April 2010 Archives

History of flight - part 1 - Bitten by the bug

| Comments (0)
So back in pre-2005 back when I lived on a large (75'x330') lot in a small town, a friend gave me a couple old .049 control line airplanes. With a bit of cleaning and tuning, I was able to get them running.

The first plane to come to life was a balsa wood with 'STUN MAN 23' stenciled on the wings. This bird was almost manageable for a complete amature like myself. It required some major repairs to get airborne as the fuselage was broken in 2. The fix was to insert a couple small finishing nails into the balsa wood (like a surgeon would pin a broken bone) and press the two halves together again. To make the joint permanent I then wrap thin layers of surgical gauze and epoxy around the joint.

Being a solo pilot with little to no help / assistance, I had to devise a way to launch this plane. The normal procedure is to stand in the middle of the circle while a partner fuels, primes, warms up the glow plus and spins the prop over (many, many times - the 049's were not the easiest to start), trim the mixture to max RPMs, wait for the pilot to be ready and then release the plane.

I had no such assistant. So I rigged a remote release system. I tied 10 inches of string with a loop on the end to the tail gear. I tied another 10 inch piece of string with a small loop on the end to a tent peg which was driven into the ground behind the plane. I then tied a long string to a 3 inch nail. The nail was fed through both loops and then gently into the ground. The string was run the middle of the circle along with the control lines.

Control line solo launch system

I would then go through the starting ritual, get the engine running full out which would pull the strings taught. I could not go to the middle of the circle get the control lines ready and with a firm tug of the 'launch' string the plane would be released and flying!

22 laps (less then 2 minutes) later I would be so dizzy the headache would last for days.

A second plane that was in the set was a P-40. This one was all plastic, with a newer motor that started somewhat easier, however, flying this bird was not easy and often ended badly. Plastic though it was, it was a good thing I actually had 2 as the second plane donated a few parts to keep the first flying.

The challenge was finding a plane sturdy enough to learn to fly the hard way. The P-40 was tougher, but harder to fly and so it still broke. The Stunt man was gentler for flying, but balsa wood is too fragile for beginners. Thanks to the Internet a solution was to be found.


| Comments (0)
April 1st - 2010 - Gray-E arrived from @splorp in Calgary, AB. This box has made a number of stops (and is getting quite large).


Some notes:
  • I removed batteries - probably not a good idea to ship things that might leak nasties
  • I took the TI calculator because it is so cool - after removing the leaky batteries (see above) and inserting a 9V, I confirm it works! Wow. I like the cool retro red LEDs, but may not want to retrofit - it may be a bench calculator.
  • I took the WinTerm thin client - to replace my old PIII 500 workstation is very slow, takes up lots of precious workbench space (would take up less if it was gathered up into a case and not splayed out like a high school biology assignment gone bad).
  • I also grabbed the one-wire temperature sensors - these will augment my furnace monitoring project quite nicely.
  • I added a vintage CD-ROM to keep the Sony Walkman company
  • P3280042
  • I added some heat shrink tubing 'cause I think it is useful (scavanged out of a Dell server no less)
  • I added some dual pole umpteen-many throw slide switches 'cause I have too many and have never used any
  • I added another small solar cell with wires attached (wrapped both the new one and the existing one together in tissue for protection)
  • I added the following HP LaserJet III parts
    • Laser diode
    • Main control panel with LCD
  • I added a couple of mechanical BCD switches
Added - Mechanical BCD switch

Not sure what else I've added or removed, but that is mainly it. This box has lots of stuff in it. Canada Post claims there was 6.159kg of electronic goodness in it when it was shipped to me - I'm sure it is more now.

I am currently looking for the next recipient - there are some suggestions in the logs, and there are many, many users requesting boxes online. I'll give it a week or so to see what falls out of the ether on its own before I start shoulder tapping.

Manned solar powered flight achieved today!

| Comments (0)
The news services are buzzing with word that Solar Impulse has achieved sustained flight. What is Solar Impulse? Amazing engineering.
Solar Impulse - alps
A 1,600kg manned solar fueled electric powered airplane.

200m^2 of solar cells provide power to run 4 x 7,500W motors (peak output). The solar panels only receive 250W/m^2 on average throughout the day, so that means only 6,000W total (1,500 / motor) of continuous thrust is possible.
The article notes that the plane glided for 87 minutes. I believe the media is taking some literary license with the word 'glided'. According to the new release from Solar Impulse, the plane took off, climbed to 1,200m on a test flight to familiarize the pilot with the handling, etc. The news release says the flight lasted 87 minutes - so I don't think there was much gliding going on (certainly not during the climb).
Solar Impulse - pilot
The technical details that have been released are impressive:

Wingspan:63,40 m
Length:21,85 m
Height:6,40 m
Weight:1 600 Kg
Motor power:4 x 10 HP electric engines
Solar cells:11 628 (10 748 on the wing, 880 on the horizontal stabilizer)
Average flying speed:70 km/h
Take-off speed:35 km/h
Maximum altitude:8 500 m (27 900 ft)

Their ultimate goal? Fly around the world, including flying at night.