You can’t take it with you, even if it is in neatly labeled cigar boxes in your workshop. In other words, how much modeling stuff do you have socked away, and what will become of it when you “take your last flight?” Will your loved ones find it easy to deal with, or perhaps a confusing dangerous mess?
A friend of mine recently passed away, and I was asked to help deal with his collection of airplane stuff. Some nonmodelers were trying their best, knowing that some of it might be valuable, but having no idea which items were junk and which were precious. The pack-rat situation in the garage shop made things tougher.
I felt embarrassingly at home with the problem because my own space is as disorganized and messy—I mean, individualized and unique!
Not all of us collect stuff to this extent, but aeromodeling seems to attract detail-oriented people who like the intricate work and challenges of miniature flying machines. Gathering the necessary tools, materials, literature, and kits can be a secondary hobby by itself.
My friend was the go-to person in our club for FF electric systems. There were parts (and leaky batteries) stashed everywhere, some dating back to the beginnings of electric flight. Dozens of tiny drawers revealed an amazingly random collection of junk and treasures. We needed to find and sell the valuable motors, kits, and tools, but in between were piles of oddball items.
The drawers held disassembled stopwatches, disposable lighters by the dozen (no, he didn’t smoke), hundreds of matchbooks neatly boxed, a live pistol cartridge, small firecrackers, and surgical scalpels (nice tools, but very dangerous to handle and store).
Of course, the shop was well-supplied with flammable paints and thinners in jars and cans, some dating to the 1960s—oops, he got that batch from me. Electrical outlets were rewired to hold rows of chargers, and the power had been on for years. Old magazines and yellowed plans waited nearby for their chance to burn the place down. Hmmm ... just like my own place.
I was beginning to realize all the trouble my hobby could cause for Sweet Diedra when I go. I wouldn’t want to make my wife face danger when she deals with my shop.
We All Face Mortality
You have options about how you leave your things and how your loved ones will deal with your hobby equipment. Those choices can make a big difference to your family: danger and trouble or easy simplicity.
If you are a longtime model builder, take a look at your space from that viewpoint, and see if there are any changes you can make. I’ve tried to get rid of unnecessary chemicals and other items that could be a problem.
Minimize flammable stuff, unplug unused equipment, stow the tools, and label the drawers. And make sure there are no illegal or unpleasant surprises lurking around!
Here’s a Neat Trick
Take digital photos of your kit shelf and engine collection and print them on a full sheet of paper. Take a pen and make notes on the photo.
In my case, Diedra began adding up the price estimates and joked about the kits being worth more than I, except that I can fix things and open jars. How romantic.
Scott Orten’s wife saw firsthand how dangerous his hobby stuff could be. Scott wrote:
“I was adjusting a big twin electric. I was doing it from the front, not from the safe back. My shirt sleeve caught the throttle stick and pow! [It required] 110 stitches worth of repairs on me. What made it worse was that my wife was out shopping, so I had to wait a while before she could take me to the hospital.”
Okay, class, what lessons can we learn from this? Let’s not always see the same hands. Yes, you in the back.
“Don’t be where the propeller can get you.”
Very good. Anyone else?
“If the propeller does get you, make sure there’s someone else around to give first aid.” Excellent. Class dismissed for recess.
Name That Tune
Rudy Nielson sent me a story about beeps and bumps. He wrote:
“My new Super Falcon 120 has a Tacon Big Foot 160 motor on 12 cells, putting out about 50 volts of power to a 15 x 10 prop. That is a lot of thrust! After a nice flight, I put the batteries to charge and flew my trusty old Sig Kougar.
“Now it was time to fly the Falcon again. This big plane still makes me nervous. I installed the batteries, carefully connected the wires, pumped up the retracts, and set the plane on the taxiway.
“To arm this plane, you must set the throttle at half speed, turn on the receiver, plug in the ESC, and a musical tone is emitted. The problem was that when I turned on the transmitter at half throttle the screen said “throttle warning” instead of the name of the airplane. It was still set for the Kougar and the throttle servo was reversed.
“I missed the significance of this, and moved the throttle to idle, when a second musical tone should be heard. All I got was a beep beep. Tried a second time and again, beep beep. I should have stopped right there and shut it down and figured out the problem! Instead, I impatiently gave it full throttle, which was really idle because of the reversed servo. At last the musical tone was heard and I immediately moved the stick to idle.
“I should have restrained the plane while arming it and testing the controls just as I would do with a gas airplane. You can guess the rest …
“The result was that the plane immediately went to full throttle and blasted down the taxiway and across the runway. I pulled a sharp up just as it reached the grass, at the same time I wiggled the throttle and found that it slowed as I moved the throttle up. The plane went into a stall 20 feet off the ground and the best I could do was try to recover and belly flop into the ground. It was damaged but repairable.
“Boy, did I learn from my mistake! These new transmitters have remarkable technology that allows us to fly multiple planes, reverse servos at the touch of a button, and do numerous other things, but if we act foolishly they will bite!
“I am going to manually change the servos in all my planes so that they all work the same, so if a mistake like this happens again, I will end up flying a plane that is out of trim, but not uncontrollable. And, of course, I’ll restrain electric planes while arming them and testing the functions.”
Rudy’s experience is far too common these days. Even a smart, experienced pilot can become confused by today’s complex radio systems. It’s worth slowing down and making sure of things during preflight inspection.
Please send me your close-call stories and tales of adventure and disaster. Sharing them with the world turns an accident into a lesson for the rest of us. You can choose to be famous or anonymous, depending on how badly you goofed up!