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The B.A.T. Monoplane – Something Different

This is a little different than my usual postings.  In early 2020, I received an email for David King in the UK.  He had asked for information and data on my Dime Scale B.A.T. Monoplane (read about it HERE) in order to build it over there.  I sent him what he needed and he stated sometime later that he would build a larger version.

This week, David send some photos and flight reports on a 28″ version that he built from my 16″ plans.  He converted it to diesel and (ugh) 2-channel radio control.  He used a Redfin 0.5cc diesel and says it is perfectly sized for the model.  He also says he regrets installing the r/c gear as it flies perfectly as a Free Flight model.  But with the r/c gear he can guide it back to him after the power runs out.

Again, I’m no fan of r/c, but I do understand why people can and do use it, especially if they use it in limited function, like retrieval.  Here are the photos David sent and some of his words:

David says, “The Redfin 0.5cc diesel is perfect for it needs just slightly less than full compression. I needn’t have put rudder/elevator control. It flies in lovely left circles from launch without me touching the transmitter . The long nose did mean that even with all radio equipment behind the CG I still had to add 15 GM’s of lead under the fin. A perfect FF model whatever the size.”

David says, “Photo gliding in to land, not the best photo but it was a bit of a murky day. I just regret putting in the RC, with that moment arm and dihedral angle as per your plan it flies on rails.”

It gives me a twinge of pride to hear that I can provide customers with happy and pleasing times in model aviation.

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A Quick Update – plus TWO New Short Kits!

Site News:  I might be having issues with PayPal payments.  One of the plugins I was using to collect PayPal payments (and credit card payments) was turned off because it is no longer supported and replaced by a new plugin.  I have activated the new plugin but I am not sure it is working correctly.  I’ll be monitoring that and contacting customers if there is a problem with their order.

Products in the Pipeline:  With summer over and winter on the way, I’ve got to shift to thoughts of Indoor flying.  I’ll build another of the Spitfire NoCals before I release the Short Kit (even though I did get the wreck flying well enough to get caught 50 feet up – I want it to fly better).  I am preparing to build another Peanut WWII fighter,  I like them and have a whole string of them to work on.  I have a 2-Bit drawn up and nearly ready to cut.  I am working on the next One-Design kit for next year’s Outdoor Champs – gotta have that done by spring/early summer.  And I have designs that have flown successfully, but need work (or pushing from customers) to move into Production, such as:  Heinkel He.280 JetCat, the Stallion Jumbo, and the Holy Ike OT Stick (a very complicated build.  If you are just itching to have one of those, let me know and I’ll get to finalizing the plans and instructions.

NEW PRODUCTS!!!  There has been a stirring among some of us to work on a proposed event for Indoor and even Outdoor – the Comet 5-Cent Series.  There are 12 designs in the series but only 11 would be eligible for the event (the stick Baby ROG is not scale or even scale-like).  Given that, I have two of the designs ready to offer for sale; you’ve probably seen them – the W-5 Cessna and the W-7 Miller Racer.  Both have been built and flown.  These are TINY with 10″ wingspans.


I even have GENUINE COMET PROPS to go with them.  A few years ago, I bought this box of props on ebay and, being 4″ diameter, I hadn’t a clue how I might use them.  Anyway, these will be a money-saving option with the Nickel short kits – or available separately at $2 each.

You can find the Nickel Short Kits and props HERE.  I’ll be trying to add more of the 11 to the line-up.  Note that at $5 each, these kits are NOT money-makers for me,  I’m just trying to pass on some fun!


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Two New Short Kits!

We are happy to announce two new Short Kits coming out of the FAC Outdoor Champs earlier this month.

Mike Welshans was able to successfully fly his Comet AYA#4 prototype Short Kit.  This is a reproduction of Comet’s 1940 AYA#4 kit from 1940.  This rarely-seen kit makes a nice 25″ cabin/fuselage model and should be a good flyer in FAC’s 2-Bit Plus One event.  Thanks to David Narance, Dan Driscoll, and Mike Welshans for making this happen.

Dan Driscoll and David Narance with their AYA #4s at the 2021 AMA Outdoor Nats.

Find the AYA#4 short kit HERE

The second short kit is our Folkerts SK-2 Indoor NoCal short kit modified for Outdoor use.  Many of the laser-cut parts were reworked to make them more robust for outdoor abuse and some portions of the plan were redesigned for the same reason.  James Martin suggested the change and I built and flew the prototype at Muncie.  I also made tissue templates for the “Toots”.  You can use the free “Toots” or the “Miss Detroit” for either the Indoor or Outdoor versions.

Find the Outdoor Folkerts short kit HERE

Find the Indoor Folkerts short kit HERE

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2021 FAC Outdoor Champs – Minus the Ted Dock

Another LONG missive…

For a couple weeks, I’ve had this feeling for foreboding – or at least a feeling of ill-preparedness.  In fact, this entire year I have been behind the curve (I feel like I am repeating myself).  Maybe this is how everyone is after a year or more of missing the regular schedule.  A very many people were commenting how they a) missed flying and b) were having to re-learn flying.  Maybe that is what was going on with me, too.  Big field flying is certainly different than small (local) flying and there are things you just can’t practice or prepare for on the local field.

In addition, as a vendor, I ran out of 1/8″ rubber.  High demand and FAI going on vacation (we all deserve a vacation) meant that I could not fill orders to be delivered to Muncie and I could not sell 1/8″ rubber on the field.  I was completely out!  In order to make up JetCat catapults, P-30 parts packs, and make my own motors for the contest, I had to strip a partial box of 1/4″ As I stripped the box, I had to cut the strip as I found two irregular sections in the rubber that made the strip into three short pieces instead of one long piece.  This would come into play later on.

