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Posted by skylandflier | 04-16-2015 @ 11:46 PM | 11,194 Views
The Road to 3D - PART 2

(If you havenít read Part 1, take a few minutes, go back and read it, and this will all make more sense! The Road to 3D is an entertaining look back at my 3 -year journey from total newbie, to 3D nut, to Co-owner of FlyBoys RC!

At this point, I had only been flying for just over a year, but I had already decided that I wanted to put aside all the endless foamies, scratch builds, leftover parts and side projects to pursue the art (sport?) of 3D. I was ready to put some focus into my hobby! Clearing out the clutter and ushering in "the good stuff" was the plan. "Quality over quantity" was my mantra!

Flying 3D requires a lot of trust in your airframe, and the confidence that it'll perform the way you expect it to on every flight. So, switching from foamies to a balsa airframe was obviously the next step. Of course I was a little nervous about balsa planes, cause when they crash, it's usually a big pile of sticks and a trip to the hobby store! Up until now I was flying mostly foamies, which were much easier to repair. But the time had come to take the next step.

Iíll always remember the first balsa plane I bought. It was a used 51" Slick 360 from Hobby King that I bought from a guy on Craigslist.

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It was a BNF, which caught my attention, cause franklyÖ Iím not much of a builder. Seriously, building drives me crazy. I'm so impatient! I just want to fly the damn things! Am I alone on this? When I first flew the Slick 360, I was amazed at how little drag there was over the wings as opposed to the way foamies felt in the air. This thing glided through the air like glass, and I was amazed at how responsive it was. It was exhilarating to fly but honestly, it was a little scary too! I was no longer dealing with the flex and forgiveness of a foamy, so my stick movements were doing much more now! I immediately had to land and adjust my rates to compensate for this. And there was so much more momentum and lift now with a wood plane, it never wanted to come down! Clearly, no foamy would ever be able to compete with the stability, tracking, strength-to-weight ratio, and maneuverability of a balsa airframe, so needless to say I was hooked on wood!

In the following year I think I went through 3 of these Hobby King Slicks... plus a few others! OK, you're probably asking, why was I going through so many planes? Well, I had an airfield in my backyard and I hated practicing on the simulator, so you do the math. If it was a half decent day to fly, I was out there pushing the limits. (And killing planes.)

But, I was also still in the habit of bargain shopping. Buying cheaper planes, servos, batteries, and ESCs all eventually led to bad things happening at some point. I'm not saying there was never any pilot error... there was PLENTY of that! But I started realizing that better equipment meant a more trust-worthy plane, and a better flying experience overall.

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Orphaned wings....

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Remember what I said in Part 1 about how cleaning out the hangar was going to SAVE me money in the long run? Well, it didn't really work out that way. This 3D stuff was getting to be serious business! I'm not sure why, I was't planning on competing or anything like that. I guess I just enjoyed the hell out of it, and I had no intention of stopping here.

Eventually I had to get a better transmitter, cause the DX6i was no longer cutting it for me. The next logical step would have been a DX8 or something, but no... I went straight for the DX18! In retrospect, that was the best decision I ever made! It was a huge leap in quality and functionality. It had better gimbals, more resolution, tons features, and it fit my freakishly large hands better! I still use it today!

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I started buying airframes from 3D Hobbyshop, Extreme Flight, and eventually AJ Aircraft, which all proved to be phenomenal airframes! And of course the REAL 51" AJ Slick... still one of my all time favorite planes. I think I went through at least a couple of those too! But I always kept another plane or two in the hangar. Like the Extreme Flight Extra 300 EXP, and the AJ Aircraft Laser 230Z. All incredible airframes. They were built better, flew better, drew straighter lines, had less coupling issues than their less-expensive competitors. Once again, the quality of the products I was buying was giving me more and more confidence to try new maneuvers and improve my 3D skills.

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I also started buying better electronics like Hitec, Castle, Motrolfly, and Hacker, as well as Falcon and Xoar props. I love the throttle response of the Castle ESCs, the sturdiness and reliability of Hitec servos, and the smooth, quiet feel of Falcon wood and CF props. All of which improved my flying skills immensely. Of course, with all the programming features that Hitec and Castle possessed, I had to get learn about that as well. Of course being a Mac guy, I had to pick up a used PC laptop from my neighbor! $cha-ching!$ (It was only $50. Bah!)

