Huge Indoor A-10

Technology has truly revolutionized radio control model airplane flight. Indoor electric flight has been a specific beneficiary of these incredibly rapid advances.

A-10 Warthog in flight

A-10 Warthog in flight

As recently as ten years ago it was a remarkable accomplishment to simply fly a model airplane inside a local gym. Batteries and radio control hardware were heavy and the models generally underpowered.

All this changed rapidly with the introduction of micro RC gear and ready-made affordable foam model planes such as those offered by ParkZone. Suddenly, modelers had well flying aircraft that opened up an entire world of indoor RC flight to everyone

Modelers took advantage of advanced technology with light-weight building materials, advanced lipo batteries, micro RC hardware and small electric ducted fans to create advanced and well flying model airplane designs.

AN-225 "Dream"

AN-225 “Dream”

Below are two examples of these pioneering aircraft. The first video demonstrates one of the largest indoor RC aircraft I have ever seen, an A-10 flown in Germany.

The A-10 is an ideal candidate for an electric ducted fan model. The straight wing offer plenty of lift at low airspeeds.  Twin rudders combined with ailerons allow for tight turns required for a constrained flying space.  The model has full-span flaps for added indoor slow flight capability.  This particular variant even has retractable landing gear.  This plane is simply an incredible modeling and engineering accomplishment.

The second example is a smaller model of the Antonov AN-225 Mriya (Dream or Inspiration). The AN-225 is a strategic airlifter built in the Soviet Union in the 1980s to transport the Buran space shuttle aircraft.  Only one AN-225 was ever built.  It was powered by six jet turbofan engines, and the AN-225 is the longest and heaviest airplane ever constructed.
The indoor AN-225 is another remarkable example of today’s RC pilots pushing the limits of model aircraft design and performance. It is hard to imagine what future types of advanced model aircraft will show up on the flight line.

 

Electric Indoor A-10 from Germany

 

Electric powered AN-225 indoor model airplane

Brian’s Blackburn

Side view of Brian's completed Blackburn

Side view of Brian’s completed Blackburn

Brian recently purchased a set of Blackburn CAD plans, completed his model and was kind enough to share the results. Executive summary:  Brian’s Blackburn looks great!

Detail of Blackburn cockpit and after servo installation

Detail of Blackburn cockpit and after servo installation

The 1912 Blackburn Type D Monoplane was one of the first aircraft designed and built by an Englishman and then flown in the United Kingdom. With its front mounted engine and aft tail surfaces, the Blackburn has a surprisingly modern layout for an aircraft conceived just nine years after the Wright brothers’ first flight.  The generous wing and control surface areas as well as the substantial nose and tail moments make for an ideal radio control model aircraft.

Front view of the Blackburn, ready for takeoff

Front view of the Blackburn, ready for takeoff

Brian’s reports that his model finished out a bit tail heavy. Brian wisely added the correct amount of nose weight to bring the model with the proper center of gravity range.  It is absolutely critical that any aircraft balance within the correct center of gravity range prior to any test flights.  A model will be uncontrollable if flown with a CG out of limits as there is simply not enough control authority to override the resulting uncommanded pitch changes.

Top view of Brian's Blackburn showing rigging and ample wing and tail areas

Top view of Brian’s Blackburn showing rigging and ample wing and tail areas

As to why the model came out tail heavy, there is no certain answer. What I do is to always attempt to “build in lightness” as I construct the model.  I try to employ the lightest weight balsa for any fuselage structure aft of the cockpit, to include the tail surfaces, to minimize the possibility of a tail heavy aircraft.

Nice job with simulated spoke wheels and landing gear arrangement

Nice job with simulated spoke wheels and landing gear arrangement

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a model will come out slightly tail heavy. One of the reasons I selected the Blackburn is the generous nose moment (distance of the propeller to the center of gravity) to make the most use of any weight added to the nose to move the center of gravity into the correct place.

Custom built foam carry case

Custom built foam carry case

The slight added weight for Brian’s model (about five ounces) should have no appreciable impact to the Blackburn flight characteristics. The full scale Blackburn had ample wing area, as the aircraft of those initial days were woefully underpowered due to the early state of aviation engine technology.  In a sense many of these early flyers were powered gliders.

This plentiful wing area makes the addition of some extra weight essentially not noticeable. The added mass will likely make for a smoother flying aircraft in the end.

Detail of custom built foam carrying case for the Blackburn Monoplane

Detail of custom built foam carrying case for the Blackburn Monoplane

Brian also took the extra step of constructing a custom designed foam carrying case for his Blackburn. As per the plans, the Blackburn’s wings friction fit into metal tubes mounted to the fuselage.  This makes it a snap to disassemble the model for ease of transport.

