Mini Convergence VTOL – First forward flight, and first repair!

Back around Xmas a relative gifted me with a nice little micro flyer for indoor use.  It was definitely a beautiful little plane… as a matter of fact it was something that I liked so much that I had purchased one for myself just weeks earlier!  So back to local shop I went to make a trade… and on a whim I picked up a Mini Convergence VTOL from E-Flite.

I flew it a couple times over the winter at some of our indoor events but I was not about to try forward flight in the limited space available so it sat mostly unused through the winter and for most of the summer before I really recalled it was over there in the corner in a pile with my other indoor flyers!  After I dug it out and charged some batteries I took it out to the field, rechecked all my programming to find the right switch setting to get into a forward flight mode and lifted off.

Forward flight mode went well and I was getting a pretty good handle on how the plane handled life as a fixed wing when the radio timer started warning me I should start to think about landing.  I slowed a bit and then flipped the switch to go back to vertical flight mode when things started to get “interesting”.

The plane began to immediately flip end over end and no control input made a lot of difference.  It didn’t fall very fast but all I could do was throttle down when the ground came up to grab the airplane.

Back on the bench here is a view of the culprit…

As you may have noticed there’s something missing on the rear motor… two things in fact.  The prop and the spinner nut!  No wonder if flipped end over end!  There were also a couple of foam “piercings”.  One in the wing and one in the canopy.  Neither of those are any real concern.

Luckily the bird comes with two spare props.  The rear prop, I found, is the same as the port/left prop.  This has it’s pitch in what I would consider the “standard” direction for aircraft with a counterclockwise rotation creating rearward/downward thrust.  Luckily, I just happened to have an aluminum prop nut/cone with the correct thread in the shop and the plane comes with one of each type of spare prop so that problem was quickly solved.

Unfortunately when I powered the plane back up I quickly found another issue.  The port side motor did not rotate up into the same position as the starboard. 

I quickly realized something was not right with the servo that performed the “tilt” on that motor.  Opening it up, you can see why.

To get this view I had to remove that servo which required removing a couple screws to get the servo unmounted and a few more to remove the plastic faring that covers the bottom of the boom.  Also, I disconnected the linkage and finally I had to split the tape with a razor blade (careful not to cut wires) and once removed, open up the servo.  Some of that disassembly is shown below.

Reassembly had to wait a couple weeks but was not particularly challenging.  For once I didn’t lose any screws, linkage, etc.  The only real gotcha was to make sure you have taken note of where and what orientation the plug goes into the receiver/main board and be sure to power up the aircraft and allow it to pivot the servo to the starting point so you can line up the servo arm on the new servo so that the two engines are pointed in the same direction for startup.

So, moral of the story.  When you read on line that folks have had some issues with the prop nuts loosening up and you should check them before each flight… listen.  For my part, I decided to do something to help the nuts stay in place so I put a bit of clear finger nail polish on the threads of all three of the motors before replacing and tightening them down.  I find it works pretty well as a thread locker for such things without risking any damage to plastic (like the props).  Some thread lock compounds have been known to make plastic brittle over time!  It is also fairly easy to muscle the nuts back off with the finger nail polish but in my experience does a fair job of eliminating any loosening due to vibration and the like.  IE it can broken free again but won’t generally fail under normal use.

I’ve made one flight since this repair and the aircraft did well.  So if you have one of these, do yourself a favor.  Go unscrew all three prop nuts and find some non-permanent thread lock (or raid the wife’s nail polish stash) and take out a little insurance.  

Balsa USA 1/4 Scale Cub – Part 6: Wing Mounting and Struts

It seems like the work on the Balsa USA Cub never ends.  Some of it is just that the BUSA kit seems to be more complicated than most and the way the designer/manufacturer chose to do things sometimes makes no sense to me.  Also, since I got this as a partially constructed kit, I’m having to go back over everything to see what parts the previous builder changed, skipped or just didn’t follow directions well!?  Of course the fact that I’m “converting” it to a super cub is not helping the process along either!