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So, you may be wondering, why do none of my photos have planes in the air? Well, flying at home has it's advantages and disadvantages. I was mostly flying alone, so there was rarely an able-bodied photographer around! But eventually I purchased a GoPro which helped the situation a bit.

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51" AJ Slick VIDEO------------->
AJ Slick 51" - Backyard Throw Down - Pilot: Darren Rust (3 min 28 sec)

I started picking up various maneuvers pretty quickly. I became more attentive to my setups. I was very interested in getting the airframe to fly straighter and more predictably by balancing the plane for dead-center neutral CG, which worked best for me. I spent a little more time measuring out the throws so they were perfect all around. I dug into the DX18 to create mixes to correct coupling issues, as well as adjusting throttle curves and setting maximum throws to achieve more aggressive stick response. Knife edges became straight as an arrow, hovering was not a struggle, harries and waterfalls were effortless. (Oh, and I started learning the NAMES of these maneuvers too!) I was really getting the planes to perform well. I had more confidence to try new maneuvers because I could trust the plane would do what I wanted it to. I eventually had the guts to try knife edge spins and other tumbling moves cause I had the confidence to fly out of them! And things got lower and lower, and lower...

Eventually, I ventured out of my back yard and started attending some local fly events, which was a real eye opener for me. I had so much to learn yet in this hobby, and I finally had a chance to meet other 3D addicts and share ideas and experiences!

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I was pretty happy with things at this point. I was flying pretty good, I had a good stock of planes, I started meeting up and flying with some new found friends, and I thought this was probably good enough for me. But it wasn't until I picked up a 3DHS 72" Extra that things changed for me again! I discovered that going bigger was definitely better!

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Stay tuned for "The Road to 3D - Part 3"
Posted by skylandflier | 04-15-2015 @ 08:46 PM | 11,429 Views
The Road to 3D Ė PART 1

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Hey guys! This is my very first blog entry, and if all goes well, it won't be my last. I'll start with some backstory for entertainment sake, and later transition to a more informative approach for future entries. Hopefully someone out there will find it entertaining or amusing... or maybe even helpful! Haha! So, here goes...

This is my road to 3D.

At the time of this post, it'll be almost 3 years since I picked up my first transmitter (a Spektrum DX6i) and started flying RC. And in a seemingly short amount of time, I transitioned from a total newbie, to a crazed maniac, up-all-night, 3D addict, to co-owner of an online retail hobby store! What the #@%? Let me try to explain...

See, here's the deal... I live on some acreage right, and I fly over this huge field just beyond my back yard... like, all the time! I've got no trees, no power lines, and strangely tolerant neighbors. It's sick! And this juxtaposition to such open skies and plenty of grass to land on was the perfect storm to instill in me this terrible... AWESOME addiction!

Let's go back 3 years. I blame this all on my brother. He did it! He introduced me to this hobby in May of 2012, and I was particularly interested in what he was doing with scratch-built foamies. He was making these cool things out of pink construction foam and flying them around, and I thought man, I dig this! I especially liked the concept of a "low-cost", and somewhat recyclable hobby. Crash your plane? No problem! Just cut out a new one, throw in your electronics, and off you go!

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I soon realized it wasn't quite THAT simple. There's a lot to learn here! But I thought maybe I'd ease into it with this Air Hogs glider travesty that I spent WAY too much time on. And no, it didn't fly worth a crap. I wasn't ready for this yet, I needed to get down to the basics.

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Scratch-building didn't exactly fit into my schedule. I'm a self-employed musician, singer, and studio producer with 3 kids, a wife and a mortgage! There wasn't a lot of time to fly planes let alone build them from scratch! But regardless, RC flying was something I HAD to try. So, I bought a Tx and a SIM and learned to fly on the computer first. Which was great advice from my brother.


"Don't fly a real plane first... you'll just crash it! Learn on a SIM." (I gotta provide SOMETHING useful in this post!)

A few weeks of practice in my off hours was enough to get my head straight. Then it was time for my first plane. An ARF foamy was a good starting point. It was low-cost, and most of the build was done for me... sweet! My first plane was a Hobby King Bixler, which incidentally was the best plane to train with! It was so docile and floaty, you could belly-land it in the grass, and yet if you hammered the throttle, it was quite a sporty little plane!