Brian did a superb job of tailoring his foam carrying case for the Blackburn. This is a great idea I had not thought of, and I will for sure employ this approach for future model aircraft designs.

Brian, thanks again for sharing the photos of your finished aircraft and carrying case.  Good luck with the test flights!

 

 

Kit Bashing and the Dreamlifter

Korean Air B-747-400 touching down

Korean Air B-747-400 touching down

A great way to begin with radio control aircraft design is to “kit bash” a model made from a kit or set of plans. The idea behind “bashing” is to make simple changes in an aircraft’s shape and dimensions such that the overall flight characteristics will not change yet you have a plane that differs in appearance from the original version.

Bashing does not require drafting skills as you can eyeball the various changes. Examples would be changing the shape of the rudder and fin, perhaps lengthen the wingspan or add an upper deck.

Singapore Airlines B-747-400 on landing approach

Singapore Airlines B-747-400 on landing approach

As a general rule it is acceptable to change a control surface outline if you maintain the same surface area. Same goes for the wing.  For example you can increase the wing span without any harm to the flight handling characteristics.  On the other hand you could run into problems if you reduced the wingspan, as the smaller wing area would now have to support more aircraft weight per square inch.

Side view of the Boeing Dreamlifter

Side view of the Boeing Dreamlifter

Once you bash a few of your models it is a logical next step to consider designing an original airplane of your own!

Believe it or not, “bashing” occurs in a similar vein with full scale aircraft. The changes could be a simple as adding a canopy to an open cockpit homebuilt to a fuselage stretch of a jet airliner.  Perhaps one of the best examples of “bashing” a full scale aircraft is Boeing’s B-747 Dreamlifter.

Swing tail assembly on the Boeing Dreamlifter

Swing tail assembly on the Boeing Dreamlifter

When Boeing designed their new B-787 Dreamliner, ANA (All Nippon Airways) was one of the initial customers with an order of 50 aircraft. As part of this initial launch ANA built the wing for the B-787.  Fuselage production was also planned for the B-787 in Italy.

Boeing was faced with the problem of how to safely get these very large sub-assemblies to the Boeing factories in Washington and South Carolina. It would have taken up to 30 days to ship these items overseas via cargo ship and rail.  There was debate if this would even be a feasible approach due to the huge size of the assembly.

Boeing Dreamlifter taking off

Boeing Dreamlifter taking off

Boeing’s solution was to “bash” a B-747-400 to allow carriage of the fully assembled B-787 wings and fuselage sections. This entailed detailed engineering studies that created the Dreamlifter.

Four of these huge cargo aircraft exist and they are used solely to fly B-787 sub-assemblies from Japan and Italy to the United States for final assembly

The Boeing Moscow office did some of the initial Computer Aided Design work for the enlarged fuselage with a Spanish company devising the swing tail. Modifications of the B-747-400 were completed in Taiwan.

At 65,000 square feet the B-747 Dreamlifter’s cargo hold is the largest of any aircraft in the world, and three times larger than a B-747-400 freighter.

Interestingly enough, even after all of these changes the Dreamlifter flies much like an unmodified B-747-400.  Pilots who are type rated in the B-747-400 are fully qualified on the Dreamlifter with no special FAA check ride required.

There is a lesson to be learned here that with this amount of outline and fuselage volume changes to the Dreamlifter with minimal impact on flight characteristics, the same approach can be applied to changes with our radio control model aircraft. Go ahead and give it a try!

 

Yard Ace Flight Video

Yard Ace electric powered RC model airplane on a fly by

Yard Ace electric powered RC model airplane on a fly by

On my December 1st blog post (below) I shared some pictures of Russell’s build of his Yard Ace electric flyer. The Yard Ace is a simple to construct RC model that makes a great first time plans-built project.

Russell did a super job with his build of the Yard Ace, electing to add ailerons to his version.

Yard Ace three channel RC plane front view

Yard Ace three channel RC plane front view

Russell shared a video of his completed Yard Ace. Russ unfortunately had a minor crash during a flying session. He took the damaged aircraft back to his workshop, made the required repairs, and flew a “reborn” Yard Ace with the wing now mounted on the fuselage underside.

This is a perfect example of the fun with learning to make a model aircraft from plans. After making modest changes to a vertical or horizontal tail outline, converting a high wing mount to an under fuselage installation is one of the most common modifications one can make to an original model design. The flying characteristics typically remain similar yet you have the satisfaction of creating a much different look to your RC plane.

In my TurboCAD training videos I go over exactly how easy it is to make a change of this nature to a using the Yard Ace as an example. Russell, thanks for taking the time to do this modification and share your flight results!

 

Guillow RC Conversions

It has been an extremely busy month for me, but all good.

Atlanta Hobby shop - lots of good electric RC stuff!

