rclad's blog View Details
Posted by rclad | 04-16-2020 @ 12:01 PM | 15,519 Views
When the mechanics of a plane work well flight after flight, day after day, through the course of a flying season, you know you have a well engineered machine. It's easy to get complacent, though, and forget to check components that may be getting worn out. The smallest detail can become a weak link that brings the whole enterprise to a sudden, and terrifying, end.

As an Advanced IMAC pilot who pushes my planes hard through endless aerobatic maneuvers, I learned the other day there is no room for complacency in this sport.

Exhibit A: the ubiquitous, and ordinary, Velcro strap.

We rely on it to hang, hold, wrap, or support a wide variety of things. Since all of my planes are electric, the biggest job they have is holding back as much as six pounds of batteries (in my 104" Extra) through high g maneuvers. When the straps are new they have a great deal of holding power. After repeated strapping and unstrapping, however, the hook and loop fastener begins to wear out, and its holding power gradually weakens. It's that gradual weakening that is easy to overlook. It's easy to miss, until one day it can no longer hold back the forces generated in a typical aerobatic flight.

Exhibit B: the negative snap roll

A plane doing inside loops and positive snap rolls will see very little, if any, negative g's. There won't be much strain on Velcro holding batteries down on the deck. Fly an outside loop from the top, especially one with a negative snap on the bottom, and suddenly the negative g's are through the roof, or the canopy. The strain on Velcro is immense, and the consequence of it letting go at that moment are very bad.

Exhibit C: EF 95" Extra 330SCE, with 630+ aerobatic flights, after a flight with worn out Velcro battery straps (see photos).

More details on the latest incident involving my 95" Extra can be found here.

Anyway, it's time to consider a better alternative to, or periodic replacement of, the humble Velcro strap.
Posted by rclad | 03-04-2020 @ 11:08 AM | 20,671 Views
Details on the maiden of my electric version of the 104" Extra can be found on my blog here at RCGroups.
Posted by rclad | 05-24-2017 @ 11:23 PM | 7,265 Views
If interested, see https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...-Battery-Breez for my build log for a battery tray for the 87" 3DHS Extra 300 SHP.
Posted by rclad | 11-15-2016 @ 12:54 PM | 11,255 Views
[Updated 5-24-2017]

Dense fog shrouds Coronado, diffusing the morning light. I'm supposed to take off on my first solo cross country flight as a private student pilot in an hour. It's Saturday, February 18. I glance out the window from the Navy Flying Club here at NAS North Island in San Diego, where I'm stationed for a year with an S-3 squadron. Still no sign of clearing. I review the aeronautical charts with my instructor, listen to a weather briefing, verify weight, fuel and takeoff calculations, and file a VFR flight plan. Visual Flight Rules require that I maintain eye contact with the ground and stay clear of other aircraft by sight. So I have to wait for the fog to burn off before I can fly. Hours tick away. Finally, the sun breaks through. I do a quick preflight of the plane, a Cessna 152, and depart. It's well past noon, but I 'm relieved to be in the air and on my way.

My destination is Yuma, Arizona, on the border with Mexico, about an hour and thirty minutes east of San Diego. The sky is a silky cerulean, and the plane hums along without a hint of trouble. Heading southeast I climb out of San Diego at the maximum rate I can coax from the plane, leveling out at 5,500 feet above sea level before turning east toward Otay Mountain, its peak rising to 3,551 feet. When I leave the coastal mountains and enter desert air I can see forever, beyond the green Imperial Valley, past the Algodones sand dunes to the Chocolate Mountains over seventy-five miles away. I am flying, on my own, on a perfect day. Beautiful.

After landing in Yuma I refuel the plane, eat a leisurely lunch, call for a weather briefing, and take off for the return flight home. The late afternoon sun beckons in the west, undiminished by its descent, as I climb back into blue sky and desert vistas spread out below in browns and reds. I can inspect every rock and shrub thousands of feet below me. Landmarks are clearly visible for navigation. As the desert recedes the San Ysidro mountains loom ahead, the last barrier before reaching San Diego. Each ridge crossing brings me closer to my base, until I reach the last one. What I see is not good.

The fog is back. It had crept in, right up to the mountains I just crossed. Like high tide in the Bay of Fundy, it covers the entire city and my route home. With my options limited by available fuel, my thoughts turn to a nearby airfield where I had practiced numerous times, hoping it might have enough visibility to land. Banking sharply to the left I descend quickly in a tight circle, looking for other traffic while clouds lap my wings to the west and mountains rise above me to the east. At 800 feet above sea level, only 300 feet above ground, I still can find no ceiling to the clouds. Without a ceiling to fly under I have nowhere to go but up. It's a slow climb back to clear air.

OK, enough of that. I'm out of patience with VFR rules. Only twenty miles from my base, I call the control tower and request a vector to the “blue crane,” a large ship loading crane on the edge of the bay where we normally begin our approach. The reply is a lifeline: “4-8-Niner-Niner Mike, turn right heading 2-8-5.” I hold that bearing as if being pulled from water, and fly above the clouds, my vice grip on the yoke relaxing with the sight of sun and sky again. I'm in the womb of heaven and can't stay. I scan the horizon for the blue crane but can see only sky and clouds, like a winged insect buzzing an endless field ripe with cotton. And then it appears. There, directly below me, is the crane, in the center of a hole in the clouds, the only one I have seen. I'm home. I make a circular descent through the opening, find a ceiling above my approach altitude, and land in the dark.

I expect the FAA to cite me on the spot. I find my instructor instead. She is alone, waiting for my arrival. It had been a long nine hours, but I emerged where my adventure began.

According to my logbook, I spent only 3.4 hours in the plane on that day in 1989. For most of that time I was in the air, alone. I owe my safe return - and my life - to the controller who delivered me from the clouds, whose welcome voice passed no judgment. I still wonder, though, how such a thin line could separate success from failure, and a vapor so ethereal could both thwart and embrace me. That day I understood I'm not invincible, and I learned to respect the limits imposed by nature.

I completed my training as a Naval Flight Officer and flew many times in the right seat or back seat of the S-3, off the deck of a pitching aircraft carrier, both day and night and with no horizon. But I decided that piloting a plane takes more than just skill and hard work. It takes a certain amount of the "right stuff," a confidence that was deeply shaken in me. For full scale planes I've been content ever since to let others do the flying.

Why do I fly RC? I love aviation. I love the synthesis of form and function, the physical beauty of a machine that is the culmination of theoretical science, testing and many practical engineering decisions. I am fascinated by structures that must withstand the incredible stresses imposed by flight. I enjoy designing model planes and building them. I love the allure of a perfect design, how it impels me to pursue improvements and modifications on every kit and plane I buy. I love the endless variations, bold designs and creative schemes found in and on aerobatic planes and airlines around the world. I never tire of watching a plane fly overhead, a fellow modeler maiden a new plane or grease a landing, or the experience of flying in the air and watching the world below. I love the skill it takes to master flight, for both full-scale and model planes. I love the thrill of competition and the opportunity to test those skills in a friendly and supportive venue.

I enjoy piloting RC planes, because I can keep my feet on the ground and my imagination up there, where the sky is blue and I can see forever.