By Robert Stinson
On April 13th, there was a small airshow at Gillespie Field. Our field was supposed to be closed that day, so I went there instead. What luck! One of the planes on display was a 7/8th Scale Fiesler Storch, and I spent nearly an hour talking with the pilot and owner Steve Lund.
Those of us who have flown models of the Storch know that it isn’t the most forgiving of airplanes. Steve confirmed that our models exhibit authentic behaviors, and that they require a lot of attention. I thought I’d share some of his observations.
Due to its slow airspeed and zero dihedral, the Storch’s ailerons are not very effective. The pilot has to work the rudder constantly to stay on course. Flying from his home base in Torrance, he was berated by Air Traffic Control because he couldn’t maintain a constant heading!
I asked why the Storch had such relatively small wheels, since so many STOL planes use tundra style tires. Apart from the aesthetics, he said that landing speeds were so slow that they weren’t necessary, and would create substantial unwanted drag.
On one occasion though, the landing speed issue caused some damage to the plane. His plane originally had a skid on the tail. He was landing on a dirt field, and approach speed was about 30 mph. At that speed, there is so little airflow over the control surfaces, in his words, “you were just a passenger”. Once he touched down, without a tail wheel ground steering could only be accomplished by using the wheel brakes individually. He stepped on the right brake, the wheel dug in, and he veered right and hit a telephone pole alongside the runway, bending a landing gear strut. Fortunately, the field operator knew of a nearby machine shop. They removed the strut, straightened it out and were back in business in two hours. He now has a tail wheel instead of a skid.
Steve has spent many years making the plane as authentic as possible. He had 7/8th scale instruments custom made so that his panel matched the plane scale. The real plane had a map compartment under the panel. He made a fake map cover that masks his modern avionics.
The birdcage cockpit canopy is oversized, to meet the requirements for a reconnaissance aircraft. Sitting under glass, the pilot gets very hot! Steve fashioned prototypical accordioning roof and side shades and uses them all the time.
Great pains were taken to make the paint scheme authentic. For instance, the green “Z” on the fuselage denotes a headquarters squadron, and the yellow wing tips are Eastern Front theatre markings.
There was a lot more, that I won’t go into here. If you’re interested, search YouTube for Steve Lund FI-156. He posted a lecture covering much of this there.
So, for those of you who have struggled to fly an R/C Storch, just know that you are in good company flying a piece of history!