07 September, 2013

What! No Wings!

Twice this year I've been at the control of a craft with just a rudder & throttle for directional control. Firstly for a week on holiday and secondly on a day trip with some friends. No wings, no tail, no ailerons & no elevator - sounds like not a lot to do then?

Well the mode of transport was a narrowboat on both occasions and very enjoyable they were too. The week holiday was from Willington Marina in Derbyshire during which we had mixed but dry weather. Some days were calm & hot, others were cool and windy, the wind having more of an influence than might first be expected on a vessel weighing around 20 tons! Having my wife and daughter with me worked very well as it meant they could enjoy looking after the locks whilst I struggled with controlling the boat, hmm or was the other way around ;0)

We travelled along the Trent and Mersey Canal and visited Shugborough Hall then we turned back at a winding hole a little further along the canal. Turning around a narrowboat is fairly straightforward provided it's done slowly the technique being to get the bow into the V shape winding (turning) hole and then swinging the stern almost to the far side of the hole before reversing out back into the canal. Some straightening up after that is needed but that's pretty much it. The last day was really windy and steering in the crosswind was quite tricky but we coped okay. 

Having enjoyed that relaxing holiday earlier in the year I was pleased at the opportunity get on the canal again nearer home when a group of us hired a narrowboat for the day. It was a fantastic day, calm hot weather and a couple of other chaps on board to share the driving. How many miles did we cover? Not many, didn't want to, it was more about relaxing and enjoying the experience which we certainly did so the journey was just Middlewich to Lostock Gralam where we stopped and a fantastic picnic courtesy of our wives.

Guess what holiday we've got booked for next year. Now if I can find a nice bit of canal for my catalina...hmm :¬)

Avro Vulcan XH558 Over The Gate

Well I've been out soaring at "The Gate" again and just like last time found there was more than just models in the sky. This time the big bird was none other than XH558 and what a sight it was.

The weather on Saturday 31st August was quite breezy and gusty when I arrived about 2pm so that was pleasing! I wasn't out to do anything too adventurous, just get lots of flying in and practice landings so I chose to just take the SAS Fusion. I accepted the offer of a launch from Keith Rathbone for the first flight which passed without incident and I launched all the following flights myself; I'm not sure how many, 4 I think. Considering each flight lasted at least 20 minutes that's a fair bit of flying so the afternoon soon progressed.

Then about 1615 hrs there was was the unmistakable sight and sound of the vulcan flying  fairly close to us and east to west. Being high up in the peaks we were able to watch it disappearing into the distance for some time, in the general direction of North Wales. It was then that I remembered two things, Rhyl airshow was on the same day and my camera was in my car parked a short distance down the road.

There was some discussion as to whether or not it was likely to come back our way but no-one really knew and we carried on flying. By this time the wind had dropped a little but the lift had improved significantly. The air was smooth and I was able to take the Fusion up as high as was visibly safe. Whilst engaged in this activity some other flyers arrived with chevron wings to engage in some combat with each other. I accidentally scored a hit on one of them, well it might have been an accident :o) and that made me a target , great fun.

Well what a good day it had been, lots of great model flying and seeing the Vulcan fly past. The only thing could improve the day would be to see it again with my camera at the ready but it was time to pack up. 

So at the back of the car with everything packed away in the boot I looked longingly in the general direction of North Wales and there in the distance was a plume of grey smoke, growing longer and longer. I wasn't going to miss it this time! I'd got a number of lenses with me including a 300mm maximum zoom job (that's equivelant to 600mm for a 35mm SLR) but I went for 40-150mm zoom as that would be easier to hand hold in the breeze. Having grabbed the camera I looked again, it was coming almost straight for us. Fantastic. Did I get the photos I wanted? No, never satisfied some people! I did get some not too bad ones though.

