Aug 10, 2013

AS3X Ultra Micros - Carbon Cub & Spitfire

I've had a Blade mSR X heli for about a year now.  Horizon introduced the mSR X as a fixed pitch helicopter without a fly-bar, and it has an amazing amount of stability due to the 3-axis stabilization system Horizon calls AS3X.  Over this last year, AS3X has made its way into more and more of the ultra micro lineup.

A few weeks back I picked up a crashed Carbon Cub, and a brand new Spitfire and the local hobby shop.  After flying both a few times I have to say that AS3X does indeed help with the wind.  We are currently living on Lake Conroe here in Texas, and it's as if the wind never stops blowing.  AS3X smooths out some of the bumps caused by the wind, and makes flying in windy conditions a much pleasanter experience.  

The crashed Carbon Cub was a good deal, and I'm glad I got a pre-crashed one, saved me some crying.  The flaps default to the gear switch on Spektrum radios, on or off.  My DX7s has a three position switch for flaps, and it took several calls to Horizon before someone finally found the correct combination of radio settings to reroute the flaps to the three position flap switch. In case someone else is trying to figure this out, the key is to set the wing type to 2 ailerons, 1 flap, and then to set the default flap switch position to -100%.

I flew my Carbon Cub before I had the flaps sorted out and turning on the flaps caused the plane to do a loop close to the ground and to crash.  Be careful with those flaps till you figure out how to fly the plane, it is a little tricky to use the flaps.

Both planes are quite fun to fly, and I have to say that now I'll probably only buy ultra micros that have AS3X.

Aug 3, 2013

Tx-R (Transmitter Ready) Airplanes - The verdict!

Back in February I posted about a getting two more Tx-R airplanes.  In retrospect that was probably a mistake.  The final story is that if you don't have a radio that the AnyLink adapter can draw power from, Tx-R with AnyLink is a real pain.  To the point that I did not ever feel like flying any of my planes with AnyLink.  For folks that use Tactic radios Tx-R is probably great.  The fact of the matter is, if you already own a Spektrum Radios, its allot easier to just buy BNF airplanes from Horizon.

I put all my Tx-R micro airplanes up for consignment at the local hobby shop, and bought a few more Horizon micros...

May 4, 2013

Extra 300 Profile with KFm-4 Airfoil

Recently there has been a revolution within the model aircraft community surrounding the KF airfoil.  One day while surfing the Flite Test site  I ran across an interview that was done with Dick Kline, the inventor of the KF airfoil.  The interview is in the format of a YouTube video, but the video is far less interesting than the audio, I'd recommend just turning it on and letting the audio run.  The audio is fascinating.

After listening to the interview with Dick Kline, I knew I had to try the KF airfoil on a plane.  I was in the process of building a new R\C Powers - Extra 300 profile foamy, so I decided that it would be a good test platform for the KFm-4 airfoil.

I've flown the plane several times now, and I have to say that the airfoil makes a noticeable difference in the performance of the airplane.  The plane in general seems to handle better all around, especially landings, which seem to be better due to less wing rocking tendency at low speed.

Another benefit was the elimination of the carbon fiber spar in the wing, due to the lamination of three pieces of foam to create the stepped airfoil.  The plane does have a few bamboo rods for bracing, but that is all I've used, and so far the wings are still attached...

Apr 30, 2013

Foam Airplane Construction Techniques

Profile planes are fun to build due to the simplicity of construction, however they lack a certain aesthetic appeal.  Quite a while ago, I started experimenting with several different construction techniques to make foam scratch-builds more appealing to the eye.

I created foam wings with true airfoils by using ribs on top of the bottom sheet of foam, and then folded the wing back over itself onto the airfoils.  For fuselages I created box air frames much like you'd do when creating a larger balsa wood model.  However, much of what I was experimenting with was fairly labor intensive, and while it looked better it was still blue foam.

I've been following Flite Test ever since they started up, and while I have not yet tried any of the plans from their swappable series, I have to say I have been impressed with the aesthetics of these airplanes.  The best part is, people smarter than myself have come up with some incredible construction techniques for foam air frames.

If you haven't checked them out, take a look.

As always the flitetest website is a huge wealth of knowledge, and it's more than worth the time for a look around.  Hopefully, during 2013 I'll get time to build one or two of these planes.

Apr 2, 2013

National Naval Aviation Museum

For Thanksgiving 2012, we decided to drive to Florida to be with my wife family for the holidays.  From our current home in Texas this is only a ten hour drive, and we thought it would be a nice chance to see some new country.  It was a good trip, but we didn't get much of a scenery change between south-eastern Texas and northern Florida.  Aside from the swamps of Louisiana, glancing out the window you would think you were still around Texas somewhere...

