(FF) Kids These Days!

Some people say Free Flight is dying.  Some people say kids don’t fly Free Flight.  Sometimes there is a bright spot on the horizon.

In 2012, I came back to Free Flight Modeling and I purchased a vendor business.  I specialize in Flying Aces Club Free Flight (even today), but I felt that I needed to promote my business to a community and audience that I would not normally see.  I went to the AMA Outdoor Free Flight Nationals in Muncie, Indiana.  And I became aware that Free Flight is, while still small, bigger than I thought.  There were a couple hundred, maybe more, people flying all types of models – rubber, gas, electric, glider.

I also was exposed to two things:  1) the Builder of the Model (BOM) rule was eliminated for AMA Outdoor Free Flight and 2) this actually helps kids participate and compete in Free Flight.  And the National Free Flight Society (NFFS) truly encourages kids to participate, holding many events (and trophies!) for Junior and Senior classes.  I am a fan of BOM, but it truly has a place for juniors – they can learn to fly before they learn to build – and that is critical because it instills the spirit of flying into the kids.

Two of the kids that I have been watching at the AMA Nats every year since then are Hayden Ashworth and Kyle Gerspacher.  Hayden was a tiny little kid learning to fly his grandfather’s gas models.  And Kyle, just as tiny, was out on the field flying P-30 and other sport rubber models with his dad.  Our paths don’t cross much except for the AMA Nats, but we know who each other are and I was able to tell each of them “good luck” when I saw them this year in July.

Why good luck?  Well both of them were headed to the FAI Junior World Championships in Bulgaria – happening right now.  Hayden, focusing on F1P (a gas-powered event) talked with some modesty about how he was on the team and might not be the best (as the only Junior F1P representative for the USA).  This week has been a fantastic one for both boys.

Hayden on the left and Kyle on the right. Today in Bulgaria. Champions in my book! (Snagged off of Facebook. USA Team photo – probably by Gene Ulm.)

Kyle flew in F1B – the most demanding and high-tech “unlimited” rubber.  He maxed in every round and made the final fly-off where he placed Second in the World.  Hayden flew his power ship in much the same way – maxing every round and flying to Second in the fly-off.  Such an accomplishment for both of them.  To paraphrase what Rudy Kluiber said today: I am happy to say “I knew them when…” and I hope to be watching them for years to come.

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They Call It “Endurance” For A Reason

Well, two weeks of National Contests are over for the year (first the FAC nats in Geneseo, NY and then the AMA Nats in Muncie, IN).  I had goals – most of which remain unfulfilled, but it was a good time and many lessons learned come from it – along with new goals and projects.

I have three ships which I can depend on to give be consistent and reliable performance:  the Bad Axe (Embryo), the Wanderer (OT Stick), and the King Harry (2 Bit/OT Fuselage).  The Bad Axe and the Wanderer are in their third season and the King Harry is in its second season.

The Wanderer, while I would like a better climb-out is reliable, as long as I keep the dumb pilot from making mistakes.  It often makes a fly-off (after 3 maxes), but is oftne short on the duration needed to win the fly-off.  This year in Geneseo, after one long flight, I retrieved it from the beans and got back to “camp” and noticed about 3/4″ was missing from one tip of the propeller.  Not having a replacement prop handy, I just balanced it and  flew at least 4 or 5 more flights on it without noticing any difference.  My Wanderer came in 4th in fly-offs in Geneseo and Muncie this year.  I will make a new prop, but keep the old one on hand – just in case.

Prop Damage – and my new tattoo. Remember to live every day.

My Bad Axe – two-time AMA Nats Embryo Champ has taken a beating – the 1/16″ fuselage does not handle blown motors well.  In June, ALL of the tissue was blown off the fuselage and I could not complete my 3 flights at that particular contest. I hurriedly recovered the rear part of the fuse (behind the wing), but the front half remained shaky.  It was so windy in Geneseo, I could not get my flights in and chose to concentrate on 2-Bit.  I took it to Muncie and proceeded to break the entire top of the nose off the model test flying before the contest even started (Tuesday evening).  The plane has been suffering for awhile and I should have just stopped right there, but I had to defend my trophy!  I rebuilt the nose the night before Embryo in Pat Murray’s motor home.  I used 1/8″ square throughout because I couldn’t finish the tissue to give it strength.  It would have to do.

The next day, I upped the motor from a loop of 3/16″ to 2 loops of 1/8″ (the plane is getting pretty heavy).  I gave it a test flight and had mediocre results.  I called for a time and put up an 89 second flight – a sad ending to a faithful model.  In a moment of inspiration – or desperation – I swapped out the 6.5″ wooden Superior Prop for a Czech 7.875″ plastic prop and wound it up.  Gene Smith was timing me and I expected more mediocre results.  After about ten seconds of flight, he shouted to me “I’ll mark your max down right now!” as I rode off chasing a monstrous rocketing flight.  Indeed it was a max!  My third flight was a repeat of the second.  That prop and rubber combo breathed new life into a model that was nearly retired.  If I had just swapped that prop one flight earlier, I would have taken home Champion again, instead of Second Place.  I will keep using the Bad Axe, but will soon build a new Embryo.

The King Harry was looking like it would be FAC Nats champ when I put in a terrific 3+ minute flight on a windy day deep into the beans – and I walked right up to it (roughly 10-15 feet off my 1/2-mile line).  I had some issues getting off the table in the strong winds and as I took off on my bike for the launch table, the O-Ring I used on the prop end of the motor BROKE, sending the fully-wound motor back through the fuselage, taking out uprights and tissue.  The prop was also broken in half earlier (probably best I did not get that last flight).  More dashed dreams at Geneseo.

