Everyone likes to see a model take off from the ground. That’s how full-scale aircraft do it, right? They zoom down the runway and become airborne. Well, some models require a more hands-on method.
If you fly competition Free Flight airplanes, Slope gliders, certain classes of RC Combat, or lightweight park flyers, you know all about hand launching your models. It takes some practice because the airplane has to be released at its preferred flying speed. Launch it too fast or too slow and disasters can happen.
In addition to being potentially damaging to the aircraft, hand launching can be hazardous to pilots and helpers. The powerplant is screaming, a propeller or fan is turning at full revolutions, and we’re trying to heave the thing into the air.
A reader told me about a near miss when his assistant tossed the model too hard. When it reared up in a stall, the helper tried to save the airplane by grabbing it out of the air. The pilot quickly cut power just in time to avoid serious trouble. Needless to say, there was a further session of crew training, with emphasis on letting a crashing model crash.
Only a trusted assistant should be asked to hand launch a model for someone. This person needs to “get the feel” for how hard to toss a particular model, plus it has to be launched at the correct angle. If he or she goofs up, someone else’s model gets bent, so launch helpers should try extra hard to do it right.
Profile foam jet models with an electric motor amidship are popular these days. The propeller runs in a cutout area of the wing and fuselage. It’s a clever layout and the jets can turn on a dime, but launching them is a real trick.
Most pilots hold the airplane at the center of gravity and launch it underhand. This puts the propeller close to fingers, but there aren’t many other choices for this configuration.
There are plenty of Internet-posted videos showing what happens to a poorly launched model. It isn’t pretty, but at least only the model gets hurt (most of the time).
This month’s mystery airplane prize will require a hand launch because it has no landing gear. Not to worry, it only weighs 12 grams. The model is called the Bluebird. It’s a sport/Duration aircraft designed by Jim Squatrito for a local One-Design contest. Jim passed away last year, so sharing his whimsical model design is a nice way to memorialize a great guy. He made the airplane versatile enough to fly indoors or outdoors.
The full-scale mystery airplane is pretty versatile, too. This famous multipurpose aircraft was designed long ago but is still in active service around the world. It has a distinctive cockpit, making it easily recognizable. Email me your guess. Right or wrong, you’ll receive the digital Bluebird plans via email.
I’ve heard more reports from readers about Internet videos showing harebrained RC pilots doing dangerous things with model aircraft. You know the stuff I am referring to—somebody trying some in-flight foolishness in front of a camera, then posting the video online for the world to see.
Please, can’t we all agree to stop the nonsense? It’s bad for the sport, bad for AMA (these stunts blatantly violate the AMA Safety Code), and can be really bad for the participants. If someone gets hurt, the news stories tend to lump all of the good, careful pilots in with those who made the videos.
Most nonmodelers have no idea that we have a national organization, much less one with time-tested guidelines on how to safely operate our flying machines. I don’t want their first impressions of our hobby to be of some risky video caper gone wrong.
Here’s a safer and more constructive outlet for creative energy: a group of middle school modelers held a Monster Hangar session where they designed and built rubber-powered “Frankenstein” models on a tight deadline. These kids didn’t have any preconceived notions as to what configuration might be best. Their minds were wide open and the models reflected this willingness to experiment.
Each building team had an adult modeler from whom to learn safe tool use and to ensure proper caution when using Super Glue. The participants never realized that they were learning important safety lessons during their building sessions.
Guillow’s offers an excellent product called Airplane Design Studio, which is a set of assorted loose parts for such occasions. My club, the Black Sheep Squadron, supplied several of these to the young aerodynamicists, who eagerly tore into the contents.
One team produced a trimotor airplane with multiple landing gear legs. Another ended up with a low-aspect-ratio push-pull aircraft with twin booms. The models were test-flown on the spot in the school hallway, with the school principal judging each design. Talk about tension and excitement!
I admit that the final designs might not have been the utmost in efficiency and practicality, but to see them actually fly was a great triumph for the young test pilots. Later in life, they will realize what a great learning experience it was.
This Might Sting
A reader reported a less-positive learning experience to me. He was stung by a wasp and was surprised to discover that he is allergic. Within minutes, he was in physical distress. Emergency medical assistance was needed to reverse the life-threatening symptoms. This modeler now carries medication everywhere he goes, just in case.
The story echoes an old point. Our sport is pretty darn safe overall, but the common hazards of life follow us to the field. Most flying field injuries are not caused by the hobby.
A million other things can hurt you, even if you take every precaution with your aircraft. Focus on that propeller, but please, keep an eye on the rest of the world, too.
Rocking the Boat
Here’s a fun, but incendiary, theory from Gene Andrews, who has been flying models a long time and is good at it:
“In Free Flight we have the privilege of getting to watch our creations fly, whereas with RC and Control Line, the pilot is too busy flying the airplane to actually enjoy its flight.”
Contrasting opinions may be sent to my email address in the header. I’m in the bunker, ready for the barrage.