And, just like that, the Summer flying season is over. Gone are the hot, humid days- enter the cool (cold?) and windy Fall days. Arguably the best time of the year to fly, in my opinion, as long as the wind doesn’t get too windy. The panoply of color in the distance as you look out over the field and runway to the North and Northeast, along with the clear air and lowering humidity, put a spark not only into nitro-engines, but our own “engines”. (For you “wet” flyers out there, cooler air is denser, giving more bang for your buck if you increase the nitro content slightly).
I won’t bore anyone with the reasons why I didn’t fly as much as I would have liked this season- it’s a broken record that you’ve heard before. Only the circumstances continue to get more complicated. I believe the condition is know as “Life”, which is what happens while you’re planning to do with your life- as in, “the best laid plans of mice and men…”. Herewith, some vignettes of the last few months, which included both the Rhinebeck Jamboree and the N.E.A.T. Fair.
Speaking of Rhinebeck, it was another great, wonderful weekend, except for the lack of full scale pilots to participate in the air shows on Saturday and Sunday. If it wasn’t for the veteran announcer Jim filling in all over the place, it would have been more boring to the layman than watching paint dry. RC aircraft demo flights once again helped out. Before I started flying on Friday I faced Southwest and had a moment of silence for my dear, departed Bristol M1, lost last year. I had hoped to have its replacement ready for 2012, but- see above under “Life”, etc. It’s going to be great when it’s finished, though…
Had a slightly different squadron makeup this year (the trusty 46-size Fokker D-VII is still awaiting a new firewall) consisting of the Great Planes DR-1 triplane (four good flights, three good landings- amazing) two ParkZone 40-inch wingspan WWI foamies (their SE-5A and Albatros) and a recently acquired Bucker Jungman from BP Hobbies (more on this last new item later). Once again it was good to see a few of our guys up there, and kudos to Bob Bennett for his first flights at the Aerodrome!
The Good News is that the Albatros is a GREAT flyer, even in a frisky wind. Clever engineering, and someone did their homework on this one. The Bad News is that a gesture of camaraderie turned very bad when I offered my spotter some stick time on the first flight for the day of the SE-5A, and five seconds after taking over, he mid-aired with another poor slob in a similar-sized Eindecker, resulting in an explosion of foam and balsa (actually, more of a “thud” and floating debris). Mind you, both pilots involved were veterans- it was the only mid-air of the weekend. Neither of the principals involved was very happy, but as the saying goes, “Compost Happens”.
Every season there seems to be one technical problem that- regardless of how much you try to figure out- refuses, until you’ve just about ready to trash the SOB, to be resolved. This year’s candidate for the RC Chinese Water Torture award started off on a positive note. Enter Bob, a fellow WRAM member who regularly does reviews for RC aviation magazines. He was looking to dispose of a very nice mid-size electric ARF which he had recently done a review on. He had done some work past just assembly to have a number of problems fixed, which is the case with most (if not all) kits or ARF’s in the market these days.
The aircraft in question was the aforementioned electric BP Hobbies 1/6 scale Bucker Jungman; a stable and honest-flying 1930’s German biplane trainer. He was eager to have it depart his premises, which, like most of us who’ve been around the hobby for any length of time, were already bursting with flying models. It’s a good-looking item, and the price was quite attractive, including motor, ESC, servos, and a nifty arming switch, all installed. It has a 55 inch wingspan, which meant it just fit in my new, recently acquired aircraft transport vehicle (more on this later) without taking the wings off, which is a pain in the buttinsky with any biplane.
Personal preferences regarding the tweaking of little things like rigging, etc. aside, I was looking forward to having it ready for both Rhinebeck and the N.E.A.T. Fair. I took out a home equity loan and sent for two new FlitePower 3000m lipo batteries and set it up to go, all programmed into my trusty Airtronics S8000 transmitter. Testing it out in the driveway, with everything hooked up and double checked, I slowly advanced the throttle, and… ESC cutoff. Once, twice, three times. Couldn’t get the motor to full blast on 7 out of 10 tries, regardless of what I tried- damn!
A chat with Bob resulted in no clear answers. He reported no similar problems during the time he had the plane up to when he handed it over. In the days that followed I spoke with a few other pilots with long-term electron experience, and, aside from the possibility of a blown ESC (a generic Chinese offering) I was advised to check the batteries. The rationale being that possibly, there was a bad cell which was being detected by the ESC, which prevented the max pull from the battery, and cutting off early, preventing (supposedly) damage to either or both.
Having decided long ago to take a career path other than Electrical Engineering, I took these SME’s (Subject Matter Experts) at their word, and checked the batteries with a watt meter, and one of those handy devices that show you total cell voltage and status for each cell (if you fly electric, you can’t do without either). Shazam! BOTH new batteries had one cell that was not putting out max voltage. Talk about being pissed. I spoke with Tower Hobbies next day at a controlled level of fury, and they agreed to replace same if I returned the defective ones on my dime.