At least 8 cross pieced to be replaced and almost all of the tissue.

I got home from New York on Sunday afternoon.  I was leaving for Indiana on Tuesday.  That left Monday to rebuild and re-cover the fuselage and repair the prop.  It was a fairly simple job, but time-consuming.  The prop was reinforced with carbon fiber strips and bound with thread.  But the plane was back to “normal”.

It flew well in testing – and it flew well during official flights.  I maxed out, although the last flight was in “bad air” and only got a 2:00.xx flight – JUST ENOUGH!  I waited the rest of the day – there were serious flyers out there flying, including Don DeLoach with his amazing Flying Aces Moth – and he had maxed his first flight.  I waited until the cut-off time for OT Fuselage times (3pm to allow for a potential fly-off).  No one triple maxed – I was CHAMPION!

You can see the prop repair.

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Off to the Nats – Geneseo, then Muncie

Tuesday, I leave for the Flying Aces Club Nats in Geneseo, NY.  If you like Scale Rubber Powered Free Flight, then you need to get yourself there at some point.  It’s three days of flying and cameraderie with literally thousands of flights made by over a hundred FAC Modelers.

I will return home on Sunday and then take off the next Tuesday for three more days of Free Flight at the AMA Outdoor Free Flight Nats in Muncie, IN.  There are more flyers at this event and Rubber Scale is dwarfed by all other aspects of Outdoor Free Flight.

News of note:  I am going to be releasing three new short kits at Geneseo.  the 18″ Denny Starling (for 2 Bit and OT Fuse), the Peanut T.E.A.M. HiMax, and the long-awaited 24″ Cessna C-34 (for Thompson Races, FAC Scale, Golden Age Monoplane, etc.)

These will be available online after I return from Muncie – In August some time.  There will be limited quantities of these available at Geneseo (very short runs).

A note about the C-34.  I am afraid that this short kit will not have the same low price you have come to enjoy from my short kits.  As I was preparing these, I was astounded at how much wood and time it takes for each kit.  Each kit will have a rolled plan, SIX sheets of laser-cut 1/16″ balsa (over 160 laser cut parts, not counting the supplies generic gussets), and a small sheet of laser-cut 1/64″ ply parts.  The balsa took over 30 minutes per kit to cut – that’s a lot of time!  One custom laser cutting service I saw charges $71 per hour of cutting time (another place charges 4 cents an inch – who knows how many inches are in this kit!)  Because of the time involved, I am sorry to say that I will be charging $25 for the C-34 short kit.

I have been very busy trying to fill my stocks for these contest and this photo shows most (but not all – I’m still burning balsa!) of the kits that I will be bringing – there are over 100 in this photo.

At Geneseo, the only DEDICATED time I will take to selling is on Wednesday, during the judging.  Look for me in the hangar where all the action is.  I have a very full slate of flying, so I won’t have stuff for sale on the field, but maybe after hours you can convince me to sell you something 😉

At Muncie, I can probably spare more time to selling as there are less events.  Look for me on the field, somewhat near the FAC Headquarters.

If you have pre-ordered, I will have your package available.

See you there!

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Peanut HiMax – Complete and Flying

As I mentioned elsewhere, the T.E.A.M. HiMax homebuilt ultralight has been a favorite subject of mine. So much so, that I have heard these words from my son Jack’s mouth: “not another HiMax – ugh!” I initially did a Peanut in the late 80’s, based on an article in Radio Control Modeler. That article and plan had the proportions all wrong and over the years, I have corrected all my various versions. I even went to the trouble of downloading the full-size plans when they were free. This version is my most-scale version, although the final short kit (in the near future) will have one more tweak to even more scale accuracy.

Even though I had the plan re-drawn and parts laid out and ready to cut very early this year (2018), I didn’t decide to build it until after the passing of modeling friend, Jim Miller. Jim and I shared an affinity for this plane and he recently asked me for documentation on this particular full-scale aircraft because of its simplicity. As a homebuilt, the builders often put their own modifications on the plane – this one is most simple, with only a curved upper front cowl added, a single body color, and the very minimum of lettering. I dedicate this plan and model to my friend, Jim.

The model came out at 10.4 grams without rubber; more than I had hoped.  It did need 0.7g added to the tail.  I used a Gizmo Geezer nose button; they are a little heavy (and indispensable!)  While I would have preferred less, I am satisfied.  The prop is a 6″x9P stacked prop, cut down to 5.5″.  This is a high pitch for a small prop and requires a loop of 3/32″ rubber to drive it.  I think a 5″ lower pitch prop would have let me fly it on a loop 1/16″ – well, if I had been able to keep the weight down to 6 or 7 grams.

Below you will find:

  • build photos
  • a test flight video
  • full scale documentation photos

Oh, I built this from 01 July through 07 July – a small personal challenge to see if I could build a model quickly for the FAC Nats – still over a week away (I guess I still have time to build another model!)  It would have been done a couple days earlier, had I left off some of the scale details and skipped a few more real-life duties and chores.