While visiting, we took a trip to Pensacola to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum.  I didn't realize it till we were there, but Pensacola is the home of the Blue Angles, so the locals must get a free airshow.  I was quite impressed with the fact that this museum is free of charge.  You can of course donate something to help keep the lights on.

On display are several WWI aircraft that I had not seen in other museums I've visited, as well as a whole host of WWII aircraft.  One of the more interesting things I learned, was of the naval training program during WWII that was ran out of Chicago.  Many planes crashed into Lake Michigan as pilots learned to takeoff and land on a training aircraft carrier.  Several of these planes have been brought out of the lake and have been restored.

The museum offers quite a few exhibits related to life in the navy during the world wars, and has many displays related to those times in general.  This is great for those more boring people among us who might enjoy that more than the airplanes.

Free is hard to beat, so if your in the area go have a look-see.


Up close they smell just like an old Volkswagon bug that's been burning oil :)  

Mar 30, 2013

Parkzone Ember 2

I've started to pick up on a trend with the Parkzone airplanes, especially the ultra micros.  They make a good airplane, and then they refine it and make a great airplane, and they charge the same.  So, wait for the second version of the airplane :)

On a whim in the hobby shop, I picked up an Ember 2, got a good deal on it, otherwise I probably would not have been interested.  However, having owned a Vapor and having really enjoyed its slow flight characteristics and easy fly attitude, I had a feeling the Ember 2 would be similar.  

If you've flown a Vapor, the Ember 2 feels right at home, it doesn't fly exactly the same, but its comparable.   I'm having more fun with the Ember 2, than I had with my Vapor.  Turns out, the Vapor I had started to act up after several month and the linear servos would get really twitchy during flight.  I have a feeling it was a problem on the brick somewhere, but it was being manifest through excessive servo movement. 

I've had the Ember 2 for three months now, and it hasn't given me any problems.  Flight times are in excess of 10 minutes with a 150 mah battery.  Touch and goes are fun with this plane, but it's so light you have to carry quite a bit of power otherwise it will quickly stop after a touch...  I don't think I've ever looped the plane, nor have I rolled it. I suppose given the right conditions and with some coaxing it'd be capable of a loop, and a rudder roll but the roll would be ugly.  

On my DX7s have have both the right and left sticks set to control the rudder, and then I fly it like any other four channel.  Also, this plane was a RTF, so I got a E-Tomic transmitter with it, I've used it several times, and while it's not much of a radio, it is pretty effective for the ultra micro line.  

If you can get a deal on one, it'd be worth picking it up.

Mar 2, 2013

The Museum of Flight

As you may have noticed, recently I put up a few posts about the local aviation museums I used to frequent. I was noting while looking for pictures for those posts that we have been to several other aviation museums around the country that are of merit.  In the next few post I'll try to touch on a few of those, and then perhaps when I visit a new museum I'll keep the blog up to date.

While living in Oregon it was not uncommon to take a trip or two a year up to the Seattle area for one reason or another.  Seattle is of course home to Boeing, one of the worlds most well known aircraft manufactures.  Boeing has a great museum, called The Museum of Flight, as you might guess it has many Boeing aircraft, but thankfully they let a few of their competitors store some of their old planes there as well.

This is another museum that is well worth the time, effort and money to go and see.


Feb 28, 2013

Evergreen Aviation Museum

In April we moved from Yamhill, Oregon to Willis, Texas.  One of the things that we miss about back home is the fantastic aviation museums that we had within a short driving distance of our house.  The first museum I'd like to mention is Evergreen Aviation Museum which is located right across the road from the McMinnville Airport.

Evergreen is an interesting collection of aircraft, much more assorted than you'd imagine and it's a private collection.  The centerpiece of it all is the Spruce Goose which is a sight to behold.  Without actually seeing the plane in person, you'll never fully be able to appreciate the immensity of the undertaking.

Recently Evergreen added a Space Museum and a water park. I believe they have plans for a hotel as well. I'm not so big on boring things like water parks but the museums are really spectacular.  Just have your wallet ready... it's not the cheapest form of entertainment.

Here is a shot I have of the museum from the air.  I took this a few years ago on a small plane departing McMinnville.  The main museum is on the left, the IMAX is in the middle and the Space Museum is on the right.