More issues?  So I always plan to get down to Muncie the day before the contest starts.  This allows for relaxing arrival and possibly testing and trimming the day before.  And, of course, you are there for the early morning start of the contest.  I only live three hours from Muncie, so it’s an easy trip and if I go early, I can get most of the day to socialize and test fly.

Well, my Mrs. (Patricia) is from Costa Rica and spent three weeks in that beautiful country and returned home about three days before and she was surprised I would be leaving her “alone and with the dogs” so soon after her return home (of course, she knew, but it had slipped her mind).  I impose a small amount of guilt on myself every time I leave her home since she isn’t really a fan of taking the dogs out – she likes them around, but that all is “my job”.

On Tuesday, I was prepping and packing for my trip.  Since I take my “store” with me, I have to manage packing orders and packing the trailer.  I try to wait to pack the trailer until the last minute so I can fulfill as many orders as I can before I leave.  So I waited until the afternoon on Tuesday to pack in order to leave on Wednesday morning.  Since the Summer of 2021 has become storm-central in Michigan (I am calling the summer “the rainy season”), we had a big one roll through Wednesday evening – and it knocked out power.  They projected noon on Wednesday for restoration.  I couldn’t pack the trailer and car in the rain, nor in the dark.  So that was delayed.

Wednesday morning came about but the power was still not there.  The rain had stopped.  Pat has been working from home since March 2020 and had to go into the boys’ coffee shop to get internet connection so she could work.  The projected restoration shifted from noon until midnight.  She told me in no uncertain terms that she would NOT be staying alone in the dark.  I said I would not leave until power was restored.  That meant that I might not be leaving until very late Wednesday or very, very early on Thursday.  I took my time in the morning and packed my planes and sales goods and then sat and waited – without my morning coffee.  Around noon, I got hungry and went into the shop to get a sandwich and a double-shot latte (solving a couple problems).  Woohoo!  The power came back on while I finished my sandwich.  I went home, hooked up the trailer and took off for Muncie.

finally on the road to Muncie

I arrived about 4pm and had a great evening, chit-chatting with friends and preparing for the upcoming contests.  The Cloudbusters run the Outdoor Champs and basically that means Winn Moore and me with our third musketeer, Pat Murray helping out.  Pat runs the following Ted Dock, with Winn and I helping out.  It’s a great four-day weekend of flying; the last of the year, and we get contestants from all over the east and sometimes the west, too.

This year was also the second time that we shared the field with the SAM Champs.  And the second time the FAC participated in their Concourse display and we shared three overlapping mass launches:  SAM Small Stick/FAC OT Stick, SAM Small Fuselage, FAC OT Fuselage, and Jimmie Allen.  These mass launches were held after official flying on Thursday evening.

Flying Highlights and Lowlights

The weather outlook for the four days looked like Thursday would be “ok” with a light wind and Friday would be near perfect, with clear skies and 2-3 mph breezes.  Saturday and Sunday (the Ted Dock contest) looked like it would be a blow-out with gusts up to 40mph.

my messy set-up on Thursday

One of my early errors came in OT Fuselage.  This is one of my favorite events, and I feel I have worked hard to become competitive at this event.  If you recall, I won OT Fuse at the AMA Nats with a huge fly-off flight.  It is my custom to fly OT Fuse and OT Stick in the mornings.  I have reliable models and while thermals are probably not very strong early, the models can fly for 2 minutes without thermalling.  So what do I do?  I set aside my HepCat in favor of P-30.  This is not even an FAC event and really “means nothing” in our books.  I put up my flights in the morning and came away with an eventual win in P-30 (only four people flew P-30).  Then I focused on some other events and flew OT Fuselage in the later afternoon – after the good air had gone and the wind had picked up.  I got two maxes, but dropped my third flight and had to settle for second when I should have been able to easily force a fly-off.

I did bring my One-Design Klingon Embryo.  I figured there would be very few flying since it is such an unconventional model.  Mine had been crashed and crunched, so I sheeted over the sides of the nose, added 1/16″ square bass to the upper longerons, and a little bit of extra area to the canard.  I was surprised to see several other Klingons there – and they were flying well!  I put in a loop of 3/16″ rubber and wound mine up and was pleased to see great flights over a minute and a high time of over 80 seconds!  My three-flight total wasn’t enough to place, but it was fun flying the goofy model.  I doubt I will fly it again.

Of course, that took some time, probably an hour or more.  I used to be able to fly so many events.  These days, it seems like I actually get flights in less than half of my planned events.  I brought my Fike E “Dream, a plane I don’t like (and that didn’t want to fly indoors) to fly in High Wing Peanut.  My goal was for it to fly or crash out trying.  The Indoor 3/32″ loop was just too weak for outdoor, so I loaded it with a loop of that stripped 1/8” rubber, wound it up and the thing took off skyward!  I got a 96 second flight and put it away, good enough for third place in HWP (I should have tried for more to come closer to Wally Farrel’s max).

I had no luck in the Goodyear Mass Launch, crashed out in the Greve race,and didn’t even try for Embryo.  Again, the “feeling” just wasn’t there.

The three SAM/FAC Mass Launches were coming up at 5pm Thursday and I had two planes that I thought could be competitive:  My HepCat and my Holy Ike OT Stick (I lost my great flying Jimmie Allen Sky Raider in July).  OT Stick was the first event.  There were some SAM “big guns” there, like Mark Vancil and the legendary Bud Romak.  Both had a “New” Gollywock (the second version Gollywock with h-stab tip plates) and I have seen Bud fly his – it goes like a rocket.  Of course, the FAC’s Tom Hallman and Wally Farrell were also there, so it was going to be a challenge.