Shortly thereafter, two new batteries arrived, all cells generating the nominal max voltage per cell. Hurray- time to check things out again. The problem wiped out flying at Rhinebeck, and now it was time for the N.E.A.T. Fair, so Mr. Jungman took a ride to the Peaceful Valley campsite in Shinhopple, NY and took its place on the flight-line, yellow Oracover shining. Came time to put everything together to go fly, and then- damn. Same problem. I was resigned to replacing the ESC as the next step, and I took comfort in knowing the fair would be the perfect place to find a replacement.
At that point, either the RC gods had their fill of tormenting me, or I stepped in goose poop and didn’t know it, etc. In yet another example of truth being stranger than fiction, an older couple walked by at the exact time I was muttering under my breath regarding the state of affairs. The husband kindly paid me a compliment on my fleet, and after a cordial exchange regarding the Jungman in particular, I lamented that I was off to find a new ESC, and explained my predicament.
They older couple looked at each other, and the husband smiled, saying simply “check your spinner”. The mild surprise / disbelief that I tried to hide at his response must have nonetheless been all over my face, as he continued, with the look of a man who had been there, and done that: “Had the same problem a while back. Stupid pressure collet of the adapter doesn’t hold on at higher RPM’s, and the motor shaft spins in the inside of the collet, The ESC thinks the motor doesn’t know what to do, so it shuts down”.
He went on to direct me to a vendor that sold prop adaptors that secured with an actual nut you could tighten with a wrench, as opposed to the bullet spinner now in place (you know the type- the ones with the hole near the front you break off a number of small hex tools or screwdrivers trying to tighten). In what was yet another Rod Serling moment awhile later (after I purchased two or three new adapters / collets) I ran into them again at one of the food vendors, where the husband led me to yet another vendor, where two more “perfect” adapters were for sale at a large discount.
I proceeded to thank both the husband and his wife for their help, and we all laughed at the eerily perfect timing of our first (and probably only) meeting ever on the planet, unless we both show up again next year at the fair. I ended up using parts from three of the adapters I ended up buying for the best fit. Later on, as the motor throttled without hesitation to full song, I added yet another bit of evidence to my mental file as to the existence of God, and that He does, in fact, have a sense of humor… and, from time to time, pity on poor RC pilots. As it turned out, between the 40+ wind gusts and a wonky tail wheel that weekend, Mr. Jungman (literally, “Young Man”) and I still have not had a chance to go up together.
I lost a near and dear friend of the family recently. It broke my heart to see him go- a trusty and loyal companion. He was only 20 years old, but had a lot of mileage- literally. Over 264,000 plus, to be exact. One of the better transportation conveyances Chevy and GM (or for that matter, anyone else) has put out in quite a while, my trusty Astro van gave up the ghost- or more precisely, its transmission- after plunking down almost $4,000 (ouch) in March for a major “bionic” replacement of many worn components that had lasted longer than they had a right to.
It was running like a champ afterwards, better than it had in a while. I looked forward to sprucing up the both the inside and outside a bit, and to many more miles enjoying its great cargo capacity, all-wheel drive, etc. when- in late July coming down 684 one evening- it started making a noise like a cat being stepped on, and, poof, it was all over. I was torn between spending another $4,000 for a new tranny (neither Mrs. Fred nor Brandy the wonder dog were in favor) or biting the bullet and donating it, which we did- to an agency that helps veterans.
We had rolled the economic dice and had come up snake eyes. Here’s to you, Astro, wherever you are. There will never be another like you. A shiny new Honda Odyssey now sits in the driveway, with its new car aroma and tricky electronic doo-dads trying their best to make me forget. Got a good deal on what is a first time lease for us- basically, I gave them a check for $360 and rolled out the door with a new “minivan” (or, more accurately, a car with a VERY large trunk). Folks compliment me on the new wheels, but when they ask how I like it, I answer “it’s nice, but talk to me in 20 years”.
Finally, 2013 renewals will begin at the next meeting- November 20th. Make sure you renew your AMA for next year, and if you plan to renew at the meeting, bring your 2013 card, or a receipt indicating you’re paid for 2013 and the card is pending arrival. Proof of Westchester County residence is also going to be required. We’re getting together for one more Clean Up Day on Sunday, 11/11 at 10 AM, rain date 11/10. Thanks again also to those who helped with the estate sale for Al Tutrinoli, and those who contributed to the club’s coffers in return for some nice items. In the meanwhile, keep an eye on each other, talk and help one another while you’re out there, and until next time….
\…. Fly safely, but FLY !