A side note:
This is not only a Museum, there also happens to be an AMA flying field right out back.  DeAlton field is worth a stop if your already at the museum. You'll most likely see several folks out flying.


Evergreen Aviation Museum from the air
A large plane parked under the wing of the HK-1

The Spruce Goose HK-1, well 1/10th of it...

Feb 27, 2013

Tillamook - NAS (Naval Air Station)

My hometown back in Oregon is fairly famous, due to the local population of cows that produce milk that the local creamery turns into all sorts of dairy based goodness, and then markets all over the world.  Tillamook Cheese, ice cream, butter, etc.  That's all good and well, but it has lost some of awesomeness due to corporate greed, and new management.  I have to say their add campaigns went from classy to trashy, and the product is on a slow downhill slide thanks to a bunch of cows living in a barn on the east side of the state.  Well probably can't blame it on the cows actually, more likely on the management.  Ha and you thought this was a blog about model airplanes!

Thankfully, the town has another redeeming quality.  It is home to what was once Naval Air Station Tillamook.  The history is quite fascinating, but you can find it all over the internet.  The quick story is the navy needed a home for K-Class blimps, so they built several bases on each coast of the U.S. with Tillamook being one of the lucky towns. 

When I was growing up, there were two blimp hangars out at the air base, sadly hangar two was lost to a fire.  Hangar one became home to one of the most unique Air Museums in the U.S.  Unfortunately, many people don't know the story of the K-Class blimps, the bases that were constructed, or that today one of them houses an impressive collection of historic aircraft.  One of the more interesting features of this museum is that many of the aircraft are still flown.  As a kid growing up it was not unusual to see old WWII planes flying overhead, made for lots of staring up at the sky.  

If your ever in the Portland, Oregon area, your only an hour away from Tillamook.  Take the time to go out and visit the museum.  


Tillamook Air Museum

An old target practice drone

A shot from inside the hangar

Feb 23, 2013

The Smithsonian - National Air & Space Museum - Museum on the National Mall

Shortly after graduating from high school, I took a trip to Pennsylvania to visit distant relatives.  While visiting, one of the memorable places we went was Washington D.C., which aside from the politicians turns out to be a really neat place.

The obvious reason people go to D.C. is the Smithsonian, it's the grand-daddy of Museums.  The one that really stands out though is the National Air & Space Museum.  Back when I went, Udvar-Hazy center was not yet opened, so the last hyphen in the blog post title would not have been necessary.  However, now we have to distinguish between the museum on the national mall, and that other one that has airplanes in it ;)

Some day perhaps I'll get back to the Udvar-Hazy portion of the museum, but till then I have fond memories of our nations air museum.  Most planes housed in the NASM are of historic significance, and as such it is remarkable to be able to see them and get glimpse back into history.


Feb 22, 2013

Micro EP Tx-R Model's Flight Review

In my post on the Albatros ultra micro, I mentioned that I'd purchased two more.  I ended up with a Nieuport 17 and a Playmate.  One can not deny that both planes have good looks, but beauty is more than skin deep:)  After flying these ultra micros on several missions down the street and through the neighbors yard, I've discovered some things.  

First the Playmate, this plane flies great for the most part, and it is aimed at a beginner.  The unexpected and somewhat unacceptable fact is that without power, the plane has no rudder authority.  When you chop the power, your stuck going in the direction you where going when you chopped the power.  Obviously, if your headed toward something and you think your going to crash, your only option is to throttle up and hope you can turn tight enough to avoid it.

The Nieuport 17 is the first bi-plane I've flown, and as such, I'm not sure how much I can criticize, but I can say this plane is not for a beginner, and its not really intended to be an outdoor plane.  The issue I've had is that it stalls incredibly easily, and I've ended up crashing it several times just trying to fly avoid something so slowing and turning...  Once again, you have to keep some air going over the rudder, but more importantly you have to keep the speed up in the turns so you don't stall.  One not so hard crash resulted in a landing gear that pulled out of the foam, below is the fix.

Both plains are incredibly loud for ultra micros, all the noise coming from the motor gearbox.  That isn't so bad, the worst part has been flying these with my DX7s has been very annoying.  Tx-R is a great idea, and I think I'd be more apt to enjoy it, if my transmitter didn't have to have an auxiliary battery pack to power the AnyLink transmitter, the DX6i would be a simpler setup for Tx-R.  I forgot to unplug the pack from the AnyLink and sure enough I ran it dead beyond recharge-ability.   I think I'll make my own pack for it next, but still its another annoyance...  One reason I like ultra micros is because they are simple to fly, having issues with planes, radios, batteries etc is part of the hobby, but one wishes to avoid that as much as possible...

