September – Distractions and Progress

A discovery was made at the Kit Factory:  retirement doesn’t always mean 100% model airplanes – I got corralled into replacing 400 square feet of carpet with tile in the lower level of our house.  Ok, I volunteered since it would save a couple thousand dollars and I will be able to control when and how access is limited to the basement – where I have all my sales product, the laser cutter, and where I fill all your orders.  Here’s a shot of my progress so far – about 25% completed:

floorI’ve done several tile projects (including a 900+ sq ft floor at our old home in Ohio), but I thought I was done doing tile forever.  My back, knees, and arms will be glad when this is done.

That’s not to say that all things model airplane have stopped – I spend an hour or two each morning and evening on filling orders and drawing plans.  Here are two that have me excited.

The first is Dave Smith’s contest-winning Judy.  I talked to Dave at Geneseo and we he has let me kit this.  I have great hopes that MY build will be contest-winning, also.  The plan is about 70% and I will finish it this winter and should have a model built for spring.


The second is a subject that me, my son, and others have been telling me that I need to do – a new Goodyear Racer.  There are a few Goodyear/Formula Racer plans out there, and even fewer kits for them.  I’ve been studying the two-book set of Goodyear and Formula One Air Racing 1947-1967 by Robert Hirsch for a couple years.  I’ve got little sticky notes on many pages, but one plane, (not previously sticky-noted) jumped out at me.  I am eager to get this finished and built.  I’m keeping the exact identity secret for now, but I think this one has real potential.  The dimensions are excellent for Free Flight and when I got the basic layout done in CAD and printed on paper, I was surprised at what I was seeing.  Here’s a little teaser:

teaserThere just might be enough in that teaser for someone to figure out what plane I am designing.  Look for this to debut next spring, also – earlier if I get it built and tested indoors.

By the way – the tile floor will NOT interfere in my attendance at the FAC outdoor Champs and Ted Dock Memorial – two two-day contests in Muncie running back-to-back 22/23 & 24/25 September.  I’ll have all the Vega Short Kits ready (free in the Outdoor Champs registration package) and Jack and I will again be cooking the dogs at the Volare Products 2nd Annual Customer Appreciation Hot Dog “Supper”.  That will take place on Thursday evening, right after the events are over at the FAC outdoor champs.

What have you got to lose?  A free short kit and free hot dogs for just showing up at the FAC Outdoor Champs!  SEE YOU THERE!


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A Beginner’s Peanut – the Found Centennial

People tell me “Peanuts are too hard to build and fly”.  To me, Peanuts are almost like a sport class.  Because of their small size, I can build them pretty quickly, they don’t require the highest level of detail, and I can pack a lot in a small space – for either storage or transportation.  But when people say that, I later ask myself “what would make Peanuts easier for people?”

Maybe the answer is a simple-to-build kit.  The Found Centennial is nearly ideal for a beginner’s Peanut:  It’s a high-wing (for stability), there are no wing struts (no fiddly details), and it is slab-sided with few curves (for simplicity).  This design – of a commercial plane – is right up there in simplicity with the common Peanuts of homebuilts, such as the Nesmith Cougar, and the ugly Fike and Lacy (never built them – they are ugly!)

So, I looked at the Founds that have been done (there are several plans, in Peanut and other sizes).  One thing that always bothered me about the models out there was that they took the liberty of putting in tip dihedral with a flat center section.  To me, this looked entirely out of place and non-scale.  I have designed this with a mare traditional dihedral layout that keeps the right and left wing spars flat and straight across the top of the wing.

I also designed this to be built using standard material – everything is 1/16″ balsa.  The laser-cut parts are from 1/16″ sheet wood, the trailing edge is 1/16″ x 1/8″ stock, and the rest of the stick wood is stock 1/16″ square, straight from SIG – nothing special or exotic.  You can build this light and strong without extra effort.

Anyway, on to the build details:


How to build those flat wing panels. Build separately. Sand root rib and test dihedral. Cover separately and then glue together, setting dihedral per instructions.

All the parts, ready to assemble the fuselage.

