The Runway

11/9/2005 by Gary Katzer

Copyright:© 2005 Horizon Hobby, Inc.

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The Runway: Making You a Successful Pilot

From Surface to the Skies

Photo: Gary Katzer
Getting to Know Gary Katzer
New Entry Let me Know What you Think:
New Entry Occupation:
Web Content Editor
Horizon Hobby
New Entry Other RC Industry
Occupation History:
(2001-2003) Contributor-RC Car Action and RC Nitro;
(2003-Current) Lead Contributing Author-RC Driver Magazine
New Entry Age: 30
New Entry Hometown:
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
New Entry Previous Hobby Experience:
15 Years, all surface related.
New Entry Favorite Surface Class:
1/10th Scale On-Road Rubber Tire Sedans
New Entry Flying Experience: None Yet!
New Entry My Goals:
Think of me as your guide through the world of how to get started in flight. I invite you to follow along as I progress from a surface guy with zero flight experience to (hopefully) a decent pilot. As I progress from one type of plane to another, you can follow along and progress with me. I plan to start with simple park flyers, followed by intermediate to advanced Foamies, and by the time the leaves start falling, I plan to have successfully flown a fuel-powered trainer. My intentions are to keep this light hearted and fun, easy to follow, and something that if you’ve never flown before or have gotten to a point where you don’t know how to progress, hopefully you can find something useful here. Stay tuned; the fun is just about to take off!

New Entry  The End is Here

Flash Player 9 is required to view this video. Approximate file size is 5 MB.

New Entry  January 30th:  The Middle of the End

By now I hope you've had a chance to check out our review and videos of the ParkZone Micro Cessna that I talked about in my last posting. Since that filming I have been able to go flying with the Cessna a few more times. This is the absolute ideal plane for someone like me who may not be completely comfortable flying a larger plane indoors. The big thing about this little plane is how fun it is to fly.

But now the time has come to wrap up The Runway. While there will be one final update after this one in a week or so, this will be the final "text" entry. One thing I kept going over in deciding how to wrap up my thoughts is to share exactly what this whole experiment has meant to me as time has gone on. So that being said, here are my favorite moments that have been captured on The Runway.

Seriously, a "car guy" learning to fly?
What could have been seen as a bad joke to some, an admitted car guy turning his attention to the skies turned out to be an overwhelming success. Gaining acceptance to the idea that a car guy could learn to fly was a challenge, but the fact that The Runway has been going strong for nearly 30-months would definitively reflect that this was a worthwhile and unique approach to learning how to fly. Below is from the very first posting here on The Runway:

I sit here reflecting, some 14 years after I initially entered the hobby, finding myself with many trophies and awards from my racing career, and am fortunate enough now to actually be a part of what makes this hobby grow. Since joining Horizon Hobby in June of 2005, I have been absolutely amazed by the number of gifted and talented people who work here at Horizon Hobby and also fly RC airplanes and do incredible things with them.

1-year Anniversary:
While this may seem like a minor thing, for me completing the first year of The Runway was somewhat special. It was a challenge to get the go-ahead to start this project, but seeing it become a sustainable project was especially exciting to me.
From the posting on that date titled "It Actually Happened..."

And the biggest lesson I've learned is this. Everybody crashes…it's what you do afterwards to recover that really defines you.

Reader Feedback
I've always tried to keep the tone very conversational and invited you, the readers, to email me and share your experience as well. My whole philosophy behind this was to learn together and share this hobby with others. Nothing describes this as well as the message I received from "Grandpa Jim and Grandson David":

I just purchased a Firebird Commander 2 for my Grandson's 9th birthday. I was very encouraged by your "Runway" postings and we are looking forward to light winds, big grassy field (no tree) and charged battery. Keep up the postings! Grandpa Jim and Grandson David

Writing About What YOU Wanted
When it came time to step up from the HobbyZone Commander 2 into a ParkZone plane, I was torn as to what plane to decide on. I had narrowed my choices down to two planes, the J-3 Cub and the Super Decathlon. The problem was that I couldn't decide between the two but had an idea on how to narrow the choice down to one plane. I put the decision in your hands in a vote between these two planes. The results were telling:

All of the votes have been tallied, and there is a clear winner in the J-3 Cub vs. Super Decathlon race. In a last minute flurry of ballots, you voted the J-3 Cub as your choice for the next Runway subject plane. The winds are supposed to die down tomorrow, so I will give you a first flight report in a couple of days.

But the best….
Was everything. Yeah, I admit that’s cheesy but at the same time it is completely true. I've loved writing The Runway and sharing all my experiences, the good and the bad, with each and every one of you. This is somewhat bittersweet to bring to a close, but the time has come. Since we started in 2005, The Runway has served its purpose here on the site. You'll be able to read about my antics for some time to come as I am not going anywhere, except perhaps to go drive or fly something new.

New EntryUp Next: So this is it...

New Entry  January 9th:  The Beginning of the End

I must admit I was caught off-guard by the response that the Runway would be coming to a close. It was good to hear from those that have been impacted by my goofy antics while trying to learn to fly. Don’t worry as all my previous posts will still be here on the site. If anything, things will get organized better to make finding what you’re looking for much easier. I’m hoping we can even have a dedicated page just for the videos we’ve shot.

With all this talk of ending the Runway, I’ll pass on that I did have yet another first-flight experience a few nights ago and loved it. I’ve talked before on flying indoors and how I have had problems with my depth perception. It’s been a source of frustration as there aren’t many options for flying outside during the winter for obvious reasons. Well I have finally found a plane that I am comfortable flying indoors in the ParkZone Micro Cessna. I must admit at first glance I didn’t think much of this little plane but it’s a real performer. I charged up the battery at the office, which took all of 15-minutes. The really amazing part was the amount of flight time that this pack delivered. I expected 5-6 minutes before needing to recharge the pack, but the plane stayed airborne for nearly three times as long with flight times between 12-15 minutes. It was very controllable and I was even able to make it perform some basic aerobatics such as loops and more. It was a very fun and enjoyable experience and I cannot wait to fly it more. Look for some videos of our exploits very soon.

New EntryUp Next: The Middle of the End

New Entry  January 2nd:  Winding Down

With the holidays pretty much behind us and the New Year almost here, I have taken some time to reflect on the year that has been, some of my accomplishments, and where I wish to be in the future. In terms of flying over the past 12 months, I feel I have made some real strides to improve my skills. So as this is the time of year for resolutions and reflection, here are my top "RC flying" lessons from this year:

  1. I love flying electric planes, specifically park flyers.
  2. While I would rather fly than build, if I put my mind to it and set the time aside, I can assemble an E-flite RTF and successfully fly it.
  3. While sometimes you have to learn to fly in the wind, sometimes it’s better and smarter to wait for calmer days.
  4. While flying indoors might seem easier than flying outdoors, having problems with depth perception can make it much more difficult.
  5. When you head out for one "last flight of the day," it’s generally the last flight with the specific plane you’re going to have.
  6. There are pilots who will be able to do things with an aircraft that I will never be able to match, but I don’t need to either.
  7. The DX6i is really user-friendly and a nice upgrade for anyone looking for a great radio.
  8. Flying should be fun. If you’re not having fun, then you need to re-evaluate things.
  9. I’m never going to be a large-scale flying aerobatic pilot, and I am ok with that.

  10. And finally number 10:
  11. While I have enjoyed writing The Runway, it is time to wrap things up. I have enjoyed being a guide through this journey, but there isn’t much more my experiences can do to help beginners out. I’ll still have a few posts here before we wrap things up for good, but I feel The Runway has served its purpose. Look for the final few postings soon.

