Monthly Archives: November 2014

8 posts

Early Books On Airplane Construction and Design

Here is a list of .pdf files of early (pre-1920) books on airplane design and construction. A lot of interesting information for someone interested in the topic, and all readily available free on this page. Three are about model planes. The first entry is a file containing all the books listed on the page. Or you can download each one separately.

President’s Message for Nov/Dec 2014

Tim Ray Wives


This will be my last message for the year and a new president will be taking over in January.  My plan next year is to travel more (  Ireland/Scotland for my 70th birthday !!), golf more and contribute more time, talent and treasure to a few of my favorite charities and my church.  I am thankful that our club officers have been excellent and that we have had some significant improvements in our flying site on Mission Bay.  The club  is in good shape for the coming year.

   The wide variety of events have been entertaining and have built a sense of camaraderie through the year.  In summary, I believe that 2014 was quite a nice year and 2015 will be even better for our 340 members.  I appreciate all the fine club members that have helped our club the last few years….you know who you are!
    Saturday, November 22nd is special in a number of ways……General Meeting…Last one of the year.

Agenda is:

  1.             Election of new officers    (see meeting minutes below)
  2.             Discussion of options for the Banquet

                       At this time we have the place:

                        St. Johns Episcopal Church Hall in Chula Vista
                        Larger capacity, more room than the Sweetwater Women’s Club
                        December 12, Friday from 5-6 PM  set up and 6- 8:30  PM  for dinner, Caterer to be chosen
                        Raffle or no Raffle issues, Charge to come or no Charge….?????

   Before and after will be some interesting happenings with the Photography Group and the FPV Spotlight  ( 11:30 approx) we have had an informational blast on this so I will keep it simple.    I know this has been shorter than some of my other messages but please come to the meeting tomorrow and take part in the discussion and help us make decisions.       I promise more detail on any and all of the  above at that time.   



(Editors Note:  Yes, the SEFSD calendar is not working.  Please be patient, it will be fixed soon.) 

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Meeting Minutes for 11/17/14

Old Business
– Alliant – Frank said he will talk to the group and see what they want to do. The contract ends in November. There is about 10 members that join the club just for indoor flying. Steve will send out a email blast to folks asking if they want to do indoor next year. San Diego Kite Club is also kicking in.
– Renewal of membership action plan – Reviewed with Paul and Isabel
– Vet Day – Frank said things went very well. $325 collected. Christmas Dinner Dec 9 for Miramar. Tim and Frank will present the donation. Paul will be giving Tim a check for $725 to the warrior foundation. Paul gave tim a check for $725 and a check for $100 that was written by someone. So the club donated $500 and $325 was donated on Veterans Day. All of this will go to food, care, and other things here in San Diego.
– Banquet – Field BBQ? Touch base with Quan and see what he thinks. After the 1st of the year
– Photography Club – Pictures on the 22nd at about 9am.
– PWMA Failure – Drama with exchanging. Work in progress.
New Business
– FPV multirotor race Dec 20th – County wide invitational.
– Thank You Pizza Party – DHWH – May contact with John and bring them pizza. $50 allocated
– International Drone day – March 15th. To demo drones are not evil. The field will be closed from 10am to 2pm.
– Hi Tech High – Interaction with them. This is the Jan 5th to the 16th. BBQ? 


Current Nominations for 2015:

Prez – Jim Bonnardel
VP – Brad Bender
Sec – Scott Fuller
Treasure – Paul Guidice
Safety – Quan Nguyen
Member at Large – Dennis, Bob S, George Robello, Ray Fulks, David Story

Folks can still nominate up to the last minute.
Membership Meeting – the 22nd of Feb.
No board meeting Dec
Jan 10th is the Badge / Membership day
Jan – New board meeting – Tuesday the 6th.
Meeting ended 8pm.

The First Radio Controlled Car to Achieve 200mph!

Nic Case


History was made on October, 25th 2014 in Saint George, Utah. The R/C Bullet designed, built and driven By (me) Nic Case achieved a top speed of 202.02mph !
Not bad for an amateur – with good friends, family, great sponsors and off-the-shelf electronics!  The chassis, body and tires are all custom, stemming from myself and my teams imagination. There where many people that have helped throughout this journey. And as it turned out, Tracy, Josh and Mak (the people that were there at the beginning) were there to witness this historic speed run. I appreciate everyone’s support immensely.
I’ve learned so much during this journey, from aerodynamics to people.  
It’s funny how expectations can change how goals are enjoyed. The longer it takes – the less of a surprise it is when the goal is achieved. But sometimes, uncharted territory unfolds this way…. You can’t succeed if you don’t fail.
Now, the R/C Bullet has consistently earned the top speed title.
This run qualifies for Guinness World Record.
This one’s for you Chris
Nic Case


Nic Case


Powered by a NeuMotor.