We all went up on “launch” and they were away.  Wally went down immediately as he said his pusher wing had hit his hat on launch, spoiling its flight.  Mark and Tom and Bud were all up high and my big stick was steadily climbing up there, too.  Because of their superior altitude, I imagined that Bud and Mark were going to have great flights.  I saw that mine came down way down field, after Tom’s Gollywock hit the ground.  I picked it up and saw the other two Gollywocks on the ground already.  It turns out that my big Holy Ike took the win (I won the same event last time, too)!

SAM/FAC Stick Mass Launch – Eric Specht photo.

I was pumped and immediately got my HepCat OT Fuselage ready.  I set the DT for 3.5 minutes and wound it up tight.  The HepCat just climbs and climbs.  I chased it way down wind, and as it was finally coming down, it DT’d 30 feet or so above the soybean field behind the cemetery.  I stopped the watch and it was 4 minutes and something (there was a 20-second delay between “start your watches” and “launch”) and I could just see the tail sticking up out of the beans.  I retrieved it and felt pretty good; there was a great chance I just won the second mass launch!  I got back, recorded my score, and Winn told me that Mark Rzadka had beaten me by six seconds!  Oh well, it was a worthy flight!

the SAM/FAC OT Fuse Mass Launch – Eric Specht photo


Day Two promised to be a good day; the weather forecast looked great and we could fly from the southern field, our favorite site.  Indeed the weather held and we had very light breezes all day with mild thermals creating lots of max flights with the models landing on the field.  I wasn’t going to make my OT Fuse mistake with my OT Stick, so I loaded it up and started flying right away. I wound up for a test flight and popped a loop in the motor.  No big deal, I can fly a test flight on a less-than-perfect motor, so I would up and launched.  The climb was very slow and not normal.  Other than that, and the lack of altitude, it all looked good – until the glide – when it went nose down and hit hard.  I picked it up and scratched my head, wondering what had happened.  I did notice that I broke one rib (and the tissue) and later I noticed that I broke part of the trailing edge off one prop blade.  I realized that I forgot the shim under the leading edge of the wing.

I had to make a new motor.  This is seven loops of 1/8″.  I calculated how much rubber I needed and found that my stripped and cut rubber was not long enough.  I’d have to knot together two strands to make one strand long enough to make seven loops at 36″.  I had a great struggle getting seven loops made up on the field.  And, thinking about it now, I think this will lead to the problems I had in my next flight, an official.  What I did was I took the motor and made a six-loop motor from it and added on a separate 7th loop.  I wound it up and flew it – with the shim in under the wing.  For the most part it went up “ok” but when the power came off, the glide was not right and then the rubber coughed out the nose block and this ruined the glide, again coming in nose down.  The resulting flight was 82 seconds, dropping the very first flight.  I was back on the down side of flying.  I think that when I readjusted the motor loops, I inadvertently made it longer and this may have disrupted the weight/balance and I probably did not braid it correctly and that is what threw off the flight.

I took a mental break and decided to test my new Folkerts SK-2 NoCal (designed for Outdoor.  I intended to fly it at the Ted Dock (no NoCal at the Outdoor Champs).  After a couple trimming flights I got a very nice flight.  It had a poor glide, but I didn’t want to push my luck and have it fly away, so I put it back in the box.

my new Outdoor Folkerts SK-2 NoCal at altitude

Then I got out my Jumbo Aircraft Designs Stallion.  It had been out of sorts at the AMA Nats, but I hoped it could still be coaxed to fly.  I gave a small thrust adjustment and a short test flight and then wound it up.  I saw one broken strand and then a second while winding.  I really was in no mood to make another motor, so I just let it go, being careful no to wind to full torque.  I launched and had a spectacular flight that ended at 4:04 (I locked down the DT).  What a pleasant flight; here is a video of the last part of the flight.  Oh, a max in Jumbo was good for FOURTH place as the three ahead of me (Wally, Tom, and Pat) all were flying twins.  Pat’s flight was only 56 seconds and it still beat me.  That’s what 35 bonus points to for you!

I decided to participate in the WWII Mass Launch.  I only have my little Peanut Yak-3 and Peanuts rarely fly as well as the big planes on a big field.  There were 13 flyers signed up and Winn was eliminating four flyers, then five flyers, leaving four for the final round.  I made it through the first round with a couple slots to spare.  Then I made it through the second round and was in the final four!  I had a chance to make the podium for WWII with my little Yak!  I was worried about the motor (a single loop of 3/32″) as it was not a fresh motor, having been used in at least one previous contest.  I did wind it up as tight as I dared, wishing I could put a few more hundred in.  I was flying against Wally Farrell, Pat Murray, and Charlie Sauter in the final round.  I had a respectable flight, but was down first and I came in 4th.

First round of WWII. My Yak is the camo-colored model right above the blue and yellow tent. Eric Specht phot


Winn and I went out to fly JetCat and while we had two decent flyers each, neither of us could hook any real thermals and we did not place at all.  I also thought I might try to fly 1/2 Wake as no one had any real strong scores posted and the contest was nearly over.  I wound up and either the o-ring or the rubber broke and the fully-wound motor took out nearly all of the verticals and tissue in the fuselage all the way back to the motor peg.

Like I said, ups and downs.  I did receive a couple of acknowledgements that made me feel good.  Wally gave me a “tip-of-the-hat” at the beginning of the WWII final round for valiantly (audaciously?) flying WWII with a tiny little Peanut and making it to the final round.  Secondly, at the end of the SAM/FAC OT Stick Mass Launch, Bud Romak gave me a thumbs up.  Bud is a competitor, world champion, a great builder and flyer, and a Free Flight legend – and he gave me a thumbs up.

my coaster trophies from the 2021 FAC outdoor Champs

So why am I writing this on Saturday from home, rather than flying in the wind at Muncie in the Ted Dock?  I haven’t missed a Ted Dock since 2011 and have sat there in the rain waiting in vain for the sky to clear.  A little wind shouldn’t and wouldn’t chase me off.  Well, Friday morning, Pat (the wife, not the flying buddy) called me from home.  She was agitated and sounded like she was in pain.  She had been wrangling the dogs while taking them out and one of them pulled her over, tripping her on a slope.  She fell and hit her arm and it was in a lot of pain.  I told her to call one of her sons instead of me since I was three hours away.  Tristan left the coffee shop and took her to the hospital.  It turned out she has multiple fractures (comminuted) of the outer process of her left humerus (and she’s left-handed).  That is the pointy end of your shoulder.  While she protested that I should stay and fly, I knew that I shouldn’t, so after the contest was over I drove right home.  She will be ok and there will be other opportunities to fly with all my buddies.