New EntryUp Next: The beginning of the end

New Entry  December 12th:  More Flying Fun

Ever since flying the PTS I have been revitalized in regards to flying. It also helps that the ParkZone T-28 is an awesome little trainer in itself, which is helping me become more and more confident with rudder control that will directly translate to the PTS. I have also been lucky in that I have been able to fly with a new radio lately— Spektrum’s exciting new DX6i. I’ve installed a Spektrum AR6300 in the T-28 and must say I am digging this radio. I even bound the DX6i to the AR6000 that has been in my Spitfire for all these months and its working perfectly. The DX6i’s case is a little wider than both the stock ParkZone radio and my DX6 are, and that took a couple flights to get used to. The more I fly with it the more I like it. As on my DX3R, the DX6i uses this little roller to maneuver through the menus and it’s really easy and intuitive to use.

I do need to make an admission here: I don’t know that I’ll fly the PTS again. Don’t get me wrong, it was a neat experience and all but I just don’t think it’s my cup of tea. I draw a parallel between when I race electric and nitro vehicles. I race nitro in the summer because that’s what people race around me; I do it out of necessity because I just want to race. I have never enjoyed racing nitro as much as I do electric. I think the same is true for me in terms of flying. For my personal taste, the simplicity of electric planes and park flyers is just more appealing to me. I don’t have a desire to get into giant-scale planes and, while it was neat to fly at the field and all, I don’t want to be limited in where I can fly. With my Spitfire, the T-28 or any park flyer, I can fly when and where I want as long as I have an open field and a charged battery. That is very appealing to me, more so than flying larger planes that require nitro fuel and larger areas to fly in. It’s the same for me where helicopters are concerned—cool to look at, impressive to watch, but they don’t do a whole lot for me. That’s what’s so great about this hobby, there’s something for everyone. For me, I think my niche is truly in park flyers and foamies.

New EntryUp Next: Winding Down

New Entry  November 20th:  Video Fun

I’m not going to bore you with a lot of text on this entry, as I think the video below will speak for itself. I’ve taken the footage from my PTS flight and mixed it together to give everyone some perspective on what to expect if you decide to fly one yourself, and exactly what an instructor can help you with as you fly. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it. I would also like to take a moment and wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

New EntryUp Next: More Flying Fun

Flash Player 9 is required to view this video. Approximate file size is 5 MB.

New EntryUp Next: More Flying Fun!

New Entry  November 15th:  Brrrrrrrr, Summer’s Over

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I absolutely hate the cold. However, we’ve had a bit of warm weather lately, which has given me the opportunity to get some fun flying in. I’ve been able to get some more time behind the sticks of a ParkZone T-28 Trojan, and the more I fly it the more I like it. It’s a totally different flying experience than my Spitfire; if it makes any sense the T-28 is both more forgiving in the air and more nimble all at the same time. It’s a weird combination but it works really well. One piece of advice I would like to pass on is to make sure you spend some extra time aligning the front landing gear when you install it. Make some slow passes to fine-tune its position and to ensure it’s as straight as can be for the best taxiing experiences.

I also have another exciting piece of information to pass on. I have had my first flight experiences behind the Hangar-9 P-51 PTS. E-flite’s John Redman, my counterpart Jim Booker and I all went to the Champaign County Flying field with the P-51 to get some stick time. We shot some excellent video of the whole thing, which will be posted in the near future. It was a totally new experience that I’ll never forget. But there’s still something I find inherently enjoyable about electric planes, their plug-and-play simplicity, and being able to fly practically anywhere. I don’t know that a glow plane is really in my on-going future, but it’s without-a-doubt a different side of this hobby I am glad I have experienced.

New EntryUp Next: Video Fun!

New Entry  October 31st:  Toys, Toys, Toys

Well iHobby is in the books for another year, and I have to say there were some neat things to see on both the air and surface side. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the coolest thing at the show was, but there are some definite highlights that you should check out if you didn’t have a chance to visit the show.

Spektrum DX6i

The DX6i is destined to be my next air radio. What I really dig about the DX6i is that I’ll finally be able to take advantage of some of the smaller DSM2-based Spektrum air receivers like the AR6100 and AR6300. The DX6i is also super-dialed in that you can fly any-size plane with it. How cool is that?

ParkZone T-28 Trojan PNP

I’ve had a chance to fly one of these planes before and was instantly impressed. The T-28 comes as both a traditional RTF and as a PNP. The main difference between the two is the inclusion of a radio system, as the PNP leaves the choice of radio and receiver up to you. The DX6i I plan on adding to my collection will be a perfect fit for the PNP version of the T-28.

E-flite AT-6 Texan ARF

E-flite has definitely taken things to the next level with their new Platinum Series of planes. The AT-6 is absolutely gorgeous on display or in the air. I love the fact that this plane includes retracts, making it easy to taxi on the ground while retaining its authentic looks in the air without additional gear hanging down in flight.

Losi Micro-Desert Truck

Ok, I am a surface guy so I had to sneak one surface vehicle in here. I had a chance to run a number of battery packs through the Losi Micro-Desert Truck on the floor of the show, and it was awesome. It was faster than I thought it would be, plus it handled really well. While I have yet to snag a Micro-T, I think I just might add a Micro-Desert Truck to my collection.

New EntryUp Next: Brrrrrrrr, Summer’s Over

New Entry  October 11th:  Flying Again

Things are really getting busy and ramping up in preparation for this years iHobby. There are so many cool things that are going to be out on display that it’s pretty mind boggling. I’m planning on making the trek up to the show with my counterpart on the air side of things, Jim Booker, and we will once again provide exclusive on-line interviews here on Look for those in the days following the show.

With all the prep work going on, I’ve had to make sure that when I have an opportunity to get out and drive or fly that I take it. I just finished building a new Team Losi Racing XXX-T CR this weekend, and I must say I am really excited to race it. Additionally, Jim and I had the chance to go to the flying field a week or two ago with one of the newest ParkZone Planes, the T-28 Trojan. The version he had was one of the PNP planes that includes the servos, ESC and motor, but you supply the receiver, radio and battery. He had installed his Spektrum DX7 radio in the plane and had flown it around for a few batteries while I flew my Spitfire. After his second pack he offered to let me fly the Trojan, and I, naturally, took him up on the offer.

The taxi and take-off was interesting, not because of any problems, but because of the steerable nose wheel. I had never flown anything that had anything like this; it was pretty cool. I pushed the throttle stick forward and the Trojan sped down the runway and eventually took to the skies. It’s definitely not the same flying experience with the Trojan as with the Spitfire. If anything the Trojan felt smoother than the Spitfire, but I was able to make quicker directional changes with the Spitfire if that makes sense. The Trojan was able to do everything the Spitfire could; it just didn’t do it quite as quickly. Now I will also admit that I was not using the rudder control for the simple reason that I never thought to use it. I will easily admit that the Trojan would probably feel snappier if I would have used the rudder.

New EntryUp Next: Toys, Toys, Toys!

New Entry  September 4th:  Will I need a Passport?

