stats to date:

Parkzone F4U Corsair Stats
F4U Cumulative Flights: 11
Cumulative Hrs: 2.8 hr
successful Landings: 33
Maintenance / Repairs ~$8

SuperCub Stats
SC 1.0 Cumulative Flights: 15
SC 2.0 Cumulative Flights: 25

Total: 40
Cumulative Hrs: 8.9
successful Landings: 94
Maintenance / Repairs* ~$54.5

Parkzone T-28 Stats
T-28 Cumulative flights: 31
Cumulative Hrs: 9.6
successful Landings: 137
Maintenance / Repairs* ~$19

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hobby Zone Super Cub Final Report

About 6 months ago, in the middle of a MN winter, I decided to learn to fly R.C. planes, which was a dormant passion from childhood that was sparked on a business trip to Japan when I saw a Fatuba 6+ channel TX in a display at Narita Airport! Have you ever had the desire to do something or learn some thing new but you just don't know why?

For those following my blog, you will know that I chose the Hobbyzone Supercub as my training plane. When I started my adventure I decided to attempt to achieve the following goals using the SuperCub:

# of Flights: 100
# of Flight Hours: 16hours (each flight is ~ 10 minutes with stock Battery)
# of Landings: 100

As of now I have achieved most of these goals- and what I believe are the mots important- stick time and landings. Here are my current stats, which are ever evolving- I just did over 35 successful landings on the T-28 in the last 2 days!

R.C. Flight Log

Super Cub Cumulative Flights: 38
T-28 Trojan Cumulative Flights: 26
F4U Corsair Cumulative Flights: 6
Total Flights: 70

Total Fight Hours 18.2
Total Landings 203

One thing you will notice is that a substantial number of my flights where in fact, not on the Hobbyzone SC. Also, if you are a reader you'll know that of the 36 SC flights listed, over half are on my heavily modified SC 2.0. I'll address this further...

I think the most important question is: Now that I have over 16 hours and ~150 landings do I feel like a competent R.C. Pilot? The short answer is: Yes, but I'll still continue to improve and in that improvement there will be more “hard landings”.

Now on to the question you have all been asking: “Is the SuperCub a good trainer.” Interestingly enough my answer here has evolved since the Interim report.

My answer now is: it depends.

Before I explain let me say that in preparation for this report, I dusted off SC 1.0, otherwise know as Rain. I charged up a NiCD and pulled out the old cheap TX and headed to the field. To my dismay, I actually found the SC 1.0 difficult to fly!! I have become so used to the crisp response using the Spektrum electronics and the extra power of the LiPo and T-28 powerplant that I had some trouble getting the old SC in the air. Truth be told, it took about 4-5 launch attempts. I figured out that I was trying to do to much controlling before the SC built some airspeed. Well I finally got the plane in the air and even with the old familiar glitcing of the stock ESC, I was able to make a few circles around the field. My final landings yielded no event. However, I had enough of the romance and walked back for the Spektrum and the F4U.

To be honest this experience surprised me as I walked off the field thinking that I had had enough of that plane. But this was the plane that launched my R.C flying career. I was actually a little sad to be let down by my trusty old SC 1.0. I'll make a final comment on this but here is my revised recommendation for what to start your R.C. flying career with. Here goes:

If you are working on a tight budget (~$150) and want to get started in R.C. flight or if you are unwilling to spend more than ~$150 in R.C plane / equipment I recommend the Super Cub for you first plane. This is the best option to cheaply learn what R.C. flight is all about. I will not say it is the best platform, just the cheapest I know of and you will learn from this plane and have fun.

If you are willing to spend a little more and recognize that fixing the plane when you crash- you will crash- will cost more than with the SC, I recommend buying the Parkzone T-28 RTF. This Plane sells for about $250. My belief is that for $100 more you are getting substantially more plane than with the $150 SC. If I had learned on this plane my estimate is that I would have spend ~80 to fix the plane vs the ~$50 I spend in parts on the SC. This may be a little over what you will experience. I am pointing out that parts for the T-28 are more expensive than the Super Cub. One note- I have not used the TX that comes with the RTF version of this plane, so I can not comment on the quality.

Finally, if you have decided that you are committed to R.C. aviation and if you recognize that, like any hobby, you are likely to spend substantially more than your first foray, I recommend the following: buy the T-28 plug and play version, and the following:

Spektrum DX7 ~$200
AR6200 Receiver ~$80
Turnigy Accucell-6 (or similar) ~$40
2 (minimum) Flightmax 2200 mah Lipo (or similar) ~$40

This last approach will cost you about $500 to start. The advantage of this approach is that everything- except of course the plane itself can be taken to the next plane. This last option will be more cost effective in the long run than option 2 if you think you will take to the hobby and if you plan to purchase additional planes. It will also give you some of the best performance in control and the confidence that you will not be interfering (or get interfered with ) with your fellow blog reader at the next park down the street who is also living the dream of R.C. flight- hey it could happen!

