Saturday, February 10, 2007


He must have a condo here.

Yesterday I bought a new toy - it's part of a new class of remote controlled airplane. New class: cheap, electric, rechargeable, very light (the box felt empty!), and apparently, highly maneuverable. I write 'apparently' because I await my maiden flight.

I am sitting at the keyboard watching the sun come out and warm up what was the start of gloom.

So why the devil?

Wind is bad. These planes are so lightweight that I could lose it in a tree or a horrible crash. I figure, despite their ruggedness-assurance, that this plane isn't good for many hits. But it is 'certified' for ages 8 and up, so I'm just under the wire!

The devil wants me to fly it in the living room.

Terri is out of town.

What harm would there be in a test flight?

I have a pilot's license from way back when.

How hard can it be?

I struggle: the living room or the wind... Devil says either, or even BOTH.

Mine has bad decal application by Bob, it's quite ugly compared to this beauty shot

- to be continued -

Devil won. I was headed out into the wind just now. But when I initially charged the battery I must have forgotten to turn the switch off. The tank is dry. The volts'n'amps are empty. She's charging.

I've had limited experience with model airplanes that fly, or should fly. I had this yellow thing - a Piper Cub - when I was about 12... you'd start the .049? gas engine with a battery hooked to the glow plug and then control it by turning in a circle holding onto a U shaped controller from which twin lines went to the plane.

Trying to start the engine was an iffy chore. You'd hook up a battery, endlessly mess with the needlevalve, and spin the propeller with quick get-out-of-the-way-because-if-it-starts-you-will-be-very sorry. You'd flip that prop over and over, then charge the cylinder again, spill fuel on your fingers and everything, then cut your fingers trying to spin the darn prop-with-sharp edge, then the fuel would sting as it found the cut.

Maybe the Cub would start. Then you'd again adjust the needlevalve (fuel/air mixture, I guess), disconnect the battery, then get someone to hold it while you ran to the controller and untangled the strings then yell "let go!" The plane would just as likely immediately take off, go ten feet, and crash. Start over.

One time after much fingering, I got it started, but the engine was running backwards somehow. Not good.

I did finally have a few flights and learned that you get pretty dizzy turning in a circle over and over.

Later, when I was a teen, I spotted a great model airplane that my friend had built of balsa, sitting on a high shelf in his room. Authentic fighter. With engine. "Hey, did you ever fly it?" I believe the answer was no. I also believe the Devil was with me as I persuaded him to take it out for a spin.

We walked over the a big parking lot across the street from his house, got it fired up... he took the long tether and I let it go. Around it went - quite fast - a few times. Then up. Almost straight up. Okay, completely straight up. He shouted: "What do I do?" Me: "Run!" We did. He let go the tether and we beat feet. The Hellcat nosed over and quite spectacularly crashed into the asphalt. I still feel guilty.

My new toy should be charged by now.

- to be continued -

Outside we have maybe 3/4 of an acre of cut grass/prairie.

First flight: 5 seconds. Crash.

Second: one second: crash.

And so it went, but amazingly the plane is so slow and lightweight that it always seems to be okay after the NTSB investigation.

I lost count of the quick flight and crashes, but one was pretty cool, because it was circling and going higher and higher and higher (maybe a minute?) (and then the wind took charge.) It flew out of sight. And possibly out of range of the transmitter. It came to rest upside down in a cedar, luckily in a spot I could FIND, and reach.

And so it went, till I gave up, because the wind really was making any straight flights impossible. But I know enough to already see how much fun this will be in calm air. May be the best $30 I ever spent.

- to be continued -

Wind: bad. Gentle wind: still bad. Trees: magnetic. The plane is almost uncontrollable in the wind (depending on direction and wind speed.) I've had maybe two or three flights where I thought I was affecting things. Wind and rain predicted for the rest of this week.

- to be continued -


Daver said...

Bob!! A classic story. The smell of that fuel is still with me. Some scars from the prop too. To this day, I will not get on an airplane! I seem to remember you doing some ultra-light flying. Want to share?

Bob Wood said...

Sure. I did a few flights to learn on 15HP weight shifters, then scared the bejesus out of myself in a Jetwing and later flew a Quicksilver (nice) but scared myself in that by going way up high (as in Some where Over the Rainbow - way up high!) I have video but don't know how to get onto a blog. I could youtube it then link, but am not there yet.