Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The nerd factor

Like many boys and young teenagers I had an enthusiasm for models, and for flying; thus an enthusiasm for model aircraft.  I built and flew various aeroplanes at the time, with varying degrees of success.  A radio control system being beyond my wildest budgetary dreams, the planes were all "free flight" which meant they usually ended up in a tree, or disappearing over the horizon, never to be seen again. (If they flew at all, that is)

 Later, I took my flying bug into flyng full-sized aeroplanes and gliders, followed by hang-gliders and parapentes.   Although I was convinced at age thirteen that I was going to fly for a living, the passion never really bit beyond the level of enthusiasm, and I did different things with my working life.  My interest in flying still remains, though, and now, having the means to acquire a radio control system, I have a couple of model aircraft that I fly from time to time when the weather and spare time permit.

Modern technology has advanced model aircraft a long way since I was a lad.  It is nearly impossible to buy a "bad" plane: they are well-designed, and a model will, if correctly put together, usually do "what it says on the tin".  The latest, lithium-polymer battery technology gives good power-to-weight, and combined with new, powerful ("brushless") electric motors, electric powered models are a realistic proposition.  You can also buy models that are "Almost Ready to Fly", which means that instead of starting with a few sheets of balsa wood and heat-shrink covering, the main elements are already built: You just have to put the pre-built wings, tail, fuselage together, and add the electronics and mechanisms.  This suits me fine, but one day I think I'll build one from scratch, like I used to.

I have little interest in aerobatic stunts: I dont get excited by the possibility of performing a perfect loop, Immelmann turn or the like, though I appreciate the precision of control need for it.  Nor am I especially interested in building and flying scale models of real aircraft.   Mostly I enjoy flying model gliders; I like the skill in flying close to the edge of what a plane will do, minimising lost height in a turn, looking for the invisible rising currents of air that will keep a plane flying for hours using only wind energy.

By chance, I discovered that a local model flying club has its workshop in the same building as we have our Franch lessons, so I introduced myself.  Yesterday for the first time in a couple of years, I took my little "general purpose" plane out for a spin, at their flying field near Jublains.  The wind was a bit blustery, not ideal conditions for flying, but I decided to fly it anyway.

My plane is a "Mini Leader", described as a beginner's aerobatic plane, it has forgiving handling, and can be set up for serious aerobatics or for more gentle maneuvres.  I have set it up for the latter.  My purpose in flying it yesterday was to verify the trim, and to confirm I could still get an aeroplane off the ground and back down again in one piece.  The wind made things difficult, but the first out-and-back trip was fine.  The second one, a gust took it during landing, and the impact made the wheels come off.  Nothing that a spot of glue won't fix.  But flying is one of those things that is unforgiving of errors of judgement.  Given the wind I should have kept it on the ground.


Tim Trent said...

I loved model aircraft, too. I built loads of rubber band powered ones, none of which went more than a few yards, gliders where I never managed to get them to fly right, and had a control line model where i saved up and bought a diesel 1cc engine I could never start. Plus the control lines pinged out of he packet and kinked!

I loved them all.

Most of the fun was in making them

Sarah said...

You're in a windy part of the country too, so it's going to be a regular problem.

the fly in the web said...

I bet you enjoyed giving your plane an outing again.
Will you be joining the club?

Mark In Mayenne said...

Ah yes, Tim, I remember, glow-plugs and diesels, control lines and so on. I had a control-line aeroplane given to me by a cousin, that I never flew cos I could never start the engine.

You're right Sarah, but I don't fly a lot so hopefully I can take advantage of the few calm days.

Fly, yes I think I'll join; they're a friendly bunch and quite active, with a good workshop, and they do outings and so on, which will get me out and about.

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