One of the things I have spent significant time on concerns the wing attachment methods.  The original plans call for a couple pegs through the wing roots and two bolts as well to hold each panel in place.  In addition the struts are load bearing.  They are bolted to the ply plate that makes of the fuselage floor and screwed into hard points on the wing.  When I first tried to assemble them I quickly found the whole process to be frustrating and overly difficult.  Getting the wings in place and holding them there while installing the bolts was difficult and that was without any windows in place!  I can’t imagine what a PITA this would be once the plane was all covered and the windows all in.  I quickly realized something had to change.  In addition, it seemed entirely possible to cause some damage to the plane while installing the wing struts as the entire weight of the wings at that point is hanging on the wing roots and the structure between doesn’t seem all that strong.  Thus the need for load bearing struts!

So I first added a wing tube to each wing and fashioned some bracing inside the top of the cockpit area to give it some strength.  Now there is something a bit more substantial to hold the wings while the struts are being installed at the flying site.   You can see the aluminum tube in the wing center joint and inside the wing panels below.  There is a carbon fiber tube inside.

The strut attachment method seems a bit ridiculous as well with no concession to ease of installation or transport.  The vertical wires that connect to the wing mid-point don’t seem to be movable or easily removable so transporting the struts looked to be a pretty interesting prospect.  Add to that the directions for attaching the struts to the wing hard points uses wood screws… which to me is just a uniquely bad idea.  How many times reassembling this bird before a screw is over tightened, stripping the wood and weakening this critical attachment point??  I understand these kits are designed to be very scale like and that most builders are going to modify all of this to make it even more so.  Maybe they don’t intend to fly the plane all that often… but for me, if it isn’t reasonably simple to assemble when I get to the field it will likely get little flight time and become a hangar queen.   I’ll take slightly less scale like and more functional and easy to get in the air over scale in this case.  BUSA might as well just say “figure out a method that will handle the stresses and that you find acceptable to assemble” , and leave it at that.  The directions they do provide seem to me to be a poor attempt at best.

After a lot of fits and starts and coming up with several plans and then rejecting them I came across some struts and connecting hardware from a 1/4 scale clipped wing cub at a swap meet.   The struts were far to short but I cut off the ends in hopes of using the attachments.

I don’t know why he had them but the gentleman had 2 or three sets so I picked up a set for myself.  I looked at them twice with great regret that they were for a clipped wing cub but then figured if nothing else I could use much of the hardware.  Once I looked closely at the hardware the wheels started spinning and I realized the hardware alone was more than worth the price.  So I created some Frankenstein struts.

Below is a snapshot of the mid-wing attachment point.  Using the threaded “eyelets” with threads tapped into the hardwood blocks in combination with the hollow aluminum tubes with built in attachment points, a 4-40 bolt and nylon insert nut makes for a secure attachment point.  The tubes and wires were trimmed and epoxied together after adding some grooves to the wire to insure the glue gets a good grip.

On the other end of the wire, I used some nylon landing gear wire straps and #2 screws to create an attachment point that is both strong and allows for an easy pivot point for storage.  This shows them pivoted down against the struts for storage.

 

At the outer attachment point, the main strut connections are bolted to the hard point with 4-40 bolts and blind nuts.  The ends of the wood struts were trimmed to fit inside the aluminum tube ends as well and attached with glue and screws to the wood strut ends.  This took extensive trimming and measuring to get the correct length and support the wings in the correct position.  Each is somewhat custom!  The nice thing is the ends of the struts that I recycled have a threaded rod at each end for fine adjustment.

 

I attached the outer aluminum ends with expanding gorilla glue and some #2 screws to “pin” them in place.  Now I have a nice pivoting attachment point that I don’t intend to disassemble often as the struts can be pivoted down to sit flat on the wing for storage.

Each strut, once adjusted on final assembly, should take only 1 bolt at the attachment point on the bottom of the body and 2 more at the mid-strut attach point in order to easily assemble or disassemble the aircraft and still provide plenty of needed support.

Combined with the wing tubes, which require a single bolt on each side to attach, the entire assembly process shouldn’t take more than about 5-10 minutes and I expect it to be both strong and fairly straight forward to accomplish.