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Cessna C-34 – FAC Racing Eligibility

The Thompson Race in the Flying Aces Club is for pre-war racers with radial engines.  Think:  GeeBees, Wedell-Williams, Laird Super Solution, Laird-Turner, Cessna CR-2 and CR-3.  Back over 20 years ago, there were restrictions against “factory” racers – or any commercially-built race plane.   That gradually changed and now you can find Lockheed Altairs, Beech Staggerwings, and more racing in the Thompson.  One of the models that has emerged as a consistent, maybe even dominating, winner in this event is the Mr Mulligan.  As a high-wing cabin, it might be easier to build, trim, and fly than most other race planes.

If you’re like me, you are always looking for the obscure, unusual, or just a little different – not wanting to build what everyone else is building.  But I wanted to build a “Mr Mulligan Killer” – something that would be able to challenge the dominance of the white high-wing.  For over 20 years, my plan was to build Johnny Livingston’s clipped wing Monocoupe, but then I discovered a new subject for the races:  the Cessna C-34 – with the benefits of no struts and no wheel pants!

The first eligible C-34 for the Thompson – but only if you accept the Detroit News Trophy as a “race”.

The current wording in the FAC Rules permits airplanes that raced in other US races, not just the big National Air Races.  As I did my research for a possible Dime Scale C-34, I kept running across references to “trophy winner” and “winningest airplane” – it seems the C-34 helped Cessna secure the Detroit News Air Transport Trophy (a four-event race for; economy, speed, and minimum take-off and landing capabilities with the best passenger safety and comfort).  A Cessna AW had won years before and in 1935 and 1936, a C-34 provided the 2nd and 3rd manufacturer wins and Cessna earned the permanent possession of the trophy – and much-needed attention and sales resulting.

Notice the list of 1935 NAR wins in the lower left corner!  (These are the trophies in the first ad above.)


But efficiency tours are not usually considered “races” and I did not want to claim that the C-34 would be eligible for the FAC Thompson Race by virtue of an efficiency trial, even if speed was part of it.

At the 1936 Miami Air Races, Cessna also won the Argentine Trophy with a speed of 156 mph – but how was that race structured – and talk about obscure – who would willingly accept that without thinking I was trying to pull a fast one in qualifications?  I hoped I could find more definitive, less suspect race results.  I did so in the 1936 National Air Races.

Betty Browning won the Amelia Earhart Trophy at the 1936 NAR (Los Angeles), a 5-lap, 25 mile pylon race for women pilots.  She flew the same C-34 that won the 3rd win of the Detroit News Trophy – and the Argentine Trophy:  s/n 320, NC15852.  This is a “real” air race!  If you discount it because it was a women’s race, then you are discounting the real accomplishments of women pilots of the time.

On to the documentation of the plane – what color was it?  Well, the two photos I could find of the plane, we can see a light overall color with darker stripe and an even darker race number.

I also found references to “green” and “pee-wee green”.  I assumed a light green with a dark green stripe and a black “75” for the races.  I asked online in a Cessna Airmaster group “what color was pee-wee-green?”  Cessna historian, William Koelling, provided this image:

Note that this has yellow highlights, whereas #75 has darker highlights.  Then, months later, Mr Koelling posted some Cessna historical documents:

This solidified the colors:  PPG PeeWee Green #65, Chrome Green trim #66, and a Medium Yellow pinstripe #54.  I found that Design Master Spring Green is pretty close to PeeWee green, so I used that for the main paint.  Then I found samples online of Chrome Green and used them to print the stripes and numbers on the tissue before covering.

So, there you have it!  Enough documentation to prove that the Cessna C-34 can qualify for the FAC Thompson Races under the current rules of “The Thompson Trophy Event is for models of aircraft with radial engines that were entered in the Thompson, Greve,
Bendix, or other domestic races held from 1929 through 1939.”  Not only did the C-34 enter races, it was a winner!



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Contest Report – 2018 McCook @ Muncie

For me, this was a welcome outing to Muncie – it really felt like it was my first outdoor contest of the year.  It was actually only the second since I missed the May Cloudbusters meet due to attending the AMA Indoor Nats.

I arrived on Thursday evening after going to Cincinnati to take possession of all Jim Miller’s modeling stuff after his passing a few days before.  This gave me a few more hours at the flying field, since I had intended to head down Friday morning.  I arrived to a perfect evening.  Pat Murray had been there all day and Mike Welshans and Ted Allebone had come down from Detroit and spent the late afternoon testing planes.

Ted Allebone testing a new Phantom from EasyBuilt

Friday proved to be equally perfect.  We set up at the south end of the site and we didn’t have to move all weekend.  I got out most of my new planes and we casually tested all day.  I had some great flights but I also found out how poorly prepared I was – virtually all of my planes needed new motors – and I brought enough to register for 21 events!

my Jumbo Stallion in flight

my Yankee IV 1/2 Wake showing its potential

It turned out that event count was a little ambitious on my part – I just couldn’t get every event flown.  I got my Jumbo Stallion up in the air on Friday; it flies low and slow, just like my original, but I think my blade area is too small – I will have to think about making a new prop.  My brand-new-not-completely-finished Jimmie Allen Special went on a 5 minute flight – the fuse burnt down, but didn’t burn the rubber band (I got that fixed)!  And I got some nice test flights on my new Yankee IV 1/2 Wakefield.

the un-burnt DT band on my Jimmie Allen Special!  I’m very lucky it came down!

We just had a nice relaxed day of flying and camaraderie.  Winn Moore arrived in the late afternoon, and he, Pat and I enjoyed some T-bone steaks grilled right on the flying field.  We chatted into the night and I still didn’t make any new motors.