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A Multiplex Mentor as Motor Testbed Not Just a 40 Size Electric RC Trainer/Sport Airplane for the Masses

This is an original year 2014 article

for the Silent Electric Fliers of San Diego. It includes a lot of things missing from the magazine like articles, such as what things really cost for both initial investment and as cost per flight, how well things actually hold up, and, perhaps the most important, the adventure of getting a Mentor to really fly well.


I’d seen Mentors flown back at Mission Bay and wasn’t impressed. But then a standard Mini Mag/Fun Man isn’t all that interesting either, what our slightly modified ones with modern propulsion can do is a shock. As in a Mini Mag/Fun Man with slightly better propulsion can take off almost straight up, fly at just above walking speed, do most dynamic aerobatics and stay up for twenty to forty five minutes on a 4S 1100 mAh LiPo with just a medium priced electric motor and a folding propeller. It was time for something which could buck some wind, able to make use of my accumulation of medium sized electric motors and go for at least a couple of hundred flights.


Bigger Flies Better and is Dangerous

Take note: The use of any RC airplane the size and power of the Mentor is DANGEROUS.


Screw up with a similar in appearance one pound Mini Mag, or two pound Twin Star II, both with typically one tenth of a horse-power motors, and in all likelihood all you get is a hurt finger. Even the two or three times as powerful setups in a two pound Gemini or Fun Cub, with their larger propellers, don’t in practice do all that much damage. At that light weight even a direct hit on a pedestrian, horse or car mostly just startles them, the foam often keeps injury and damage minimal.


The available power in a Mentor can destroy a finger, sever tendons, rip open blood vessels or fling the broken off half of a propeller between your ribs or through safety glasses into an eye. Hit something with a Mentor’s four or five pounds and you may cause injuries and damage all out of proportion to the increase in purchase cost over a one or two pound flyer. Ignite a Lithium Polymer battery in the Mentor size and anything near it may go up in flames as initial the initial fireball is bigger and the duration of it burning longer. You really must either have a full grip on using everything connected with things this size yourself, or get some competent help. So, think it over well before you buy and use anything in this five pound size and half a horse-power scale; Can I safely use it? Even experienced pilots should have another set of eyes check it over for first flights and every now and then.


Just the same, for the best of reasons, this was once the most common size on a RC flying field. The combustion powered ones were at least as dangerous. The worst issues with the combustion RC airplanes were that the engines required extensive full throttle adjustments every flight, done with your fingers and arm right next to the propeller. During the initial setup it was essential to hold the whole RC airplane, with the motor running all out, at all possible angles to verify fuel draw, with a substantial potential for injury. At the end of a flight all that concentrated metal of the engine seemed to do more damage when it hit something. I often wondered if the fuel wasn’t bad for us as in automobile dragster people using similar fuels wore gas masks. At least if you screw up and start an electric powered RC airplane with the battery connected it takes a little bit for an electric motor to come to full torque, combustion propellers were usually at full rpm when they hit something. When the engine of a combustion RC airplane stops running in the air it’s reason for a lot of excitement as a ruined airplane is the most common result. Fuel burner pilots almost never practice engine off landings, so they have no clue how to glide them in. With electric it’s routine to stop and start the motor in the air, modern (this is 2014) electric power is more reliable in the hands of ordinary pilots than combustion engines.


Among other improvements modern digital transmission GHz radios made interference from other radios almost an issue of the past.


A Mentor from Multiplex is,

 in modern, able to withstand unbelievable impacts and be easily repaired, expanded foam with reinforcement using electric propulsion a nearly five foot wingspan version of the 40 size high wing trainer/sport type popular for so many years of RC flight. Bigger flies better, costs more and is more dangerous. For down at San Diego’s Mission Bay a Mentor may be a below average choice as the easy landing and minimal wind tolerance requirements make other better performing, if more fragile, airframes, and smaller, easier to transport (and be blown around by the wind), less expensive combinations more desirable.


Mentors assembled as specified by Multiplex are reliable, if docile, performers good for about a hundred flights before the bearings in the motor wear out and the foam past the wing spar fatigues creating a hinge. Power off the glide speed is at the low end of medium, top speed is only somewhat faster. The power off glide is about average, which makes landings less of an adventure. A tendency to flare up as the speed increases tends to protect average pilots as it sends the airplane away from impending doom instead of accelerating into it. Although depending on available power (easily changed) they can be flung around, Mentors aren’t actually acrobatic, at least not in the sense of the many fine foam ARF F3A airplanes available for the same investment. Although mine is visually identical to standard except for omitting the landing gear to belly it in on grass farm fields, there were a whole series of simple modifications to improve durability, and, it was fitted with a wide range of propulsion. Either put enough power to a Mentor, or use more efficient lighter propulsion to get the weight down, and it changes character to more interesting.


That not fiddling with things and being too easily satisfied that the first combination works at all is a major difference between my articles and nearly anything else except reports from competition pilots. Most published tests they didn’t even vary the propeller! There is more to be had out of a Mentor then what the You Tube videos of stock ones on their maiden flights demonstrate.