All the parts, ready to assemble the fuselage. This is designed for 1/16″ square stock – nothing special or difficult.


Use square blocks when assembling the fuselage. This keeps the fuselage straight.

All of the parts, ready to cover, weigh only 4 grams.

All of the parts, ready to cover, weigh only 4 grams.

Laser cutting allows for the addition of detail that is difficult to make by hand.

Laser cutting allows for the addition of detail that is difficult to make by hand.

The real plane I chose to model. I created patterns for printed tissue. Gold was done with a yellow-orange color.

The real plane I chose to model. I created patterns for printed tissue. Gold was done with a yellow-orange color.

My printed tissue, hanging on a window.

My printed tissue, hanging on a window.

The first side of the tail tissue in place.

The first side of the tail tissue in place.

The first side in place as one piece. Note the windows have been cut out and plastic is behind the tissue BEFORE putting the tissue on the fuselage.

The first side on place as one piece. Note the windows have been cut out and plastic is behind the tissue BEFORE putting the tissue on the fuselage.

All covered, but before details such as landing gear struts and wheels.

All covered, but before details such as landing gear struts and wheels.

All done, excepting tiny details, weighing 9 grams without rubber.

All done, excepting tiny details, weighing 9 grams without rubber.

Finished and ready to fly.

Finished and ready to fly.

Short Kit: plan and laser cut wood.

Short Kit: plan and laser cut wood.

Here is a video of a flight test we did on the newly-finished model.

Here is a gallery with all of the photos and documents I could find on the web:

And soon, I will have another gallery that features all the printed tissue patterns for my variety of planes.  These will be free for download.

So, an uncomplicated plane, with a simple kit and basic parts should be able to be built by any modeler without much problem – and it should fly well! The only caution I have is that with the nose being fairly long, any weight up front will cause the model to become nose heavy -keep everything light up front!  I scraped my small prop to get it as light as I could.  I used a 1/32″ prop shaft, again to keep it light.  Even then I had to add tail weight.  This increases the overall weight of the model and since the wing is narrow, it doesn’t have a lot of area to carry extra weight.

Lastly, you can find the Short Kit for sale here:

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Are There Secrets to NoCals? – Video Included

NoCal is one of my favorite classes – they are a quick build and can fly great – often subject to fly-aways.  Recently, I have seen online comments regarding one of my designs – my Cessna Centurion Short Kit.  In my mind, this is the best NoCal I have ever designed, built, and/or flown.   Please keep in mind that I design, build, and fly OUTDOOR, not indoor.  This design is a true thermal-seeker; it builds light and will get up and cruise around for a minute or two and just cruise around waiting for that up air.  In fact, mine “was” flying in a nose-down attitude that would allow it to come down gradually if it was kicked out of the thermal.  My son won our last NoCal contest with his and only needed two flights to beat everyone else’s three-flight totals.

There are no secrets to building these.  Here are some photos of one I just built.  No special wood was selected – it’s just a sheet that I cut for production and sticks of 1/16″ square from SIG.  In fact, the only selection I made was to make sure that the longerons were stiff not fragile.  Oops, one more selection:  I used bass wood for the leading edges – denser and heavier than balsa.

I have no secrets.  You can see below that the frame, including motor stick, came out to be 3 grams on the nose.  The prop, a blue Yoshida 4.75″ plastic, was scraped down to 1.1 grams.  The nose bearing is a bent aluminum indoor-style type.  The tissue is white Esaki printed on an Epson printer.  All up weight without rubber is 5.9 grams.  More info below the photos, including a video of the flight test.

Cent01All the laser-cut parts – the rest is 1/16″ square sticks.

Cent02The bare motor stick is here – I will have details on how to make the motor stick and nose bearings in the next few “Free Flight Friday” How-To videos.

Cent03All up weight of the frame, including motor stick.

CessnaNC03The finished model, without prop.

