What's It all About ???

This page is all about the building and flying of radio controlled model aircraft. It's a highly diversified hobby that takes in as many skills as you like to use. Everything from electronics to carpentry, to painting, to drawing and designing with a little bit of metal work thrown in. Some builders even go into doing their own machining, pattern designing, fibre glassing, moulding and engine design. You can use electric motors, 2 stroke or 4 stroke internal combustion engines or even minature turbine (jet) engines for power. My own models use 2 and 4 stroke internal combustion engines and range in size from about a metre in wingspan to well over 3 metres from tip to tip!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pusher Props & Other Peculiarities

There are some model aircraft supplies that I find difficult to source. Have you ever tried to find an 12 x 6 wooden PUSHER prop that wont defy all attempts to balance it? Or a crankcase for an ENYA CX11 that is in good condition? Or a set of decent plans for a (insert your own choice).

This particular annoyance is common across the hobby, particularly for those of us who collect and/or restore old nitro engines. The process of building a highly detailed scale model can also run foul of this problem.

For the engine collector/restorer the problem is replacement parts, many of the engines of interest to collectors are more than fifty years old and most manufacturers, if they still exist,  find it uneconomical to continue to supply parts for superseded motors. The nett result is that if you want something simple like a needle valve assembly or other carburettor part none are available. So some of us are forced to pursue the manly art of doing our own machining and making parts from scratch. Of course there are some components that defy all attempts to machine a decent facsimile of the original whether it is due to the limitations of the restorer,  his/her equipment or the shear bloody mindedness of the original designer. The next step in the pursuit of accurate facsimiles of original parts is to take up the mysterious alchemical art of casting bits. Lost wax casting and other equally exotic methodologies come to mind. Of course this brings it's own problems. In the quest for authenticity  we might seek to cast a replica crankcase from the same metal alloy as the original only to find that the bloody thing was made from the boiled down remains of the Ark of the Covenant or something approaching Unobtanium.

The scale model builder has problems of a different nature but equally frustrating. Because we are all odd bods we have to make our next scale project a museum quality replica of a single prototype that was flown only once in 1910. This is undoubtedly complicated by the fact that the fabled flight was actually conducted ten miles inland on a desert island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Said Island has of course now disappeared beneath the surface of that vast volume of water. The only three view we have had to work on is a faded and blurred photocopy from the only existing copy of the Mugwump Island Daily. We just HAVE to know the true diameter of the hand made brass priming pump that is hidden under the cowl. Ten years research in obscure aviation magazines that are written in either Russian or Chinese and can be accessed only after secret hand shakes and a long list of passwords result in two different magazines (the only reference found) producing two completely different descriptions of said component. The potentially contest winning project is relegated to the rear of the shed with all the other "One day I'll get it done" piles of balsa and ply for the termites to treat as desert.

I know of one dedicated scratch builder who, confronted with such a puzzle, dissolved into tears and went out and bought an ARF War bird with E*L*CTR*C power. Such is the horrible fate of some master craftsmen.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Progress - What Progress?

Have you ever noticed how contradictory the model aircraft hobby can be? If you decide to spend the day on a building/rebuilding/repairing binge then the weather will be so damn good you just have to grab something and go flying. Conversely if you spend hours charging batteries and pre flighting models, getting all your gear together, ringing up mates to meet at the field then one hour before you are ready to leave for the field the damn wind will come up to something like a force ten gale or the clouds will roll in and a thunderstorm worthy of end of times will split the heavens.

Anyhow of late Murphy (of Murphy's Rules) and I have had a few altercations and in spite of a hanger full of models I'm down to three that are flyable. One is a high wing trainer that has more years on it than I do, for Aussie fliers they may recognise it as one of the original tail dragger Aeroflyte Hustlers. (Yep, I'm THAT old!). The second is an equally ancient P47 Thunderbolt and the third is my first attempt at a multi engined model, a Magnum. All the models could probably qualify for the old age pension.

How did I get in this mess? Well - errr. I like to build, from scratch, which means I start off with a plan and a heap of timber and go from there, no ARF @#$%! things will ever pollute my model collection and any one who swears in my presence by mentioning el*ctr*c THINGS will be banished to the down wind end of the runway. So the quandary is I have all these 'works in progress' and the bloody sun keeps shining and I want to go fly. The problem is this equation:-

Models ready to fly                  Models under construction                Number of crashes             Hours in the day
-----------------------          x             -----------------------------------         x       ---------------------------           x    -------------------          =  CHAOS
Models  flown                      Square root of balsa supplies           recoverable bits                       available hours

I'm sure many modellers are familiar with this equation and some may even know the corollary where chaos is equal to the reciprocal of flying skill!  I still maintain that the latter is only a theory and has not been proved so it is not written into the laws of model flight - YET.  Then again there will be some smart arse who thinks my mathematics might be the problem in the first case.

So for those hardy souls who are foolish enough to follow my rambling on this blog here is an update.
  • I've finally found a set of scale wheels for the Piper J3. Gee they look good and the model is now almost finished.
  • The new fuselage for the float plane is finished and I'm fitting the motor and servos.
  • The Harvard has the motor and retracts back in and I'm building a scale cockpit fit out for it.
  • The model that hit the rocks is gradually being rebuilt.

The 'REBUILD' wall!

