How do we learn about aeromodeling?]
Our hobby is a complex entity. Building a model aircraft requires many skills—each one a fun challenge. There are plenty of ways to go wrong, and sometimes using the wrong technique can be a safety issue. So, how does a beginner—or an experienced pilot trying a new type of model—learn how to use it?
In the “old days,” books and magazines about modeling were the way to pick up information. (Hey, you’re reading a magazine right now!) Some of this early printed material has become valuable to collectors. I have model-building books that date back to 1911, and no, I was not the original purchaser.
These days, a popular way to get “how-to” information is by watching online videos. Some hobby companies produce professional-quality videos that are part instruction manual, part advertisement. I’ve purchased numerous products after seeing video demonstrations. Watching a factory representative operate a product is a great way to learn the safe and proper way to use it.
I think the amateur uploads are the most fun to watch. There are homemade movies about how to build, modify, and fly nearly every type of model aircraft. What motivates these filmmakers? It’s doing a good turn for fellow pilots and maybe a desire for fame.
These clips are loaded with advice about what to do and what to avoid. Viewers rate the productions, so incorrect information and dangerous practices get voted out … hopefully.
AMA has embraced online videos in a big way. AMA’s Education department has a website called AMA Flight School that’s packed with great “How Do I?” movies. The content covers first-time pilot questions and advanced stuff, with videos frequently added. These are high-quality productions full of reliable information from expert modelers. Well, maybe the standards are slipping, because one day you might see me in an AMA video or two.
I spent a day in a television studio, showing the camera how to do some model conversions without slicing fingers or gluing yourself to an airplane. Actually, I did, in fact, slice my finger and got glued to the airplane, but they promised they’d edit those bits out. Movie magic!
The best way to learn our sport has always been via an experienced mentor. Willing and skilled aeromodeling teachers are rare. Newbies who are taught by an expert are fortunate.
My father got me started in the 1960s, and everything good I know about modeling and safe tool use I learned from him. At the age of 91, he is still my go-to guy for engineering questions.
Some young fliers in Montana lucked out and were mentored by Karl Gies. Under his coaching, the Fergus High School Science Olympiad Team won the state Science Olympiad team title and advanced to the national competition, which will be held May 15-16, 2015.
Karl knows his stuff and gave those kids a great start on a lifetime of fun. Many young people don’t have the advantage of someone teaching them the safest and best way to get their models in the air. Hooray for mentors such as Karl who share their knowledge and enthusiasm with the next generation.
Stylish vs. Sloppy
Lance Novak responded to my recent discussion about glue drips on clothing:
“Multiple washings don’t affect the strength of epoxy stains. I finally got tired of paint and stuff dripping on my clothes, so I disciplined myself to wear one of two sets of surgical scrubs when I work on airplanes and helicopters. I always keep one set by my workbench and put them on before starting.
“I did some touch-up painting yesterday, opened the top of a paint squeeze bottle, and a spurt of red paint shot out and landed on my leg. I just rubbed it into my scrubs and no problem.
“Having two sets allows you one to use when the other is in the wash, so you’re not tempted to work in nice clothes. A nice side benefit is [that] you can reminisce. Each paint color reminds you of a plane you built over the years.”
I think Lance has not thought the matter through. He is in grave danger of becoming a fashion plate. It seems that every goofy style becomes chic again, such as the tattered jeans currently sold at high prices. If wild tie-dye fabrics ever come back into vogue, Lance’s workshop duds could be the height of fashion!
Blow Up the Box
Carl Hampton sent me some information about using fireproof document-storage boxes as LiPo battery charging containers. He uses one that measures 14 x 11 x 6 inches, and it weighs 17 pounds when full of batteries. Carl said he saw one that had endured a substantial battery fire, and only the safe was damaged. These boxes are available at office supply stores and other retailers, starting at $25.
I’m leery of recommending these boxes as protection from battery fires without more information because they are designed to protect the container’s contents from the heat of an exterior fire. I am concerned about the quantity of heat, smoke, and fumes that a battery fire generates. Where would this pressure go and what would it do in a closed, insulated box?
Carl and I agreed that this question needs to be answered. If necessary, I’ll buy and sacrifice a box and set of batteries, but there is a good chance that the experiment has already been accidentally carried out.
Is there a reader out there who found out the hard way what happens in a closed, fireproof box? If so, please contact me and share your information. If there are no responses, then I’ll charge my video camera and burn up a nice new document safe for the betterment of our sport.
A reader I shall call Nic (because that’s his name) sent me the following note:
“I have been in the hobby since I received my first model aircraft on my 12th birthday, which was just over two years ago. I slowly worked my way up to the bigger and more expensive models, and like many RC pilots, I crashed a lot. I have learned a lot about repairing model aircraft.
“Last year I began flying model helicopters and enjoying the challenge of competitive 3-D flying. My newest chopper is very powerful. A recent incident reminded me to respect that power.
“I was doing some lazy flips and circuits when bang! The 360mm blades, which had been spinning at 3,300 rpm, ejected and flew hundreds of feet to their resting place! Had those blades ejected 1/4 of a rotation differently, I would have been in the line of fire.
“The blades ejected because the spindle screw snapped. Not pilot error, not bad assembly—just a 2 cm-long part breaking.
“My moral in the story is, don’t ever, ever assume that your machine will perform as planned. Things will go wrong no matter how good of a pilot or builder you are, and you must be prepared.”
He’s pretty sharp for a 14-year-old.
AMA Flight School videos
Dave’s YouTube channel