These can be flown with a 6″ prop and a loop of 3/32″ rubber.  Due to the size of the 6″ prop, this usually requires weight added to the tail.  I choose to go with a lighter power:  the 4.5″ prop and a loop of 1/16″ rubber.  Because of the scraped prop and keeping THAT weight down, I do not need any counter-balancing tail weight.

On the previous model, I lost it in a fly-away, I used a length of 1/16″ that would allow over 2500 turns.  Yes, a motor that long weighs a lot (comparatively) – weight that the model must carry.  But the initial torque will get the model up and then we are in for a long cruise.  This works even in the wind; I lost my last one in Geneseo on the windiest day – it was last seen high over the football field.  Once released, models are in the bubble of air that moves them along, either horizontally (windy) or vertically (thermal).   Long, circular cruises allow for a lot of time in the air awaiting for the model’s bubble to drift into some up air.

Here is a video of a test flight.  This is a loop of 1/16″ about 10″-12″ long with only 500 turns.  The model is trimmed to have a gentle climb and a left circle.  I might have to open up that circle when the torque is applied.  And I will have to see how that right glide works out.  But what you see is a model that is ready to fly.  It is 6 grams and I am sure I will lose it, maybe before the end of this flying season.   25 seconds on 500 turns…with no extreme measures beyond scraping the prop – no secrets.

It’s not hard to get these to fly.  Build them STRAIGHT – straight is more important that carefully choosing wood weight.  Keep the nose light, so you don’t have to add weight.



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New Products for August!

As always, it’s been a busy month.  We are releasing FOUR NEW PRODUCTS for you today:  The T-37 Jet Cat Full Kit, the U2 Jet Cat Full Kit, a full-spec Catapult, and a handy Ball Hex Driver for the Gizmo Geezer Nose Buttons.

NOTE:  The Jet Cat kits are FULL kits – they contain all the laser-cut wood, carbon fiber rods, basswood leading edges, AND a real Catapult for launching.

The Ball Hex Driver solved my most frustrating part about the Gizmo Geezer Nose Button – forgetting or losing the tiny adjusting allen wrench.  I would either leave it in the tool box, lose it somewhere else, or just couldn’t find it when I needed it.  Also, with the wrench, you have to have it perfectly aligned with the screw to get it to engage.  Not so with the ball driver – it works at shallow angles.  AND…I have added a stainless steel split ring so you can attach it to your lanyard or stopwatch cord – so it is always with you in the field – when you need it most.

Find all of these items in the Shop!





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PEANUT – the Loneliest Event

I have built a lot of Peanut scale planes.  I have no idea how many, but Walt Mooney’s Peanut plans in Model Builder magazine is what gave me my start and inspiration in Free Flight.  That size remains my favorite size.  According to my records, over the years I have won 62 events with Peanut-sized airplanes – including several times in Mass Launches where I am flying against larger models.  To me, they are easy to build and trim, while many people believe the rumors and misinformation that they are difficult models to fly.  I guess maybe “rumors and misinformation” is a bit strong, as I find larger models more difficult – to each his own.

However, it seems fewer and fewer people are building Peanut models.  Often in smaller contests there just aren’t enough Peanut models present to warrant flying the event – you need three people obtaining official flights of 20 seconds or more to have a “contest”.

It seems the only place where a large number of Peanuts are present is the larger FAC contests:  the Nats, the Non-Nats, and the Outdoor Champs.  Even at the vaunted AMA Free Flight Nationals, is it hard to get three people to fly Peanut.

This year marks the 5th straight year I have won the Peanut event at the AMA Nats – and at least twice, there were less than three contestants.  This year, I thought the streak might end.  Gene Smith from Oklahoma was there with his famous Grumman Tiger Cat twin-engined Peanut.   It is a great flyer and with its bonus points, it could easily beat my Peanuts.  His entry would be the third contestant, along with me and Jerry Murphy from Colorado.

GeneSmithTigerCatGene put up a test flight “on two-year-old rubber” of about 40 seconds.  He was happy with the trim and immediately set about replacing the motors with new rubber.  Unfortunately, he could not get an official with the new rubber.  for some reason, the plane became unstable – sometimes it appeared that one prop was locking, but who knows.