Who Needs a Mentor?


During my 2014 look for work trip on a Saturday morning in March (perfect flying conditions in San Diego, snow still on the ground in Germanys Wiesbaden) I helped three pilots gain some experience by letting them fly my Fun Cub down at Mission Bay. The air was so still it was hard to decide if it was wind aloft or thermals bouncing the airplanes around just a little.


Two slightly experienced middle aged pilots enjoyed the experience, I even let them land. They commented it seemed to get bounced around by the wind (at ground level only just above walking speed) and was slow to respond to control inputs. As noted in a previous article of mine, with its light wing loading the Multiplex version is very different then all the other Cubs out there.   I took the controls for a little to show them, use full throw on the sticks mine can chase it’s on tail, it’s plenty agile at the reasonable slow speeds. As it can flat turn around in six times it’s own wingspan, do an up loop up the diameter of four times the wing span and a down loop in six. A Fun Cub isn’t really a model of a Piper Cub, it just looks like one. Given time and experience they’d likely become “one” with the Fun Cub and automatically dampen out the gentle rocking, with the Mentor that wouldn’t even come up. Whereas a Fun Cub has to be coaxed onto the runway, ready to make big stick movements to cancel out it’s floating onto the ground, with a Mentor you cut the amps and steer it onto the runway flaring just like the big ones you sit in do.


My personal Fun Cub was (then) fitted with a Scorpion (135) gram outrunner and folding prop. Even on 3S, at only (450) watts-in of a rated up to (600) watts-in of that motor there was enough thrust to take off straight up, the “guest” pilots had the self restraint to use not full amps. But the Fun Cub, even that relatively heavy one, floats on landings and gets blown around by every little puff of wind. They would have been better served with a Mentor at about a hundred bucks more investment with its steeper, more stable glide and directer responses to control inputs.


The third pilot was a retirement age gentleman who I later found out had just wrecked five airplanes in quick succession, including one just before I arrived at the field. In his case he needed some help and maybe inexpensive equipment. I put the Fun Cub up about a hundred feet, set the power for a slight climb and let him have a go at it. Although from ten paces out he seemed to be doing fine, for him it was such a struggle that after twenty minutes his concentration gave out, I landed it. I may be a (flying) fool, but at least I’m a helpful one. That twenty minutes got him some confidence back. That combination can hang out up there being flown that way for about twice that long. He needed the slight lag of a response to control inputs of the lighter wing loading of the Fun Cub verses a Mentor.


From Multiplex USA the Fun Cub wing loading is (10) ounces per square foot, the Mentor comes in at (15) ounces per square foot. Most people fly a Fun Cub in burst and fly mode, in mine the motor runs less than a fifth of the flight as they glide well. With a Mentor the motor, for most pilots, runs at least half of the time. Most of our under forty years of age pilots have significant computer game experience. Even the retired set enjoys the simulators. Bottom line, if you have been playing computer games when you move the stick you expect a response, a Mentor fits in closely to that conditioning. Not needed at Mission Bay, a Mentor can buck wind better than anything smaller. And, important to many pilots, a Mentor is a model. Almost, but not quite like a Cessna 180 to include similar ground handling. I don’t personally taxi my Fun Cubs, a Mentor though tracks just fine on the ground.


We could put together a stock Fun Cub with an (80) gram motor on 3S for about two thirds the cost of a Mentor with its (200) gram motor and half again bigger battery. Not only would the lower wing loading make it slower to match lagging reflexes, they don’t splatter as much on impacts as the higher wing loading and just generally bigger Mentor. Bigger flies better, but bigger, and higher wing loading, crashes harder too. Durability hadn’t yet had a chance to be an issue for the retired pilot. The over four foot wingspan Fun Cub is medium sized, slow and easy handling. Even my choice of garish colors were picked to make it easy to orient way out there. But flying a Fun Cub in any wind much over twice walking speed is out.


Way out there is relative. As we get older far isn’t as many distance units as it once was. That may be extended out to how quickly and directly a radio controlled flying object responds to control inputs. Some lag, a curse to people with their original, even if average reflexes, is a benefit to the longest lived set. What that means is that although a Mini Mag, with its two foot wingspan half that of a Mentor, and a quarter of the weight, has to be flown so close to the ground to be seen by a beginner pilot that the interval between making a decision and correcting for it puts the Mini Mag into the ground, you still have enough time with negotiate with a five foot wingspan Mentor.


The semi-beginners didn’t needed that hundred bucks worth of motor, forty bucks worth of automatically set variable timing, forty bucks for the folding propeller assembly and servos with metal or Karbonite gears of my personal Fun Cub. Which, on 4S or 5S would power a Mentor just fine too. Think back to the Editor’s “Big Red” or a Senior Telemaster for what a modern Mentor is. For pilots with reflexes and eyesight in the ordinary range, and by that I mean the vast majority from just above inept on up to, like me, were never going to be in the running for a champsionship, a Mentor is just fine. You won’t get a chance to need it down at Mission Bay, but out where there is constant wind is where a Mentor’s size and wing loading shine.