Overall, the planes don't fly terrible, but I really am not sure I'd buy another in the future...

Feb 17, 2013

Albatros Micro EP Tx-R

Aside from one foam glider and one balsa glider, I haven't had any airplanes from the Tower Hobbies\Great Planes brands.  With the recent release of transmitter-ready aircraft from Flyzone, I decided I'd give their ultra micros a try.  My wife bought me a Albatros for Christmas.  The shipping box is ridiculously large so I thought she bought me a larger plane :)  The plane came with an Any-Link adapter which was a promotion Great Planes ran around the holidays.

I ran into a small issue. A special cable is needed to connect to my DX7s.  Two cables come with the Any-Link, but if you're the lucky owner of a few radios, you'll need a different kind of adapter cable.   I'm  awaiting my cable in the mail now but my initial impression of the Albatros has been good.  The TX-R version of the plane only comes with a battery, 1s lipo 130 mah, and a charger. The charger has a low profile which is nice, but it does not have a charging jack for an AC outlet like the new chargers for the Parkzone models.  Also, I found the bottom battery door doesn't come off very easily which is both good and bad.

As for the airplane itself, I'm fairly impressed with the looks of it.  I can't say the foam or plastic look to be of any lesser quality than the Parkzone planes and the fit of the parts looks pretty good.  One thing about this particular plane that looks odd is the incidents of the prop thrust angle.  On a micro scale plane, having a quarter inch of down thrust in the prop looks pretty funny.  Every one that sees it asks why the nose is bent.

The plane has peaked my interested enough with its cheap price point and decent looks that I've ordered two more.  Two more ultra micros that cost me less than $100. That's pretty incredible.  The true test will be in the flying.

Introductory Flight - Hooks Field - Spring, Tx

For Christmas my wife purchased me an introductory flight off of Groupon.  I finally got around to redeeming  my flight, and I have to say it was a great experience.

Lake Conroe

Feb 2, 2013

Radio Upgrade - Spectrum DX7s

Needless to say, the radios on the market today are a far cry from what they where even 5 years ago.  The main difference, of course, is that now everything has gone the path of 2.4ghz.  This is great, no interference, no cloths pins on the end of your fishing pole length antenna, etc.  However, now instead of just worrying about positive or negative shift and the correct crystal, we are locked into (with some exceptions) the brand of R/C radio equipment we decide to go with.

I've owned several radios, Airtronics, Futaba, HITEC, and Spektrum, and really they have all been very good radios.  The reason I decided to go with Spektrum at the time, was the fact that Horizon Hobby had create a line of bind and fly, ultra micros that worked with their radios.  Proprietary stuff, so if you want to fly their micros, you bought a Spektrum radio.  Looking back that turned out to be a good decision for me, I can't say I've ever lost a plane due to radio issues, and I don't have an terrible gripes about the prices or anything else for that matter.

The DX6i was my first Spektrum Radio, then I bought a DX5e.  Ended up giving the DX5e to a friend, and when I moved to Texas I found I had a distant relative here that wanted to learn to fly, so he bought my DX6i, and I found myself without a radio.  Well almost without a radio, I still had Parkzone E-Tomic radio that came with one of my ultra micros, so I limped along.  Thankfully, the limping stopped after about a week :)  as I decided that a DX7s was just what I needed.

My reasoning was something like this, 6 channels had treated me fine, but I did have a few planes where I had used all six channels.  The DX6i lacked a knob, so flaps for example are on a switch.  I missed the slider s on my HITEC Optic 6, so perhaps the knob on the DX7s would give me the level of control I wanted for for a flap channel.  The DX8 would be nice, but for the extra $100, you basically get two things, a back-lit display, and another channel.  So, it seemed like for the money the DX7s had the features I wanted, at a price I could hack.

So far, no buyers remorse.  Moving up from a DX6i, you immediately notice a difference in the feel of the case.  While the DX6i feels fairly light, the case being mostly plastic, the DX7s feels heavier and the case has some actual metal on it.  The grips going around the back of the case are rubbery and help you keep a grip when your hands are sweaty.