I am back safe and sound from my 96-hour trek to gorgeous Southern California, catching up on e-mail and meetings over the last several days. I must say that this was by far one of the best races I have ever attended, even though my performance was, well, less than stellar. I managed to qualify 12th overall, which placed me second in the B-main. I struggled throughout most of the event with trying to figure out where to gear my motors and what motor to run. In the main, my motor was non-existent, as I was losing ground to the competition every lap on the straightaway. My fastest laps of the event were in the 16.0- to 16.1-second range, yet in the main the best I could muster was a 17.1. I could have finished better if I would have raced the competition harder, but instead of blocking people and holding my line as I was caught—I swung wide, gave up the line, and let them go. At one point I was running 3rd with a pack of 4 cars charging up behind me. When they finally caught me I just lifted, went wide for the corner, and let them go. I "could" have fought them for the position but as weak as my motor was, either A) They would have run me over and caused a wreck, B) I would have slammed the door on someone and caused a wreck, or C) Both A and B, and someone would have had a broken car. It may not have been the "raciest" thing to do but it was the sportsmanlike thing to do. I did pick up a couple of spots to guys who crashed or had problems but, like I say, I didn't want to ruin someone else's good run.

I am also relatively satisfied with the run, as I have only raced this car three times in the last 12 months—at the 2006 North American Finals, at the Tamiya Regional race in Memphis this year, and then this race weekend here. I think if I would have had a stronger motor, I could have finished somewhere from 5th to 10th. I know we had down to an E-Main in the class that I ran in too, so there were a ton of people to beat out just to qualify 12th. Frankly, as poorly as the motor performed, I was relieved that I didn't make the A-Main. I would have just been in the way and would have felt really bad if I would have caused a problem for someone else. Needless to say I didn’t win; therefore I will not need a passport to Japan.

The completion of this event marked the end of an era as the property the track is on has been placed up for sale. This facility will be sorely missed by me and others from around the country. I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank the folks at Tamiya America who have worked very hard for many years to make this series everything it has been. I personally want to thank Fred Medel of Tamiya America for all the hard work that he has put into this series, including answering phone calls from me asking stupid questions on my latest scheme to circumvent the rules. To Fred, Gary Demory, Tom Kahl, and all the other Tamiya employees and volunteers who have helped over the years, "thank you" doesn't seem like enough recognition for everything you do.

New EntryUp Next: Flying Again

New Entry  August 20th: I’m Goin’ Racin’

Gary Katzer holding his Tamiya TA-05 and Spektrum DX3R

As the summer winds to an end, I am preparing to take one final journey out west to compete in the Tamiya Championship Series North American Finals. I say this is a final journey as this is the last year that the event will be held at the legendary Tamiya Track in Aliso Viejo, California. Completed in the late 90’s, what had started out as an R&D facility has evolved into one of the absolute finest racing facilities in the world. Beyond holding TCS regional and national events, the Tamiya track has also been home to the prestigious Reedy Race of Champions for the past number of years. Tamiya America has recently relocated their marketing and warehouse operations elsewhere in southern California and the land where the track lies is now up for sale. While this marks the end of an era and is bittersweet, I am one of many who have a lifetime of memories from this track. I am looking forward to attending and participating in this, the 13th-annual North American Finals, but will not be looking forward to the end of this event and walking away for the last time.

The past week or so has been pretty busy for me in terms of final preparations for the race. I haven’t raced my Tamiya TA-05 since I competed in the regional event back in April in Memphis, where I qualified second but crashed out of the main. I’ve had to go through and repair some damage that it incurred thanks to the sweeper and my way-too-early-apex attempt that ripped the right front A-arm off the car. I’ve gone through and cleaned all the bearings, rebuilt the rear diff, replaced the front CVD’s that were twisted (again damage from the Memphis track), and other maintenance. In addition to repairing the car and prepping it, I of course had to paint up a new body. I ended up painting a new C-5 Corvette body to do battle in the highly competitive GT2 class in my trademark orange/blue/white paint scheme.

In addition to competing at the event, I’ll also be doing some field testing. I’ll be using one of the new Spektrum DX3R radios in my car and I am jazzed. I’ve used the DX3R in my Truggy, my LST2, and several other cars and I’ve liked how it has performed. If you’re near the Irvine/Aliso Viejo, California area the weekend of August 24–26, stop on out to see some of the best racing action anywhere. Best of all—the winners of the GT1, GT2, and Mini classes get an all-expense-paid trip to compete in the Tamiya World Championships in Japan. I’ll be back shortly after the event with an update.

New EntryUp Next: Will I need a passport?

New Entry  August 3rd: Tear it up

As this title suggests, the Spitfire is still torn up. Such is life, as I simply have not had time to replace the wing with a new one as of late. On the other hand, I did recently interview the man who has the dubious honor (if you can call it that) of being on the other end of a trainer cord for me very soon. John Redman is one of the best pilots I have ever seen and has trained many pilots. I shared many of my concerns with him, and he helped put me a little more at ease. Check below for the interview.

New EntryUp Next: I’m Goin’ Racin’

New Entry  July 17th: Rolling Along

With warm summer weather you always get the obligatory summer thunderstorm. We’ve had a number of very cool storms roll through the area recently, but the winds have made it tough to fly. I’ve been flying the daylights out of my Spitfire every chance I get as of late, flying two, three, four times a day or more. Between the excellent power delivery and torque provided by the motor, great punch and flight time provided by the LiPo battery, or the neutral in-air flight characteristics, this has very easily become my favorite plane. That is what made what recently happened all the more disturbing.

I had gone out to check the weather early one morning and the winds seemed as if they were gusting more than I felt comfortable flying in. Later in the day, a co-worker (that I know I shouldn’t believe, but that’s my own fault) came to tell me the weather outside was perfect to fly in. He proceeded to grab the Spitfire, told me to grab my radio and we were going flying. When I went outside I noticed the wind was much calmer and figured it was ok to fly in. What I didn’t notice was how the tree tops in the distance were blowing around wildly. Oh yeah, this was not going to be good. I gave the Spitfire a toss into the wind and it began a very steep climb. At cruising altitude I began to notice the plane getting buffeted around severely. After only a minute or two I came to the conclusion that the winds were too strong and planned my descent. After two passes that were too fast to land, I thought I had safely navigated the Spitfire in. I was wrong. A crosswind hit as I was about 8–10 feet off the ground, requiring me to correct for this. The crosswind also caused the plane to accelerate, requiring a longer approach. As I brought the Spitfire in, I noticed a small sapling directly in the flight path that, if the crosswind wouldn’t have happened, I would have missed. Needless to say I couldn’t react in time and clipped it with the left wingtip. The plane hit with enough force to rip the wing from the fuselage, damaging it. I was pretty upset as I hadn’t crashed in quite some time, but this is an easy enough fix.

New EntryUp Next: Tear It Up

New Entry  July 6th: Sticking to the Basics

Happy belated 4th of July everyone, I hope you all had a safe and fun holiday. I have been spending an absolute ton of time out flying lately, all behind the sticks of the ParkZone Spitfire. During one of my last flights out, one of my co-workers was outside watching me fly and made an interesting remark. He said that he was impressed with how far I’ve come since I began flying two years ago. Upon reflection, I realized that the two-year anniversary of The Runway was coming, which is of course, today. So what have I learned over the last two years of flying?

  • Much like driving RC cars, flying is much harder than it looks. It’s the experience of skilled people that makes it look so easy.
  • It’s very easy to get in over your head really fast. The quickest way to guarantee a crash is to push the limits too much.
  • LiPo batteries are the future, and I can’t wait to be able to race with these cells in my racecars and trucks.
  • Flying and driving require two completely different skill sets. I believe I did the harder transition, from driving to flying. I guarantee it would be easier for someone to go from flying to driving than from driving to flying.
  • It’s not how many times you crash that matters, it’s how many times you pick up the pieces, rebuild, and fly again. Everyone crashes sometime. Everyone.
  • There is a natural progression for learning, starting with teach-yourself-to-fly planes such as HobbyZone’s Zone 1 and Zone 2 planes up through the Zone 3 planes, ParkZone planes, up to E-flite planes and more. Be patient and spend time enjoying each step along the way. The more you rush your progression, the more likely it is that you’ll crash.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions of experienced pilots in your area. They have all been where you are at some point; no one starts off as an expert. Tap into that knowledge base early and often.
  • Most importantly, it’s all about having fun.

