Aug 8, 2011

The Blue Wonder

A few months back, in the AMA Park Pilot publication, I saw plans for the Blue Wonder and decided it'd be the perfect first flying wing build.  You can find the plans here Blue Wonder at the AMA Park Pilot website.

The plane is an easy build however, it requires that you cut six strips of foam then cut a 45 on both edges of each strip.  That is the most time consuming part of this plane, so make sure you have good sharp blades and change half way through the strips and you'll avoid the foam carnage and issues caused by a dull cutter.

For the first power setup, I tried a Turnigy 2204-14T Electric Motor with a 10 amp speed control.  The plane is weighs in at 7 ounces with an 800mah 2 cell LiPo, yet performance was pitiful.  Using a GWS DD-7035 Prop the plane couldn't loop from level flight, and it hardly had enough power to stay airborne for more than a few minutes.

After giving it some consideration, I decided to switch power setups with my Blu-Dart, and to put the 12amp speed control and Park 250 into the Blue Wonder.  The difference was incredible, now this is the fastest plane I own, and its a blast to fly.  The elevon setup makes this plane behave very differently in flight than a ruder, aileron setup.  Test it in a wide open area before flying in tight spaces :)

Aug 1, 2011

Foam Wing - Full Fused Plane

While visiting in Minnesota, my brother-in-law and I built a few airplanes.  He bought 1 inch foam insulation at the local hardware store, which we fashioned into wings with real airfoils.  Using 1/4" foam, I've made many wings with under-camber, but never made a wing with a true airfoil that produces lift.

We didn't go to the trouble of making a hot wire, we simply cut the wing to shape with a razor blade, and then ran it through the table saw on the leading and trailing edge to start the airfoil shape.  We then sanded the wings with foot long wooden sanding blocks and coarse sanding paper.  Starting with 60 grit, we worked our way down to 150 grit, and very quickly had near perfect wing cores.

Here are a few pictures of my plane with the finished wing.  The plane itself is constructed of 1/4" foam, with a  2" block of foam sandwiched into the nose area, giving structural rigidity as well as a place to mount the battery, esc, servos and motor.  There is no wing spar on this plane, the foam provides enough structural support, but spare carbon fiber wouldn't hurt.

Overall its a fun project, but as always, try to keep the weight down or it won't fly very satisfactorily.   This plane weighed in at a little over a pound with the battery.

Turnigy 2217 20turn 860kv 22A Outrunner
1 - 2200 mah 3 Cell LiPo
4 - HXT900 Servos
1 - HobbyKing 30A BlueSeries Brushless Speed Con
1 - TP Slow Fly propeller 11x4.7
1 - 6 channel spectrum compatible rx  

Jun 6, 2011

Blu Dart Painted

After finding out that spray paint eats into blue foam, I decided to start painting my planes with acrylic paint.  Here is what the Blu Dart looks like with a few coats of acrylic paint.  It works well aside from painting over packing tape.  The water based paint wants to bead up on the packing tape.  

Apr 30, 2011

Blu Dart - FT Flyer

One flitetest episode detailed the construction of what is commonly known as the Blu Dart, another blue foam airplane designed by Gene Bond.  This airplane has a unique design, and the design is somewhat ugly.  Past that, it's a cheap and fast airplane to build, and it has a wide flight envelope for a three channel plane.  Below are a few pictures of the plane, it's had three flight so far, and is awaiting a new set of colors from a paint can.

This plane has three issues when you go to build it.  First of all, you notice that the wing is triangular shaped and the engine firewall square with the fuselage, this creates a mismatch of parts.  To fix this, I simply cut a foam part to fill the gap, and moved the wing back about .75" from spec in the plan.  The second problem comes at the tail end of the aircraft, the vertical stabilizer is .25" thick and the fuselage tapers larger as you move away from the tail, this leaves a gap on either side of the stab.  Just be aware of this when you go to align the stab with the rest of the plane prior to gluing.  Last of all, the CG is not noted on the plans, after some reading in the forms I determined that a CG of 5.5" to 6" from the pointed tip of the wing was appropriate.  This has worked well for me, but folks have a broad range of reported CG's that they say work with this plane.

Turnigy Park 250
2 - HXT500 Servos
1 - Mystery 12 amp speed controller
1 - GWS DD-7035
2 - 30x11mm foam wheels
1 - 6 channel spectrum compatible rx

Mar 31, 2011

XT60 Adapter

I have only one airplane still using NiMh batteries, and it connects to the ESC using Deans connectors.  Since switching to Hobbyking for most of my supplies, I've switched over to XT60 connectors.  The NiMh's still have lots of life in them, so I want to continue using them, but I also want to try flying the plane with LiPo's as well.

The solution was to make an adapter from Deans to XT60.  I searched around and found a spare female Deans plug, and a female XT60.  Using a file, I filed the XT60 till I could get the deans to fit into it, then I soldered the two together.  Next I used hot glue to fill the gap to prevent shorting.  Last I wrapped it in electrical tape because I don't have any heat shrink big enough to do the job.  Here are the photos I snapped with my phone while making the adapter.  I'd guess you could create a similar adapter with other types of connectors as well.