There is still a long list of projects to get this plane ready to fly, some small like hinging of the wing surfaces, and some large like getting the cabin windows, windshield and door assemblies all finished.  More updates soon.

“Balsa USA Bristol M-1 Part 3: Final adjustments and test flight.

After making the previously documented adjustments I had some on line conversations with the local WWI enthusiasts and found that one of the reasons my Bristol flew so poorly was likely related to adverse yaw.  I took it back out and flew it and I could obviously tell this was the case.

For those lucky enough not to experience it, here is my attempt to demystify a bit.  Yaw is the motion around the vertical and along the horizontal axis that causes the nose of the airplane to point left or right.  This is typically provided by the use of rudder… at least when it’s intentional!  Adverse yaw is the motion that occurs around the vertical axis when you roll the aircraft by the use of ailerons.  For instance, when you attempt to roll and turn to the left the left aileron will extend to the top of the wing and the right aileron will extend to the bottom (downward if the plane is upright).  Both ailerons will immediately increase the overall drag of the airplane but in some cases (especially on flat bottom airfoils) the downward motion of one aileron creates more drag than the aileron that extends to the top (upward) side. If you think about what that means, the pilot is attempting to roll and turn right (for instance) but the drag on the left wing aileron extending downward is pulling the nose to the left!  This is not the direction of motion the pilot intends, thus it is adverse! The quick fix is to input rudder in the direction of the intended turn.  This can be done either by the pilots input or by creating a mix.  Either can work, but I’m not a fan of this solution no matter which way you implement it.

It seems to me we have a problem that is created by an excessive amount of drag on one side of the plane that we now plan to correct with more drag applied to the other side of the air frame.  More drag means the airplane slows and we get closer to stall.  Depending on how close we already are to stall… this can be bad.  Of course if more power is available we can overcome this problem but we are just adding more complication and more difficulty to make all these forces balance out.  The pilot’s chances of correcting with just the right amount of rudder and power while executing a turn in an aircraft experiencing adverse yaw are decreased markedly versus an aircraft that does not have this issue.   I want a smooth coordinated turn, not a wiggling, jerky, abrupt maneuver that looks like the pilot has had to much to drink, so I decided to use the aileron differential feature of my radio and let it handle this for me. 

Aileron differential requires that the two aileron servos be connected on two different channels so they can be controlled independently.  By programming differential the two ailerons will extend by different amount.   So when the port (left) aileron goes up, the starboard aileron goes down but by a lesser amount.  Less down means less drag and the nose is not pulled toward this side and the maneuver can be completed without the necessity of rudder input.  Some rudder may be desirable for things like a coordinated turn but that is a whole different topic.

For the Bristol this was the final piece of the puzzle that made it fly the way it should.  At least the way it should as I understand it!  A return to the field for more tests and the adverse yaw seemed to be under control.

After all of this I began to realize that this airplane would never fly up to my hopes and expectations.  It is a WWI design after all and it just will never be what I regard as a “good flying” airplane.  It’s nice to watch it fly… and I had no problem getting it up and down and performing the basic aerobatics that it is designed for but it was not a floater (which I enjoy) nor a precise maneuvering acrobatic ship.  It just always feels like its slogging along to me.  For that reason I am in the process of stripping the power system and electronics and will pass it on to someone who is more interested in this type of airplane and can really appreciate it for what it is.  So long Bristol.

FMS T-28 Trojan V4 Yellow 1400mm – Cursed?

A club member recently picked up the FMS 1400mm T28 as a step toward getting back in the air.  He’d been ill and hadn’t flown much for most of a year but he has flown a bit of everything and now does mostly Turbines so he wanted a war bird with retracts and flaps… something to get his fingers re-awakened but still with the extra “complications” of flaps and retracts so he wouldn’t get out of the habit of using those!  After a bit of debate he went for this bird:

I never did hear the whole story but apparently, right out of the box the plane had issues.  I heard stories of at least one speed controller swap, retract issues and a bad aileron servo…  I don’t know exactly the list or the sequence of events but he quickly ran out of patience to troubleshoot all the issues and offered to sell the bird at a bargain basement price. 