12 August, 2013

Sloping Off Again

My First Visit to Edge Top 02/08/13
B Test in progress
At last I'm taking advantage of my membership of the L&MMGA

01/08/2013 week I visited "Edge Top" which was a bit disappointing as the promised southerly wind wasn't very strong and it came form ESE. Good job I had taken my power assisted DG 1000 with me. It also gave me opportunity to meet a few fellow members and watch a silent flight "B" test in progress when the wind picked up a little later on.


My first visit to The Gate 09/08/13
Ivan shows how it's done
09/08/2013 I went to "The Gate" - no shortage of wind on this day and it was straight on the slope. I measured the wind speed later in the afternoon, a pleasant 32mph gusting 40mph .

I always have trouble launching the Fusion myself when there's a good blow so Ivan Bradbury obliged.

My first visit to The Gate 09/08/13
With some weight up front it's...
Ivan suggested that in these conditions I should stick some lead on the front so 25 grammes later I gave it go and it was like launching a different model. Odd that I had failed to spot the problem because if I'd seen that behaviour on a powered model I would have soon been on the case of it's sensitive elevator. Anyway, I can take some friendly advice so a big thank you for that, the model has been transformed - by the end of the afternoon I was launching it into the 32mph (gusting 40) wind time and time again just for the sake of it - piece of cake !;o)
My first visit to The Gate 09/08/13

My first visit to The Gate 09/08/13
Sunny skies and...
The wind brought sun & clouds at various times and soon after one launch a pair of ravens joined me. Curious to find out who was following who I circled and the ravens followed so I repeated the circle and the same happened again! There had also been a family of sparrowhawks flying through about 30 minutes earlier. Ah, the great outdoors and a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon .

My first visit to The Gate 09/08/13
...threatening cloudy skies in quick succession.

My first visit to The Gate 09/08/13
I got a visit from a pair of ravens too.

07 August, 2013

Sea Vixen Airborne At Last

Our Sea Vixens, mine is 133
Last November I ordered a Durafly Sea Vixen which it turned out was not in stock after all. Then early this year it became available again and was duly dispatched.

By this time other projects had been started and though a straight forward assembly was all that it needed the Sea Vixen sat in it's box 6 months or so.

The retractable undercarriage has worked fine, so far.

During this time my friend Richard had decided he fancied one too and consequently my first flight with one of these models was the maiden flight of Richard's model. It was easy to fly, had a reasonable turn of speed and landed easily too. Well at long last, 2 days ago actually, I finally took my Sea Vixen out for it's maiden flight and I'm pleased to say the same characteristics were revealed in my model.
Landing is a piece of cake.

The only problem we have experienced so far is that after recent rain and sunshine our grass strip was very lush which produced problems after it was cut.  The cuttings were of some concern but the residual damp stickiness was more of an issue, preventing the model from picking up decent ground speed for take-off. I managed to get mine away but Richard's tended to veer sideways and the lost speed couldn't be recovered before the end of the strip. I'm sure all will be fine in a day or two.

31 July, 2013

One Tucano Finished - Another Still Waits

Fresh from the factory!
In my first post on the RCM&E 2013 Mass Build titled "Two Tucanos" I reported that I would be building two and that the slope version would be finished first, well....
A variety of events slowed down even getting started in the first place, the Catalina being one of them but the were others too. The result was that I ran out of time to get both of them finished in time for the RCM&E/Greenacres 2013 Summer Fly-in and had to put the slope version on the back burner.

Photo Chris Bott at www.modelflying.co.uk
I had the IC version ready enough to test fly with only a few days to spare and prepared for the maiden flight, which didn't take too long because the engine mount came loose and that put a stop to everything. So in the end I did take it to Greenacres for static display but not to fly. At that point there were no stripes on it, no charging socket, no remote glow connection and the engine hadn't been run. As the first photo in the post shows the IC Tucano is now finished and it has flown an number of times. The inverted engine is taking a while to settle down so I'm going to try a special glow plug for 3D and inverted engines, hopefully that will sort it out.

