Monday, May 25, 2009

Another little airplane

On Saturday, May 21, we drove to Rio Linda Airport for the 6th Annual Northern California Sonex Fly-in. Wow! The Sonex is one of the most amazing light aircraft designs out there. The airframe is filled with cute little tricks that make the construction simple yet strong. The design has an excellent track record and many dedicated followers. One aircraft that taxied in was powered by a Jabiru 3300 engine. For reference, for those who haven't been there: it sounded no louder than a lawn mower; clearly, this is a very refined and well-muffled engine.

Unsurprisingly, today, my son Aden (6yo) wanted a Sonex of his own. I copied the 3-view from the Sonex website into my CAD program and made some very simple cutting diagrams. We then cut stencils out of paper:

We cut the parts out of balsa:

We then attached everything with a glue gun:

I then made him a quick and dirty nose with scrap balsa. The result is a happy little Sonex fan:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Trim blues

I suspect I might be genetically unable to trim model gliders.

I tried and tried with the little homebrew FF glider (see previous post). I moved the CG forward then experimented with all possible variations of wing and tail incidences. I was not able to get two consecutive consistent flights: with what seemed like the exact same settings, one flight would be lovely, floating down to a nice pretty flare, and the next twenty would either climb and stall, or dive.

Perhaps it's my launching method. I mean, I can't really say I was consistent in my (hand) launches, and the six feet from my hand to the ground does not give the glider lots of room to settle into a nice trimmed attitude and speed. But still.

I suspect I should just buy some RTF (better than a Guillows toy, but not necessarily the fanciest) and follow the instructions (especially about CG settings) religiously, hoping to build experience in how a properly constructed glider should feel. Or maybe I should join the AMA and get someone to teach me. Or something.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Quick FF model glider

This weekend, my son Aden and I made this quick free flight model glider:

We started with the wings and tail of a HobbyZone Firebird Phantom park flyer. The fuselage is made of two strips of 1/8 x 1/2 balsa stick sheeted with 1/32 on either side. We didn't bother to draw a detailed design. First, we laid the top and bottom strips in the curved shape we wanted with some guide blocks on a building board, and added some cross pieces in between. Then we added one side sheet, removed from the board, trimmed the sheet, and cut and inserted a noseblock. Finally, we added the other side and trimmed, and sanded the corners.

(I learned this fuselage construction method from an issue of what must have been Radio Modeler magazine back in the 1970s. And it's been years since I've done any model airplane stuff. Let's see how far we get this time....)

When first test flown, the CG was too far back: it had little or no tendency to adjust its pitch attitude as a function of its speed, and would either dive and crash, or climb and stall. Part of the problem is that we used steel ball bearings, rather than lead shot, for the nose weight, and we ran out of space in the nose compartment.

We are still testing. Stay tuned for more details.

By the way: notice the price of the whole Firebird Phantom is only about $50, while the wings and tail alone cost a whopping $17.50. Whassapwiddat? If they can afford to sell the whole thing -- motor, RC, fuselage and everything -- for fifty bucks, then these two parts can't be costing them more than a buck each to make.

So, note to self: next time, build up the tail surfaces from balsa and Monokote. The hinged elevators on the store-bought foam surfaces are a useless pain anyway, and the tail surfaces don't need to be cambered so they should be pretty easy to make.