A second club member (let’s call him Gary) picked it up and got a warranty swap on the bad aileron servo which he replaced.  He planned to bring the plane to my shop to troubleshoot any other issues he found but as fate would have it, he was in the midst of one of his infamous multi-part swap/purchases and the plane one again changed hands, landing now with Steve.  One part of the plan didn’t change and that was to get it to my shop for a thorough once over.

Once the plane arrived Steve and I started testing and going over the plane to see what all was or wasn’t working.  We did a quick bind and testing of the plane and quickly found one issue… NONE of the three retractable retracts actually did anything!  Not a buzz, beep, wiggle or shake to be seen!  No amount of coaxing, servo reversing, battery swap, rebinding, driving with a servo tester or anything else would make them budge. 

Over the course of a few days I traced down all the wiring to each retract and nothing would convince any of them to move!  This is not as simple as it sounds as the receiver drives a distribution board in the body of the plane which then is wired via a multi-wire connector (looks like a balance connector on a 5S lipo) to another distribution circuit board/box buried in the wing root where the retracts, flaps, ailerons and lights for each wing are plugged in.  This is all starts to quickly look like a spaghetti bowl but eventually I pretty much had it mapped out in my mind.

Eventually I plugged in a servo at the wing root connection and proved that signals were getting to that point as the servo moved appropriately.  I did this for all three retracts and every one of them tested the same… bad retracts!  Now I have no idea how the retracts got to this point.  I’m fairly sure they are not shipped in the down position and all were now in that position.  They did not stink or have obvious damage so it was not obvious if they were somehow abused but it seems crazy that all 3 would fail in this manner.  I guess we will never know.

Fast forward a week or so and 2 of the 3 needed retracts have arrived at the shop.  Swapping them out is not overly difficult.  I found the simplest way was actually to completely open up the retract housing (split it after removing the 4 plate screws AND the 6 small diameter screws that hold the two sides together and just replace the whole trunion, strut and wheel assembly. 

Seemed easier than fiddling with all the set screws etc… especially for the nose gear with its’ C clip.  As best I can tell the electrical parts are all the same for nose and mains so I swapped out the Port main and then the nose gear and both worked perfectly after that!  So, confirmation that they were indeed bad.

Two or three weeks later another couple retracts came in and I once again dug into the T28.  Third retract install complete and it is working… Reassemble everything and then suddenly it doesn’t!!    Double check all connections and no go… time to take the plane apart again and recheck all those connections.  Re-seat all the connections and everything works fine again. 

OK, so back together and checking everything and what’s this… both Ailerons move in the same direction??  Long story short (this story is long enough) the servo that was supplied as a warranty replacement turns out to be a reversed servo!  So call the local hobby store and order a replacement (correct) servo… wait and then take it apart again and swap that servo out.  Now it should all be good, right?

Reassemble, checking at each step, and all looks good with the new servo functioning correctly until after the final wing assembly.  Plug the battery back in to do a final check and what the what??  When the battery is plugged in nothing happens… and I mean nothing!  No lights, no beeps, nothing!!  Try different batteries… nothing.  This is an ARF… when will we get to the ALMOST part of this??

At this point my cursing skills are well exercised and I’m beginning to think I might go pro…  Something with the new servo??  One more time to check all the wiring… disassemble the whole plane again and trace wires when I notice something.  One of the “wing root” connection boards looks like this:

Bare wires seem bad… especially when some of those little hair thin wires look like they might be touching?!  I have no idea but my theory now is this is what started all the issues… It’s possible that these wires were pulled out as repairs were done… by me, perhaps… by the other 2 guys that have had their hands in the plane… maybe.  But to my eye the insulation on the wires seem to have none of the white “goo” on them and a couple of the stray wires do.  I think this was something the factory missed on.  I’ll never be sure.