Sunset from the south end of the AMA Flying Site (site 4)

Saturday morning started out as a beautiful day, with no hint that it would become super-hot – we hit about 95 degrees with high humidity on Saturday and I went through over a dozen bottles of water and gatorade.  Still, the wind was nearly nothing and we had some great flying.  I had a very promising flight on my B-52 after adding a loop of  1/16″ rubber to the existing motor – it climbed out well on the first flight and circled to the left.  I should have paid more attention – I knew that it circled to the right last year, but it was flying so nicely, I just went back and put in a couple hundred more turns – nothing too much.  Or so I thought – the extra torque rolled it to the left on launch and broke the prop (and tore up the nose and tissue).  I can get it fixed, but I wish I didn’t have to.

most (but not all) of my Saturday liquids

The air was good most of the day, with light thermals and occasional boomers.  I maxed out in 2 Bit with my King Harry, but had a rough time with my Pepper.  In Jimmie Allen, my Special couldn’t find any air and I settled for three flights under 70 seconds (needs more trimming and duration).  I logged 3 of 6 flights in Phantom Flash and decided to return to that later.  I flew my 24″ Comper Swift in both Golden Age and in the Greve Race, but didn’t win either event – Pat Murray took the Greve with a Mr Smoothie (of course).

Mike Welshans, Dave Niedzielski, and Ted Allebone discussing something rather important.

McCook has two special club events that we enjoy flying – just for fun – they aren’t FAC events:  On Saturday, they have the Watson Challenge and on Sunday, they have the Cloud Tramp Mass Launch.  The Watson Challenge is best 2 of 3 flights (no max) with any model you want – but it must be propelled by a 24″ strand of 1/8″ rubber, provided by the Contest Director.  One year, I won when I stripped the rubber to 1/16″ and flew a Peanut Maule M-5 OOS after 6 minutes.  This year, I decided to use my new Phantom Flash.

my best PF ever. Now lost to the east of the AMA Flying Field.

I knew it would flew (and flew well) on a loop of 3/32″, 1/8″, or even 3/16″!  So a loop of 1/8″ would be no problem.  I wound and launched the first flight and it was something around 55 seconds – not very impressive – I would have to do better on the other two flights.  I wound it up again and found someone to time me.  As I launched, a monster thermal pulled it right out of my hand!  It stood on its tail and looked like a fluttering leaf – in reverse – it was climbing FAST.  It finally settled into its circular flight pattern and just kept riding that elevator.  The black wings showed up great against the white cloud cover and I was able to track it for a long, long time.  I followed on my chase bike, but it didn’t really look like it was coming down.   I followed it to the eastern edge of the site; I made it over to the road that is farther east; and I watched and watched until I lost sight of it.  It might have come down, but I wouldn’t know.  I went back, expecting a 5 minute or so time (I’d been gone 10 minutes for sure), but was told “oh, I lost it at 2:20”.  Well, without binoculars, that sounded reasonable.  I did end up winning the Watson Challenge, but of course, it cost me a great little airplane (I’ll build another).

Mike Welshans returning from a flight with his 1939 Canadian 1/2 Wakefield

Marty Richey showed up (we did have about 15 total contestants over the two days).  He said he had not been flying all year, as his work has been keeping him busy.  He had some significant accomplishments at this meet.  The first:  he won WWI Dogfight with a Fokker D.vii.  Not only did he win this difficult event, but that win earned him his 16th kanone – and a Blue Max (to be awarded at a national event).  The second:  he won WWII Combat with his beautiful P-47N, a model that he lost last year – and found again.  He had re-covered it over the winter and it was ready to go.  And go, it did – as in it flew away – again.  It was in the final round and he had a tracker on it.  However, he returned empty-handed, with a feeling he know what part of the woods it was in, but without hope he would get it back.

I won the Goodyear races.  It was a contest of “old vs. new”  – Dave Livesay and I had 20 year old models and Pat Murray and Winn Moore had models less than two years old.  Dave and I outflew Pat in the last heat and I outlasted Dave by a good margin.

By the end of the day on Saturday, I was exhausted – the heat was really taking a toll on me.  We grilled burgers that night.  We found out that Chuck Markos, who had shared our AMA test during the day, was planning on sleeping in his car (in this heat!).  We volunteered my extra bunk in my trailer and I felt good about providing air-conditioned comfort for Chuck.

Sunrise from the south end of the AMA Flying Site (site 4)

Sunday turned out to feel more humid, but less hot, but was probably nearly the same as Saturday.  Some of my struggles continued, as I couldn’t get some planes to fly and I broke a ton of motors.  Sometimes I would not get a flight in in-between breaking.  I’d break a motor, load a new one, and break that one.  I broke so many on my Embryo, that all of the tissue around the motor peg was gone.  The wood was still intact, but without the tissue providing rigidity, the tail was twisted on launch and the plane would not fly.  So I gave up with 2 out of 6 flights left and with only 2 maxes.  I ended up in 3rd since I couldn’t get that 3rd max.

I came 1 second short of maxing out in OT Stick with my Wanderer – that held up for the win.  Ted Allebone chased that all day; first with his Casano and then with his Wanderer, but he couldn’t catch me.  Winn Moore lost a Wisp old-timer in another boomer, other than that, I don’t think any other models were lost over the weekend.