Although seldom represented, I would expect that the RPV (remotely piloted vehicle) gang might take use of Mentors where the resistance to wind is an advantage and there is a fair amount of room in there. However, most of them go to flying wings with no landing gear as they are easier to land.


Almost All Other Reports Are Censored        


My modified foam airplanes fly better and last longer than a vast majority of anybody else’s of the same kind. The improvements are easy. As for why I put this down in print; It just isn’t that much more effort to extend my record keeping out to articles like this one.


When you read other reports keep censorship by omission in mind. You shouldn’t accept a test of five flights (not even one with twenty flights), all with the same propulsion and RC components, as being representative of the whole reality, because it isn’t. In that short of an interval durability, as in stuff that tears and wears quickly out, isn’t a factor, efficiency is seldom discussed. I can’t even get the balance and control throws sorted out in just five flights! Even though just a few flights is the de facto (zu Deutsch amerikanische Rechtssprache für in der Tat, auch in Druck als Umgangssprache häufig zu treffen) standard in print. Then to a single report based on few flights often neglects significant differences in the quality of servos and other components.


We had a pair of Multiplex Gemini’s. Although they can be flown with “house brand” servos they are then imprecise, often frustrating, fliers. Go to at least the recommended servos (approximately the HiTec HS-55 at eight grams) and not only are the servos a lot more reliable and consistent, they don’t break near as often. Go to the stronger gears (Karbonite, the additional weight at twelve grams is trivial) and you get a more precise gear train and positioning, the whole airplanes then does what the pilot instructed. Not the hunt for centers (mismatched between servos) and the aileron and rudder geometry doesn’t match of the cheap stuff.


Most RC authors, a vast majority, just don’t do a representative analysis of how to get things to really work well. That is so consistent it becomes a form of censorship by admission.


Down at Mission Bay you have the benefit of associating with a whole group of competitive pilots and a couple of manufacturers. They spend many flying sessions refining just one part of their airplanes and often try different components and changing the programming of their transmitter in their goal of perfection. Take notice of the occasional article from competing pilots where they go over details left out of everything else. Such as the amount of energy at the output shaft is never as much as what went into the motor-controller! The SEFSD actually has people with dynamometers who can quantify the otherwise censored out watts-in to watts-out efficiency. Although most of us don’t need that last couple of percent of the competition pilots, some basic quality improvements and fine tuning to get twenty percent more can make a big difference to even simple airplanes. Our competitive pilots and I can fly rings around the people satisfied with their first try and stay up twice as long by using better quality equipment. Well, maybe really knowing how to fly helps too.


A while back flying a really beat up looking Multiplex Mini Mag with (300) flights on it down at Mission Bay I listened in on a discussion about my flying between a new member, himself well experienced, and two former club presidents. That plane looks like shaving cream, but it flies really well and seems to stay up there a long time. The club presidents didn’t even look up. It must belong to our fool.


The Mentor as a Time Capsule


When the Mentor, originally as the Magistrate, came out a vast majority of the marked for RC flight trainers were “40” sized with two stroke combustion propulsion which looked about like a Cessna hi wing man carrying airplane. Foam was distained, the joys of Elapor and EPP weren’t as generally known. Worse, electric propulsion was just getting going. The original Magistrate was laid out for a geared down brushed motor and nickel based batteries. Not even half the thrust at twice as much weight for about three minutes. A decade later you can’t give that kind of electric propulsion stuff away as the new stuff performs so much better. Multiplex kept most of the Magistrate when they did the conversion to the brushless power Mentor including a dedicated motor mount consistent throughout the medium sized line of airframes to come, but kept most of the rest of it.


Slight Modifications and Slight Crashes are Easy


Censored out of a vast majority of articles in print, is that Multiplex system of mounting the motor behind the propeller, instead of hanging the whole (moment arm) assembly off of the back, often saves both the motor and cowl in a light crash. Smack an ARF, lighter and spiffier, into the ground the whole motor/collet/propeller and lightweight cowl gets pried out/smashed. There really isn’t much to be done to improve that. Beef up that box most ARFs use to mount the motor to and when the nose hits the ground you just trash the motor worse. You can try adding material to the cowl, it still breaks and being secured to the fuselage aft of the motor, can’t absorb an impact the way foam can. Even a stock Mentor can just shrug off impacts that splatter everything from the wing forward of a built up ARF.


Break the whole nose off of a Mentor, and often it goes back to together with just glue, in minutes, right at the flying field. Scrape the wing tip of a built up from sticks covered with film RC airplane, all it takes is a puff of air at the airplane out there where you can’t feel it transmitter in hand, and you need to make repairs. Drag a Mentor wing tip, even stock although mine get hardened, and you probably don’t need to do anything. Mine get layers of fiberglass knowing that the front end is going to get bashed and wing tips dragged. That bit with layers is important, don’t want an abrupt change in rigidity ya know.