So while I have the plane plugged together BUT still all connected, I unplug the white XH style connector that feeds this side of the wing and try again and…  Beeps, buzzes and all the other “correct” noises issue forth!!  I think I may have heard some angels singing… just sayin…

So under a magnifying glass I went through and separated all the wires and painted that connection point with liquid masking tape.  Once finished the final product looked passable:

Once reassembled it all looked great.  Flaps, ailerons, rudder, throttle… check.  Retracts… all three down and locked and back up again… check.  This thing might just fly yet!  Just as I was doing the happy dance… Hey, why is that landing light not on…  At that point I had to make a decision… smash this thing into a hundred pieces and make up a good story for Steve on what unfortunate event had claimed the ill fated T28 or one more time time through the wiring.  OK, so this one was simpler.  About a 90% chance that the 2 wire, unkeyed connector (OK, its color coded but why not use a standard servo connector so idiots like me have a better chance to get it right?)  is plugged in backward.  Yep, that did it.

After all that, she looks to be ready to fly… finally.  After purchasing the plane at less than half of what it originally cost, Steve has spent enough on retracts and a servo that he is pretty much up to having paid full retail and then a bit!  If I charged minimum wage, I think he’d have to tell the wife “Sorry honey, no Christmas this year”!  Good thing we do this for fun.

Hopefully all this will be worth it when this bird take to the air.  T28s are typically great flyers so we are looking forward to seeing it in the air.  Maybe we should schedule an exorcism instead of a christening!

Balsa USA Bristol M-1 Part 2: Straighten up and fly right??

After arranging a battery compartment, getting servos installed, repairing the landing gear mounting holes, radio setup, etc… etc… I took the Bristol out for a couple flights.  It was… underwhelming.  I have a Great Planes DR1 Tri-Plane so not totally unaccustomed to draggy aircraft that need coordination to turn but for some reason I could not get the Bristol to make a smooth turn no matter what I did, nor even fly straight and level without constant inputs.  After 3 or 4 flights I was getting a bit better at herding it around, but if that was as good as it gets… this thing would never find a lasting place in my fleet.

I am not accustomed to just giving up on an airplane after a couple flights… especially if I can’t identify why or what exactly isn’t working the way it should so I started checking, rechecking and gathering info about the plane.  Certainly there are aircraft that I simply don’t enjoy flying, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing what they are designed to do, and doing it well and consistently.  I’m fairly sure I started out tail heavy which just amplified all/any other problems.  Later flights I shifted the battery forward and things improved but still not stable/reliable the way any simple aircraft like this one should be!

Eventually I started going through the way it was built and started looking at things that I would pay attention to if I had built it.  Eventually, I found at least one issue that could account for some of the odd flying I experienced.  During any build from scratch, kit or even ARF you should always check the  Horizontal alignment of the wing to the thrust line of the aircraft as well as the tail to the wing and the alignment of the vertical fin at a true 90 degrees to the horizontal.  Since the Bristol looks kind of like a cigar with attached flying surfaces there is no really obvious way to check out the wing alignment to the thrust line but nothing jumps out on that score and frankly, if that’s off a little it probably won’t make nearly as much difference as the tail alignment to the wing.  That is where I found an issue.

If you sit the plane up on a table top and prop up the tale a bit you can visually line up the horizontal tail surface with bottom edge of the wing.  This will show that the two surfaces are at least level with each other.  Well, you can if both surfaces are in alignment.  The Bristol, not so much.  Just to add insult to injury the vertical wasn’t vertical to the wing nor the horizontal stabilizer!

A bit more scientific method was in order, so I set the plane up on a stand and (using a piece of aluminum channel across the wing saddle as a flat rigid platform) set a level across the wing saddle.  I then adjusted the plane to level.  

Once the baseline was established, I measured the tail feathers to see how close to level  they were.  As you can see… not so much.

Left stabilizer

Right stabilizer

Verical fin… not so vertical.

So what to do…  If the vertical had been perpendicular to the horizontal and the body structure had been something more traditional… like my Telemaster for instance… then I might have tried to do some twisting and heating to straighten things up.  But with this cigar shaped body I couldn’t figure out how to make that work or if it was even possible!

So I went with plan B and created some wedges out of small pieces of popsicle stick and did a little cutting, wedging and regluing.  Here is how it looks.

3 wedges, literally hammered into place on the starboard side of the vertical fin.

