RADIO CONTROL AIRCRAFT

Aircraft have always held my fascination since childhood. In the 1950's, watching all the strange experimental aircraft at Convair in San Diego was a popular pastime, especially when the B36's took off from Lindbergh Field. I had lots of plastic model aircraft hanging from my bedroom ceiling - the usual boy stuff. In high school Don Buczynski and I started tinkering with radio control. Since only rich people could afford a "real" i.e. multi-channel proportional RC systems we started a bit more modest. Our system was a "Controlaire-5" receiver with a rubber-band wound escapement for rudder-only control. OK, you that remember those can cringe now... The transmitter had ONE button for control. Push once and hold for left turns and twice and hold for right turns. To end the turn let go of the button. Two problems with this scenario - was it 1 for left and 2 for right or 'tother way 'round? You usually got it mixed up. Also, any CB radio operator within five miles would transmit and the plane started doing the funky chicken. Then it hit the ground whence it did a good impression of a DEAD chicken. 

Let's fast-forward a bit - say 35 years or so. I had spent four years in the USAF and had had a pilot's license. I let the license go because 1.) I developed a medical condition that precluded me from piloting a plane and 2.) I became a total adherent to "A good landing is one you live through and a GREAT landing is where you get to reuse the airplane". So not wanting to press my luck with a BAD landing I decided that staying on the ground is a good thing. Don still lives near San Diego with his awesome HO train layout and I am living in Washington State thinking of getting back into radio control aircraft. My wife wanted to buy me an ARF (Almost Ready to Fly) airplane for my birthday. So we went to the hobby shop where I select something I should be able to handle. I know better than to get a fighter plane. They are fast and maneuverable while I am not. Fast nor maneuverable that is. I selected a Gypsy Moth, A foam biplane that should be slow enough and stable enough for me to fly - in theory. So after numerous good landings where I am unscathed but the airplane is "scathed" to various degrees I finally auger the poor thing into a tree and shred it bigtime. I had learned a lot but now I need another victim. Enter the "Slow-Stick", a REALLY slow and forgiving aircraft. If I couldn't fly THIS, I'm taking up needlepoint! That was the ticket. That aircraft survived my piloting (mostly). When it got to the point that it was more patches than airplane I retired it.

I've now played with the notion of a camera aboard an aircraft. The 2nd Slow-Stick I purchased became the "Eight-ball Express", a photo-recon aircraft, A fancy name for a goofy looking plane with a small wireless video-camera attached. Maybe I can be like the big kids and fly like the Air Force UAV's. Good idea in theory but the moving camera transmission was frought with multipath and antenna polarization issues. Fancy terminology for "It sucks". I did get some interesting videos of the Slow-Stick getting hung up on an antenna wire  and several video close-ups of clumps of grass.

  

The second flight of the 8-ball "video-stick" was better. This is a frame capture of part of the flight:

HDTV it ain't but you can see features like my barn and one of the ham radio antenna masts. the big "boonie" tires make it easier to fly off of grass and they provide a point of reference. I also tried a remote-controlled camera on board.Results?

          

A couple other aircraft I have built...

 

OK - So much for wussy little airplanes...Now it's time to get serious!

My scratch designed, scratch built L4 Grasshopper: (Still a work in progress)

   

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