Photo Chris Bott at www.modelflying.co.uk
As it turned out the weather at Greenacres was not good. The average wind speed didn't drop below 17mph all weekend and at times it was gusting a lot more. All the same I did fly on both days, not the Tucano obviously but my old faithful Sportster. Hardly an ideal candidate for the Saturday conditions but since I had telemetry on board I knew that it could fly at 45mph on the level, leaving a few mph to spare above the worst gusts of 38mph! It handled the conditions amazingly well; well actually yes it was blown around a bit but by restricting it to sensible flying for the conditions it was okay. The Sunday was pretty wet but flying conditions were better and some mild aerobatics were possible.

28 May, 2013

YouTube and Firefox

It seems fairly common for Firefox users to suddenly find that some embedded YouTube videos will not play even though they may have done so previously. The problem often being highlighted by the error message "An error occurred. Please try again later". There can be many causes and many fixes but since this problem has occurred for me several times and the fix has been the same each time then I thought it might be useful publish how I dealt with it.

A simple explanation. "Embedded" refers to objects that can exist in their own right but have been used to form part of a web page. A YouTube video is an example of this and for it to play within Firefox uses an added feature (a "plug-in") called "Shockwave Flash". Now just hold onto that concept for moment and we'll move on to the subject of cookies. Cookies are small text files stored on your computer to help websites function as intended by the website designer. Cookies are intended to be beneficial but they have been abused by some and sometimes have problems of their own and it is the latter we are concerned with here as Shockwave Flash stores cookies on your computer to enable it to function as intended. 

Let's review where we are up to then; a YouTube video can be "embeded" in a web page and needs Shockwave Flash to play it.  For Shockwave Flash to function properly small text files called cookies are stored on your computer. There's actually more to it than this but it will do for our purposes here.

The last thing you need to know about is updates and hopefully this is where it all becomes clearer because what happens is that when Firefox and/or Shockwave Flash are updated the information that is in previously stored cookies can be incompatible with the update and so an error occurs, hence the message "An error occurred. Please try again later".  It would be good if  the old cookie was automatically replaced but it isn't, so what's needed is a new compatible cookie and the way this is achieved is simple.

The solution. Deleting the existing cookie will result in a new and therefore compatible cookie being stored next time YouTube is used. There's a quick and dirty way of doing this and a slightly more targeted and cleaner way.

29 April, 2013

Catalina - A Watery End ?

After the maiden flight
Here's my Hobby King Catalina after it's maiden flight.

The weather was a little breezy but not bad and well within the conditions I would expect to be suitable. I decided the maiden flight should be over land or really more to the point, the maiden landing would be on land so that recovery in the event of any power problems would be straightforward.

The aeroplane was pleasant to fly after a little trimming and had sufficient power to combat the breeze. After the necessary trimming out, low speed and stalling tests I was satisfied that landing would not be difficult and carried out a few runs through the landing strip. Only one problem, that breeze was building up and the sky was becoming more overcast. 

On my first landing approach the dull visibility meant that when I descended after passing the hedge at the end of the field the mostly dark front of the model seemed to lose itself in the leafless hedge so an abort was an easy decision to make. The second approach, with a proper breeze now, was proceeding fine except as I neared the landing strip the breeze lift  the model up and slewed it sideways... another abort. Third time and all went well, I had to work the throttle a lot to maintain a good descent and approach over the strip. It did try to float up again in a flurry of a breeze but this time I was ready for it a good landing followed in the middle of the strip. The model looked elegant in the sky and flying from water should provide an interesting alternative to field and slope flying.

Box Contents
All sounds great doesn't it? Well it's not so bad now it's built but as you will see I experienced many problems getting ready for flight. It was a budget buy stated as being "PNF" which I presumed to mean plug and fly, that is plug in a receiver and a battery and it's ready to fly. The idea was that I could quickly get this model in the air inbetween other builds however when I opened the box and surveyed the parts it's clearly more of an ARTF (Almost Ready To Fly).