Twilight at the end of Day One



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Adventures in Laser-Land

I took delivery of my new laser cutter on the 11th.  It was scheduled for delivery on the 10th, but the truck driver did not want to back his 53′ semi-trailer into my driveway and tear up the yard.  That was kind of him, and as I said, I didn’t mind because when I take delivery, that’s when my work starts.  So they came back the next morning with a smaller box truck and dropped the crate off in my garage.

the crate as it was dropped off

I got the top of the crate off with little effort. Miss Patricia did help me with that.

my drill motor shown on the cutting bed for size reference

So there it sat.  I had to wait until late that evening for my sons to come over.  They were working in the coffee shop – and then golfing (!) – so, old dad had to wait to get his new toy moved into the house.  As it was indicated that it weighs something over 300 lbs, I had the idea to roll it on plywood around the back yard to the door into the room where it will sit.  I broke down the crate and used the three larger sides for that purpose.  About 1/4 of the way through the journey, Jack suggested we simply carry it.  That was the right thing as it went much easier than swapping all those sheets of wood.  I did have to remove the doors from the entry way, since they interfered.   With them off, we simply rolled it through the doorway with about 1/4″ to spare.  Now comes the complicated stuff – getting it to work.

The cutter, in its current location with everything hooked up.

I installed the software that came with the cutter onto the laptop that I used for the old cutter and eventually brought up the water cooler (for the laser tube) and the industrial filter system.  I say “eventually” because I didn’t need either of those to get started – I needed to get to that “it’s alive” point and that didn’t require cutting – which heats the tube and creates smoke – so just making sure that I could control the head and load a drawing was the first part.

After it became operational, and I got the water hooked up, it was time to do some test cuts.  As with all things technical, there is a learning curve.  I knew I had to convert all my old files to a new format.  The old laser required XPS format and this would read DXF.  DXF is good, because that is somewhat of a universal CAD file format.  TurboCAD uses its own proprietary format (of course), but easily writes to DXF.  Somewhere along the lines of testing, I got the machine confused and it thinks things are mirrored, and try as I might, I could not get it resolved in the free RDWorks controller software that came with the machine.  Googling told me that LightBurn was a better controlling software, but it costs $80.  I downloaded the trial and found that I could actually set up and control the machine now (so I sent them $80).  It did take me all day to get to a comfort point and that was rather frustrating – just ask the Mrs.

Side track for a moment.  While my old cutter was dying, i had plenty of time to mess with it.  As mentioned before, it would simply stop cutting in the middle of a file, often burning a nasty hole in the balsa.  You can’t really start over on a cut, so tossing all those partial cuts was wasteful.  I discovered that if I stood there and monitored the cut, I could unplug and replug the USB cable and it might resume right were it stopped.  I tried different USB cables but no luck.  These are the silly printer USB cables with the strange square end that plugs into the machine.  During my week of working on the dying machine, I discovered that whatever the problem was, it was throwing errors that stopped the USB driver from functioning.  I could unplug from one USB port and move to another and have success – until that one threw an error.  So…Is it the machine board initiating an error that fed back into the computer – or was it the computer and its USB ports/drivers failing?  I don’t know.  Its an old recycled laptop, that I dedicated to the cutter.  I moved the laptop up to the new cutter and loaded the trial software and got to setting up the cutter.  However, I decided that I cannot trust the old laptop, so I bought a new $500 laptop for the new laser cutter.  End side track.

I was able to create some files and test the actual cutting.  It appears that the new cutter is about 5x faster than the old cutter!  Add to that the bed has just over 4x more area.  I should be able to cut at least 4x more wood in the same time as the old cutter.  The old cutter has a cut bed about 14″ left-to-right and 9″ front-to-back about the same size as a sheet of legal paper.  Consider that any of my larger kits require several sheets of balsa, and you can see that to cut one kit would a) take some time and b) take swapping out wood for a second or even third set of wood.

I tested some Chambermaid Dimer kits.  These require three sheets of balsa – 2x of 1/16″ thick and 1x of 1/8″ thick.  I was able to load both thicknesses and cut two kits all at once in less time than I could cut one kit.  Success!  However, as I mentioned on facebook, I was out of any balsa heavier than 6-pound.  I had some on order and coincidentally, it arrived on Sunday.  So yesterday was spent refining and tweaking.  I ran into two issues:  1) I ran into some software-induced problems and 2) balsa suppliers only supply “nominal” sizes.

The software.  I have a backlog on P-30 kits.  And with the arrival of the new wood, I could get busy cutting for them.  I laid out a bed-full of balsa to cut 3 kits at once.  That is four sheets per kit for the Square Eagle and I could fit three kit’s worth on the bed at once.  To get technical, the cuts are sorted by layers – I use blue for the main cuts, red for the lettering, and green for optional features (like gizmo geezer nose button cut-outs).

It only took 25 minutes to cut three kits!  however, I noticed a problem – the lettering was shifting to the left.  That wouldn’t be too serious, except I also etch certain parts locations on other parts – you know: “glue part A to part B HERE”.  I noticed that between the first kit and the third kit this location had shifted almost 1/16″ of an inch.  And then the third layer of cutting the nose button holes was also off.