I want to thank everyone who has read The Runway over the past two years. It’s been a lot of fun and I still enjoy reading your e-mails and comments so keep them coming.

New EntryUp Next: Sticking to the Basics

New Entry June 27: Practice, Practice, Practice

Like I said in one of the more recent postings, I’ve been really busy with a number of projects, including getting ready for an RC Pro Series race. With the race behind me, I’ll let you know that I finished in the C-Main in 1/8-scale buggy and B-Main in Truggy. Both cars worked better than I drove them and I did have some unfortunate problems in each main. It’s hard to race in a main when you can’t see your car because of dust and darkness, and I actually pulled off the track in Truggy while running second because I felt I could no longer see my truck well enough and was worried that I might run off the track and hit a marshal. The track president did what he could to help resolve the situation, but his hands were tied by the race directors. Either way, I know I could have done better in both classes if the event coordinators would have allowed the track crew to maintain the track during the day.

As far as my flying goes, I just got back in from flying the repaired Spitfire a little bit ago. I worry a lot about crashing; I probably always will. It is somewhat intimidating to have all these expert pilots around and not be at their skill level. Like many others, I’m really self-conscious about crashing and it makes me feel, quite frankly, kinda dumb. It is what it is though, and everyone crashes from time to time. I’m just glad that, crashing like I have, I’ve become pretty proficient in repairing planes. The Spitfire flew wonderfully, had tons of power, and was still as aerobatic as I remember it being before the crash.

I’ve also been spending more and more time on the FS One Simulator in preparation for flying the P-51. Between flying the Spitfire and FS One, I’m starting to loosen up and not worry about getting in the air with the PTS quite so much. I’d be lying, however, if I said that I wasn’t still somewhat nervous about taking that big step.

New Entry June 22: Rebuilding

I have my Spitfire on my workbench now, getting ready to repair it from my less-than-gentle landing from the last time out. Along with the damaged wing, the cowling and prop were also damaged. I inspected the rest of the fuselage and found some crumpled areas here and there, but nothing too severe. I opened up the new parts and began to install them onto the plane. The trickiest part is the servo installation in the wing. I ended up installing the horn on the servo first, threading the control lines through the holes, and finally mounting the servo to the wing. It was a bit challenging, but not too bad.

With the Spitfire pretty much ready to fly again, I turned my attention to something I have been putting off—the PTS. I’ve been taking some steps to try to psych myself up and provide myself with a little more confidence as the big day is approaching. I’ve spent quite a bit of time flying the standard Hangar-9 P-51 that can be found on the FS One flight simulator. What I have found really quite shocking to this point is that, except on rare occasions, I don’t even have to think about monkeying around with the rudder control on the simulator. At most I’ve used it a little during takeoffs and landings to ensure I am lined up properly, but other than that it seems to fly very similarly to the ParkZone P-51. Playing around with the different rates, I found myself getting very comfortable flying the FS One P-51 on high rates, which totally shocked me. I practiced making loops, Immelman turns and, most importantly, landings. I can see how this can become a very important resource when it comes to practicing and getting the basics down.

New Entry June 11: It’s Been Awhile…

Sorry for the delay between updates as of late. There are a lot of cool things that we’ve been working on lately that have prevented me from flying as much as I would have liked. I must admit that I have actually been spending a lot more time at the racetrack lately than I have behind the sticks of a plane, but that doesn’t mean that I have stopped flying altogether.

Over the last few weeks I had the chance to participate in a number of awesome events. As I did last year, I once again packed up my gear and headed to Memphis, Tennessee to participate in the Tamiya Championship Series Regional Event. I wound up qualifying second in one class and TQing another. I went on to win the class I TQed, but I broke about a minute into the main in the second class and finished tenth. A few weeks after that I raced in an RC Pro Series state race with my new Team Losi Racing 8IGHT-T. That event was the first race weekend I spent with this truck and the first nitro race I had raced in nearly a year. The truck worked better than the driver, but I still managed to qualify ninth and finished sixteenth. Next up for me is another RC Pro Series state race, where I will once again be racing my 8IGHT-T along with a Team Losi Racing 8IGHT buggy.

Not to worry—as I have been flying and working with planes too. I’ve been flying the ParkZone Spitfire quite a bit, but a rough landing has meant that I need to perform some repairs. Ok, so it wasn’t a rough landing; I got cocky and thought I could pull up out of a dive that I couldn’t and I broke the wing. Oh well, I’ll be up and in the air with it soon enough. I do want to pass along a heads up about a new buying guide that’s recently gone live here on Jim Booker, my counterpart on the air side of things, has put together a great airplane buying guide. There are even some really cool action videos in there too. Make sure to check it out here.

New Entry April 20: The Experiment Lives

With the ParkZone Spitfire together on my bench, I took a moment just to appreciate things. By this I don’t just mean appreciate this particular project, but appreciate where I have come as a pilot over the last 2 years. From never having flown any sort of airplane before to deciding on my Firebird Commander, progressing to the Challenger, building the Tribute 3D, learning on the E-flite Blade CX, until finally being able to fly things such as this ParkZone Spitfire and the E-flite Thunderbolt. It’s been a fun learning curve; I just hope others have learned from my experiences as well.

I headed outside with the Spitfire, only to find that there was a crowd following me. Normally, that’s not a good thing as I knew more than a few of them thought that the odds of the Spitfire coming back in one piece weren’t good. I checked my trims and throws before I took off and also performed a range check. Once everything checked out I received gave it a thumbs up as the Spitfire was tossed into the air. It gained altitude steadily and smoothly as I circled the flying field. Once I was about 2-3 mistakes high I began to see what the Spitfire could do. I was really impressed how stable the Spitfire flew and I initially thought that this stability would make it less aerobatic. I couldn’t have been more wrong in my conclusion as the Spitfire was able to really crank out some awesome maneuvers. Inside and outside loops were a snap, as were rolls. I was very impressed with how well the Spitfire climbed vertically. When you combine the light weight airframe and the extra voltage of the 3-cell LiPo you get a plane in the Spitfire that is deceptively nimble. There were many times when the Spitfire reminded me of my Thunderbolt. Don’t get me wrong, the Thunderbolt was faster thanks to its brushless motor and would probably outperform the Spitfire if I had set it up with rudder control, but the in-air experience felt virtually identical. With the weekend upon us, I plan on getting a lot of flying in with this plane. I should be able to shoot some video of the Spitfire as well, so look for another update very soon.

New Entry April 16: In the air again

I sit here at my keyboard fighting the onset of one of those wonderful spring colds that you get as the weather goes from warmer to colder in the blink of an eye. I was able to get a new project started and completed this past weekend, however, which is probably why I am fighting a cold right now. The project started with a ParkZone Spitfire that had crashed and seen better days, needing some new parts and a little love on the workbench.

So here I had his Spitfire lying in pieces on my bench and, after assessing the damage, I figured out where to start. As I dug into things, I discovered that it wasn’t damaged as badly as I thought. The fuselage survived the crash fairly well; in fact the stabilizer was the only major airframe component that I needed to replace. Upon closer inspection, the speed controller was also damaged and required replacement. I could have replaced the ESC with another ParkZone unit, but I wanted to experiment with this plane.