For my purposes, which are mostly because I land on farm fields (I often glide and sometimes slope soar or thermal) my foam airplanes all wear folding propellers. Although doing a precision re-shape on an inherently flexible and compressible material like Elapor is difficult, a slightly rougher reshape to clearance allowing a folding propeller to fold flat to the underside of the cowl only takes a couple of hours. You can’t do that with the thin injected cowl of an ARF.


For better aerobatics, and for beginners on the landing, sometimes the drag from the disk of a fixed propeller windmilling is an advantage. For those not familiar with electric flight, with the amp stick all the way back, that’s no amps to an electric motor, unless the motor-controller is set to hold the shaft still, in an electric RC airplane the propeller continues to turn creating substantially more drag than a propeller held fixed. Unlike fuel burners, electric motors require no idle running mode. It takes about five minutes to change propellers and reconfigure the motor-controller between braked and free turning.


My Whys for a Mentor


It was time for me to try something new able to use motors in the (80) to (200) grams size with diameters from (28)mm to (40)mm diameter on 3S, 4S and 5S LiPos. I had no suitable airframe in inventory, the motors, batteries and suitable motor controllers were sitting there waiting. Every airframe I had was not only worn out, they were too small. A Gemini flies best with motors in the eighty to hundred grams size. Fun Cubs fly best with equal or even less thrust and weight. Although I’ve flown Fun Cubs at six hundred watts-in those soft wings won’t sustain even half that. I am going for from two hundred up to a thousand watts-in combinations in my Mentor. For the high power setups the nose must be reinforced. I once watched the nose of a Multiplex Acromaster fly off independently at twice the rated watts-in.


The many fine factory built framed up airframes (ARF almost ready to fly) would quickly be scrap under the intended landing conditions, and motor changes to nearly all ARFs are a expletative deleted. That expletative deleted of changing motors often and easily rules almost everything else from a factory out. Even a stock Mentor won’t last, at least not the way I’m going to use it. See the following build up followed by experience beefing this one up.


A friend presented me a 3S 4500 mAh LiPo (twice our “standard size” of 2200 mAh), intended for an uncompleted thermal motor sailplane, which was about half again too big and too heavy for a Twin Star II. Our brushless Twin Star IIs fly fine on 3S 2200 mAh LiPos, a long thin 3200 mAh would fit well, but not that big thing. Any airframe performs best in a specific weigh range. Although that 3S 4500 weighs less than the eight NiMh cells I used to use, is no bigger (won’t fit where a brushless version requires for balance though) and contains far more energy, it puts the weight up and we have taken a like to a mix of blast around and glide that modern light weight components allow. I already had four 4S LiPos in two sizes and a pair of 5S LiPos, all useless for a Twin Star II, Gemini or Fun Cub.


Later on that nice late October 2014 day I stepped down wrong, completely unexpected, the internal parts of a knee broken in an on the job injury 1996, went under load at a wrong angle, it hurt. I was going to have to take it easy for a while, quite a while. The combination of wanting to use bigger motors I already have in a bigger RC airplane, having accumulated the desired batteries and impending hurt knee inactivity put things over the edge from barely affordable under my meager finances, into reasonable.


Unlike back at Mission Bay (San Diego California) where I’d be enjoying the Mentor’s landing gear on sandpaper like, flat packed sand, here in Western Germany it’s going to be belly it in on farm fields. Although I would have liked a Pilatus Porter in the same size, from prior experience with Multiplex and other foam airplanes, improved with suitable fiberglass reinforcement and folding props, even at this, for us here, twice as large as up to now size, a Mentor looked to fill the bill. Yes, Multiplex offers a nice scale Pilatus Porter, but too small for my current purposes. Those cool ARFs in the five foot wingspan size would be a pile of parts in about one to five landings. My Depron one was unsuitable.


In addition to both motors and batteries being too heavy and too hard to fit, that thousand watts-in would rip the wings off of a Solius motor sailplane. A Fun Cub wings won’t take those kinds of loads, the wings would fold back, nor does it tolerate that kind of weight. Blizzards only need about three hundred watts-out (among other things the wings bend right where the spar ends, since they don’t last long most people don’t comment on that) and it’s an expletative deleted fitting it with different motors,   nor would the batteries fit and Blizzards are a expletative deleted to land. Not only are the Blizzard landings ruinous, erosion of the wings leading edge if they aren’t taped is why don’t last long.

All my foam airplanes get taped leading edges and select additional reinforcement. Ever read any other reports which include that virtually every Twin Star II ever assembled that the elevator horn tears out at around fifty flights if not reinforced, or that running both of two motor-controllers BEC in parallel is a no no? If you knew that why not improve it on assembly.