So, I have thrown a lot at you and hopefully gotten some of you off my back by answering the questions I have :).

Here are 2 last points- 1 on the T-28 and 2 on the SC.

On the T-28:
It is a stable flier that can handle slow speeds. It is great to fly around the field at ½ throttle and know that you have reserve to get you out of a bind. I'll write up a few quick tips on using the T-28 as your first plane in a follow on post. If you are hesitant about ailerons consider investing in the clearview r.c. flight simulator and download the T-28 model- it is pretty accurate.

On the SC:

On reflection, I don't regret buying the SC. I always feel you can't appreciate higher quality or higher performance if you have not experienced something else. This is not a slam against the SC. How can you compare a $150 all one package that gets you in the air to one that costs over $500? Well you can compare them, but you shouldn't.

I still think the SC is a great plane to start with, but I think one has to think of it as a step in the training. I can not honestly imagine doing 100 flights on the plane and not getting bored. The truth is I did just that and began modifying the SC with Ailerons. By the time I did all that I spent as much as had I just opted for option 3 I mentioned above. However, this journey was well worth the price of admission and I picked up some hangar skills from these modifications!

My last word on this topic: the fact that I am flying the T-28, My modified SC with Ailerons, and the Parzone F4U competently speaks volumes on the effectiveness of the hobbyzone supercub as a self-teaching R.C airplane trainer- go buy one (and start saving for option number 3).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Maiden Flight Parkzone F4U Corsair

Flight Dates: 16,17 May 2009

Equipment: (F4U Corsair)
WX: Wind 5 mph, Temp ~65 F
Ground Conditions: grass
Field: (#1 )

I picked up a new plane a couple of weeks ago- the Parkzone F4U Corsair. I struggled deciding between this plane and the E-flite Mini Pulse XT. The reason being that I knew the F4U would be similar in flight characteristics to the T-28 Trojan. The deciding factor was partly cost but also the fact that I seem to keep breaking the T-28 despite being relativity competent behind the sticks. The styro-models are tough and easy to fix. I fear a balsa plane may get destroyed too quickly.

The first flight was a quick one around the field on the evening of the 16th. It was getting dark, but I wanted to try the plane out. It flew pretty well and predictable. Although it seemed to turn a little strange. I landed and realized the ruder was reversed!

The following morning I got a lot more flying time with the plane. It is another fantastic flier. With the ruder functioning correctly the plane turns very nicely! There where a few times during my flight, when the plane past in front of a wisp of clouds and the early morning moon in the background, that I could have sworn the real thing was passing high over head. The planes looks very nice in the air.

The Plane turns very well and has predictable flying characteristics. I feel it has very similar flying characteristics to the T-28. In terms of maneuverability I give the F4U a slight edge. I was able to pull of a couple of nice tight rolls which I find harder to do do with the T-28.

I find this plane actually easier to land than the T-28. I think this has mostly to do with the type of gear. The F4U is a tail-dragger and for some reason I find it easier to land conventional gear. I had about 12 very nice landings during my flights on to the packed earth around the base ball diamond. I had a blast flying the pattern with this little war bird.

The F4U is similar to the T-28 but different enough in styling and landing characteristics to make it worth having both. Besides it is good to have a back up when one is in the hanger being repaired! The only damage on these flights was a propeller due to a hasty take off attempt.

Parkzone F4U Corsair Stats
F4U Cumulative Flights: 4
Cumulative Hrs: 0.9 hr
successful Landings: 12
Maintenance / Repairs ~$3

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

T-28 Trojan Re-Make

Flight Dates: 03,09,10 May 2009

Equipment: (T-28 Trojan)
WX: Wind 5 mph, Temp ~50 F
Ground Conditions: grass

Field: (#1 )

I had a couple of great flights in very nice- almost still- wind conditions. I was enjoying my newly repaired T-28 which was fully rehabilitated from a wing separation that occurred the prior week. Unfortunately towards the end of the 2nd flight I had a similar event to the prior week- only worse.

I was executing a low pass at full throttle to see how fast the plane looked at WOT. As the plane was coming towards me I lost control and it crashed into the ground at near full throttle. The opening pictures is a recreation of the crash sight. The following carnage resulted from the disaster:

  • Canopy popped off- pilot tried to eject!