I decided I wanted to install my Spektrum DX6 into this plane. Having flown a few other planes with this radio, I have always enjoyed not having to worry about frequency control with my DX6. Going this route also meant that I would need to install a separate ESC, which meant that I would have to do some research. After talking to a few guys, I finally decided on an E-flite 30-amp ESC for this application. It was small, lightweight, and could definitely handle the 3-cell Li-Po I intended to use. With the new parts added, new electronics installed, and of course the battery installed, the Spitfire would fly once again. So how did the Spitfire fly? Well, I’ll tell you soon enough.

New Entry April 10: After the Wreck

The one consistent thing about spring weather in the Midwest is how inconsistent it truly is. We have gone from enjoying calm days in the 70’s and low 80’s to blustery cold days in the 30’s again. While I’m all for learning to fly in the wind and getting comfortable behind the sticks in less than ideal conditions, I am still a total wimp when it comes to flying in the cold. Ok, let me rephrase that: I am a total wimp when it comes to doing anything in the cold. But the bug to fly outside has totally bitten me, and this time with drastic consequences.

It’s funny how many bad things happen on the last “something” of the day. Whether it’s trying to get one last practice run on a car that’s dialed and crashing and breaking or getting one last flight before packing up, there always seems to be dire consequences to that last flight or run of the day. Well, I decided I just had to fly my E-flite Thunderbolt one last time for the day, and man did it ever bite me. Just after takeoff, I banked to the left to circle the field and bring it back towards me. Just then, the wind picked up and started gusting terribly. I’d have to estimate the winds were easily in excess of 30mph, and I knew instantly I was in trouble. I tried to turn the nose of the plane straight into the wind to land but it was no use. There were a few spectators out with me, and one of them asked me how far I thought I would be able to fly in this wind. My reply foretold what I thought would happen, which was “to the scene of the crash.” Sure enough, the Thunderbolt went down hard and was completely obliterated; bits of foam everywhere. I was able to salvage the electronics at least, and I already have plans for a second Thunderbolt. I might even add rudder control to this new one. Hmmmm…

New Entry March 14: Thunderstruck!

There’s only one word that can describe the weather lately: gorgeous! With the mercury in the mid-70’s, it has been nice to be able to get outside and enjoy the warmth for awhile. Unfortunately, it looks like things are going to cool off soon, but this was a nice preview of what’s in store for the near future. The lovely weather made it possible for me to get a number of flights with the Thunderbolt under my belt, and that experience was better than I could have imagined.

I am going to admit that I probably shouldn’t have been flying with the wind gusts that we were experiencing. I was getting frustrated with the idea of not being able to fly lately, threw caution to the wind so to speak, and took the Thunderbolt up. I was very nervous after the plane took to the sky for the first time, and with good reason. A gust of wind came along just as the Thunderbolt was lifting off, sending it into a 90-degree climb almost instantly. I kept my cool, brought the nose down and leveled off. The gusts made flying challenging to say the least, but it also made for some interesting and cool-looking maneuvers at the same time.

About ten minutes into my fifth flight of the day, I was making a lower pass of the field than I had been. I’d say I was flying about 25–30 feet off the ground, roughly 50 yards out from me. Suddenly, the prop just stopped spinning without any warning, the Thunderbolt lost power entirely, and it rolled upside down and crashed. When I arrived at the crash site, I noticed the rudder had been ripped from the tail, the cowling was mangled, and there was mud all over the prop. I also noticed the distinct smell of burning epoxy, similar to the smell of a burnt up speed controller or motor. I disconnected the battery immediately and brought the fuselage inside for further inspection. It appeared at first that I blew an FET on the speed controller which caused the loss of power. Upon further inspection, I also noticed several blown windings on the motor. While I don’t know if the ESC went which took the motor with it or vice versa, I think the failure can be traced back to my initial flight. The drag caused by the prop rubbing on the cowling could have caused either the ESC or motor to overheat and damage the electronics. This simply reinforces the fact that if and when something sounds or looks wrong, land immediately to fix the problem. That’s a lesson that has been well reinforced here.

New Entry March 12: Let's Get Going!

I don’t want to speak too soon here, but it looks like the worst of winter might be past us as things start to warm up. Friday afternoon was especially nice out and a number of folks grabbed their different planes and took to the air. After spending a lot of time working on my Sportwerks Recoil and Team Losi XXX-CR as of late, I was definitely anxious to get back in the air. It was possible for me to have flown more recently, but I had pulled my receiver out of my MS Composit Swift and installed it into my E-flite Thunderbolt. My patience has finally been rewarded as, with JR’s John Redman by my side, we headed out to fly my Thunderbolt for the first time.

I handed the transmitter to John as I plugged the battery into the ESC. The ESC beeped a few times, servos moved to their neutral positions, and I re-installed the canopy. I held the plane for John as he looked at it from the rear and set the preliminary trims for the ailerons and elevators. With the trims and throws set, John increased the throttle and took off into the air. Almost instantly, an odd sound came from the front of the fuselage. I was concerned that perhaps the cowling had shifted and was rubbing on the outside of the motor. John flew for a minute or two before he brought the plane down safe and sound. I was correct in that the sound was coming from something dragging on the cowling. However, it wasn’t the motor; it was the prop. The cowling had slid forward, not back, and the prop had begun to rub on it. The cowling survived, but the prop had some damage to it, meaning that I would need to replace the prop before flying again. On the bright side, at least the Thunderbolt is now trimmed out and I feel comfortable that I can fly it myself next week.

New Entry February 5: I Just Want to Fly

Well, it’s the day after the biggest game of the year and I am almost as crushed as my team was last night. With the season over and done with for another year, I turn my full attention towards RC. Well, that is for a few weeks until racing season starts up again, along with spring training.

Unfortunately, it has been way too cold and windy lately to even think about flying the Hangar 9 PTS P-51 Mustang. I have completed the assembly on my new E-flite Thunderbolt, including installing all the electronics and trimming everything out. I discovered one change to the standard installation that I plan on making. The instructions call for using a Y-harness to tie the aileron servos together as they plug into the receiver. This is necessary if your radio lacks mixing in the radio’s programming. My DX6 does feature mixing, making it possible for me to eliminate the Y-harness and plug each servo directly into the receiver. The benefit to using mixing is that I can adjust the sub-trim for each servo independently through my transmitter. This allows me to really get the Thunderbolt trimmed out easily and precisely without having to lengthen or shorten the control rods or repositioning the servo arms.

New Entry January 24: Will He or Won’t He??

Well, winter has finally hit here in the Midwest, which has made flying virtually impossible. For me, things got really bad last week when I got hit by a major bout of cabin fever. I was literally bouncing off the walls, looking for something to drive or fly. I decided to take the down time that I have right now to put a new plane together: the E-flite P-47D Thunderbolt (EFL6000). I thought this plane would have similar flight characteristics to the ParkZone Mustang I’ve been flying lately, but provide the option of hand-launching or rolling takeoffs thanks to the landing gear. I should have this new plane completed sometime within the next week or so, and I can’t wait to fly it.

Speaking of electric planes, a number of people here are getting ready for the upcoming E-Fest. This will be the second year of the event, and I am looking forward to checking out some of the cool goings-on. I missed out on E-Fest last year since I was in Orlando for the Snowbird Nationals, so this will actually be my first time going to an event like this. I won’t be participating, as I am still not 100% comfortable flying indoors by myself yet, let alone around other airplanes. However, we will be shooting video footage of E-Fest and plan on posting those videos on It should be a fun time for everyone.