Then added a couple more on the top starboard side of the horizontal stab.  I also put a couple on the port side bottom of the horizontal stab as well.  The result was this.

Left stab now…

Right stab now…

Vertical now…

I’m pretty happy with the improvement and I’m debating adding some flying wires to help get the last couple degrees of adjustment I need to get to “perfect”.    I think it may be the only way to maintain the proper alignment between the surfaces under flight loads in any case.

I’m hoping to get a test flight in again soon and hoping that now that I have the tail all straightened up, the Bristol will start to fly right!

Balsa USA 1/4 Scale Cub – Part 5 Finally back on the bench!

The cub has been sitting quietly in the corner of my shop for two and a half years now while other projects came and went including dozens of repairs/builds and modifications to my planes as well as many visitors projects.  It even survived the move that is nearly 2 years in the past now with no damage… so finally it has found its way back to center stage on my bench. 

If you want to catch up on the old posts, here are links to each:

Balsa USA 1/4 Scale Cub – Part 4 More Mods – Rudder Shape.
Balsa USA 1/4 Scale Cub – Part 3 More Mods – Flaps!!
Balsa USA 1/4 Scale Cub – Part 2 Modifications begin
Balsa USA 1/4 Scale Cub – Part 1 Acquisition and plans

Mostly getting back to this project came about because my flying buddy, Garry Bow, bought a Dave Partrick 1/4 scale Super Cub at the swap meet in Toledo this last spring and though he sold it before getting it in the air again, we have been talking about it enough that other folks in the club have decided to enter or re-enter the brotherhood of RC cub fliers.  I think almost every RC airplane enthusiast has already, or plans on getting, one variation or the other of the J-3, clipped wing, PA-18 super or maybe even one of the more modern variants like the Carbon Cub.  Cubs lend themselves to slow majestic flying and there are many different variations that allow for you to fly a cub that is at least semi-aerobatic, can tow gliders, carry a drop box, sky diver, camera or whatever.  Most Cubs are almost instantly recognizable to even those who don’t pay much attention to aircraft or RC and also make great entry points for scale building.  Cubs can be very simple 4 (or even 3) channel setups with a high wing and light wing loading.  This allows for slow and gentle landings and the typical Cub landing gear configuration can absorb some punishment in case of abrupt landings,  especially those outfitted with bush tires and working shock absorbers.   So it is time to get back to my latest endeavour into the the world of Cubs. 

My latest cub started life as a Balsa USA 1/4 scale J-3 Cub kit but I have been working to make it into something closer to a Super Cub.  I’ve detailed a lot of my modifications up to this point so I’ll try to just continue where I left off a couple years ago!

Looking back I realize that I did make one more significant change that never got posted and that has to do with the wing attachment method.  I really disliked the way the wing attached.  It seemed like it would take 3 people to get the wings on and off without damage to the airplane with just a location pin and bolts holding on those massive long wings.  I didn’t like the thought that damage to the root rib seemed likely if you didn’t get the struts on quickly before a gust of wind or careless bump to the wing caused an issue.  This design was made for someone who is much better organized and meticulous than I!

So right before I packed it away, I added a small wing tube arrangement to my Cub.  At first, I tried to put a straight wing tube and sleeve in place but then realized that a straight tube was not going to work well in a wing with dihedral!  So I assembled and shimmed and adjusted until the wings were sitting at the proper angles and then created a wing tube for each side utilizing the servo wire guide holes as a ready-made mounting point for the sleeves.  The tube itself is a carbon fiber tube from a friends wrecked airplane and the sleeve is an aluminum tube that the CF rod fits perfectly inside of.  I butted the tubes up in the center of the body and created a couple of new rib structures (complete with cutouts to make installing the mounting bolts easier) to hold them in place.  Now all I have to do is slide the tube into the wing and slide the whole assembly into the body and the wings have enough support for me to take my time bolting them in and attaching the struts.  Time will tell if this system works the way I hope it will.

Since I retrieved the Cub from its dark corner, I have started working on a couple of other changes too, including a new tail gear, engine mounting, and a glider tow release.  I’m still debating lighting options, float mounting (I have no appropriate floats yet), a possible belly pod (to mimic a baggage pod or fuel pod, both of which are in use on many Super Cubs) for candy drop or whatever, and possibly some hard points to carry a very non-scale sky diver drop mechanism I have.