Okay let's argue that PNF means that you have to plug in (and glue) the parts and then it's ready to fly. Well let's not because to be able to plug in the parts they would have to fit together properly and accurately; they didn't. There were other issues too, so much so that in my opinion whatever PNF is supposed to mean this wasn't one, it's more of an ARTF with issues. I can't criticise the kit enough and just to give an idea here a list of the main issues:
  • The wing halves couldn't be joined because the one of the spars was longer than the other preventing the joining surfaces from meeting. This problem on it's own perhaps isn't too great an issue but it it wasn't on it's own. 

  • The instructions state to fit the ESC (Electronic Speed Controller) in the servo bay, near the front of the aeroplane. There's actually two ESCs, one for each motor and as supplied they can't go in the nose because the wires are only long enough to reach the middle of the wing. Worse still there's nowhere mid wing to put the ESCs, I ended up mounting one on each side of the battery bay so I had to buy suitable wire to make extensions.

  • There was nowhere to put the wing servo wires and motor wires. In some parts the main spar was deep enough into the wing to allow the servos leads some recessing but it wasn't clear whether this was intentional or not. I had to make a channel for the motor wires which wasn't the end of that problem as the wires also prevented the wing from seating properly and more cutting away was needed to sort that out.

  • There's another thing about these wires under the wing - they have to have joins in them and they are not sealed against water. It's intended to be used on water! I have fitted heatshrink tubing over the joins.

  • The model is intended to be used on water so one might reasonably expect a waterproof hull but expectations were dashed when I found that it leaked. I had to seal it myself with thinned down epoxy which found the gaps and sealed them up.

  • These spinners are supposed to round! They are both for anti-clockwise rotating propellers too. I tried to get them back in shape by pushing them into a tube and then warming them up with hot water. It didn't work, so I had to throw them away.

  • On the subject of quality, care and attention, is the glue intended to fill the channel the spar is in or not? Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Glue was splashed on the wing surface too. The spar at the front in the second photograph below is not fitted level with the underwing surface. That's a problem in that same spar rises through the top of the wing where it forms the mounting hole for the motor bearer. So that wasn't level either and that caused problems fitting the motor bearer because the low corner was below the surface of the foam.So I had to fix that.

  • The mounting holes for the other motor bearer had a different problem, they were not aligned correctly resulting in a misaligned bearer. To accommodate side thrust? No because the the other bearer was at 90 degrees to the wing and Hobby King had provided clockwise and anti-clockwise rotating propellers - the purpose of which is to eliminate the need for side thrust. This makes water taxiing so much easier.

Those then were the main problems, there were others and all in all it took far too long for a model that should have been quick and straightforward to assemble. I'm just going to make one more point for now though - the floats. In themselves they appear to be okay but how are they supposed to be fixed to wing? One might quickly say glue and that would work but Hobby King do say that the model is intended for field use too - just by removing the floats, erm not if the are glued in! I've fitted neodymium magnets; it seems like a good job but I haven't tested them out yet.

17 April, 2013

Two Tucanos

In 2011 I took part in the Radio Control Models & Electronics (RCME) magazine's website Webbit Mass Build. That was a non-scale model, this year is a stand-off scale model of the Shorts Tucano designed by Nigel Hawes.

I've always wanted one of these, actually I've got another designers rather more scale like  version still in it's box but that's another story. Not content with building one for the 2013 Mass build, I've set out to build two! One as you might expect with a 2 stroke glow engine; the second one though will not have a power source, it will be a slope model.

I'm a bit late getting started and I may have taken on more wood than I shape but I'm going to give it a good run. Since the original design was for electric power there will be much customisation as I go along. The slope version will be built from a laser cut kit and the IC version will be built roughly to the plan - using the kit for templates where possible.

The slope version is coming on well as shown in this photograph.
I have most of the main parts for both models cut out but in many ways that's the easy bit, kitting them out with control snakes, servos, receivers, power and batteries and then the final finishing is likely to be far more demanding especially since the centre of gravity must work out right without having to add too much weight.