I am posting a photo of the Champion plaque with both of my Peanut entries:  The Fairey Barracuda posted a 77-second flight and the 22-year-old Pegna P.C.1 (it’s been repaired and recovered since first built) posted a 79 second flight.  I am very pleased with both of them, but know that with a little attention to detail in trimming, they both have longer flight times but would be at risk of thermaling away from me.  By the way, the Barracuda placed second in WWII, in a rather close final flight – Pat Murray’s Avenger stayed up about 10 seconds longer than my plane (this is where the better trimming would come in handy!)

2016PeanutChampI urge people to build and fly Peanuts – they are fun and you can pack several into a small box.  Someone meet me in Muncie next July and give me a challenge!


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HOW-TO – Repairing my Elmendorf Special

The Greve Race Mass Launch at the 2016 FAC Nats was held in a veritable gale.  I held little hope that my entry would make it to the last round, and the wind forced it down in the first round – with damage.  Today I repaired it as shown in these photos.

Repair1Repair2Repair3Repair4Repair5Repair6It’s not a perfect repair, but I am satisfied and we will be flying again next week at the AMA Nats.

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July Kit Progress

While July is extremely busy (two multi-day contests and filling resulting delayed orders), it is also my first month of full time dedication to Volare Products.  We will be releasing two more kits soon, both proven, of course.

The T-37 Tweet Jet Cat glider will be assembled as a FULL kit – It will include plans, photo sheet, 3 sheets of different sized laser-cut wood, bass wood, nose weight, stickers for marking, carbon fiber rod for fuselage stiffness, AND a full-size working catapult.  This kit will be $20.  At least six of these have been built, proving and improving the design (it may be our most-tested kit).  I need a little more time to package some of these, but they will be available soon.

I am really excited about the second kit for this month – it is a popular and well-flying Old Timer that has not been kitted before (to my knowledge).  It will fit into FAC Old Time Cabin and FAC 2-Bit Plus One.  It is the famous King Harry!  Every one of these I have seen flies like gangbusters.  I asked Don DeLoach and Pete Azure to build the prototypes -Pete’s flew away at Geneseo last week!  Here are some photos of Pete’s model and mine that I built this week (I’ll be testing and flying it next week at the AMA Nats):


HarryKit04The short kit will include 2 sheets of plans, a copy of the Aeromodeller plan, and 3 sheets of laser-cut balsa.  The Short Kit is $10 and a Combo Pack that includes a Superior Props 10″ King Harry prop blank is $16 (you save $2).  The King Harry kits are available on my site right now.

In the Pipeline:

I have another Old Timer getting ready to ship out as a prototype, a popular simple stick model in development, possibly a larger version of the Tweet JetCat, and I made some deals/agreements to produce some popular models by other designers – these will be in the Peanut/Scale/Dime areas.

Now back to filling orders, stocking shelves, and laundry!


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2016 FAC Nats – Spirit (with video)

Much is said about “the Spirit of the FAC”, but what is it?  Sure, there is the competition, but it is the most good-natured competition – laid back and fun.  If I win, that is great, but just being with others of a like mind and hobby is the best.  Here are two other examples; one of my own spirit and one of another person.

On Day one, our “camp” was starting to fly or had been flying, struggling with the wind when out of nowhere a young man was passing through our area.  We were at the immediate south end of the field, and apparently, we were the first people that could be encountered because this young man found us.

His name is Michael Smith and he is from Texas.  Now it turns out he didn’t drive all the way from Texas, but he did drive over 8 hours from New Hampshire to come to the FAC Nats.  That in itself is not unusual – what is unusual is that he knew NO ONE at the Nats.  he never had built a complete Free Flight plane, did not have a local mentor, and had only watched videos on YouTube of FAC Scale Free Flight.  He convinced his pregnant wife to come with him on an adventure where he didn’t know a soul.  That’s some FAC Spirit.

