September 2008 Archives

That's one hungry woodpecker

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The only remote connection to flying this entry has is that it is about a bird. A hungry bird. A hungry woodpecker. Way back a number of years ago, we lived in a small town and on our yard were a number of maple trees. A cluster 4 or 5 grew together in our back yard. I tried making maple syrup from the sap a couple years in a row, and actually made about 1 cup of syrup. (It takes an amazing amount of sap to make a cup of syrup - especially when you burn the first batch....). Anyway, the second year I noticed that one tree didn't produce any sap. It appeared to grow normally that summer, however, it also had some strange bugs flying around it with long tails that appeared to be laying eggs into it. I never thought much about it until the following spring.

As I was getting ready for work on morning I went out back to check on something. I spotted a hole in the sick maple. It was about 4-5' off the ground and about 3-4" in diameter. Almost as big as a soft ball. Wow I thought, and went to work.

Later that day, my wife calls me at work and quite excitedly asks - "Did you see the hole the woodpecker made in the tree?!?!?" - "Why, yes I did" I reply remembering the 3" hole. "Its HUGE" she exclaims. "Well, a 3 inch hole is fairly big I guess" - "Not 3 inches - try 3 FEET!"


Well, my wife was right. And in fact, by the next day the woodpecker had pretty much decimated the tree. Here's a picture of my daughter by the trunk.
She was around 5 years old at the time. There were enough wood chips at the base to fill my wheelbarrow TWICE. That hole is over 4 feet long, at least 1/4 of the way around the trunk and up to 6 inches deep into the trunk at places. That woodpecker must had one strong head - some of the wood chips were larger then my little finger!

Curiously, none of the other trunks were damaged by the woodpecker. That summer we cut that tree down, just above the hole made by the woodpecker and it remained quite a conversation piece.

Yves Rossy (aka Human Jet / Fusion Man) Crosses English Channel

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After a number of false starts due to poor visibility, the news sites are lighting up with stories of Yves Rossy crossing the English Channel with his jet powered wing (I first talked about his jet powered wing in an earlier posting). This is quite an amazing accomplishment. Related articles are:


The UK article describes a bit more of the technical details.

Wing: ~ 3 metres (8 feet) across

Engines: 4 jet turbines @ 200N thrust (45lbs) each

Fuel: Jet-A / Kerosene type - over 30 litres

Top Speed: > 200km/h (120mph)

Mileage: 82l / 100km (Is that your airliner? - cute)

Landing gear: Feet (parachute assisted)

Take off roll: Depends on the airplane he's riding before he jumps out.

Level of coolness: Off the scale. I still want one.


Congratulations Yves!

Local Winnipeg RC Clubs News

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Hey everyone! Summer may be all but over, however, there are still some great flying events coming up in the Winnipeg area.

In order:

Sunday - September 7th - WRCC's first annual Jet Rally! Should be loud, fast and expensive! (No charge to come and watch!)

(Update: September 5th from the WRCC site - no Jets - bummer. Might be some electric jets though:

Well because of the weather and the crop that is still standing around our field the jets day may not happen as an all out Jets day - the turbines have been grounded due to fire hazards.  As it stands right now, it will be a "normal" flying day with the exception of some electric jets that make it out that day. When needed please give these jets full access to the skies during their flights.


Monday - September 8th - WHAM Indoor resumes! Buchanan Elementary school - MAAC insurance required to fly, $20 annual membership. Electric planes and heli's only (no cars). Bring extra shoes - no outdoor shoes allowed in the gym.

Saturday - September 13th - WHAM BBQ (Redux) - The fun fly was rained out in July. Valid MAAC required to fly. Come out and enjoy!

Should be loads of fun!

How to: Parkzone Citabria Landings - throttle management

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I have over 6 hours of flight time on the Citabria already! Wow. At 10 minutes a flight, that's a lot of flights. At first, most of the flights were quite wild - had my share of bumps and bruises. However, lately I've been getting in the groove and my flights are more stable and I am getting disoriented less and less. This is a great plane to learn on.

So, now its time to step it up a notch. Its one thing to hand launch the plane, buzz around up high until the engine cuts out and glide into the grass. Its another to fly a clean, consistent pattern - including a controlled landing to a specific location (runway).

The Parkzone Citabria does not have a lot of tolerance for rough surfaces - no trying to land and roll out on grass or gravel. Even a pavement surface needs to be free of not only potholes and major cracks, but even loose gravel or pebbles slightly larger then sand will mess up a nice touch down (the tires are barely 1cm across on a plane weighing 20g).

This past weekend, while camping in Saskatchewan, I spent about an hour (4 batteries worth) practicing my landings. The location was an asphalt parking lot aproximately 25 x 100m (with trees all around - got tangled a couple of times). There was some loose gravel in places that tripped me up, but the clear spots made for nice targets to approach and land on.

With all the repairs to the plane, it probably doesn't fly as well as it could, and so, if you are reading this to learn how to land, follow the spirit and make appropriate adjustments for the condition of your plane. (And also realize, I'm not an instructor, just a self-taught student documenting my progress....)

To date, when I wanted to try a proper landing, I basically lined myself up at an altitude of about 3m about 15-20m from the landing area, cut the throttle and attempted to glide to a landing. The sink rate was usually quite high, and often I would either land short or stall and then land hard.

This time, I tried something different. The throttle has a trim control. Before taking off, I adjusted the trim so that at full down on the lever, the motor was still running. One more 'click' down on the throttle trim and the engine was off. Now, once air borne and ready to try touch-n-go landings, I trimmed the throttle up one 'click'. The result when I pulled all the way down on the throttle was just enough throttle to drag out the approach. The sink rate was way down, and the glide path much more realistic looking.

The new glide path, being much longer, meant I now had to readjust my approach. Now I would need to start my approach at about 50m out and 3-5m altitude, reduce throttle to 'idle' and gently glide in. Much nicer - although I could hear the prop striking the ground and noticed a definite pitch down in the nose on landing. Hmmm. Still to steep of an angle?

Then I remembered what real planes do just before touching down - flare. So, next go 'round, just as the plane was within a few cm of the ground (3-5) I gave a little back stick to bring the nose up and touched down gently, quietly - dare I say perfectly? Rolled a meter or so, back on the throttle and up in the air to go around again! Yeah!

I still have a fair bit of practise to do, as only about 30-40% of my landings went that pretty. The other 60% was spit between not enough flare (nose down, prop strike) or too much flare (touch and bounce, then land) and a few 'landings' in trees, on the grass - even into my hand!

The one other 'gotcha' is that with the throttle trimmed to keep the plane idling, if I ran into trouble (tree, fast landing to avoid a car, land too close to the edge to take off, land in the grass, etc.) then the motor is still running and the only way to shut it down is by trimming out the idle - which is not that hard, but I have to remember to do it. Gas planes would often just stall in some of these situations, and in others, the idle setting is not fast enough to move the plane, unlike the Citabria - where the slowest setting I could get would still cause the plane to taxi.

Happy flying!