Record breaking in the Sixties
I started flying in the late fifties with a ground-based transmitter, single channel, valves and dry batteries. Flights were invariably short (sometimes extremely short!). By the early sixties we had progressed to hand-held transmitters and transistors had begun to appear. This progress made longer flights more feasible, limited now by engine duration. However, at about this time we "discovered" slope soaring. With this "new" form of flight, given a suitable slope and a fair wind, duration was only limited by battery life.
So it was that a group of Manchester based R/C flyers set about breaking the duration record for R/C slope soaring. The result is shown in the photograph, right - a certificate signed by Lord Brabazon of Tara no less!
The photograph, right, was taken as an official record of the flight. Note the strap over my shoulder from which was slung a lead acid motor cycle battery to power a transistorised inverter producing 135 volts D.C. thus doing away with the need for very expensive and short lived high tension dry batteries. Note also one of my mother's shopping bags which served as my toolbox.
The flight itself was pretty uneventful, well; thirty-four years on I certainly don't remember any serious problems. It was terminated by the wind slowly dying as evening came on; the trusty E.D. four channel (two function) reed set functioned just fine. The receiver was a "super regen." type and would pick up any transmitter in the 27 Meg band, hence we only flew one model at a time in those days. The model was an enlarged version of a published design (enlarged to carry the necessary weight of dry batteries) but, sadly, I have long since forgotten what it actually was. If any readers recognise it I would be pleased to hear from them.
... and a trip back in time for Pat Tritle
The first wood model
I built was the Carl Goldberg Cessna 180 somewhere around 1958.
And since modeling is really about nostalgia, I've had the urge to build
another one of these little jewels for a very long time.
Coincidentally, Richard Cox also wrote re Paul Bradley's Carl Goldberg plans - see gallery.
In praise of autopilots
I use the HAL autopilots on all my aircraft, except a few of the more recent ones which have the FMA Co-pilot, which I much prefer to the HAL since I found out that it exists.
The first thing to say is that it is not only possible but in my view virtually essential to use a spare channel to allow the autopilot to be switched on and off in flight - or MUCH better, to switch between 100% On, an adjustable mid range sensitivity and 100% OFF.
The first benefit of an autopilot is that it is an invaluable training aid - as Greg clearly accepts by using it - in that it provides as much built in stability as the pilot wants - including enormous stability at 100% sensitivity.
Want a Spitfire that flies like a Super 60 - or a model with anhedral that flies the same? Yessir - just turn up the sensitivity control.
Want the aicraft to be neutrally stable, or inherently unstable for maximum aerobatic ability? Yessir, switch if off.
Flying in gusty weather, and with a difficult landing approach? Switch on the autopilot, which deals with gusts FAR better than even the best pilot ever can.
Worried about the stability of the new own-design? Use an autopilot as insurance until you sort it out.
I accept of course that autopilots change the "feel" of the aeroplane - but that is irrelevant when, as you should be able to do, you can switch it off in flight. I fly some of the time with the autopilot at its mid range setting - which makes my neutrally stable CAP 232 fly like a modestly stable mildly aerobatic trainer - but when I want to do precise aerobatics I switch it off, e.g., to avoid the autopilot rolling the aicraft out of loops, or making sustained inverted flight impossible.
After several years of experiment, I have optmised my set up as follows:
A 3-position switch on the top left-hand side of the Tx, giving 100%, 50% and 0 % sensitivity. I normally take off and tooge around on 50% - especially in gusty weather- and switch if off for aerobatics, but (here is the IMPORTANT bit) with 100% extremely effective stabilisation and recovery from ANY attitude within a second or so, INSTANTLY available by pushing that switch to 100%. If I get blinded by the sun, attacked by someone else's aircraft on a low fly-by (WHY do they do it?), get disorientated for any reason, lose sight of the model due to low cloud or - again most importantly - in the event of loss of signal for ANY reason, the same 100% recovery and stability of ANY model.
Did not hear the Tx battery warning bleep? Aerial snapped on Tx or Rx? Out of range due to damaged Tx output stage after too many hours on a simulator with aerial retracted? A violent glitch that leaves you disoriented with the aircraft way down wind on a landing approach? How valuable is it to be able to hit that switch and 1 second later KNOW that the aircraft is flying straight and level, so that you can twitch the ailerons to confirm its direction?
For ALL of these reasons, what price a model that will fly itself, and quite possibly allow you to recover control instead of a pile of matchwood?
Incidentally - actually most importantly also - a throttle failsafe, and an instinctive response of slamming the throttle shut at the same time as hitting the 100% autopilot switch, so that you not only know the aicraft is flying straight and level but slowly - is essential. Indeed, in my view lifting off without a throttle failsafe, and indeed without a range check before the first flight of each session, is utterly irresponsible.
Incidentally, the integrated FMA Co-pilot, all in one, is tiny AND gives fail safe settings for ALL channels.
A nice model flying tale ...
Yesterday's Flying Session
narrated by Tony Whiteley
Last weekend I concocted
a "head-cam" and filmed myself flying my new Picco-Z around
my living room.
And before you ask me: yes I will be fitting tougher hinges sometime soon, and yes I did get the landing on video. But the quality of the video isn't good at all (I'm still "perfecting" how to use my head-cam). The model looks like a white dot in the sky unless it happens to be really close to the camera - and I couldn't fly this model that close-in due to the high winds and whilst I was sighting it in my head-cam viewfinder too. But here's the link to what I got of the landing anyway: