That’s not to say I accomplished a -good- impossible thing… but my accomplishment is nevertheless impossible. But let me start at the beginning of this very eventful week.
I took my dad to Lakehurst on Independence Day. His father had worked there more than 50 years ago! We watched the indoor flyers for a few hours. We even got to see a record be broken. A man had driven down from Canada for the “good air” in Hanger 1. He was flying a large class plane (I don’t know the exact name) and broke the Canadian record for duration. I watched it take off and then land 34 minutes and 10 seconds later… All on rubber power! They took 5 seconds off the time because he had to use a balloon to steer it once, but 34:05 sets the Canadian duration record by about a minute! Cool.
We also went outside with Robert Romash to slope soar his Zagi Combat wing against the wall of the hanger. He let me have my first hand at soaring. Tré cool. It’s a much different experience than motorized flight. Before going outside, Rob showed off in his inimitable manner by flying the wing indoors… It’s like a high-tech boomerang! He’d give it a fierce throw and he’d bring it back with panache.
I met Julian (a new flying friend :-) at the RAMAC field on Sunday. Since my wing wasn’t completed yet, he let me fly his planes… an ugly stick 40 and a seagull. He tells me that he built the seagull in just a few days with no plans… just by eye. Very impressive.
We flew for a couple hours. A guy with two 70cc gasoline powered fighters came by, a guy with a helicopter, a guy with a trainer… unfortunately, the guy with the trainer left with more plane parts than he arrived with.
We tried out my new Zing Wings. They’re these cute little rubber band launched gliders. They actually are quite a bit of fun. They only go up like 50 feet but they spiral around in nice big circles, cruising around.. neat. The plan was to give them to visitors and kids to fly while I’m flying my plane. Yea, I’ll do that. Of course we had to attach one to his Ugly Stick. The best placement was by putting the Zing Wing with one wing above and one wing below the Ugly Stick’s wing. Then a bit of throttle held the Zing Wing in place. He got it up to 300 feet or so and did a hammerhead to release it. It was HIGH! I ran after it but the wind carried it pretty far pretty fast. I lost track of it a couple times and ended up just standing there scanning the beautiful partly cloudy sky for a sign of that glider. No luck. It was gone! I like to think that it went to airplane heaven. Now it’s out there playing with all the other lost airplanes… like the big camouflage colored fighter-plane that some guy lost a few weeks back. It was worth it watching it just soar away.
Julian tried a few slick landings after that. Since the field is on a sod farm, there are strips where the sod has been pulled up and sold. Those strips made nice smooth runways on this day. He tried landing on a strip just across the canal and into the wind. Nice. Though with no brakes the thing rolled for a really long time. Then he wanted to try a crosswind landing. That strip started 5 feet in front of and downwind of where we were standing and continued a good 100 yards to our left. It was bound by the grass we were standing on to our side and a sod tractor on the other, about 30 feet downwind. A tight fit but he’s that good. He brought the plane in on a pretty nice crosswind approach. He had good rudder action to compensate. Both our heads were turned toward the plane which was going to cross from right to left onto the runway. It flew by on approach. Both our heads turned to follow and then we saw it. The plane was too far downwCRASH! into the tractor. The right wing hit the big rubber wheel, it spun around like a top, banged the tractor once more for good luck and hit the ground tail first.
The damage was weird. The end of the wing got a good scuff but was ok. The fin of the tail broke out of it’s slot (happily an easy repair). Strangely, a 1/2″ x 1/2″ x 1/8″ piece of structural balsa that had been inside the plane was knocked out and then embedded somehow in the skin of the wing! It wasn’t just sticking out, it flew out and then flew back in again! Weird.
But that’s ok! That’s why you bring two planes to the field! They’re like classic Jaguar automobiles. You buy one for the road and one for the shop. He let me take control of the seagull for several short flights (air was getting in the fuel line or something). I made a couple textbook Immelmans, some very nice rolls (the wings have practically no camber) and had just a blast. I was doing these tight sideways inside loops around and around and around… weeee! When I tried to pull out of the loop, badness ensued. Apparently, even though I was still whizzing around as fast as can be (the plane has no throttle control. It’s full-speed ahead until you run out of gas!) I had gotten down near stall speed and the wings started performing poorly. I spiraled right into a ditch! No, not a ditch, a small canal!! When we reached the plane a few minutes later, it was 3/4 submerged. We drained it and brought it back right away. We were both really afraid that the 6 channel PCM receiver (read: expensive) was dead. Happily it was ok but we couldn’t get the motor started.
That ended our -long- day at the field. We went back to my house and worked on the Zagi. Julian helped me finish reconstruction. Click on the photo to the right for a good shot of Zagi 2.0. Sullivan #507 .032 Gold-N-Rod cabled elevons, a better Oracover job, a better cut tray and top… kickin’.
Unfortunately, I realized that the cables weren’t supported well enough at the ends. See the zoomed in photo of the cable… See how the wire is a little bent? Well, when I gave full down elevon, the wire would bend. Suckiness. I used some hot glue to create a strut beneath the unsupported cables. Inside, the wire was bending at the servo too. I bent two paperclips into croquet wicket-like things and glued them in place to hold the wire near the servos down. Done!
Well, not really. You see, that’s when I realized that I had performed the impossible. The controls are impossibly messed up. I threw it a couple times and the plane spiral wildly out of control. Even when I’d pull a hard right turn on launch, it rolled hard left. I checked the controls… up, down, left, right, elevon mixing. Everything was good. Scratching my head, I threw a couple test flights.
Launch --> pull back on stick --> plane goes up
Launch --> push forward on stick --> plane noses in
Launch --> pull stick right --> plane rolls left
Launch --> pull stick left --> plane rolls right
This, as everyone patently knows, is IMPOSSIBLE! If up and down work correctly, and elevon mixing is set correctly (it is), then left and right HAVE to work correctly. I’ve only got two control surfaces! It’s like… you’re standing on a street corner in New York City. The Walk light comes on. You look left, you look right, and as you step off the curb, a car falls from the sky onto your head. It just doesn’t happen!
Hurumph! I’ve thrown the plane about as many times as I dare and it behaves quite predictably in the way I’ve described. I tried throwing it slow. I tried throwing it fast (ouch, I broke my new canopy), I tried to adapt and fly the plane with these wacked controls. No.
I’m gonna call Julian up and have him stare at it for a while.