Once again RCME Mass Builders will be meeting up at Greenacres near Walsall in June 2013.

The full build story is here.

21 March, 2013

Latest Glider Flies At The Great Orme

Back in September 2012 I mentioned that I had bought an unidentified glider and that I was waiting for the opportunity to fly it.

On 24th February 2013, my wife and I set off for a 2 day visit to Landudno with the plan to let me loose on the Great Orme with a model or two on the first day. My friend Tim Mackey lives in the area and I was pleased to find that he was available to give me the benefit of his experience.
We assesed the available lift with our foamies, Tim with a Wildthing and myself with the Fusion; it was good and smooth but not massive. I checked what Tim thought the my control throws on the glider and we decided they would be okay, so with nothing else to check up on and no excuses left Tim chucked it off the Great Orme into the north easterly. It started losing height straight away and a tiny over correction by me followed as I found out how the model reacted to elevator inputs then it just gently slipped out into the rising air. An absolute doddle, a little trimming for that pitching down and a click or two on the ailerons and it was sweet as a nut.

Exciting, well yes and no. A maiden flight of a model type I haven't flown before is exciting and I'm thrilled to have another sloper at my disposal. A resereved "no" is just that the available lift was decaying and I couldn't get a lot of penetration to gain much speed for aerobatics - I did do a slow roll but it was meant to be rather quicker than it turned out. No big issue but since I couldn't gain a great height to dive from either I decided to save further exploration for another day and bring it in for a landing. First attempt wasn't bad but I overshot and so on the second attempt I went a little further down wind - a little further downwind too much and landed short. No harm done apart from a bent rudder push rod - a clear sign that a modification is needed.
Happy? You bet. I love my IC power flying but it's quite different having on board thrust. Flying the elements with only pitch to control speed is something else and I'm loving that too.

On top off all this and with the helpof my friends at the modelflying.co.uk website I now know that the glider is a "Sailplanes International Secret Weapon" .

18 January, 2013

2012 Review

Looking back through my blog for 2012 I'm reminded what a busy year it was professionally and personally, yet I have mentioned only a few activities that could be of interest. So in this post I'm going catch up a little. A little? Yes because to include everything would generate a post so long you would need tea break and a meal break to get through it all!

We had a family holiday in Exmouth in February. February, yes why not? Actually February 2012 was quite mild, there was very little wind and plenty of sunshine.

Beach walks were really enjoyable and the sunsets were fantastic.

We visited Paignton zoo and that was very worthwhile. It seemed much larger than last time we were there, that was quite some years ago now though.

Some days were misty which gave quite an eerie feel to some places, Beer was an example:

There were lots of birds to be seen that we don't see much further north; such avocets and brent geese. Egrets seemed to be just about everywhere these days and make a great subject for a photo.

Exmouth and the surrounding area is  excellent for birdwatching and it was also interesting to note how early some of the flowers were. Daffodils were really conspicuous and it seemed odd to find them next to snowdrops.

More travels, this time Suffolk in April. Picturesque Suffolk doesn't seem to be a common phrase but it truly is so. Unfamiliar buildings, expanses of shingle beaches with fishing boats waiting for their next call of duty and masses of flat countryside, often intensively farmed bit that in itself can produce some eye catching scenes.

Minsmere is an RSPB reserve we always try to visit when in the area and the atmospheric coastal towns of Walberswick, Southwold & Aldeburgh are places I don't like to miss too. 

Here are just a few scenes that I have space for here. 

The tower, once a water storage tower is now known as "The House in the Clouds" and is near Thorpeness.

This field of rapeseed was the only one we saw on this visit. I feel there must have been more, perhaps they just hadn't burst into colour yet.

One day we arrived at Dunwich beach quite late in the afternoon. It was surprisingly cold and I think windy too. That's not apparent in the photograph of the red fishing boats but the accompanying sunshine is. Walberswick with Southwold behind it are in the distance.