Those lovely Cub wheels


I've just bought a set of plans for a DH2 off eBay. I'm in love - all that timber and wire - and  a 60 pusher for power! SOB!! Another model I just have to build

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Book Review! ??

Yep a book review. I recently borrowed a book from the local Library Titled Aircraft Workshop. It is written by A Kiwi named Kelvin Shacklock and although it's a few years old it is probably one of the best, and most practical, books on model aircraft I have ever seen. I've been building, and flying model aircraft for well over thirty years and I have a fairly extensive library of Model Aircraft titles but I saw this one on the shelf at the Library and borrowed it more out of curiosity than anything else.

The book is near enough to bloody brilliant! Hold on - what do you mean literature? binding? layout? What do you think I am? A bloody book critic? I'm an Aeromodeller mate, you know, I build radio controlled miniature aircraft and I fly the bloody things. So I'm interested in what the book gives me in the way of tips and techniques on building and flying my models. If it has a few plans of interesting scale models and easy to understand instructions all the better. This one has the lot! Everything from your most basic chuckie (if you build model aircraft you'll know what a chuckie is) right up to a rip snorting, all singing, all dancing 1/5 scale Mk XIV Spitfire, and believe me the exhaust set up on that one is something I'll be copying or  adapting to some of my other scale models. The plans are great and follow a progression from the most simple chuckie, and a rubber powered J3 Cub right up through a basic RC Trainer to some very interesting scale projects including that absolute ripper of a Spitfire. All the plans in the book are one quarter full size and can be copied and enlarged to full size.

The instructions are in plain bloody English (not bloody Chinglish) and cover everything from concise and extensive construction notes for each model as well as information on trimming, enlarging plans, building baseboards and even a bit of basic model aerodynamics. I could rave on a lot more but if you can find a copy grab it, it's well worthwhile. Hereunder the details:-

Title: Aircraft Workshop: 
Sub Title: Learn to make models that FLY
Author: Kelvin Shacklock
ISBN: 1-85486-216-2
Publisher: Special Interest Model Books.
Copyright Year: 2004

Or Google Kelvin Shacklock.

Friday, January 7, 2011

That Damn Electric Invasion

For most of my life the traditional default power source for model aircraft has been the  two stroke internal combustion engine. Powered models were admirably supplemented by rubber power and solid fuel rocket engines that were mostly of the JETEX brand. Over the last few years there has been a concentrated attack on our traditions by the advances of technology. 

Four stroke model aircraft engines were the first to appear on the scene and at first were an expensive, underpowered but lovely sounding alternative. In a few short years we have seen refinements in these motors produce astounding advances and the increase in power output, and the reduction in price, has seen their wide spread adoption, particularly in the larger scale model arena.

Next was the appearance of large four stroke multi cylinder engines. Marvels of miniature engineering and, many modellers thought, to own one was almost worth dying for. The appearance of multi cylinder RADIAL engines was just one more reason to build that huge model with the great gaping round cowl. If you have ever seen a large scale F4U Corsair or a big P47 Thunderbolt equipped with a radial engine you will know what I mean. With the appearance of the Chinese manufacturers, and the attendant reduction in prices, even these miniature marvels are within the grasp of us poor mere mortals to possess. On top of all this the Japanese O.S. Company brought out the the IL300, a four cylinder masterpiece based on the old Gipsy aircraft engine. Most modellers thought we had died and gone to heaven.

Of course the two stroke motors had benefited from all this technology as well. I nearly choke when I run up one of my larger vintage motors and see a modern two stroke half or even one third it's capacity produce twice as much power. Modern two stroke motors are lighter, more compact, better designed, more powerful AND cheaper than their equivalent counterparts of even twenty years ago.

So everything was looking sweet and we old dinosaurs sat contented with our oil soaked rags, our methanol and our nitro. Then one day a younger member turned up at the field with an ELECTRIC powered, ALMOST READY TO FLY, MOULDED FOAM model of a Spitfire! The damn thing was still in the box he'd bought it in!  A Triple effrontery to us balsa stick and nitro devotees who built all our models with love and dedication from scratch. Then he proceeded to assemble it on the spot. The mutters of disgust and the jeers of derision would have defeated a lesser man, young or old. Never the less he had it assembled and ready to fly in less than fifteen minutes.

The comments from the old lags flowed like water off a duck's back. Followed by howls of "It'll never fly" and "It will crash and all that foam will crumble" he launched it into the air. There was a stunned silence! The damn thing flew! Fast! And he pulled all the maneuvers that you would expect from a radio controlled model of the legendary Spitfire. After only five minutes the motor quit and he brought the model in, dead stick , to a perfect three point landing. We wouldn't admit it but we were impressed. Of course we found reason to roundly criticise the model. The batteries were flat after only barely five minutes in the air and a Spitfire that flies by with nothing but a whisper was definitely not kosher for a War Bird. We pronounced electric power dead before it had even had a chance to grow up.

That was  nearly five years ago, that same young modeller is now in his mid twenties and constantly wins our scale day trophies with his electric powered, multi engined, sound system equipped, giant scale models. We scratch building, nitro engined old dinosaurs sit away in the corner of our pits and while sniffing the aroma of our Castor Oil soaked rags and discussing the relative merits of cross grain as opposed to radial grain balsa mutter terrible incantations to banish the squadrons of moulded foam, electric powered, trainers, pylon racers and scale war birds flying triumphantly around the skies. Sometimes I just want to cry.