I did more googling and found that apparently the command to control the stepper motors can induce a drift like this.  Here is a snippet: “‘PWM rising edge valid’. This controls which side of the motor pulse the motor drivers are expected to respond to, and if it’s wrong, it will cause very slow drift of jobs over time…” and “… cause slip, especially if the job contains lots of small moves.” – like all those small moves in writing out all that text.  So I got that fixed.

The next problem was one that I encountered before.  I will call it “error stacking”.  I order 3″ wide balsa.  I have found that suppliers have a wide tolerance for producing 3″ wide stock.  I have received batches that are under 3″ by at least 1/32″ and some batches over by as much as 1/16″.

the left green mark shows the sheets pushed up against a wall and the right side shows the two different widths of 3″ wood from suppliers.

On my old small bed, I could account for that and most of my files are padded with about 3/32″ of space between the ideal 3″ width and the parts cut.  That 3/32″ padding on each side would allow for errors to stack up and not really affect the cuts – most cut pieces would stay on the piece, regardless of the size.  I did often strip 1/132″ off of some sheets.  But with the new cutter, I have the capacity to stack up a lot more than two or three sheets and with that, I am stacking errors from all those poorly-dimensioned  stock woods.  My solution to that was to make a cut file to process each sheet – it cuts off any excess over 3″ and makes those sheet 3″ wide.  While I haven’t tested it, in theory, this should solve that problem.  It will take about 3 seconds per sheet, not including the load time, but with all the time save with the faster cutter, I can spare that time and still be faster.

So all that testing took all day yesterday.  I was finally able to pump out some good balsa, but I also have a waste basket full of scrapped sheets of balsa.  Now it’s back to work!






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Better Flying Through Record Keeping

I’ve written an article and put it in the How To area.  I hope you might find it useful.

How-To: Better Flying Through Record Keeping


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Back from the Nats – Ups and Downs


Wow – it’s been a week since I returned from two weeks of Nats flying; first the AMA Indoor Nats in Pontiac, MI and then the AMA Outdoor Nats  in Muncie, IN.  Apparently, I’m no spring chicken as I was exhausted upon my return – ha!  To be fair, I returned home every night from Pontiac as I elected to take the daily 135 mile drive – that was about 1,000 miles that week!  Muncie was a 3 hour drive one way and I spent those days on the field with Pat Murray in his RV.

Forgive me if this report is shorter than you might expect; my memory has never been the best and I tend to “live in the moment” and events fade as time passes.  The Indoor Nats had 40-50 contestants, maybe more if you include all the Science Olympiad students that were there for a day or two.  Most of those flyers were for the AMA events and only a few showed up for the FAC events.  This was a little disappointing for me as this was a great opportunity to fly in a wonderful facility.

I had been prepping for these Indoor Nats all winter since they were held on my “home field”.  We Cloudbusters have been flying indoors at this site for maybe five years and while I still suffer from collisions with the girders, I felt I had a bit of an advantage.  All of my indoor models were trimmed over time to fly within the confines of the facility and only other Cloudbusters would share that small advantage and I felt I needed any leg up as I still consider myself an Outdoor flyer flying Indoors.  It turned out that I was the only Cloudbuster that showed up to fly.  That minuscule advantage was all mine.

My flying buddy, Winn Moore, showed up every day.  He didn’t register to fly and ended up helping me throughout the contest.  His help was immeasurable and we increased my flying times for several models.  But we still had to contend with George Nunez (FL) and his some Jonathan (CA).  I met George when I went to the Indoor Nats at Rantoul a few years ago.  George shows up with a car-load of exquisite models.  And Jonathan designed the Yak-3 Peanut that I’ve been campaigning and kitting.  All of their models fly very well.

Wrapping up the Indoor portion of this missive, I did pretty good.  Some events evaded me, but overall I came out on top, as you can see in this photo.

I had a couple days (Saturday and Sunday) to stay at home and do non-airplane things – in between hastily packing orders and the truck and trailer with models and sales goods.  I got a few orders out the door and in the car for contest pick-up.  I even got a couple of kits cut, but had some minor issues.

I drove down to Muncie Monday morning so that I would have all day to test and trim various models.  The weather was great!  Sunny with only the slightest breeze and temperatures in the mid-80s.  It stayed that way through Wednesday and Thursday promised rain and wind.  The rain happened BEFORE and AFTER the contest, but not during and the wind on Thursday wasn’t terrible.  The temps felt like high-80s, maybe 90s and without any wind, the sweat just poured off of me.  The three of us in Pat’s RV went through nearly 3 cases (32 bottles per case) of bottled water over the four days.  At least we were hydrated.

I got my new Holy Ike OT Stick trimmed out on Monday.  It climbs like a rocket and glides well.  It looked really promising for OT Stick on Tuesday.  I put up an easy max on the first flight, but had a brain fart on the second.  I clearly remember winding to a specific torque, which was well below max torque.  I launched and watched a mediocre flight that ended six seconds short of a max.  Well, that ended my hopes of winning OT Stick.  I think three, maybe four, other flyers maxed out and had a fly-off.  I should have been in that group and this model is capable of so much.  Oh well, now I know.  I’ll do better at the FAC Outdoor Champs/SAM Champs.