  • Front cowl separated from the fuselage along with the motor

  • Severe damage to the tail section

  • Separation of the wings from the fuselage

  • Bent push rod for front gear and Bent prop

The remarkable thing is that I was able to re-make the T-28 with only a little patience and new tubes of Devcon 2-part Epoxy.

I had to take the gluing in steps to get it right, but all in all it came out well. I did drop the steerable front gear since the front push rod was bent very badly. I don't really use the steerable gear since it doesn't work well in grass. Usually I hand launch the plane.

Here is a shot of the re-make, good as new-- almost!

Post crash I have flown the T-28 3 flights and about 55 minutes. It still flies well. It was a little gusty so I will reserve final judgment on the success of the fixes. Currently all systems are go! I made about 10 touch and goes on the 3rd flight. Lots of fun!

SC 1.0 Cumulative Flights: 15
SC 2.0 Cumulative Flights: 21

Total: 36
Cumulative Hrs: 8.3
successful Landings: 80
SC Maintenance / Repairs* ~$54.5

T-28 Cumulative flights 22
Cumulative Hrs: 6.2
successful Landings: 55
T-28 Trojan
Maintenance / Repairs* ~$19

*Cost to replace items broken in flight

Monday, April 27, 2009

Flying in the Clouds

Flight Date: 19 April 2008

Equipment: Mooney Acclaim Type S
WX: wind 370@8 ; Ceiling 1000ft ; Temp 45 F

Flight Rules: IFR
Airports: Flying Cloud ; Crystal

I took a ride in the clouds with my potential CFI. I have been speaking with him about flight training. I had desired an in person meeting so that we could ensure it was a a good fit. He offered to take me for a quick ride in a plane that he needed to move from Flying Cloud airport to Crystal.

We took off from runway 36 with a departure of 300 degrees. The conditions where IFR and being that he has all the proper training this was not an issue. Although it was a little rainy and cloudy the winds where relatively calm- the flight was very smooth.

Being that this was not a trainer airplane it was not appropriate for me to fly it as if it where a lesson. However, I did learn quite a lot and was able to do a few tasks. As an example, I called the tower for our take off clearance- my first call to the tower!

We took off and fairly quickly we where in the clouds. My instructor told be that in these conditions it is important to keep your attention "mostly inside the plane" on the instruments. From then on, he worked the radio and since this was a pretty quick flight there was a lot of action. We transitioned from Flying Cloud tower to Minneapolis departure to Minneapolis arrival and then Crystal Tower. ATC fed us the vectors and I watched as my instructor entered the vectors and altitudes into the Garmin G1000.

I was pretty amazed at all the information that is at your fingertips with the G1000. I learned a great deal by watching him fly. I also gained a new respect for all that it takes to fly in these conditions and I also must admit It motivated me a little stretch my goal to an instrument rating.
After about 15-20 minutes in the air we started our final approach. My instructor showed me how the glides slope dislpays on the G1000 as we where lining up on the final approach line. Before long we descended below the clouds and we could easily see the airport, and Minneapolis, directly ahead of us. We circled the field and landed on runway 32 R.

This was another great experience in a "small" aircraft, although this plane was a little upscale from the Cessna 172 and the Diamond DA20. It proved to be a motivating and valuable experience and once again illustrated the importance of a good instructor.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Almost a Perfect Week in R.C.

Flight Dates: 16,18,19 April 2009

This last week I gained about 1.2 hours of stick time between the T-28 and SC 2.0. Only 20 minutes was on the SC.

It was almost a perfect week of flying. The modifications I had mad to the T-28 landing gear are holding up great and my landings are getting better too. The T-28 is such a joy to fly. It is very predictable and easy to control. The only thing I am still working on are the landings and occasional control mess-ups (more on that).

A few things of note from this week.

1.) I got to test extended range on the Spektrum Electronics. I have found a huge soccer complex that is still vacant at times. This complex has got to have 20 fields in it. I am flying in an area with 4. I was able to fly out at least 1200 feet and turn back in. It is out far enough that it is hard to tell what direction the plane is going. I don't like to do that much as it is too easy to loose orientation and that can only lead to bad things. That said it gives me even more confidence in the Spektrum system to see the plan out that far and still being controlled as expected.

2.) I flew in the Drizzle today. It was a good opportunity as the fields behind my home had not filled up with others practicing sports. No impact from the drizzle on the T-28 but it was a little chilly.