New Entry January 5: Happy New Year!

With 2006 behind us and 2007 ahead of us, the time to take the training wheels off is almost here. With everything that has been going on with the holidays and New Year, getting time behind the sticks has been pretty challenging. The weather has not been cooperating either, making it nearly impossible to fly lately. That is until this afternoon. While the skies were gloomy, the rain had let up for a few hours. With this window of opportunity open, I grabbed the ParkZone P-51 Mustang and a freshly charged battery and headed outside.

Much like the recent posting of the Super Cub flight, I really wanted to get some footage here of me flying the P-51. Once the plane was in the air, we had a slight problem with the camera maintaining focus. While it wasn’t raining, there was enough mist in the air that was causing the camera to go in and out of focus. I expected the air to be rather turbulent at higher altitudes owing to the low ceiling, but things were surprisingly calm. I was glad that there were others with me as I flew, as the radio trim knobs must have gotten bumped since I last flew this plane. While I was flying, someone standing to the side would make subtle trim adjustments for me depending on my request. It was really convenient. All in all, it was a fun way to spend some time this afternoon. I’m hoping the weather breaks and things dry out over the weekend so that I can get the P-51 PTS off the ground.

New Entry December 22: Last Minute Training

In the spirit of the season, I thought that this final pre-holiday Runway would take a page from Clement Clarke Moore’s Classic, “‘Twas the night before Christmas”.

‘Twas the night before flying
the PTS P-51
I was quite proud of myself
The plane was finally done

I checked all the servos
To make sure they were fine
I’d be ready in no-time
To take to the flight-line

We test fired the engine
The exhaust, a light blue
It purred like a kitten
Just as it was supposed to do

I tossed and I turned
Not able to sleep
Excitement was getting the best of me
I even tried counting sheep.

When I looked at the clock
It was only 6 in the morning
Worried I was
That I might crash without warning

And then I remembered
All the fun that I’ve had
With an experienced pilot at my side
I knew it wouldn’t be that bad

So I grabbed my gear
My radio and fuel
Then it started to snow
Now what do I do?

With radio in hand
I just shook my head
Maybe it was one of those days
I should have just stayed in bed.

But then I realized
With immediate cheer
I could fly on FS One
To ring in the New Year

From all of us here
To each and every one of you
Happy Holidays to all
And to all a Hobby-ful New Year

New Entry December 15: IT’S ALIVE!!!

I have to admit that I am getting super geeked about getting this P-51 PTS up and flying. Thankfully, things are finally coming together as, between Matt Andren and myself, we’ve been getting the P-51 PTS ready to fly. Matt’s an extremely experienced pilot and has assembled many planes over the years. I’ve really come to rely on Matt’s experience through this project, and I probably wouldn’t feel nearly as comfortable about this without his assistance. With a charged transmitter battery and receiver pack installed, the wing was bolted on and we went to test-fire the engine.

I figured that, much like the engine in my 1/8-scale buggies, the cooler ambient temperature would require some minor needle tuning on the carb. Matt made a few final adjustments to the throttle sub-trim on the radio, primed the engine and connected the glow driver. As he grabbed a chicken stick to turn the prop with safely, I stood just in front of the leading edge of the P-51’s tail. I did this to keep the plane stationary as we ran the engine.

After a few flicks of the wrist, the engine fired right up and idled smoothly. We both noticed an odd note coming from the engine when the rpm was increased. It sounded like something was either loose, or like we may have had a bearing issue. We headed back into the workshop, pulled the spinner and prop to find the prop nut was only on about finger tight. This allowed the prop driver to walk on the engine’s output shaft slightly which actually damaged it a little. We replaced this part, tightened everything back down, and re-fired the engine, ran it up to full rpm—and it ran beautifully. All the trims checked out and we were able to kill the engine successfully from the radio. I think the time is just about here to actually take this P-51 up!

New Entry December 8: Initial Reactions

Before we hit the field, we took an extra step here to ensure that the engine fired properly, that we could shut the engine off from the radio, that the servo trims were all set correctly, and that the control surfaces operated properly. The transmitter battery in the JR XF421EX 5-channel computer radio was fully charged beforehand, as was the receiver pack. With everything charged up, our attention turned to setting the linkages up properly for the control surfaces and the flaps.

As mentioned previously, this P-51 PTS has been flown before by others. Since this is the case, there had been some tuning and tweaking done to the P-51 as the previous pilot had progressed. The air brakes had been removed and the flaps had been neutralized to make the plane faster and more aggressive in the air. Re-installing the air brakes was super simple; we just had to feed a couple of zip-ties through and we were done. Putting the flaps into the standard position took a little more effort, as the length of the threaded rod and placement of the clasp needed to be changed. Once that was done, we needed to verify that the carburetor would be closed completely when the throttle was backed all the way down on the radio. At first, we needed to reverse the throttle servo in the radio’s menu. Once the servo was reversed and the carb operation was verified, the wing was bolted on and we were ready to test-fire the engine.

New Entry November 24: The pre-flight checklist…Seriously this time

I hope everyone had a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. Here in the Midwest, the last two days have been absolutely gorgeous—mid-50’s and perfectly clear skies. This was exactly what I needed to get re-invigorated to get this P-51 PTS up and running. That being said, I headed into the workshop this morning to finish the final checklist items on the PTS. I removed the wing from the rest of the fuselage and got to work.

As I’ve mentioned before, this particular PTS has been flown before and several of the trainer items had been removed and the flaps had been neutralized. With the wing removed, I grabbed a few zip ties and reinstalled the air brakes. Now, pay more attention than I did, and make sure you install the air brakes on the right side of the gear. That’s right; I put them on the wrong side and was ridiculed by those around who noticed accordingly. While I had the wing off, we also pulled the receiver pack out to cycle a few times and verify that the receiver had the right crystal in it. I’m glad we did, as the crystals didn’t match. I tossed the right crystal in, and began to trim everything out.

There was a slight problem that cropped up with the throttle servo. The throttle movement was reversed, which was easy enough to fix in the sub-menu of the radio. It’s also required in planes of this type that when you pull the throttle stick back all the way it closes the carb completely and shuts the engine down. After a few minutes, everything was trimmed, reinstalled, and ready for testing.

New Entry November 10: Adding more to “The Runway”

I know, I know. I teased you all with prospects of me getting out and flying the PTS this week. Well, as this is our busiest time of the year, things don’t always go as planned. I will however tell you that the PTS is just about ready to fly and I should be able to do so early next week. But instead of just leaving this entry at that, I’ve finally worked on adding something to The Runway I’ve wanted to for some time. Thanks to an E-Mail from Darrel J. who suggested that we add videos to The Runway. Well, we’ve wanted to do this for some time and now we have the capability to do so. From time to time, we will occasionally be posting videos to coincide with certain topics on The Runway.

Darrel’s e-mail couldn’t have come at a more opportune time either, as today I had my first flight experiences with the enormously popular HobbyZone Super Cub. I’ve seen it fly before and have been very impressed by it, but being behind the sticks was really fun. HobbyZone’s own Eric Johnson was flying his Super Cub during lunch when I spotted him, and he offered to let me have a turn at the sticks. When I took the controls, the Super Cub was incredibly stable and well mannered. From my previous experiences with the Firebird Commander 2, I assumed that it was due to the ACT. I was pleasantly surprised when Eric informed me that the ACT was actually turned off. With this knowledge, I really put the Super Cub through its paces, and it did exactly what I asked it to do - even loops! The cool thing about the Super Cub is the fact that it seemed to be the perfect plane for someone who just wants to get up in the air and soar around or for the guy who wants to practice one of the most enjoyable Cub maneuvers: the touch-and-go.