Holy Ike – 1941 Class C Stick

Brain Fart #2 occurred on Wednesday.  The weather was perfect.  virtually no wind and light thermals everywhere.  On a whim, I had brought my INDOOR Stout 2-AT for the OUTDOOR contest.  It is a good flyer and I thought it might do OK in Golden Age.  Backstory: when I am preparing for events (I guess “seriously” preparing for events), I do a test flight, or several, until the model is where I need it to be for the event.  For my OT Stick and Fuse, I always take at least one test flight to verify the model is where is needs to be and is behaving properly.  Well, I guess i wasn’t “serious” about Golden Age.  I pulled the Stout out of the box and wound it up – with its INDOOR motor and everything.  Pat asked if I was testing and I said “no, let’s go with this”.  85 seconds later I was picking up the model after a low altitude flight.  85 seconds is not 120 seconds and I dropped that first flight.  I wasn’t upset as I had no expectations for the model.  But I wondered why it didn’t climb in the excellent air.  I realized that for INDOOR, I was limiting climb with downthrust so the model didn’t get into the girders.  I took about half a turn out of the Gizmo Geezer nose button and wound up the 1/8″ INDOOR motor again.  I did it again for an identical third flight.  Both of these flights were over 3 minutes, with tons of soaring and landing not-to-far away.  Had I tested before going official, maybe I could have maxed out.  Here is a video of one of them.

My stars aligned for Old Time Fuselage and made my week.  I was flying my new-for-this-year Hep Cat.  I had tested this in April at Muncie on a windy Saturday and was amazed at how stable the model was.  I didn’t try to ROG it (a requirement for FAC OT Fuse) then but it later proved stable in ROG at the McCook contest in June.  Again, the weather was beautiful on Wednesday.  But I saw so many OT Fuse contestants drop a flight.  And these were all the big names.  I had put of three easy maxes and was sitting pretty for most of the day.  Around 4pm, Ed Hardin turned in a triple-max – that meant a fly-off.

My new Hep Cat sitting on the February snow

CD Mike Welshans had decided that fly-offs would be settled by a 4th unlimited duration flight and Ed went back and put up his 4th flight right away – a 4:42 flight that went pretty far down field.  Clouds then rolled in.  All of our nice sun went away for long periods of time.  Pat Murray helped me a lot – telling me “no, let’s wait” when I was getting itchy to go.  We could see breaks in the clouds coming and we waited for more sun – and more air.

One of these larger breaks we coming and I decided that it was time to go.  I told Pat to get ready to time and I wound up.  I would it up pretty tight, stressing the motor, probably close to max safe torque.  I set the electronic timer to 5 minutes and went to the table.  I stood there for a time, resetting the timer for a fresh 5 minutes.  The sun was popping out, the streamers were starting to flutter…then I felt the light breeze shift about 90 degrees or more.  I told Pat this was it, made sure he was ready, reset the timer one last time, turned into the breeze, and launched.

Whatever thermal there was wasn’t the strongest (I had launched into one on the second flight that nearly knocked my model out of the air as I released it), but man, that model climbed up.  It was getting really small and I asked Pat “we aren’t even at 50 seconds yet, right?”  He replied the time was just over 40 seconds.  My motor run is about 55 seconds under normal torque and this was mega torque.  The Hep Cat finally settled into a gentle and flat glide, making big turns over the field.  I was just a few hundred yards from the launch site when it finally came down.  The DT hadn’t popped yet – the flight was under 5 minutes.  I rode my bike over, bent down to pick it up and it popped.  This was going to be close.  I got back and Pat told me it was a 4:49 – I won by 7 seconds!

Don DeLoach photo of flight #2 or #3

The rest of the contest was immaterial.  I didn’t expect to win anything else – and I didn’t.  But I had a great time doing what I did, and learned a few lessons that will be helpful in the future.

P.S.  Wally Farrell took Outdoor Nats High-Point Champ!



So, getting back home after big contest means lots of catch-up work filling orders that come in while I am gone.  Of course, people don’t stop ordering just because I’m not there and, of course, they order my short kits.  My kits are probably the part of my business that I like doing the most.  I like finding designs, drawing them out, building them, flying them and then making those designs available for others.

I mentioned earlier that I had “minor issues” with my laser cutter in between contests.  The cutter would start cutting and would just STOP CUTTING after about 10 or 15 minutes.  This may be during one cut, or it may be in the 2nd or 3rd cut of the day.  I mostly cut one kit at a time, due to  the limitations of my 14″x9″ cutting bed.  Not only would it stop, but the laser would still be firing – so it would burn large holes in the balsa, ruining the piece.  The computer was reporting it was losing connection with the cutter.

I found that if I stood by the machine and watched it during the cut, I could quickly unplug the USB cable and plug it back in and the cutting would resume.  I might have to do that two or three times during a single cut.  This was entirely unpredictable – it was failing at various points in the cut and not repeating at a specific spot.  Besides being very annoying, it is wasteful.  The balsa might be ruined, but it also required that I stand by watching for 10 or 15 minutes during a cut – time that I usually spend packing or making other things.

I contacted the manufacturer.  I had issues with the controller board in the past: the board got hot enough that the heat sink on the chip slid off the vertically-oriented board.  They had sent me a replacement board back in 2016 (had it really be that long ago?)  Now they told me that the 2013 purchase was too old and they no longer support that model in any way.  They said I might try to install a 3rd-party controller board, but could not recommend one, nor offer support on how to do that.

I started doing research online.  While replacement is possible, it doesn’t seem to be a simple swap.  Still considering a swap, I purchased a new USB cable, just in case that was the issue.  This cable is a USB printer cable and the end that plugs into the board is a little loose.  I got the cable and used it.  I was able to cut about three kits before the board crapped out again.  This time was slightly different – it finished the cut, returned the cutter head to the “home” position, and shut down.  I can get no reaction out of the cutter at all now.

You know what that means?  Most of my back-orders cannot be filled – I generally cut kits as needed.  I did make some extras in preparation for the Nats but as they have not been purchased, they are not the items people want the most.  I am faced with many orders that I cannot fill because I cannot cut balsa.