We, in the Roscoe Turner and Cloudbusters squadrons welcomed him and gave him the general layout and introduced him to some other modelers.  Micheal spent much time wandering, exploring, talking, learning as much as possible.  Day2 was going to be a busy day for Jack and I and I suggested that Micheal and Lorena could sit under our canopy and observe how things went, if they liked.  They did and Lorena avoided more sunburn.

Because of the wind, things didn’t turn out well for Jack and I – we broke a lot of planes and didn’t have the best contest, but we enjoyed our time with Michael.  Around mid-day on the third day, I had an idea.  Michael had said that the Stuka was his favorite airplane of all time – he was building a Guillows Stuka.  Fate had brought him to the right place.

I had built a Mega Scale Stuka for this contest (here’s a pic).  I hadn’t done anything with the plane since I got there other than have it on display on Day Zero.  So I showed Micheal and a couple other people my Stuka.  One thing led to another and I actually put a motor in and gave it a test flight (another story).


This inspired me to give Michael a real opportunity.  Yes, he had seen many planes fly.  Yes, he had helped other modelers with their models.  He had asked a ton of questions and received more information than he could possibly absorb.  He even built a stick model on the field and gave it a flight or two.  But I decided to give him the opportunity to FLY his favorite plane.  Quietly, I dug out my Peanut Stuka and gave it a test flight.

As I was picking the little model up after the flight, Micheal came running out and said “did you just fly that?  I missed it!”  I said, “yes, I was making sure it was ready to fly because I am going to let YOU fly it.”  I think he was shocked.

I gave him the little model and had him do everything with my coaching and direction.  I told him how to stooge the model, how to pull out the propeller and grab the rubber, and take off the prop assembly.  I told him to take the blast tube and hook up the wire and insert the tube.  I told him to hook up the winder and stretch out the motor.  I told him to count his turns on the 15:1 winder and stop when he got to 100.  Then I had him feel the rubber, noting that it was still elastic and not yet hard.  I coached him to slowly move in while he put in 20 or so more turns.  Then I told him how to carefully remove the blast tube and re-attach the prop, noting which side of the nose block was up.  Finally he removed the plane from the stooge and we went out into the field.

MichaelStukaSI don’t know if he was nervous – he was very attentive and listened well.  Jack took a video of us in the field.  Because of the wind (not ideal teaching conditions), we can’t hear what I was telling him, but I have captioned the video with the important thoughts.  The flight didn’t go as I had planned – I think I told him to come off the wind just a little too much.

But I hope Micheal got an experience and a taste of what it is that we do.  To me, there is no better way to teach than with hands-on.  Watching videos is great – and importantly, it got Micheal from Texas to Geneseo – but the real learning in this complex hobby comes with mentors and hands-on.  When I was young, I had to drive a couple hours to Cleveland and it was under the mentorship of the Cleveland Stork Squadron that I finally began to have some success with my models (and I will forever be grateful).

Sharing what we know and passing on our knowledge is the only way that our hobby will survive.  The FAC is strong, but we all need to help the next modelers join our ranks.


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2016 FAC Nats – Stout 2-AT Mass Launch

One of the most satisfying things at the Nats for me – as Volare Products – was the Stout 2-AT One-Design Mass Launch.  We, the Cloudbusters, selected the 2-AT as the One-Design to honor our aging member, Stu Weckerly.  Stu, who is in his mid-80s and has 411 kanones to date, used to fly a Stout back in the 80s and 90s.  It was a light-weight wonder that dominated the Golden Age event.

I took Stu’s plan and developed a laser-cut short kit for an 18.5″ version that was necessarily more robust for a better scale representation and so the model would be buildable by the average modeler.  This short kit was given away as part of the registration for the 2015 FAC Outdoor Champs in Muncie last year and many have been sold since.  As a vendor, I only get a small amount of feedback on what people think of my kits.  It made me a bit apprehensive having a single event at the Nats for one of my designs.  Would many people build it?   Would the models fly?

Well, about 15 people showed up for the Mass Launch and all of the models looked – the same!  One of the issues with this plane is that out of the 11 or so 2-ATs that were built, every one was silver with black lettering.  This might make for some issues with following specific models during a mass launch, but that all worked out well, for the most part.