Atlanta Hobby shop – lots of good electric RC stuff!

First, my flying with Mesa for United Express at Washington Dulles airport is going very well. I am now at 150 hours in the CRJ-700 aircraft and learning a lot about Part 121 (airline) flight operations.

Second, we are moving to the Atlanta, Georgia area. This move has been in the works for a while, but events started moving quickly earlier this month. We have an accepted offer on a house and plan to close on August 11th.

Guillow's Avenger balsa frame, ready for covering

Guillow’s Avenger balsa frame, ready for covering

This move is good for a variety of family reasons. One of the nicer personal ones is that I will be able to focus on building and designing larger electric radio control models now that I have a garage to work in and can fly in outdoor fields. I did not have the building space while living in the Chicago area, thus the focus on smaller indoor models. This will all change as the move to Atlanta progresses.

For a minor preview of what is ahead in Georgia area modeling check out my visit to Atlanta Hobby, one of the country’s largest electric modeling outfits. Great group of folks and I look forward to working with them.

Finally, I added a page on converting Guillow model aircraft kits from free flight to radio control. Guillow kits have always been popular with modelers. The new miniature RC electronics, batteries and motors made these conversions entirely feasible. Give it a try. The conversions work well, are a lot of fun and add some diversity to your flying fleet.

Guillow Lancer Conversion

I added a page today on converting the Guillow Lancer free flight model airplane kit to radio control flight.  This conversion came out very well using the ParkZone line of micro-electronics.

The finished weight was right at two ounces.  The model flies very well.  Review the full planning process and construction details to include a video.

Front view of completed Guillow Lancer

Front view of completed Guillow Lancer

E-Fest Dates for 2015

Inside the E-Fest Armory Field House at the University of Illinois Champaign

Inside the E-Fest Armory Field House at the University of Illinois Champaign

Some good news! The folks running the annual E-Fest (Electric Festival) in Champaign, IL have announced the dates for their next show. This season’s two day event will be on January 24 and 25, 2015 at the University of Illinois Armory Field House.

Outside view of the E-Fest Armory flying site

Outside view of the E-Fest Armory flying site

E-Fest is truly a fun, interesting and well attended indoor electric radio control model airplane event. If you are anywhere near the Chicago area, Champaign is just a 2.5 hour drive south of the city.

Attendees at E-Fest indoor RC model airplane show

Attendees at E-Fest indoor RC model airplane show

The Amory is a wonderful venue for this indoor flying gathering. The facility offers lots of natural light and has plenty of flying space for a wide variety of radio control models.

You can view the usual mix of ARFs and foam models. There are numerous kit built aircraft as well as original designs on display. A wide range of vendors are on hand answering questions on their various modeling products that are for sale.

Look forward to seeing you there in January!

 

Flying Alien Sphere Video

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently purchased the Flying Alien Sphere for $20 at Costco. The Flying Alien Sphere is truly remarkable. The package contains everything needed to fly to include a 3 channel transmitter and built in flight battery charger. The only items you need to add are six AA batteries.

Flying Alien Sphere hovering indoors

Flying Alien Sphere hovering indoors

Oftentimes with these lower priced remote control aircraft the flying qualities leave a bit to be desired. I have had several more flights with the Alien Sphere, and my initial impressions remain the same – this is a high quality, well flying little aircraft.

There are some sort of built in gyros that provide remarkable flight stability. The infrared control link is positive and responsive. Even the trim works as advertised, with no sense of sloppiness as any slight rotations are synched out.

Three channel IR transmitter and Flying Alien Sphere

Three channel IR transmitter and Flying Alien Sphere

I did have a chance to make a short video of the Flying Alien Sphere, please see below. There is nothing to assemble other than inserting six AA batteries to the transmitter. Just take the Sphere out of the box, turn on the transmitter first followed by the Sphere and go fly with whatever charge remains in the flight battery.

The first flying tip I can offer is to practice smooth control inputs with the throttle (up and down flight). The key to flying any of these smaller hovering RC aircraft is getting the feel of the throttle input and response, to prevent the aircraft from jumping up and down.

The Alien Sphere is good in this area. Once you learn to modulate the throttle for a smooth hover it is a simple matter to focus on the rotation and fore and aft movement. Remember that the right stick allows for forward flight only. To have the Sphere move backwards just leave the right stick (controlling the vertical forward movement prop) to the down or off position. The Sphere is trimmed to slowly move backwards, until the forward movement motor is turned on again.

 

Full Scale Flying Update

Hello, everyone. Good grief, it has been almost four (4) months since my last update to this blog. Yikes!!!