The pluses 

  1. When you leave it on accidentally, it beeps and vibrates to let you know you forgot something...
  2. It's capable of telemetry, with limiting warnings that can be set to vibrate the transmitter.
  3. It has a light on the front panel that shows you when it's plugged in and charging
  4. There is a SD card slot for updating the programming, and for model storage, if you actually need it for model storage it's time to have a garage sale. 
  5. Throttle High warning on start
The issues

  1. I realize it was a way for Spektrum to distinguish the higher end radios, but seriously, for the price a back-light should be included, I mean $5 wrist watches have them, so come on fella's...
  2. The DX7s has a rechargeable battery pack, and even though it hardly ever needs recharging, I see it as a pain.  The DX6i had four rechargeable AA batteries that you could just pop in.  Ooops batteries are dead, just pick up some AA at the store and your ready to go.  If you forget to charge the DX7s and find yourself with a dead radio, forget about flying.
  3. Switch stickers.  I don't know if any radio manufacture has it figured out, but I'm not fond of switch stickers because inevitably they will peel off, especially if the radio gets any kind of direct sunlight for more than a few minutes... Obviously don't leave your radio in the sun, but perhaps engraved switch info or something would be nice, or an extra set of stickers?

All in all, it's a great radio, looking forward to putting some more flights on it, and maybe one of these days I'll actually buy a telemetry module.  

Jan 1, 2013

Blade MSR-x

Helicopters and I have had an iffy relationship for several years now.  While it's so enticing to see them in their shiny boxes on the shelf at the local hobby shop, the first hand experience of spending more time fixing than flying has kept me in purchase paralysis.  My first helicopter was a Blade CX, yellow canopy black stripes and it was a fun easy to fly heli.  Things quickly went downhill from that point.

The next helicopter I owned was an Exceed Falcon.  Somehow it was a little beyond me at the time...  I'd have a little mishap and then the work would start, trying to get rid of all the vibrations so it'd fly right again.  Not much fun actually...

Things got really nuts when I brought home a Blade CP, had it for about a week, then decided that I really might kill myself if I wasn't careful.  Carbon fiber blades spinning around 1500 rpm, on something that is like a ping pong ball in a tornado when your learning to fly. Probably not a good idea. 

I sold the Blade CP, and bought a Blade MCx with the Schweizer 300 body.  Talk about slightly disappointing. Full forward flight speed of a tenth of a foot per hour, but it was really great at a stable hover and it made flying a helicopter as simple as running the throttle up and down.  The kind of helicopter that could bore a guy in 10 minutes.  That's where I was content to stay and I pretty well tried to forget about them.  

This last summer around late August, I'd looked at the Horizon Hobby page and noted that there were a few new ultra-micro helicopters.  The one that caught my eye was the Blade MSR as the product videos touted it as easy to fly.  I always fall for that...  Anyhow, the local hobby shop was out of MSR's but they did happen to have a Blade MSRx, which I promptly purchased for what turned out to be a great price.  The local hobby shop in Conroe, Texas has turned out to be a good spot for deals.  

The MSRx is nothing like the MSR as it has no fly-bar.  Instead it uses the new A3SX three axis stabilization gyro from Horizon Hobby.  Don't get the idea that this will make the Helicopter incredibly simple to learn to fly... you'll just disappoint yourself.  There is still a fairly steep learning curve, but with my fairly mild previous experience, I have been thoroughly enjoying the MSRx.  I have not yet mastered fixed pitch heli flight, but zipping up and down the road, doing tight banking turns, hovering, and doing low pirouettes has been a blast.  During the week while programming, this helicopter has turned out to be my go to machine for a little relaxing flight.  My only gripe has to do with flight times. I'm in need of new batteries but right now I'm averaging just under 5 minutes per flight.  With new batteries I'm hoping to get around 6 minutes of airtime.

To wrap it up, if your somewhat patient and wanting to develop your heli skills, this is a really great little heli. The low weight keeps repairs to a minimum and I haven't had a crash that has called for a spare part.  It's a keeper!

Orvis Blade MCX2 Helicopter (Google Affiliate Ad)

Time Flies

The year of 2012 flew by fairly quickly with relatively few blog posts.  My year was spent mainly in front of a computer, writing pages of code, so I didn't have quite as much time to fly as I'd have liked.  Our family moved to Texas, into the Houston area, so as you might imagine things are a little different here than they are up in Oregon.

The house we are now renting is surrounded by trees, so flying near home is more challenging.  Thankfully there is a narrow street in front of the house, and with the miniaturization of our hobby, this provides enough clear air to fly a few things...  The lifestyle changes brought on by living in Texas, working from home and working all the time, have made the ultra-micros an indispensable part of my hangar.

So, going into 2013, I've got a back log of post's that I did not have time to complete last year...  Let's hope for more airtime in 2013.