Soldering the two female part together

Filling the gap with hot glue so it won't short

Wrap with electrical tape or heat shrink.  

Mar 30, 2011

Airplane Storage

As my number of planes grows, I'm finding that I have to use storage space more efficiently. I've always favored hanging my planes from the ceiling to get them out of the way. The problem was, when I used string to hang the models, getting them down from the ceiling could be a line tangling ordeal.

While looking on the forums one day I found an alternative solution the involves using bent wire to hang the plane.  Using wire coat hangers I was able to make a few hangers for my lighter planes.  Obviously, for a heaver plane, you'd want to use thicker wire, and fuel tubing or pipe insulation to protect your planes finish.

Using this method, I'm able to hang most of foamies in a manner that makes them easily accessible.  I'm using an inch wide nylon strap to hang my glider, as I haven't bought tough enough wire to make it a hanger.  

Mar 23, 2011

Extra 300 Flight Video

Here is a quick video of the Extra 300 flying around by the house.  You'll note that there is plenty of power to take off vertical, and to exit a hover when things go wrong.

Finishing the Extra 300

I started working on the Extra 300 back in November of 2010, and I finally got the electronics that I've been needing from HobbyKing to finish the project.  When buying items from HobbyKing, try not to order anything that is out of stock, as it will delay your shipment.

As you may recall, I got the plans for this plane from RCPowers, its one of the free planes they have posted on their site.  The plane builds quick, and the gear install is simple, just slice the foam, slide in the servos, hot glue, and stick everything else on with velcro.

Turnigy 1300mah 2 cell LiPo
Mystery 20 Amp Brushless Speed Controller
Turnigy 28-26 16amp 1900kv Brushless Outrunner
GWS DD-9050 Prop
3 - 900gram hextronic Servos
6 channel Spektrum compatible receiver

The plane flies well, except for a few issues with the structure that need addressed.  The tail twists when doing a roll, so that the plane looks like its a quarter done with the roll before the tail moves from horizontal.  To fix this on the next plane, I may double up the fuselage, in addition to the carbon fiber tube that runs the length of the fuse.

The other problem that developed was flutter of the elevator and rudder, because the pushrods weren't stiff enough.  To fix this I added two small pieces of tubbing glued to the fuselage, this took out most all of the flutter, but it still appears at the top end of the speed range.

The power system provides ample power for hovering, and flight times are around 8 - 10 minutes zipping around the sky.  Total weight comes to 9.5oz without the battery and 11.5 oz with the battery.  Overall, this has been a fun plane to build, and I'm already looking forward to a rebuild :)  This plane should help me push my flying ability, without breaking the bank account.

Mar 19, 2011


Over at RC Groups I ran into an interesting lightweight stick type model.  The Gym-Blu by Gene Bond.  The plane is a quick build with few parts, and everything is affixed to a stick fuselage.  The plans call for a 3/8" square stick, which I couldn't find anywhere, so I used a 3/8" dowel and its really too flexible.  I'd recommend using a 1/4" stick.   I lengthened the wing to 32" to lessen the wing loading as I knew my plane would be a little heavier.  To strengthen the wing, I heat tempered the foam with a heat gun.  It adds strength without the extra weight of carbon fiber.  The plans don't seem to have the C.G. location noted, but I've found its about 2.3" back from the leading edge of the wing, when the wing position on the plans is used.

Total weight came to 5 ounces dry, and with the battery it weighs in at 6.75 ounces.  Recommended weight for indoor flying is 5oz all up weight.  At it's current weight it still fly's quite slow and has a very shallow glide path.  I used a bottle cap motor mount hot glued to the fuse stick, a different motor mount would help save weight.    

2 -5gram Hextronic servos
12 amp speed controller 
6 channel Spektrum Compatible reciever
2 cell - 800 mah Lipo battery
1 - Turnigy 2204-14T Electric Motor
GWS DD-7035 Prop

The v-tail configuration makes this plane a little less responsive when going at lower speeds.  Be sure to keep some air moving over the tail, or controls will get soft.  Overall the plane is a great flier, very fun to fly, and fun to build as well.  

Feb 28, 2011

RC Flying on the Android Phones

While waiting for a shipment from HobbyKing, I've been entertaining myself with a new application I found on the Android Market.  After flying a few RC sims for the iOS, I was unimpressed.  What makes Leo's RC Airplane sim different is the amazing graphics, ease of use, and the fact that you can add on more airplanes.  There is a free version in the market place so you can test it on your phones hardware.  To learn more or to download Leo's simulator for PC , head over to

Feb 12, 2011

DX6i Antenna Repair

I, along with thousands of other DX6i users, had managed to break the 2.4ghz antenna.  The transmitter was in my backpack on a trip, and upon arriving home I found that the plastic was cracked at the hinge point.  It was still usable, so I went on using it with a little black tape wrapped around it for support.

