With a close eye on the weather radar, Guthrie and I decided to go flying this afternoon. We spent about twenty minutes repairing and reinforcing the plane with hot glue, bamboo skewers, duct tape, and some popsicle sticks and headed out around 2:30. After a fairly sunny morning and forcast for a decent afternoon, we drove through rain and hail to our flying spot. We sat in the truck through some more hail, then discovered that the electronic speed controller had come loose from the plane. We fixed it with some double-sided tape, then sat in the truck through still more rain, hail, and gusty winds. Finally, the dark cloud passed and it was time to fly.
The first flight ended fairly quickly in a relatively gentle crash, and this was the only crash of the day. The many other flights ended with actual landings on the “runway,” though some landings were far prettier than others.
I got fairly comfortable flying the plane around, doing some low passes, and even a couple of loops and rolls (intentional this time). Guthrie wanted me to do a roll during a low pass so he could take a picture – uh, no. While it wasn’t super windy, there was a light breeze and some gusts (maybe 5-7 mph, according to wunderground.com), and the plane handled them really well. It’s smallish as RC airplanes go, but it’s big enough and stable enough to handle some wind, even with its long wing. A common beginner mistake is to get a teensy little airplane – a bigger plane is actually much easier to fly, and easier to see at a distance, which is important.
While I still have a long way to go as an RC pilot, I think we had a really productive outing today. We actually depleted the battery to the point where the electronic speed controller (ESC) started reducing power – LiPo batteries don’t like to be discharged beyond about 80% of capacity, so the ESC lets you know when to quit. There were many takeoffs and landings, and lots of controlled flying around. I got out of several hairy situations without panicking or over-correcting. There are some issues to fix. The plane pitches up under power, even though it glides really well with power off. I think I need to adjust the thrust angle of the motor mount, and maybe move the CG forward a tad. The pitching up isn’t all bad, since if I hit the power, the plane will climb, but it makes low passes and fast flying difficult.
Guthrie is getting pretty annoyed that I won’t let him fly the plane yet. I was once eleven, and I feel his pain, but I’ve tried to explain that the experience will be frustrating for him, and result in the total, final destruction of the plane. While anyone can learn to fly an RC plane, the initial learning curve is very, very steep. I’ve found that I can get a cable to connect our transmitter to a computer and use any number of free RC simulators, so I’ve ordered the cable (from Hong Kong, of course), and I’ll let the kids have some simulator time before they get to destroy the plane.