My shortest lived Multiplex airplane is the Fun Cub(s) as the wings give out at around sixty flights even when flown at reasonable weights and thrusts. If you read my older reports I cite about eighty. The difference is that I flew my Fun Cubs with motors down as low as (60) grams on 4S 1500 mAh LiPo batteries. Everybody else I’ve seen them flying with combinations weighing three times as much with twice as much thrust.   The expectations of the wings were adjusted down, but then the flights go on for longer too. Geminis, suitably reinforced, the wings out past the struts start giving out at hundred hundred flights (although our pair have respectively a hundred and fifty and two hundred and fifty flights on them) and that’s from in flight loads. I averaged three hundred and fifty flights from my Easy Stars I and II: Mini Mags and Twin Star IIs come in between the Gemini and Easy Star.


And then there are places, such as Jamul out beyond San Diego, where the fun of flying justifies more risk (rocks hidden in the long grass), a shorter airframe life is expected. Wind would do the same thing.


Why to Buy a Foam Kit


Back when we had no other choice I was a proficient builder. I investigated fitting a self made fuselage assembly with a bought as spare parts Mentor wing, but they are neither reasonably available as replacements nor does the economics work out. I could have assembled a self built wing, but I’m not into reinventing the wheel, nor can I reasonably assemble a modern wing profile. Flat bottom Clark Ys don’t do it for me anymore. There are services which offer foam cores for wings to sheet yourself, or will cut EPP for you, but what a hassle. If a Multiplex wing is the right size and type might as well use it and might as well buy the whole airframe while I’m at it. I’m just not into designing wings, or airplanes. Not when such good stuff is available at such reasonable prices and durability.


Do the arithmetic of building a similar airplane up from sticks and iron on covering, that’s a lot of hours (around forty to sixty for a Mentor sized airplane) not only for the initial assembly, the cost of constantly making repairs quickly gets tiring. It took a decade or two for the ARF importers to get it together. They can now factory build a more then decent airplane and ship it half way around the world for not much more then what the just the materials cost here. That’s why few traditional wood based kits are offered any more.


I bought a unfinished framed up “standard” intended for a combustion engine a while back in about the .20 size and completed it with additional fiberglass. I even fitting the Clark Y wing profile with ailerons. Using mediocre electric power although it flew rather well, to me, it started getting dull on the first flight. I sold it after five flights to somebody who was delighted with it as a third trainer. Size and appearance wise it was about half way between a Mentor and Mini Mag, but that flat bottom balsa, spruce and heat shrunk plastic wing doesn’t perform as well as the molded in foam ones. Just the same the extra reinforcement made for a much more durable airplane. My creations in Depron went no better, durability where I fly was unacceptable without covering them with fiberglass.


Although I note that those flat plate indoor fliers are a blast to fly, even outdoors down at Mission Bay.


Even if a used Mentor came up on the Internet they are, because of the size, problematic and so expensive relative to their value to ship. The big twice a year RC swap meet in Lampertheim Germany, so often a start for my projects, had come and gone for another five months. Going and getting a used RC airplane the drive usually is so expensive it negates any savings, even if one came up for sale at a reasonable price. And there is often hidden damage and poor initial assembly to a used RC airplane, see my Blizzard report for a specific example. Then too I like to reinforce the “trough” down the inside of the fuselage of Multiplex airframes. That added crash resisting strength at a nominal weight and expense along with a desired to make more room in there are more difficult on an airframe already assembled. I have taken to reinforcing the wings at the “hinge” of the abrupt change in rigidity where the spar ends, less satisfactory if the foam is already fatigued. Most of the few Mentors I sourced on the Internet were so complete, often with stuff I don’t want, that for me there would be no net savings buying them used. I really don’t need a ho hum (200) gram HiMax motor or a cheap outrunner from Brand X.


Here and now for me the best purchase was a new in box kit with on hand new servos. I am a master scrounger, if there was to get a new airframe by spending less I would have already done it that way.


Begin Initial and Cumulative Cost


Keep in mind following this that I fly the s

Transmitter Mode Madness

To understand why the choice of Mode is important, we have to look at what combinations of
controls are commonly used in flying RC. Perhaps the most demanding form of RC piloting is
aerobatics, as practiced in pattern flying and in 3D. These tasks require coordinated,
simultaneous use of all four controls. Certain combinations of controls are much more common
than others, and some combinations need to be coordinated with each other in specific ways. It
is the ease with which these combinations can be learned and executed that form the main
argument in favor of Mode 4.

The fact that there are so many highly proficient 3D fliers using Mode 2 is a testament to the
human brain’s ability to learn complex actions and to the perseverance of those individuals. The
reason they use Mode 2 is because that’s how they were taught. This paper is really aimed at
someone starting to learn to fly, or who is moving from three to four channels. For someone
already proficient in flying Mode 2, changing to Mode 4 would be very difficult, as would be any
change of Modes. I started learning 3D flying to see if this old dog could learn new tricks. The
answer is “yes”, but it takes longer, and anything that could help the process was highly
welcomed. Mode 4 was a major help.