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I flew the crap out of that thing! I put lights on it, tried some FPV... It was a great plane! Of course I crashed it a bunch, and repaired it, but that's the beauty of foamies! If you got glue, you're back in business! But eventually they don't fly great, they're heavily laden with glue and tape, and you end up throwing them in the garbage, and buying a new one. I think I went through 3 or 4 of them.

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I felt so guilty! There's no money in the family budget for extravagant activities like this! My wife thought I was going crazy or going through a mid-life crisis! (Which isn't far from the truth.) But this was a great discovery! I would work in my home-studio, and then go out and fly till the sun went down! Life was good! Eventually my wife realized the beauty in it. I was a much happier dad, and better yet, I was always home! And seriously, flying at home is AWESOME! Every RC pilot would probably agree, and is probably a little envious of my situation.

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This is kind of like living next to a Starbucks! I don't have to travel any further than my back door to feed my little "addiction". But with every addiction there is a downside. The downside was... I got pretty good at it! And of course I started buying more planes, and buying tools to fix those planes, and buying replacement parts for them... like props, batteries, servos, motors, glue, and.... you guys know what I'm talking about. Soon, there were planes all over the place! And now my wife was getting worried!

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... just to highlight a few. As you can see, I was bound by this terrible "guilt" of buying planes. Actually, I was bound and determined to fly everything I could get my hands on! Because as you all know, the maiden flight is the big thrill, right?! It's something you want to experience again and again! I once tried to explain this feeling to a non-RC person and it went something like this: "Learning to fly RC is like a young man having for the first time: Once you learn how, you don't want to stop!" OK, I'm not sure I said it exactly like that, but the point is... this was getting out of hand! I was driven by the fear of NOT having a working plane in the hangar! I mean c'mon, when you're a newb, you crash a lot! So having a ton of planes was good insurance! But in reality, I was getting frustrated with all the airplane maintenance I was doing! I had no workshop or garage space to do all this! We were sort of living amongst the "plane-hem". (short for plane mayhem...) anyway, I was spending more time managing the hangar than I was flying! Not to mention I was getting nickeled and dimed to death with all the little parts and gadgets!

It was this frustration that led me to an epiphany. I had to narrow down, and prioritize my hobby! For those of you who are at this juncture right now, I give you...

Tip #2

Ask yourself this simple question: "What kind of RC flying do I enjoy the most, or DO the best?" Is it fixed-wing, helis, multi-rotor, scale, warbirds, gliders, 3D, pattern, sport, foamies, balsa, pushers, pullers, gas, electric...? What really "turns your prop"? (another dumb made-up saying.) Once you figure that out, focus on that aspect of the hobby, and steer clear of the rest. Avoid the temptation of buying that new plane-of-the-month, just cause you wanna "see how it flies". Spoiler alert! It flies a lot like the rest of your planes! Do this and you will be happier, more fulfilled, and your house, shop, garage, and trailer will be free of all that RC clutter and "Plane-tenance"... (plane maintenance... sorry...) Not to mention it'll be easier on your wallet in the long run! - More on this in Part 2

So I made my decision. For me, it was 3D all the way! The next day I began selling off all the "other stuff". Planes that weren't aerobatic I either sold them as BNF or I stripped out the parts and sold them off on Craigslist. They were only distractions to me now. (And by the way, I made back some nice cash doing this!) I kept a few of the nicer motors and servos of course. But I had embraced the reality that I didn't want to just fly around in a circle. I wanted to have something to work on. I wanted to strive for something new when I'd fly. And I didn't want to settle for planes that just flew. I wanted planes that flew GREAT! I longed for bigger and better things.

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The truth is, I was already dabbling in some aerobatic and 3D maneuvers with a couple foamies before I knew anything about 3D... It was kind of by accident really! Loops, Rolls, Hammerheads, Harriers, even Hovering were things I was already trying, and getting pretty good at! But then I started watching some videos on Youtube of some great 3D pilots, and that sealed the deal for me. Wow! These were BIG 3D balsa monsters flying low, and the pilots flew the absolute snot out of these things! This was the real deal! I discovered that 3D was a huge, vibrant, and growing aspect of the RC hobby, and I HAD to dig a little deeper, cause this is exactly what I was looking for!

It was time to up my game!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of - "The Road to 3D"