But, all good at this end. A bunch of things have happened since February. To make a long story short I have decided to try and obtain a job as a commercial pilot. Over the past few months I have been very busy with figuring out how to do this, getting the necessary medical and FAA certificates, along with mapping out a flying currency training course.

Gordon standing in front of a Cessna 172 at Aurora Airport, IL

Gordon standing in front of a Cessna 172 at Aurora Airport, IL

Some background. In addition to my interest in radio control models, I have also enjoyed being a pilot in full scale light aircraft. I have been a pilot for a number of years, to include four years as an FAA Certificated Flight Instructor.

I realized in early February 2014 that there were significant changes coming to the U.S. airline industry due to heightened hiring requirements for pilots (safety issue and laws passes by Congress) combined with a large increase in pilot retirements due to the new FAA requirement for all airline pilots to now end their flying at the age of 65. In short, the timing was perfect to see if a return to commercial flying was possible.

Everything is going well so far in this adventure. I have had several training flights at nearby airports. I am learning new technology, such as the Garmin 1000 “glass cockpit” flight and instrument displays and enjoying a lot of time studying all the various regulations and technical handbooks on commercial flying. The flying skills gained over my 1,600 hours of flying are coming back nicely.

UMX AS3Xtra and Spektrum DX6i transmitter

UMX AS3Xtra and Spektrum DX6i transmitter

Now that things have settled down a bit I am starting to catch up with RC flying! Two days ago I finally received, from back order, my E-flite UMX AS3Xtra indoor RC model plane.

I saw this great model at the February 2014 E-Fest show and knew that I had to have one. I ordered from Horizon Hobby and the plane was put on back order until a few days ago.

The AS3X looks great. I will use my existing Spektrum DX6i transmitter to control it. The instructions are clear. I’ve binded the aircraft to the transmitter and set up the dual rates. Note that with the AS3X technology, built into the receiver, there is no need to program exponential control.

Side view of the UMX AS3Xtra indoor flyer

Side view of the UMX AS3Xtra indoor flyer

I am looking forward to the first flight, but I am not sure when that will occur. Our winter/spring indoor flying sessions recently finished up so I’ll need to wait for a calm wind day to fly outdoors (always a challenge in the Chicago area).

In the meantime, I did find a great YouTube video on programming the DX6i transmitter for the dual rates. Dual rates are required to successfully fly a model like this. Setting up the dual rates on the DX6i is not intuitive the first time you read the manual. The video does a great job walking you through the procedure.

The learning point here is that for just about any challenge you face with RC flight, a YouTube video is out there somewhere to assist you.

 

 

Author: Gordon McKay

Blackburn Video and New Publication

Apologies that I have been late with updates to the site. My son, Michael, is getting married on November 9th. As you can imagine, lots of happy work getting ready for that occasion. I look forward to adding much more information after this event.

Top view of Pietenpol Air Camper

Top view of Pietenpol Air Camper

For now, three items to discuss. The first is the addition of an updated video on the Blackburn Type D monoplane. The Blackburn remains one of the most popular plans on the website, with numerous variants being built. All report a well flying model, with the most recent being Steve Moskal.

The video adds some more details on the thought process behind the design. The main item I highlighted is the use of a plywood frame for the upper portion of the fuselage. On this 1/16 inch plywood frame, that is all part of the fuselage, I installed the motor, landing gear, wing mounts, batter and servos.

This is a simple and elegant method to provide structural strength to all the principal aircraft components, without adding a lot of unneeded structure. This is an important item with the fragile construction methods used for these early aircraft designs. This approach can be used for a wide range of other modeling design projects.

Stevens Aeromodel Air Camper in flight

Stevens Aeromodel Air Camper in flight

Speaking of Steve, he did such a superb job with his build of the Blackburn that I added a dedicated picture gallery of his progress. Steve added just the right touches with silver solder, metallic covering of the cowl and a beefed up wing rib structure. This is all part of the fun of using a model airplane construction plan and making thoughtful additions and changes on your own.

Finally for this post, I have had another article published in the modeling press. This is a four page review of the Stevens Aeromodel Pietenpol Air Camper model in the November 2013 issue of Quiet and Electric Flight International magazine.

All of the Stevens Aeromodel laser cut kits are top notch, and the Pietenpol is no exception. The model goes together quickly and is a lot of fun to build. The aircraft is designed around the ParkZone micro electronics (for sale at Stevens Aeromodel as well) and flies exceptionally well. Q&EFI did a great job with this article.

Again, more to follow after the wedding!

Pietenpol Air Camper review in November 2013 Quiet and Electric Flight International magazine

Pietenpol Air Camper review in November 2013 Quiet and Electric Flight International magazine

 

Four page of Air Camper review in November 2013 Quiet and Electric Flight International magazine

Page 4 of Air Camper review in November 2013 Quiet and Electric Flight International magazine