While considering how to proceed with this ancient piece of tech that has served me so well, I have gone ahead and ordered a replacement.  This one has a 28″x20″ bed and is much, much larger.  I doubt I can fit it through the door to the basement, even if we could carry it down the stairs.  According to the published dimensions, it should fit through the back door of the house and the Lady of the House volunteered that I could use that back room for the new cutter – even before it was necessary to buy one.

Delivery should be within two week.  In the mean time, I will get the room prepped.  Then I’ll have to hook up the new machine and figure out how to operate it.  Then I’ll have to reformat all my cut files, as I am sure the format I had to use with the old machine will not be readable by the new machine.  Hopefully, it will cut a lot faster, and eventually I should be able to rework the files to fully take advantage of this much larger bed.

To shorten up a long story, it might be a month before I can get back to cutting short kits.  Ugh.

Stand by…




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Shifting Gears for the Nats

Today is the Sunday before the Indoor Nats start and a week before the Outdoor Nats – and I better start preparing.  Not only do I need to gather my models and documentation, but I need to mentally prepare as my mind is elsewhere right now.

As some may know or remember (I did mention this before, didn’t I?), I have a 1963 Studebaker Lark.  I have had it for 10 years or so and have done very little on it for most of that time.  I jumped back into Free Flight with both feet and the car has sat in the barn all that  time, with only occasional attention – until this year.

In April, I took the car down to my dad’s in Ohio and we began a process of swapping engines from one of his Studebakers.  Once a month, I went down there for 4-day sessions.  I had expected three sessions, but three turned into four.  Neither he nor I are as young as we once were and the work required was possibly a bit more than anticipated.  Regardless, a couple weeks ago, we buttoned up my Lark and actually drove it down the road (and back).  Now it wasn’t perfect, but it was running.

This week, I trailered it back home and it is back in the barn.  It has been on my mind pretty much non-stop since then.  I still have a lot of tweaks and adjustments to do, but it is fun to be back working on cars.  I reminded myself that he and I had done similar projects several times – back in the early ’80s.  Early 80s???  Could it really be 40 years ago?  That amazed me – time has a way of slipping by, doesn’t it?  And, of course, I know he doesn’t have another 40 years in front of him, so it was good to spend that time with him.  I think he thought so, too.

Right now, I could go on and on about the car.  BUT!!!!  It’s Nats Time!  Time to get my mind right and back on track with Free Flight.  Because of the weather (June and July appear to be the new “rainy season” here in Michigan), I haven’t been flying since early June in Muncie.  I’ve been drawing and packing orders, but not building or flying.  Now the “biggest” contests of the year are just days away.  I have made a list for the Indoor Nats of what planes to fly in what events and on what days – that’s a start.

Of course, I used all Indoor season (ending in May) to tweak my fleet, knowing that the Nats would be in the very same facilities that we use monthly.  Of course, I took some of those models OUTSIDE at Muncie in June – and adjusted them.  I knew the implications then, but went ahead.  Now I will be forced to take the ones that I adjusted for Outdoors and re-trim for Indoors and hope I can get some of that Indoor magic back into them.

It looks like I am planning on flying 14 events.  And I have 12 or so models called out for that duty.  While I had decent success “locally” I anticipate that the competition will be a little bit steeper and the Nats brings in people from all around the country.  As for the Outdoor Nats next week – I better start making a list for that contest, too!  I am way behind and way out of practice.

I better get my head in the game…if I could just get that supercharged 4-speed hardtop pushed into a back corner of that same head, maybe I’d be able to prepare a little bit better.

See you there!

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NEW PRODUCTS – Cloud Tramp Short Kit and 30oz Tumbler

After a great deal of consideration, I am bringing back the Cloud Tramp, but only a Short Kit.  You will get all the laser-cut pieces and plans/instructions in this very basic short kit ($11).  You can add a plastic prop (+$1) or a Superior Props Cloud Tramp prop blank (+$8) as options.  Get it now and fly in the August World-Wide Cloud Tramp Mass Launch!

Jump to the SHORT KIT

Details on the Mass Launch HERE

I’ve decided to do a LIMITED QUANTITY of 30-ounce Insulated Tumblers in the “Volare Orange” and with the Team Volare logo.  These will keep your favorite beverage hot or cold for a long time.  Get one now (before they go out of stock) and be one of the “cool” kids!

Dive right in to the Cup HERE

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Flying Outdoors Again! the McCook at Muncie Contest

FINALLY, we get to go back outdoors for “big” contests, after missing all of last year.  Every June, the McCook Squadron (Dayton, Ohio) hosts a two-day FAC contest at the AMA Flying site in Muncie, Indiana.  It really has the flavor of a local contest, but it is showing signs of growing bigger.  There are only a couple of Dayton people still attending (old age is getting to all of us), but Pat Murray (Roscoe Turner Squadron) and the Cloudbusters have agreed to do all of the contest day legwork, while the Dayton crew manages the prizes and awards.  We have always enjoyed the opportunity early in the year to get back out on the big sites – and we (usually) can use this contest as a tune-up for Geneseo (not happening again this year).

So, after a year of COVID Cancellations, it was great to get back outside and meet up again will all of our flying buddies.  We even had distant flyers attend:  Wally Farrell from Virginia and Dave and Ann Niedzielski (EasyBuilt Models) from Alabama.  What happens after a year off?  It turns out that some of us are a bit rusty.  We “forget” how to fly and we tire easily.  That might be from the aging process or lack of regular activity over the year.