Recently, I had to contact Horizon's customer service about another issue, and I managed to get a new antenna at the same time.  WARNING, if you own a DX6i, be careful peeling off the protective plastic stickers that are on all the switch name plates, and on the transmitters name sticker.  Mine all peeled off just fine, except the left switch tags peeled the paint of with it.  I called Horizon and was told that I would have to send the transmitter in to have get a new switch sticker.  This seemed ridiculous to me so I emailed the Horizon Hobby Service Center Manager, and suddenly it was not a problem...  The next day I was contacted by a Horizon Hobby employee who informed me that they were filling my order for the tag, and they went on to ask me to verify my shipping and payment.  I was informed shipping and handling would be $9.99, and while I was on the phone I had an idea that it might be a good time to buy a new antenna.  Upon asking if they had any in stock, I was told that they would throw one in for free!  So, I basically paid for the antenna, got free shipping and the new sticker I was wanting...  Once I got past the first line of customer service, Horizon did a great job of keeping me the customer happy.

Repairing the antenna is fairly straight forward, but their is a great how to over at  that will make the process much smoother if you have any questions...  Also, the antennas are now available online from different retailers ranging from $7.99 to $12.00.  Happy fixing!

Feb 9, 2011

Blu-Cub Full Fuse

After my first successful build of the profile Blu-Cub, I figured that more traditional building techniques could work well with foam.  The Blu-Cub provided me with a starting area for this project, but the result looks a little different than the original plane.

Starting with the two fuselage sides, I trimmed the foam at the tail end of the plane and glued pieces together with hot glue.  From that point I added a bulkhead about 1/3 of the distance from the tail to the nose, then I cut pieces to fit the top and bottom areas between the tail and bulkhead. And then worked my way forward from that point cutting pieces to fit as I went.

For the motor mount, I hot glued the threads of the lid of wide-mouth bottle, to the foam firewall.  The motor is attached to the bottle lid, and then the lid is threaded onto the bottle.  I did this to allow simple motor swap outs, if I'm under powered, I just get out another motor and bottle lid, and swap them out just like that :)  For access to the wiring, and for the battery, I put a magnetic hatch on the nose.

I decided to make the wing a band on wing, so I made the wing with an under-camber which matched the curve in the top of the fuse.  Adding the additional foam to make the full fuselage increased the weight, so I decided to slightly increase the wing length to reduce wing loading.   I reinforced the underside of the wing with the thinest carbon fiber rod I had which would provide adequate stiffening.  On the leading and trailing edge of the wing I hot-glued on a very tiny piece of carbon fiber rod to keep the rubber bands from working there way into the foam.  This was then covered with yellow duct tape.

Landing gears are proving challenging, I need a wire bending tool.  I hand bent my gear with pliers and a vice, I don't recommend it...  The piano wire I'm using is a little thin, so I added a cross member so they won't splay on landings.   

I'm finding that foam is a fairly simple medium to work with, and with a bit of care the results are very decent.

The plane is now awaiting electronics installation and flight testing.  

Jan 7, 2011

Phoenix RC Simulator in Oracle Virtual Box 4.0 on Ubuntu 10.10

It is now possible to run Phoenix from Linux host by using Virtual Box 4.0.  During the last year, I've tried several times to run this sim in an Xp virtual box on my Ubuntu system.  The closest I was able to get prior to this week, was the splash screen and a crash.  For this reason, I'd been dual booting my machine with Ubuntu and Windows, but due to the extra effort required to reboot and start Windows, the amount of Sim flying I do has tapered off.  That is all changing now!!

Below is a screenshot of the sim running inside the virtual box.

Just how is this done?  It's fairly simple actually.  Virtual box Guest Additions includes support for Direct X, which must be installed in safe mode.  Once this was installed, I installed Phoenix and all the update, waiting until the last update to install Direct X.  Then to my amazement it actually worked.

There are still a few issues, but I can live with them!  VB only allows 256mb of video memory to be allocated to the OS.  This results in a medium graphics setting by default in the sim.  Also, I've noticed there is a transparent airplane that appears, looks like part of the splash logo, as you fly through certain areas of the screen.  This has not been consistent, and while bothersome, does not really affect my practice flights.

This may not work on some machines for obvious reasons...  The overhead to run a game in Virtual box is fairly hefty.  I have a Core i7 930 processor, 6 gigs of ram, and a 1 gig video card, and it pulls this trick off without a sign of lagging.  I'd be curious to see how well this works on older hardware...

It has been mentioned that you need to setup your USB dongle that comes with Phoenix, to work in VB.  A good place to start is the settings button for your machine in the VM VirtualBox Manager.  You'll find a USB settings button, and under this you'll need to check the box Enable USB Controller.

In this screenshot you'll notice that because I unplug the transmitter before turning off my VM, it is not listed...

Once this is done, boot up your VM.  From the menu choose Devices>USB Devices, and make sure that the Phoenix USB dongle has a checkmark next to it.  That should be all there is to setting up the USB interface in the VM.