I couldn’t get my new Yankee IV to ROG on an official flight, event though I had been successful twice before.  I wasted so much time with broken motors and making motors and testing, that I didn’t have time to fly my scale ships.  Preparation is the key to contests and I was unprepared.  I did come away with 5 wins and 3 kanones (I won the Cloud Tramp ML, too).  Pat Murray took 6 kanones, Winn Moore took 3, Marty Richey took 2, and Ted Allebone won OT Fuselage.  Oh!  Dave Niedzielski drove all the way from Alabama – he won two events!

My victories. Each 1st place also received the little pins on the right – “McCookies”!

Here are the Contest Event Winners:

ContestEvents subform
EventName Contestant Place ContestantCount Model
Old Time Rubber Fuselage ALLEBONE, TED 1 4 1939 Canadian Wakefield
2 Bit Plus 1 OT Rubber Fuselage BREDEHOFT, GEORGE 1 4 King Harry
Goodyear/ Formula Race BREDEHOFT, GEORGE 1 4 Falcon Special II
Old Time Rubber Stick BREDEHOFT, GEORGE 1 4 Wanderer
FAC Peanut Scale MOORE, WINN 1 3 Pegna P.C.1
Jet Catapult Scale MOORE, WINN 1 5 Miles M-100
Phantom Flash MOORE, WINN 1 5 Phantom Flash
FAC Rubber Scale MURRAY, PAT 1 5 Beriev BE-12
Golden Age Combined MURRAY, PAT 1 4 Stinson SR-7
Greve Race MURRAY, PAT 1 4 Mr Smoothie
Jimmie Allen MURRAY, PAT 1 3 Skokie
Simplified Scale MURRAY, PAT 1 4 Vega Starliner
Thompson Race MURRAY, PAT 1 3 Mr Mulligan
Dime Scale NIEDZIELSKI, DAVE 1 5 Beech Staggerwing
Embryo Endurance NIEDZIELSKI, DAVE 1 6 Debut
WW-I Combat RICHEY, MARTY 1 3 Fokker D.vii
WW-II Combat RICHEY, MARTY 1 4 P-47

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Scale Research – A Cautionary Tale – the Lacey M-10/M-13

I volunteered to manage the Flying Aces Club events at the 2018 AMA Indoor Nationals in Rantoul, IL. As a result, John Koptonak and I were the scale judges. We judged entries from four contestants, ourselves included. Little did I know that this would lead me down a completely unexpected rabbit hole – research and discovery regarding the much beloved (or hated) Lacey M-10.

The Lacey M-10 was a one-off* homebuilt from 1962 or so. It is very popular with modelers because it doesn’t have any curves (excepting the airfoil, the flat curved windscreen, and the wheels) – all of the longerons and tail surfaces are straight lines – making building simpler for the modeler. In addition, they must be easy to fly (I’ve never built one) as beginners often tackle them and fly them with success, even though it has no dihedral in the wing.

the original Lacey M-10. Note the black cowl top and the lack of red pinstripes on the tips of the flying surfaces

* – One-off: while over a thousand full-scale plans were sold, only the original was known to be built. However, the designer, Joe Lacey, did build another with two VW engines mounted on pylons off the each side of the nose.

This is the TWIN – not the same aircraft

Out of the six judged Peanut models, from four modelers, two were Lacey M-10s (full disclosure: one belonged to John). Both provided the Peck plan (from Butch Hadland in about 1976) as part of the documentation package and both had different photographs in the package. The FAC rules say three important things about your documentation: 1) you must have a 3-view, 2) plans are optional and, 3) any details provided via photographs take precedence over the plan or 3-view. John and I discovered that both models used the Peck plan as primary color documentation and this lead to issues as the plan shows red wing and tail tips WITH a secondary red stripe. No photo provided in either documentation package showed an additional red stripe. In addition, one package showed a color photo with red registration numbers while the Peck plan indicates they were black.

George Nunez’ Peanut Lacey. This model flew for 108 seconds – the highest flight time of any Peanut or Scale model at the Indoor Nats.

There were other deviations, but the thing that got me going was the fact that while there are only a handful of photos of the original aircraft available, they DO show details that should be modeled and are often overlooked. When I returned home, I started digging on the web. I found that one source of information is the fine article authored by Andy Septon in the June 1999 issue of Aeromodeller. That article also includes a very fine 3-view of the M-10. It even includes photos and information showing that the ORIGINAL color of the aircraft was SILVER with red trim (I don’t think I’ve seen a Lacey modeled in Silver!).

The silver documentation

I found a few other photographs, essentially what was provided in the two documentation packages. But I also found something else – the N-number registration is still active, and listed as a Lacey in Fountain, Colorado. A quick check with Google Maps showed me that Fountain , CO is just south of Colorado Springs – where FACer Don DeLoach lives. What an interesting development – maybe we can get additional documentation of the Lacey M-10 and provide it to the modeling community. No more guessing on certain things when you have photographic proof. Don and I discussed it online and we found the trail to the owner and he made an appointment to visit the owner at the airport where it resides. The owner, Al Spratford, has almost completed restoration and is nearly ready for flight certification. Al Spratford is mentioned in the Septon article as the current (in 1999) owner; he has owned it since 1991.

Don let the FAC world on Facebook know he was on a mission without providing details. I was the only one that knew what he was doing and I awaited anxiously as he set out with his camera. DOn has posted these photos on Facebook. I am sure you are as surprised as me to see the current state of the one and only Lacey.

