Wow, another year gone by. I tell you what – there were so many times in 2016 that I was on the flying field and just felt tremendous joy and appreciation for the time that was that moment. 2016 was one of my best years of flying – not because of wins (I did that some) and not because of the business – but just because I was doing what I enjoy and doing it with friends that enjoy the same thing. We braved the gales of the 2016 FAC Nats and we flew in the perfect days in September when Jack Moses was smilin’ down on us and we enjoyed all of the times in between.
I spent 35 years working for The Man and adopted the mantra “work to live, not live to work”. I was able to cut loose from that in July and I now spend my days working my business and working my hobby and as I told my brother this week “the lines between the two are very gray and blurry”. But I also still retain that mantra and my business is what allows me to pursue my hobby and allows me to share it all with all of you.
I try to keep my prices reasonable – even “cheap” in some cases. The items I buy and resell are offered in my shop at the going rate, or even below, in some cases. My short kits are one of those items that are “cheap” – yes, I make a profit on them, if you only consider the cost of raw materials. People might not realize all of the development and engineering that goes into these products; probably somewhere between 40 and 100 hours per plan (probably more). The hardware items – well, now you’ve got two people working on them – me and my dad – our labor is free. Just consider that next time you pick up something from a hobby manufacturer and wonder if it is over-priced. No one is going to get rich selling Free Flight supplies and no free-flighter could afford to pay the “real” costs.
So, what did the business do in 2016? Well, I was surprised when I just did a tally – 16 short kits, two new hardware products, and one back in production. Here are the kits: Old Timers: Pacific Ace jr, King Harry, the Shaft, the Wanderer, Peanut: Found Centennial, Dime Scale: Kokusai Ta-Go, Martin MO-1, Scale: Elmendorf Special, Vega Starliner, NoCal: Fairey Barracuda, Turbo Cessna 195, Jet Cat: U2, T-37 Tweet, Pep Reproductions: P-47, Sturmovik, PBY. The hardware: Torque Meters for the Morrill Sidewinder and the Rees Scale Winder – and we have the Scale Winder back in production. That’s a lot of stuff!
First up for 2017: I bought a replacement tube for the laser cutter – I’ve been having growing issues cutting, especially plywood. It was delivered this week. I systematically studied how to replace it and then moved the cutter and started disassembly. When I got the tube out, I took a look at the business end of the old tube (see the photo below). On the left, is the “before” and the right is the “after” – I found that there was residue on the tube (this is where the laser beam comes out). I assume that since the tube sits in the smoky environment, some of this smoke gets very close to this business end of the tube and gets burnt on to that surface. I cleaned it and re-installed the old tube. The cut is nearly how it was when brand new. I put the brand new tube on the shelf for later – they do go bad, but my old one still has life left in it. Maybe what I really need is a better exhaust system.
Here are the kits that I am currently working on for 2017:
95% ready to go:
- the Blatter 40, an indoor ROG stick that flies GREAT. Anyone should be able to get 2 minutes out of this.
- the Flying Aces Moth. I sent out two prototype kits and am awaiting flight results. I know that one is ready to fly, but I don’t know if it has, yet. I know that both builders have reported that it goes together very well.
- F4 Phantom II Jet Cat. I am finishing up the wood layout on this. I should have had this in production already, but I’ve been dragging my feet on other things.
- Dave Smith’s Yokosuka Judy. An 18″ span WWII Combat ship with a great reputation. I’ve got to finish parts design (there are lots of parts in the nose!), cut parts, (send Dave a kit), and build it.
- “Baby Cyclone“. This is for the Flying Aces Club Goodyear Races. I selected this plane because of the huge wing area and fuselage length. This will be similar in size to an Embryo, but still be a 13” Peanut. The drawing is nearly complete, parts need to be finalized and cut, and the model needs to be built.
- Cessna C-34. At 24″ span, I want this to be a “Mr Mulligan killer” (the secret is out). I have all the documentation necessary to qualify this for the Thompson Races in teh Flying Aces Club. This one has a square fuselage, no wing or tail struts, no wires, no wheel pants. I’m not a fan of radial engines, so I’m trying to do good engineering on the nose pieces – I want it to look good, but not be too heavy.
- Comet Pepper. This is a sister-model to the popular Comet Sparky. I read the build write-up from “flyguy” on Hip Pocket and then watched his flights in the middle of NYC. I was hooked watching that thing go up! I found the plan, and traced/redrew it. The plan is ready to go, I have to finish the parts layout and then cut it out and build it. This should be a great plane for Old Time Fuselage (Cabin).
- PEP Gliders. These aren’t super popular, but I’ve collected almost all of the original wood pieces. There are a total of 20 models of WWII aircraft and I have all but the Spitfire and the Vultee Vanguard. The Spitfire can be purchased on occasion (I’m cheap), but I have never seen the Vanguard. Does anyone have one that can be scanned? I plan of making these as I can.
- per the suggestion of George White, we have a set of prop shaft bending jigs about ready to go. They really are ready, I just need to finalize instructions and marketing stuff.
- thanks to Don DeLoach (providing a sample), we are now reproducing a batch of the K.Fags Spring Winder. These should be ready in a month or so.
Anyway, 2016 was great for me, and the business is doing fine. I plan on more and more short kits, because that’s what I do. I hope to see you at the flying field; if you’re there when I am, please stop by and say hi. I don’t remember all my customers by name, but I certainly like to talk Free Flight. If you can’t make it to the flying field, send me some photos of your Volare Products builds, I love to see those!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!