There is one key thing I do want to point out about the video. You may notice in parts that we’re in close proximity to several parked cars along with a few light poles. I’ve been flying for over a year now and I will admit I did not feel comfortable taking off or landing in that area. For that reason, the take-offs, touch-and-go landings, and the landing were all performed by Eric who has many, many years of experience. However, I was at the controls for the sky flight-footage, as there’s a giant open field right under where we flew. Always keep safety in mind each and every time you fly.

New Entry November 2: Working on the PTS

With iHobby (and apparently the warm weather) behind us, I really want to get the Hangar 9 P-51 Mustang PTS ready for a few flights before the snow flies. I’m lucky that the plane I’ll be flying has been flown by several other pilots before me. This is both good and bad for me. Good in that I know that this plane is mechanically sound; bad in that I know that if there are problems with it in the sky, it’s more than likely due to pilot error than a mechanical issue. This is one of those tests in life that can be somewhat intimidating, but I feel fairly confident that I can also be successful with this plane.

Before I can take the controls of this P-51 Mustang PTS for the first time, it needs just a bit of TLC. There’s not a ton of work, but enough to keep me busy for an afternoon or two. I’ll need to reattach the main wing, install a new prop and spinner, and verify that the control surfaces react according to transmitter inputs. Before the initial flight at the field, I also want to fire the engine up here to ensure that it works as it should. I have little doubt that the Evolution TPS engine will fire right up and run strong; it is one of the engine’s trademark features. I hope you’re getting as excited as I am for this to be completed. Personally, I can’t wait!

New Entry October 20: Cool Goods from iHobby 2006

There’s a whirlwind that happens in the hobby every year. Whether you’re a car and truck lover, an experienced pilot, or someone who enjoys both, iHobby is a special time of year. It’s a time when you either descend on Chicago to attend the show in person or, if you’re not that lucky, comb the internet to see what tidbits you can find. Well, never fear, as once again I am here to provide you with all the info you need. These are just some of the cool things at the show this year, but this could be considered to be among the coolest of the cool.

E-flite Blade CX2

My jaw dropped when I first heard about this one. I mean, how could they make the original Blade CX better? Well, it’s hard to believe but they did manage to improve upon the original. The new E-flite radio now has Spektrum 2.4GHz technology in it. That’s right boys and girls—that means you can fly anywhere and anytime you want without worrying about frequency conflicts. Other highlights include a new 4-in-1 unit, updated main shaft and head unit, and an awesome-looking new body.

Spectrum DX7

Following the trend of the DX6, the DX7 makes it easy for you to say goodbye to crystals. But unlike the DX6 which was designed for indoor flight or park flyers, the DX7 can be used in larger scale planes as well. A new DSM2 software package makes this the fastest-responding aircraft radio you can get your hands on. It’s really cool.

Sportwerks E-Racers Recoil

This was the one product that I have known about for awhile now and have had a hard time waiting to spill the beans on. Now that it’s out there, I can talk about it all I want. I’ve actually had a chance to drive a pre-production version and this thing absolutely rocks. The Recoil drives really well, it comes as an RTR and I am really excited to get one for myself.

Team Losi Micro T

Team Losi really stepped things up this year in a small way. A micro way you could say, with the 1/36-scale Micro-T. It’s about half the size of a Mini-T, but out of the box I’d estimate it’s almost the same speed as a stock Mini-T. It features a four-wheel independent suspension, fully proportional throttle and steering, a prepainted body, and all the electronics. This is one Micro that will be huge!

New Entry October 17: More Warbird Fun

To say that I’ve really enjoyed flying the ParkZone P-51 Mustang the past few weeks would be an understatement. I’m really glad I didn’t jump right into that plane when I started, as I would have been really upset with myself if I would have crashed and damaged it on one of the initial flights. I know I have said this before, but it is so true: starting with a Zone-1 HobbyZone plane provided me with the skills I needed to be successful now and in the future. I know that there will be new pilots who jump into a ParkZone plane well before they should. All I can say is patience is a virtue.

Flying has been rather interesting as of late, mostly due to the changing of the seasons. Last fall and winter was rather mild and I am afraid that we’re really going to pay for it this year. With the gusting winds that we’ve had in the area lately, I haven’t been able to fly as much as I would like to. While talking to a more experienced pilot recently, I mentioned that I was bummed out that I haven’t been able to fly as much lately. He looked at me, smiled, and told me to get me out of the habit of saying “it’s too windy to fly.” Where we live, the winds are always going to be a factor; you’re either going to learn to fly in the wind or you won’t be flying a whole lot. Well, after charging a pack and getting the courage to tackle one of my biggest concerns in regards to flying, the wind, I gave the Mustang a good toss into the wind. At first, I thought my worst fear had come true as the Mustang lost altitude initially. I thought about throttling back and just scrapping the flight, but I decided to stick with things and see what happened. After a few seconds, the Mustang began to climb, and I soon reached cruising altitude. Flying in the wind was challenging, but not impossible. I definitely would not have flown in these conditions when I had less experience either. I didn’t have the same aerobatic experience in the wind that I have had in the calm, but it was still fun to enjoy the scale flight characteristics of the Mustang. I think it’s about time to begin working on that PTS Mustang.

New Entry October 6: Finally Flying the Parkzone P-51

Sorry about the brief hiatus there folks, but with the storms and winds we’ve had in the area lately—conditions have been much less than ideal to fly in. But I have been able to brave some of the wind gusts lately and get some transmitter time with the ParkZone P-51 Mustang. Those of you who have followed my Runway entries since the beginning know how much I really wanted to fly the P-51 when I started. I thought its scale looks were really appealing, plus I figured that since I had all this experience with cars and trucks, I’d be fine starting with a more advanced plane. I’m here to tell you I am glad I started with the Firebird Commander and Commander 2, as those planes taught me fundamentals that I rely on to this day.

Once the battery came to a full charge, I plugged it in, checked my throws, bumped the throttle to make sure it worked properly, grabbed my sunglasses and headed outside. I had the transmitter set to low rates for the initial flight, after talking to several pilots who have flown the P-51 previously. I slid the throttle switch up to full throttle as my friend Brett gave it a hearty toss into the wind. The P-51 climbed steadily without any inputs from, me, and once it was about 30 feet off the ground, I pulled back on the stick a bit to increase the climb rate. Once I was about 2 to 2 ½ mistakes off the ground I began to really get into seeing what this plane was capable of. After a minute or two, I felt that it wasn’t quite as responsive as I would have liked it to be. I decided to be brave and switch over to high rates. What a difference that made, as this previously docile plane now became an aggressive warbird. Performing loops and rolls became easier, but I needed to be careful that I didn’t run out of talent before I ran out of airplane. After 8–10 minutes, the battery started to flatten out, so I brought it in for a landing. Being a puller-prop, I was concerned about breaking the prop on the landing, but it was just fine. I took it out for several more flights, each one feeling more and more comfortable than the previous one. Oh, and before I forget, I had previously mentioned that the P-51 has rudder controls; it doesn’t. I didn’t realize this until I actually flew one. But, with this plane’s kind of performance, I can see myself flying it a lot more.