Here are a handful of the competitors with their planes before the first round.


F.S. Gilbert


Dick Gorman


John Houck, sr


Matt King with Ray Rakow


Winn Moore with Jack Bredehoft


Ted Allebone holding Mike Welshans’ Stout – prototype #1 and still flying!


Wally Farrell


Final Round Launch. L-R: Mike Escalante, Dave Mitchell, Winn Moore, John Houck, and ???


Happy winner, Dave Mitchell

Here is a long (4 minute) video of the first round.  At least two planes flew out-of-sight in that first round.  The third and final round was nearly as impressive with all planes going up and the victor winning only seconds ahead of 2nd and 3rd.  These performances were spectacular – and comforting to the kit designer and producer.


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Moving Onward and Upward – Volare Products

July 2nd will begin a new chapter in Volare Products and in my life, in general.  Whereas Volare Products has been a part-time, after-hours “job” for me, I will be retiring from my regular, full-time job on July 1st and will be dedicating those hours to Volare Products.  It is my hope that this translates into better service for my customers, improved accuracy on the web site, expanded product line (mostly expanding my kits), and increased activity (sales).  We shall see!

July is also the busiest month of the year for me, as I will be traveling to the FAC Nats and the AMA Nats where I will be striving to compete at the top levels and also selling product to eager customers.  Selling at contests is a terrible compromise – time dedicated to sales is time away from competition and time dedicated to flying results in sales lost.  So, when you go to one of these events and you run into me, please consider the following statements.   I will PRIMARILY be competing at the FAC Nats.  Of course, I will be set up and selling the Wednesday before competition – that will be the big day of sales.  I will have all of my stuff with me, but likely not set up to sell on the field.  Orders can be taken and they will be filled after hours, but I am in Geneseo to FLY first, and sell later.  In Muncie for the Outdoor Free Flight Nats (I won’t be at the Indoor Free Flight Nats), I will try to do as I have done in the past – that is have my stuff set up and available for purchase, but I might be out on the field flying at any given moment.  Please understand and consider these scenarios.

One way that you can help relieve my conflict (sell or fly) is to PRE-ORDER!  Go on the web site and fill a cart and place an order and I will deliver it to either of these two events, already packed just for you.  You can pre-pay or you can select Cash/Check for payment on the field.  For shipping, you should select EVENT PICKUP and indicate which Event to which you expect delivery in the notes.  This will result in zero shipping charges.  One caution with this – if you are selecting an item that is out-of-stock, either check with me first, or take the chance that I don’t have it for you.  IF YOU WANT SUPERIOR PROPS DELIVERED, ESPECIALLY FOLDERS, GET YOUR ORDER IN NOW, as they take time to make.

As I am an FAC Guy, I have been collecting a variety of hardware and tools over the winter and will give my FAC customers first crack at these.  There are a couple of boxes of various winders, balsa strippers, rubber strippers and other tools that will be available on a first-come, first-served basis starting Wednesday in the sales area.  Anything left will be available two weeks later at the AMA Nats.  After that, they will go on the web site.

Oh – I will have PLENTY of Gizmo Geezer Nose Buttons!  These are the hottest of hot sellers at the FAC Nats and I will be very surprised if I sell out this year (but you never know!)

We plan on being very active at the FAC Nats.  Our monthly Facebook Giveaway will somehow be tied to the event (we’re still thinking of how to do that).  We would love to see anyone that has built one of our kits and may create a separate promotion for highest-placing Volare Products kit.  Don’t hesitate to find Jack or me and show us your model – we’d love to get a photo of it and you – even if it isn’t the top performer in its event!

We will be on the field until dark every night.  If you haven’t thought about after-contest evening flying, you owe it to yourself to just stop by and watch, if not fly.  It is the most relaxed and enjoyable environment of the contest. No one is scurrying to get flights in, they are only there to enjoy the pure essence of Free Flight.  Stop by our area, pick up a cold beverage, have a nice chat about planes, hints & tips, or whatever – camaraderie, mostly!


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