Mr Spratford received the plane without an engine, without fabric on the fuselage and basically in parts. He has done a “tubing-up” restoration and dubbed the current plane the Lacey M-XIII (13) as he has made three major changes to the aircraft: the Continental 90 was replaced by a Lycoming, the windows were restructured to give more visibility, and the vertical fin was changed. Stringers were added behind the wing on the top and the sides and it looks like the longerons, top and bottom, now have a gentle arc, smoothing out the sharp straight lines of the fuselage. He also removed the tip plates and added some wingtips (increasing the span), and he plans to add a spinner and wheel pants (photos to come later). The windshield was also changed and that change makes it look like the rotating wing (for storage and transport) has been eliminated. Oh, and most visually obvious, the Lacey M-XII now has a new paint job.

Don sent me about 45 very high resolution photos of all angles of the plane and about 10 photos of photos of the original aircraft. Since he went to all that work and the results are something new, I agreed to draw up a 3-view and I have started on a set of 1″:1′ plans (21.5″ span) of the Lacey M-XIII. I will get the large batch of photos on my site for complete documentation, but both the plan and the package will take some time. For now, you will have to make due with these photos and the thought that you will soon have a new Lacey plan to dominate Simple Scale or Modern Civilian.

note the new wind screen AND the clear sections of the wing.

a nice side shot showing the new fin, the gentle arcs of the longerons and the stringers on top and sides.

the original joystick was suspended from the wing.

it sure is colorful now!

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Surprised by Out-of-the-Box Thinking in Embryo – with plan download!

For many years, I have had an Embryo “design” floating around in my head.  Basically, I wanted to create a pod-and-boom-type of model.  I remember years ago drawing up (as in pencil and paper!) something I called “the Green Monster”, somehow associated with baseball and Fenway Park.  These designs are, by nature, pretty ugly aircraft, and I had no thoughts they would be at all competitive.

When I came back to the hobby, I got the opportunity to fly indoors at a great site, the Ultimate Arenas in Pontiac, Michigan.  Imagine a full-size soccer field covered by a 40-70 foot ceiling.  At first, I would go once a year, but then a few years ago, things changed – the Cloudbusters made that their monthly indoor site and I retired.  I was able to go once a month (I could go once a week, but 2 hours each way for 2 hours of flying makes me say “no thanks”.)

There is a bit of a rivalry here in the Cleveland/Detroit area.  Maybe it is one-sided, maybe it is not.  Us Detroit “outdoor” FAC flyers that fly indoors in the winter are dominated by the Cleveland Indoor flyers when they come up to Pontiac for the yearly Indoor Fling.  Don and Chuck Slusarczyk, and Larry Loucka thoroughly beat us in FAC events such as Phantom Flash, NoCal, Peanut, and Embryo.  Winn More and I have made it a personal goal to raise our level of performance to somewhat match theirs.  The most obvious place this happens is in the categories of Phantom Flash and Embryo, where FAC Rules specify 2 minute maxes as official flights.  If more than one person get triple-maxes, this forces a fly-off, generally we choose the mass launch, all-up/last-down tie-breaker fly-off.  But in order to get there, we need to build models that are capable of triple maxes.

In preparation for the 2017 Indoor Fling, I decided to build an Embryo.  I used a mash-up of ideas that I had gathered during my bar-raising experiences.  I had jumped into flying the local event – Blatter 40 – a simple stick ROG with 40 square inches of wing area (I was the Cloudbusters 2017 Champion, averaging about 2:30 a flight) and had successfully built a NoCal that took my Indoor NoCal times from 2:30 on up and over 5 minutes.  Using these, I decided to revisit my goofy pod-and-boom Embryo design – but just for fun.

the Sky-Box completed in 2017 before any successful flying

I used the Blatter 40 wing (with its 6% Simplex airfoil) and increased the chord to achieve the Embryo maximum wing area of 50 square inches.  I also used the Blatter 40’s simple tail surfaces.  For the power, I used a 1/4″ square stick of light balsa, an aluminum prop hanger, and a 7″ diameter can-formed prop – all from my NoCal experiences.  The fuselage of the model was the 1.25″x1.5″x3″ Embryo volume, stood on end, with triangles tapering the “leading edge” and “trailing edge” of the box.  The un-enclosed motor passes through the top of the fuselage.  A simple speader bar was used for the wheel supports and some of my GeeBee Model Z-inspired Embryo wheelpants were employed.

it’s a little chunky for Indoor flying!

I had it ready for the Indoor Fling in 2017.  My plan was to power it with a loop of 3/32″ rubber.  During the event, I could get no more than about 1/2″ circle of flight – and that was from a hand launch.  The silly model was a failure (not a surprise).

a test flight in the spring of 2017

The 2018 Indoor Fling came and went and the Sky-Box stayed at home; not yet relegated to the “failed-plane” pile, but never being brought to any flying event.  As I prepared for the 2018 AMA Indoor Nats, on a whim, I packed it to take with me.  The contest schedule promised a lot of down-time, as FAC events were flown in the morning and us FACers would have all afternoon and evening to test, chit-chat, and watch the endurance flyers.  So the weird little model came with me.

ready for testing at Rantoul in May 2018

One of the first things that I did was up the power.  I installed a loop of 0.110″ rubber (“scrap” from making 0.085″ motors for my NoCal).  I found several things with this motor: a) it flew very well from hand-launch with this power, b) it “might” ROG, if torqued way up, and c) ROGs were not easy, as the torque wanted to lay the model on its left side.  But I was able to log a 1:29 test flight from ROG!  I never expected the model to hit 1 minute, let alone 1.5 minutes!  If I could manage the ROG, I could put in some respectable times in Embryo!

