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.