New Entry September 22: And now time for something completely different…

For me, starting my flying experiences with electric planes seemed to be a natural fit. My general RC experience is in electrics and, while I have run Nitro cars and trucks in the past, I have always enjoyed the plug and go convenience of electrics. I’ll admit though that since I started flying, I have had a chance to see some of the more experienced pilots around here flying gas-powered planes and been intrigued. In my particular position, I actually had the opportunity to see the Hangar-9 P-51 Mustang PTS before it was announced. Having worked on some of the content and articles that were used on the P-51 Tour, I thought it was a really cool concept and wondered how I might do with something like this. If you haven’t noticed as of yet, I am a worrier, especially when crashing is involved. Well, the time has come for me to earn a new set of wings as I will soon be behind the controls of a P-51 PTS.

While I do feel like I have many of the basics down fairly well, thanks to the HobbyZone and ParkZone planes I have already flown, this is a totally different endeavor. Having never flown anything with more than 3 channels, the 4th channel rudder control is something that I will admit is slightly intimidating. However, one of the nice things about trainers is the ability you have to buddy box or tether your radio to your instructor’s. In the event that you get out of shape or out of control, they can take over control in a pinch to pull your plane out and save it from crashing. I have some work to do on the P-51 before it takes flight, but I am really geeked about this opportunity. Also, before I fly the PTS version of the P-51, I’m going to take a few flights on a ParkZone P-51, just to get the hang of the rudder control.

New Entry September 18: Combat!

What’s cool about flying versus racing is it can be more laid back and less competitive than racing. I know I have been at club races where nothing more than bragging rights are on the line and people are stressing out over motors, batteries, setups, you name it. With this flying thing, a lot of times the only competition is to see who can fly the longest before the battery dumps, perform the coolest maneuver, or fly the closest to the ground without crashing. Well, that’s changed over the last couple of days, as a few others here have joined me in the skies with Swift II’s of their own. To say things have gotten interesting and competitive would be an understatement.

In all, there are now five of us flying these planes together. Whether it’s during our lunch or after work, as soon as one person says “I think I am going to fly for a couple of minutes,” the rest of us are soon in tow with our planes and radios in hand. Being the least-experienced pilot in our group, there are times when they are flying in formation or buzzing around in close quarters while I am up higher trying to find a thermal to float around on or just doing my own loops or rolls. I have started flying closer and closer to others though, trying to fly in formation with them. Earlier this week, I was in the air flying around with just one other person when we started getting closer and closer to each other. My goal was to simply fly behind this person and “go to school,” trying to see if I could learn anything. I’ve done this before in practice with a car; follow someone on the track, learn their line, and see if I could find opportunities to pass or see if they have a faster way around the track. Well, one thing a plane has that a car doesn’t have is a prop. Out of the blue, he pulled up, did a 180-degree roll, and caught the leading edge of my plane and one of my stabilizers with his prop. The plane survived and I didn’t crash, but I realized I just had my first experience in air-to-air combat. None the worse for wear, I’m ready for some more now. Game on!

New Entry September 8: It's a Wing Thing

It seems that within the last week or so I have been in the air with my new plane every chance I get. I really can’t remember the last time that I flew this much in such a short period of time. While there was some assembly of the plane required, I had everything together and the electronics installed in a couple of hours, making it even easier to get up in the air more quickly. For people like me with short attention spans and little patience, this was the perfect project for me. Before I took the controls, I needed to show some patience, however, as I let a more experienced pilot take it up first to trim everything out. After he had everything neutral, he handed me the radio and it was time for me to hit the skies.

Because the Swift II doesn’t have anywhere to grab on the underside of the plane to hand launch it, the first few times I took to the sky I had someone else toss it while I throttled up and pulled back on the sticks. Each time, the plane just floated into the air effortlessly and reached a safe cruising altitude in no time. With planes that are aerobatic such as this, it’s important to fly at an altitude that will give you enough time to correct for a mistake. The term for this is flying “X-mistakes” high. For example, I like to fly 3-mistakes from the ground, or about 75 to 100 feet in the air. This gives me the confidence to try aerobatic maneuvers such as flips, rolls, tumbles, and more and not worry quite so much about crashing.

After close to 15 packs flown this week (about 3 a day; it rained two days so I couldn’t fly), I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with this new wing. I am just as comfortable now flying the Swift II as I am with my Firebird Commander 2. That’s not to say that the Swift is an appropriate first plane, or even a second plane. But the experience I have gained by starting out with the Firebird Commander, moving to the Firebird Commander 2, and the ParkZone J-3 Cub all helped lay the foundation for a positive flying future. In fact, I might just have to attack a glow-powered trainer now before the end of the outdoor season.

New Entry September 1: This can't be right...

What I have found most interesting about flying over the past year is how, where before I felt the “car guys” and “air guys” were pretty much segregated into their own niche, I’ve actually come to enjoy both aspects of this hobby. With summer coming to an end, my attention is shifting from parking lot and 1/8-scale nitro racing to indoor off-road. I’ve been eyeballing the new 2WD buggy from Team Losi, the XXX-CR, and salivating for the time when I can pick one up and get ready for the indoor season. But something strange has happened. Instead of jumping at the chance to get this new buggy, I’ve gone in a totally different direction. That’s right; I picked up a new plane instead.

I know, I know, I’m a car guy and I should have gone with the buggy. And I admit before too long I’ll be driving a XXX-CR, but having flown a couple of MS Composit Swift II’s, I knew I needed to have one for myself. I now have one of my own and I will be building it tonight so I can fly it over the long Labor Day weekend. Going into it, I don’t think that I’ll have many issues with it, especially after building the E-flite Tribute 3D. I also have a couple of people who will be helping me build the fuse and, more importantly to me, set up my DX6 properly. It should be fun and I’m really looking forward to it. That’s right; I’m geeked about flying instead of driving. Someone help me, please…

New Entry August 29: Dispelling battery myths

If you ask 10 people how to best charge, maintain, and store a battery pack, I can all but guarantee that you’ll get 10 different answers. The truth is that there are quite a few ways to charge, discharge, and store your batteries when it comes to Ni-Cd or Ni-MH packs. Recently, I had a discussion with a friend that I have raced with for years about Li-Po batteries and what they mean to the hobby—for both cars and airplanes. What was revealing was the amount of misinformation he had about Li-Po batteries. Since I consider him to be a very smart individual, I figured if this person might not have the facts straight about Li-Po’s, who else might be confused too?

The biggest concern I’ve heard regarding Li-Po packs is that they can “spontaneously combust” or that they’re fragile or otherwise a fire hazard. The point here is big: ANY battery can be dangerous if you do not handle it properly. You wouldn’t use your charger for your passenger car to charge Ni-Cd’s and Ni-MH packs, and you shouldn’t use Ni-Cd or Ni-MH chargers on a Li-Po. Can a Li-Po catch on fire? Yes, but you really need to screw things up to have this happen. Also, unlike a can-style battery, in the event that something does go wrong the battery won’t explode and become a glorified bullet. Can-style batteries can also send shrapnel into the surrounding area in the event of a catastrophic problem.

I’ve also heard people say they’re concerned that a Li-Po battery might burst into flames if you crash. Well, I’m sure if you crashed into something hard or sharp enough, you could puncture the outer casing, but the odds of this happening are slim. If Li-Po batteries were such a safety hazard where crashing was involved, would products designed for first-time pilots such as the E-flite Blade CX come with Li-Po batteries? Certainly not. And, while this may sound like a dig against airplane guys, it’s not meant to be. If airplane guys can get the hang of using Li-Po batteries safely, certainly the car market should be able to as well. Li-Po’s are without a doubt the wave of the future. We just need to be smart when dealing with them.