The paper concentrates on fixed-wing aircraft. I know almost nothing about helicopters.

Continuous Rolls

The first maneuvers I attempted that got me thinking about this topic were the coordinated
continuous roll, the rolling circle, and the rolling loop. For these three maneuvers the plane
should fly in a straight line horizontally, in a level circle, or in a loop, while continuously rolling
about its longitudinal axis. All attempts I made to do these maneuvers in Mode 2 ended in
disaster. Let’s look at why they are hard to learn. In Mode 2 a continuous roll, to the right for
example, requires the following actions:

1. Move and hold the left thumb at the required throttle setting
2. Move and hold right thumb to the right (aileron – this sets the roll rate)
3. Move left thumb to the left (Left rudder)
4. Release left thumb and push right thumb
5. Release right thumb and move left thumb to the right
6. Release left thumb and pull right thumb
7. Release right thumb and move left thumb to the left
8. Repeat steps 4 through 7 to continue rolling.

The main thing that is difficult is the out-of-phase motions of the two sticks for elevator and
rudder. There is a toy that has been available in the US for many years called EtchASketch. It
draws lines on a screen controlled by two knobs, one of which moves the pen left-right, and the
other moves it up-down. The motions of the elevator and rudder sticks in a Mode 2 roll are
exactly like the motions of the EtchASketch knobs for drawing a circle – something that can be
done, but is widely acknowledged to be hard to learn and control. Another difficulty with a Mode
2 roll is keeping and controlling the aileron deflection to achieve a constant roll rate while
repeatedly working the elevator up and down on the same stick. Also, maintaining the throttle
while working the rudder back and forth is quite difficult. I found my plane would either stop
rolling or that I had either increased or decreased the throttle, because of all the other unrelated
activity going on on the same stick.

Now let’s look at a Mode 4 continuous roll:


1. Move and hold the left thumb at the required throttle setting
2. Move and hold left thumb to the right (aileron – this sets the roll rate)
You can now forget about the left stick
3. Move right thumb to the left (left rudder)
4. Rotate the right thumb in a circle around the center – push, right, pull, left, … repeatedly.

To compare with EtchASketch again – this is like drawing a circle with a pencil – much, much
easier. Moreover, since the left stick, throttle and aileron, hardly moves at all, it is much easier to
maintain constant throttle and aileron, or to make minor adjustments to these controls if needed.

Of course, in both Mode 2 and Mode 4 you have to coordinate the rate of movement of the sticks
with the rotation of the plane. The difference between a straight roll, a rolling circle to the right or
left, and a rolling loop is largely in leading or lagging the plane’s roll with the stick motions. This is
quite enough to think about without having to worry about getting the phase between rudder and
elevator correct. In Mode 4 that part is automatic.

For a right roll, the right thumb rotates to the right, or clockwise. For a left roll it rotates left, or
counter-clockwise. Very natural.

Vertical Hover

This maneuver is controlled mainly by the rudder and elevator, to maintain the plane pointing
vertically upwards. This tends to require small, rapid movements of the rudder and elevator, like
balancing a stick on your finger. The throttle is adjusted to maintain altitude, and the ailerons are
used to either counteract a torque roll, or to force a roll. These tend to be slow adjustments. As
with the continuous roll, having a rapidly changing control on the same stick as an unrelated
slowly changing control tends to make it difficult to maintain the slow control.

Again, hovering in Mode 2 can, obviously, be learned, but there is nothing very natural about it.
Consider what it takes in Mode 4. There are two main orientations – hovering “canopy-in”, where
you are looking at the top of the plane, and hovering “wheels-in”, where you are looking at the
underside of the plane.

Canopy-in: Holding the transmitter horizontal, consider the right stick to “be” the vertical
fuselage of the plane. Now just move the stick in the direction you want the plane to tilt, as if you
were holding the plane’s nose, for example:

To make the plane to tilt away from you, push the stick away from you.
To make the plane to tilt to the right, push the stick to the right.
If the plane drifts away and to the left, pull the stick towards you and to the right to counteract it.
And so on.
The relative amounts of rudder and elevator come out correct automatically by the direction in
which you deflect the stick, whereas in Mode 2 getting that balance is not automatic. This is
sometimes called “flying the nose” because the plane reacts as if your thumb was on its nose.

Canopy out: Consider that the right control stick is attached to the tail of the plane, and that you
are balancing the plane on the top of the stick. Now move the control stick just as if the plane
really was balancing on its tail, for example:

If the plane falls away from you, push the stick away to re-balance the plane.
If the plane falls to the right, push the stick to the right to re-balance the plane.
And so on. Again , very natural. Most people can balance a stick on their finger, so they should
find Mode 4 wheels-in hovering very easy. This is sometimes called “flying the tail” because the

plane reacts as if your thumb was supporting it on its tail.