The next afternoon, I decided to up the power again – I went to a loop of 1/8″ (0.125″).  I had to dial in some more right thrust and I even put in a smidge of up.  This helped the model ROG, but it still is an iffy proposition – I have to let the prop spin up before releasing the model.  By the time the evening was done, I had logged a 1:56 flight followed by a 2:05!  I had broken 2 minutes!  This meant that I could force a fly-off in Embryo, if I could string together 3 maxes.  Forcing a fly-off is my only hope against Don and Larry – their Embryos fly 3 and 4 minutes.  But maybe I could come in 3rd (my best hope and considered personally as a “win”).  I hurriedly cut some coffee-stirrer exhaust stacks and glued them on – full bonus points are important for competitive Embryos.

the Sky-Box cruising at about 40 feet (on a 44-foot ceiling) at Rantoul in 2018

On the last morning, I eagerly went out and called for an official – just pulled the model out of the box and wound it up.  The model came off the ground, and climbed for the rafters.  In fact, it climbed too much, bumped, dived, recovered and continued on – for a 1:53.  I had dropped my first official.  My second two were 2:11 and 2:16. I had done the best I could, but there would be no fly-off for me.  It turned out that Larry had dropped a flight, too, and only logged a 1:49.  Don maxed out, and George Nunez also dropped his first flight at 1:12.  That put me in SECOND!  All with a model I built for fun without any real thought of being competitive.  In fact, I had really given up on the model.  Now, the Sky-Box will see more contests at Pontiac, for sure!

I will send the finished plan off to a newsletter or two and I will offer it right here as a free download.  If any of you build it, please send in photos and let me know how it flies.

Here is the file; an 11″x17″ PDF – https://volareproducts.com/files/Sky-Box.pdf

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Report on the AMA Indoor National Contest

I got to Rantoul, the site of the 2018 AMA Indoor National Contest Thursday around noon, just as expected.  Well, I forgot about the time change, so it was just about 11am.  It was an easy drive with the exception of the congestion just before I got off I-94 – remember this is the southern edge of the Chicagoland experience.  The remaining 90 miles was easy.

The contest was held in a hangar on the closed Chanute Air Force Base.

I was somewhat filled with excitement as I have never attended an Indoor Nats. I went to do my “duty” to represent the Flying Aces Club. The Nats always have FAC events, and even at the Outdoor Nats, they are under-represented; on occasion, even the First Place plaque cannot be awarded – since no one flew the event at all. I tried to drum up interest on Facebook, posting about the contest regularly. I was hoping it would be effective.

A large floor space, still air, and 44 feet vertical height.

As an outdoor flyer, one who specializes in Scale and Sport Rubber Free Flight, I have some common ground with Indoor flyers, but they are a breed apart. While FAC flying can be laid back, but fast-paced (if you fly a lot of events) indoor flyers appear to work differently: slow, but intense. And the difference between our modeling specialties is so great that the day (or sometimes the venue) is split to accommodate one type but not the other. At this contest, the FAC events (and some heavier indoor events) were given 7am-12 noon, while the afternoon and evenings were dedicated to the light stuff. Fortunately the site was large enough and participation was low enough, that us heavy guys could go to the other end and test fly any part of the day, as long as we were respectful of the area of the light guys.

John Koptonak

Upon arrival, I met up with John Koptonak (from Connecticut). Online, we had agreed to co-manage the FAC portion of the contest. It was a two-day drive for him. He planned on flying both sides of the contest, so I helped time him and such. I was disappointed that no other FAC people decided to show up, but it was early – FAC started the next day. Later in the afternoon, we met George Nunez. He said he did not know of the contest prior to seeing my announcement on Facebook. Well, my promotion had worked and he drove all the way from Miami, FL – a three-day journey for him. He brought about 20 models with him, just to fly for fun. Unfortunately, no other FACers showed up.

Flying FAC indoors takes some planning and risk, especially if you are an outdoor flyer trying to get your planes to fly indoors. I had planned on this contest for a few months, so I was able to use our Cloudbusters indoor meets as a tune-up. I had some planes that had been successful during our sessions and a couple of others that were still “in-process” of being trimmed and a couple that had never flown – indoors or out.

Larry Loucka and George Nunez – WWI Dogfight

What happens when you hold a contest and only three people show up? Well, on the plus side, some events will have enough participation to award a kanone, but on the negative side, some will have little or no participation. In addition, when you offer FAC events to indoor guys, the can use their delicate building skills to dominate certain events. The indoor guys that regularly fly FAC events in my world are Don and Chuck Slusarczyk and Larry Loucka – all three from Cleveland. All three were at Rantoul. Given that, and based on previous contests with them, the best I could hope for in some classes was 3rd – maybe even 4th. That’s ok, though; trying to catch them has raised the bar in my building and flying.

George Nunez assisting Mike Kirda with his Coconut Scale Taylorcraft

In general, the light attendance, especially in FAC events, allowed us to talk, discuss all manner of modeling, test fly many planes, and keep trimming and trimming. By day 3, my Peanut Barracuda went from erratic R-L crashing, to a very respectable, stable, and nearly ceiling-scraping 55 seconds. My brand-new Phantom Flash flew very well. Testing my Martin MO-1 on floats revealed the need for nose-weight. My Elmendorf Special just could not be forced to fly reliably on a loop of 1/8″ indoor when a loop of 3/16″ is required outdoor. And a goofy Embryo that I built on a whimsy a year ago proved to be a remarkably successful and competitive flyer.