I drove down on Friday morning and discovered that Pat Murray and Clete Schenkel had already been testing since the day before!  The weather prediction was a mixed bag:  the temperature and general conditions looked to be great, but all three days proved to be windy.  I am sure that the wind curtailed participation in many events.  Still we did manage to fly 19 official FAC events, three McCook specialty events, and two AMA events.  All of the FAAC events had at least three flyers, so we awarded plenty of kanones (especially to Wally!).  Two of the McCook events (Sky Bunny Memorial, Cloud Tramp) had many participants, and the McCook Watson Challenge and AMA P-30 only had one flyer.  Frank Scott (Dayton) created the Sky Bunny Memorial and had a perpetual trophy made and gave out Sky Bunny mugs to all Sky Bunny flyers.  He created a target-time event which Wally Farrell won and took home the perpetual trophy.  Of course, Frank and the rest of the Dayton Crew created Award Certificates and the coveted “McCookies” for the winners.

My mug (already used!), a handful of “McCookies”, and a First Place certificate


My adventures started out well enough.  I test flew a few new planes on Friday, including my Three-Night P-30, my HepCat Old Time Fuselage, and my brand new Holy Ike Old Time Stick.  I tried a couple of other models, but really was just there for fun and relaxation and easing back into contest flying.  I stated earlier that I had brought 27 models for 22 events.  That proved to be too optimistic – at least I was prepared!  Well, maybe “prepared” isn’t the right word.  I dislike making motors so much that I neglected to make new motors for my models.  Some models were able to fly on OLD motors (for a could flights, at least) but most required me to make motors on the field – ugh!

the Holy Ike when it was finished – BEFORE testing

My first issue came with my Holy Ike.  I gave it some low and medium power test flights and all looked great with right-hand flying and gliding.  I checked the trim, noted that the wing was about half a bay off of location and fixed that and I powered it up to about 60-70% and walked out to the (windy) flightline.  As I was getting prepped to launch, my thumb broke one of the lower longerons.  I felt it would be ok and I would repair it after the test flight.  I launched and immediately knew something was amiss:  previous flights had a steady and stable climb-out to the right – this went straight out and climbed up.  Of course it stalled, dropped its nose and went straight into the ground, smashing the fuselage back to the wing.  Post-flight analysis:  I had noted the wing was not located correctly.  I had marks on the wing indicating where it should sit on the fuselage, referencing each side.  Earlier, I had aligned the LEFT marks with the CENTER of the fuselage, thus the wing was mounted to the right.  I imagine the extra weight on the right had imparted a right bank, especially under the lower powered tests.  Shifting the wing back AND higher torque made eliminated that right turn resulting in destruction.  In addition, the broken longeron had weakened the structure enough that it could take no impact.  Also, I had built the fuselage out of light wood – too light for a large powerful plane.  This crushing blow was destined to happen when I framed up the model.

the Holy Ike fuselage AFTER testing

The sun and wind started to take a physical toll, too.  By the end of Friday, I was very tired.  As we got started on Saturday, I worked on my B-52.  I built this several years ago, and while it is somewhat stable in flight, it is very sensitive to disturbances.  I also thought I had it under-propped so I put on a larger wooden prop.  That seem to make it fly a little better.  In the end, after several test flights, I recorded a 30 second flight, and then a 55 second flight and as I applied a bit more power, the old characteristics came back and it made about 1/4 circuit and the power pulled it up into a bit more angle of attack than it likes and it stalled out and nosed in.  There was little damage other than a bent prop shaft.  I have it so it comes apart in pieces on landing, so damage is limited.  This stalling is probably due to the washed-IN wing tips.  I’ve tried to counteract that with tabs, but I think it is beyond hope.  And last week, I had reinforced the chin so it would be crushed again on a bad landing.  55 was my top score and, with the 20 bonus points, it was good for second – behind Wally Farrell’s fantastic Me.609 twin.  I probably won’t fly this anymore as I don’t think I can coax it to fly better than it is.

my battle-worn 30″ span B-52 awaiting another flight.

I also got to work on flying my new HepCat Old Time Fuselage.  I have only flown this in windy conditions, testing in April at Muncie with Archie Adamisin and then at this contest.  Testing on Saturday showed a significant nose-down in the glide.  I had previously added tail-weight, but felt this was more of a decalage issue, so I adjusted in another 1/32″ in the tail.  It now has about 1/16″ more than the plan shows, but it seems to like it.  I dialed in a slight amount of down to compensate and proceeded to wind up for officials after one more test flight.  In the windy conditions, I was able to log a triple-max (three 120-second flights) – the only one in OT Fuse – and was happy to earn the kanone with a great flying model.

my HepCat OT Fuselage

Saturday ended with a sunburn.  I am not a total idiot and I do prepare for the sun.  For years, I have used a bottle of Coppertone SPF8 lotion that really does prevent sunburn, even at that low SPF and my easily-burned paleness.  But, I ran out!  I also had a can of spray SPF 50, so I used that – only to end up burnt by the end of the day – grrr.

Sunday was more of the same wind – well, maybe.  Saturday seemed to have lift with violent kickouts – you’d get a little lift, but if you got to the edge, you’d get shoved down rather powerfully – very strange air.  Sunday morning was still windy but the thermals were more typical good lift and no violent back sides.  It was sunny until mid-day, then came overcast.  Wally Farrell was fortunate to fly his Canberra JetCat while the air was still providing lift and logged TWO 60+second flights – amazing.

I managed to win Peanut with my Yak-3 and my kit-prototype Cloud Tramp (built in 2013) won its FIFTH Cloud Tramp Mass Launch.  I figured it was doomed this year as the wings and tail are rather warped, but I guess they are warped in all the right directions.  I dropped my second flight with my Wanderer (108 sec) and therefore missed a potential 3-way flyoff in OT Stick (Pat Murray won with a Korda C Stick).  I came in 2nd in the National Air Races with my Comper Swift.

It was great to be back out flying, but I was unprepared.  I didn’t leave anything at home this time (excepting more sunscreen), but I should have made motors and actually checked all my models.  I didn’t fly Embryo or 2-Bit, I just didn’t have time.  But Muncie is my favorite field and time flying there is better than time spent in most other places.



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