3.) The old SC 2.0 feels a little mushy in the controls after flying the T-28 for the last 3 weeks. I flew her today and it felt like I had to move the sticks much more to get the plane to respond. Part of this was just getting used to a different plane. I still enjoy the SC, but it is in some ways harder to fly with my aileron modification than the T-28. I think in part because it is easy to loose airspeed and harder to gain back. Ironic that the characteristics that make it easy to fly in the beginning make it a little harder once you gain a few skills and get used to a plane that is so controllable at low and high speeds like the T-28.

Back to my 1 goof. During my drizzled flight of the T-28, I had a great landing at the end of about 8 minutes. I was going to call it good as it was getting cold. However, I thought "why not go for one more". Let me pause and just say that it seems bad things always happen when I "go for just one more". Anyway, I tossed the T-28 and took one loop around the field- turned downwind, turned to base and then final... what wait she's coming right at me let me just correct a little and ...oops that's the direction of the fence. Let me just power out of this and .... bang, into the ground. It seems I had picked up an audience at the school across the road. As the plane struck the ground, I heard a loud "aaaaahhwwww". So much for looking like a pro.

Well the wing did separate from the fuselage and the canopy popped off, so it looked spectacular. It is nothing 10-15 minutes and a little epoxy can't heal. It's just unfortunate because, man was I looking cool you should have seen the landing just before I thought "let's go for one more...."


T-28 Wing- minor damage to attachment mechanism

SC 1.0 Cumulative Flights: 15
SC 2.0 Cumulative Flights:
Total: 34
Cumulative Hrs: 7.8
successful Landings: 70
SC Maintenance / Repairs* ~$54.5

T-28 Cumulative flights 17
Cumulative Hrs: 4.8
successful Landings: 35
T-28 Trojan
Maintenance / Repairs* ~$7

*Cost to replace items broken in flight

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sunset Landing Cessna 172

Last week I was fortunate to be able to take a ride in a Cessna 172. This was part 2 in my quest to know what is it like to fly in a general aviation airplane and also my 2nd pass at answering the question every man struggles with at some time in his life, "should I earn my wings?"

A colleague from work (I'll call him Steve) offered to take me up with him and he proved to be most gracious in the care he took to explain the workings of the airplane as well as everything that lead up to and occurred during the flight.

We departed from KANE in Anoka, MN. The weather and the evening was perfect for flying. The near-full moon was watching over us. The wind was calm and the temperature around 50 degrees. In MN we call it "spring" whereas everywhere else it is just called the end of winter.

Prior to departure Steve took me through the pre-flight checklist. He encouraged me to do the checklist with him. I tested the fuel and various other parts of the airplane. For the last step, I double checked that the engine was still there through the peak hole in the front cowel- it was! We did a quick weather check at the FBO and then we were off.

I did get a feel for a few uniquenesses in aircraft control. The whole steering with you feet in and of itself isn't too much of a stretch. However I will need to get it in my brain that I am not piloting a wagon. That is, you don't push with the right foot to go left. You push with the right foot to go right.

We taxied to runway 27, did the run-up and took to the skies. What a surreal feeling to lift off the ground in a 1600 pound aluminum can with wings. We climbed out to the north at around 80 Knts to 3,000 feet.

The air was smooth. I enjoyed flying in the 172 about as much as the DA20. While the DA20 does have an incredible unobstructed view, the 172 was not bad either!

It feels more stable to be to be climbing. When the plane is leveled out I get that “top of the roller coaster feeling” like we are about to take a dive. After a while I was getting used to it.

Steve allowed me to take the yoke and I made a some turns. For me it was actually just fantastic to get a taste of how the plane flies. Not only did he allow me to try out the controls, he explained everything very well- so I actually learned something!

We passed over the Saint Croix river and landed on runway 28 at the Osceola Airport just inside of Wisconsin. This is an uncontrolled airport, so I was able to see the differences in the radio communication and approach. Steve took a very deliberate downwind, base and final approach- of course calling out position as one does. The landing was nice.

We soon took off from Osceola and then headed back to Anoka. On the way back you could see the Twin Cities in the background and the sun was on its way to the other side of the earth. I had a great time flying through the air and seeing the world around me from a totally different vantage point. MN is known as the land of 10,000 lakes, once airborne I could see why. Little pools of water are everywhere. The sunset landing at Anoka was exceptional putting an exclamation point on a perfect flight experience.

I have done a lot of on-line reading to ascertain the ideal trainer airplane for someone interested in learning to fly- just in case. What my first two flights have taught me is that it is not that important what plane you learn to fly in- taking as an assumption that it is a well maintained safe airplane. What is most important is who is sitting beside you while you are learning! This also is not just about skill, but about the repore and style of the person and how they fit with what you are looking for. I am sure it works the other way as well.