John Koptonak winding his Cessna

I also got to spend some time meeting people I had heard of online: Rey Mazzocco, Bill Gowen, Mike Kirda, and others. It’s always good to put names with faces. I talked with John Koptonak about specifics of indoor events. And I spent 15 minutes or so talking with Yuan Kang Lee about his F1D processes. I started by asking if F1D is the only event he flies or if there are others. His answer: “No, only F1D. There is not enough room in my brain for F1D, let alone other events.” A true world champion, he is constantly striving to understand and refine his models and is already working towards the next world championship with each flight he logs.

Oh, and one last thing:  we awarded a long-overdue Blue Max to Larry Coslick.  This had been planned for a few events at Muncie, but Larry’s health had prevented him from attending recently.

Karén Khanagov Facebook photo

Here are the FAC Event Results:

Phantom Flash Mass Launch – 3 flyers
1. Don Slusarczyk
2. Chuck Slusarczyk
3. George Bredehoft

WWI Dogfight – 2 flyers – NO KANONE
1. Larry Loucka – DH6
2. George Nunez – Rumpler C.iv

FAC NoCal – 4 flyers
1. Larry Loucka – Mr Smoothie – 887 seconds
2. Chuck Slusarczyk – Cessna 195 Turbo – 834 seconds
3. George Bredehoft – Cessna 195 Turbo – 633 seconds

Combined Races – 2 flyers – NO KANONE
1. George Nunez – GeeBee Model D
2. George Bredehoft – Elmendorf Special

WWII Combat – 2 flyers – NO KANONE
1. George Nunez – Avenger
2. George Bredehoft – Fairey Barracuda

FAC Peanut – 4 flyers
1. Don Slusarczyk – Voison Hydroplane – 145.5 points (70 second flight)
2. George Nunez – Lacey M-10 – 131.5 (108 second flight)
3. John Koptonak – Lacey M-10 – 131 points (84 second flight)

FAC Scale – 3 flyers
1. George Nunez – Rumpler C.iv – 125 points (57 second flight)
2. George Bredehoft – Martin MO-1 with floats – 122 points (76 second flight)
3. John Koptonak – LDA – 113 Points (43 second flight)

Dime Scale – 3 flyers
1. George Bredehoft – Martin MO-1 with floats – 232 points
2. Don Slusarczyk – Mouboussin Hemiptere – 224 points
3. John Koptonak – Arado – 104 points

Embryo – 4 flyers
1. Don Slusarczyk – Ghost Rider – 369 points
2. George Bredehoft – Sky-Box – 362 points
3. Larry Loucka – own design – 358 points

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Coloring Our Models – What Colors are Right?

Two and a half years ago, I built a Peanut Barracuda.  I’ve written about it before, including its demise, when it was crushed by a passing dust devil.  This past winter, I built another fuselage and tail and got it ready for the indoor season (which has just ended).

I struggled to get it to fly all winter – until the last contest when I won three rounds of WW-II Combat.  The plane got damaged and repaired.  Successful flying was a critical part of my process to be able to create short kits and sell them.  Now it has flown and I will have the kit available shortly.  But I ran into a problem…

Part of my offering will be free downloadable tissue print templates.  As I checked my files to make sure I had them ready to upload for others to use, I decided to check what the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) colors were.  Here is where the story gets complicated.

Here is the plane I modeled.

Here is another color 3-view (found on Pinterest)  (note that there are differences between these two images).

This color 3-view is found in the Aircraft Profile #240 Fairey Barracuda.  I am sure that I used the image out of that book to “eyedrop” select the colors to create the tissue prints for my model. Both of these images are artist’s interpretations and not photographs.

And here is a small preview of the fuselage side from that effort.  The colors look slightly different because of two reasons:  a) the photo above is a photo of the printed tissue and b) the printed tissue does not come out exactly as the computer monitor shows it, especially inkjet.

Even though they are artist’s renderings, we would assume the artist is using real colors to create the images.  And maybe they were, either to the best of their ability, or the colors have changed over time and internet space.

So, I searched the web this morning to verify the colors.  This aircraft flew in 1944, so we have to look for the Fleet Air Arm colors post-1941 – There was a change in 1941, so early camouflage colors and layouts would be incorrect.

Several internet sources tell me these later colors were as follows:

Extra Dark Sea Gray (FS 36099)
Dark Slate Gray (FS 34096)
Sky (FS 34424)

There are a few sites online that show the FS colors (FS stands for Federal Specification), but graphics programs do not recognize the FS color codes, so you need to find some document that “translates” the colors into Hex, RGB, CMYK or something that your graphics program recognizes.

I found a document online that has this in a single place and these colors seem to match – or are at least consistent.  I found some places that called out translations that just did not even match the colors the showed.  Here is the URL for this useful document:  https://www.spmodelismo.com.br/material/tintas/fs595b.pdf  It should be noted that document FS595 would be the original, WWII-era document.  FS595a and FS595b were revisions.  The current is FS595c, but I read there is a problem with the -c version in that it changed some of the color identifications and these new clarifications can lead to confusion.  That is likely why the person that developed this PDF chose to work off the FS595b version.

And here is my reworked colorings (followed again by the first rendering for side-by-side comparison):

NEW “real” colors

OLD colors sampled off of artist’s renderings





If you look at color photos, you will see the NEW color palate is much closer to the photos than the second.  I will rework my tissue templates to reflect these new colors.  Too bad my model is now the wrong colors!

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