Inverted Flight

In inverted flight the actions of the throttle and ailerons remain the same as for normal flight, but
the rudder and elevator controls are reversed. In Mode 2, each stick has one control reversed
and one normal. In Mode 4 the left stick remains normal, and both controls on the right stick are
reversed. For me this is easier to remember, rather than trying to remember which of the two
controls on each stick is reversed and which stays the same, as you have to for Mode 2. In a
way similar to hovering, you fly the nose of the plane when it is approaching you, and fly the tail
when it is going away, and the main controls for doing this are both on the right stick, in Mode 4.

Benefits of Mode 2

Some people say that Mode 2 is better because the right stick acts like the joystick in a full-sized
aircraft. While this is true, I believe it is irrelevant. Friends of mine who fly both RC Mode 2 and
full-sized planes tell me that the experiences are quite different. Maybe if RC pilots used foot
pedals and separate throttle levers, and had seats that always oriented them in line with the
aircraft, there might be a case. But when Bleriot came up with the configuration of joystick and
foot pedals used today, it is unlikely that he was thinking about optimizing the controls for rolling
circles and hovering. Besides, most of us don’t fly full-sized aircraft anyway.

Another argument in favor of Mode 2, at least in the US, is that you can fly other people’s planes
and they can fly yours. Again, this is true, and is a valid argument. However, if more transmitter
manufacturers would provide the facility for switching Modes, as some already do, this would be a
non issue. For me this is actually a benefit. I hate flying other people’s planes ever since I
smacked a friend’s plane into the trunk of a tree, pretty much wrecking it, the plane, not the tree.
So now I have an excuse not to fly other peoples’ planes, because they are not set up in Mode 4.
But if I want someone else to fly my plane, I just switch my Multiplex transmitter to Mode 2 and
hand it to them.

What about three channel throttle, elevator and aileron planes, or elevon planes? Here I don’t
think there is much to choose between Mode 2 and Mode 4. Now the ailerons play a more active
role and it could be argued that they would do better on the dominant hand, Mode 2 for righties.
At the same time some pylon racing people have told me they have the aileron on the left stick
(Mode 4) to maintain a good separation between the bank and yank phases of a pylon turn.

It has been said that focusing on rolls, hovering and inverted flight is biased, and surely there are
other maneuvers for which Mode 2 is better than Mode 4. I am yet to find them.

Perhaps the biggest case for Mode 2 is that it is what most people in the US have learned from
others, and changing to any other convention would be difficult to do.

What about Mode 1?

The difference between Mode 1 and Mode 4 is that the entire sticks are swapped. Because of
this, Mode 1 enjoys all of the benefits of Mode 4, except one. The rapidly-changing controls for
rolling or hovering are the elevator and rudder, so they should be assigned to the dominant hand.
Most people are right-handed, so Mode 4 is better for them. Left-handed people would do better
with Mode 1.


What about Mode 3?

I can find no redeeming properties for Mode 3.


Mode 4 makes the common combinations of control movements needed for aerobatic and 3D
flying much easier to learn and execute than they are in Mode 2. Using Mode 4 I can now fly a
range of 3D maneuvers, and while they are by no means as good as what I see teenagers doing,
I enjoy them. Left to Mode 2 I think I would have given up on 3D, as I have seen many others do.
If you are familiar with Mode 2 you should probably stay with it. But if you have only flown two or
three channel planes with rudder and elevator on the right stick, you might give some
consideration to staying with Mode 4 and putting the aileron on the left. Try it first on a simulator.
I think you will prefer it.

One final point, many leading F3A pilots use Mode 1, including World Champion Quique
Somenzini. Maybe there’s something in this issue of choice of mode, and Mode 4 may be best of

Sometimes, it’s Not Really Just Luck

This story is confirmed in Elmer Bendiner’s book, The Fall of
Fortresses. *Sometimes, it’s not really just luck.* Elmer Bendiner was
a navigator in a B-17 during WW II. He tells this story of a World War
II bombing run over Kassel, Germany and the unexpected result of a
direct hit on their gas tanks. “Our B-17, the Tondelayo, was barraged by
flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on
this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit. Later, as I reflected
on the miracle of a 20 millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without
touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not
quite that simple.

On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down
to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of
unbelievable luck.The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but
11 had been found in the gas tanks. 11 unexploded shells where only one
was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been
parted for us. A near-miracle, I thought.Even after 35 years, the
awesome event still leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest
of the story from Bohn. He was told that the shells had been sent to the
armorers to be defused.


The armorers told him that intelligence had
picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually
sought out the answer.  Apparently when the armorers opened each of
those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were as clean as a
whistle and just as harmless.Empty? Not all of them! One contained a
carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech.
The Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech.
Eventually they found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling.
Translated, the note read:”This is all we can do for you now…Using
Jewish slave labor is never a good idea.”

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