Also, I have started to plod forward with the final steps the previous builder never completed like window installation, wing leading edge shaping, etc…  I’ll try to post on some of these activities soon.

Balsa USA Bristol M-1 Part 1: Motor mounting

A while back, my flying buddy Gary gave me a Balsa USA M-1 Bristol as a thank you for some work I had done on an airplane of his… or maybe it was a few airplanes… or a bunch!  Anyway, we had both seen it at a swap meet and I had admired it but he bought it.  I think it may have been traded off and then reacquired at some point before it found its way to me but in any case it has been sitting in a corner of the shop for a while now and I finally picked up what I think will be an appropriate power system for it, the E Flite Power 46 and a Castle Creations Talon 90 Speed Controller.  The Talon is a bit of overkill but for some reason seems to always be available at a relatively lower price point in the Castle line (my favorites).  It has an outstanding BEC capability and can handle up to 6S and 90A.  Castle and E Flite are among my favorite brands.   The first task was to build up a good engine mount for an airplane that was kit built to mount a glow engine.  To mount the motor out far enough to get the back plate beyond the cowl face means spacing out somewhere around 3″ to the back of the motor in this case.  Nose weight is also not a consideration since the Bristol is so short nosed and more likely would need more weight up front if anything.  Finding some 3″ spacers is difficult at best, and I like the idea of something more rigid anyway (long spacers tend to flex or twist a bit under load). To accomplish this I decided on using some shorter spacers mounting to what I refer to as a sub-firewall and then more short spacers to the X mount on the back of the motor.  This assembly is very strong and uses a few easier to find smaller spacers and some rigid plywood to put the motor out where it is needed.  Here are some pics showing the assembly.  
Motor attached to sub firewall
Sub firewall bolted to firewall
Mounting plate tie wrapped to spacers used to mount speed controller.
With the cowl in place
There are a few other necessary installation tasks… servos to be mounted, an arming switch to mount, and making sure the battery can be located in a spot where the plane will balance… but progress is being made.  Looking forward to flying.

P-47 Bonnie reassembly and lessons learned.

My local hobby shop, Hobby RC, got my replacement body and decal set in quickly and so the process of making this craft flight worthy again could begin!

Immediately upon unpacking a couple of things became obvious.  As you can see here:

The decal set I ordered would not be necessary.  Unfortunately the picture on the web site showed the spare part without the graphics.  I’m happy this is the case but could have saved $15 if I’d known.

Next I noticed the rudder was not attached and I had no idea to this point how it was attached… the original came on my plane… I’m pretty sure…

Turns out the rudder just clips onto the body by the use of built in plastic clips and pins built into the two parts.  You simply push it on and it pops in place…  Couldn’t be much simpler.

After screwing on the two halves the elevator with the 4 black screws.

I pushed the rudder on and started flexing it back and forth when I noticed that it didn’t allow for much throw (I had been thinking it needed a bit more) plus I noticed that it tended to flex the elevator joiner, resulting in some deflection…  that had to change.  So taking advantage of that easy removal, I popped it back off and opened up the pass through slot with a sanding drum on my electric rotary tool.  You can see how tight it is here in the before photo:

Quite a bit of material needs to be removed to get a significant amount of throw AND keep the pressure off the elevator joiner.  Here’s the old and new with the modification.

And here is what it looks like installed.

 This allows for the maximum throw allowed by the factory servo and linkage setup without binding.  Sliding the push rods back in place and installing the servos on the rails was pretty straight forward.  I notice the servos have no rubber grommets on the tabs… though I suppose in a foam body electric, vibration problems are fairly limited so no need.

While I was working on the tail, I flipped the plane over and went to work reinstalling the retractable tail gear.  Only something was missing!

The plastic insert that everything mounts into was not in the new body… time for some surgery on the old body again…  You can see here that it takes a lot of carving to get this thing out.

And here is the piece that comes out.  It takes a little cleanup from here.  You need to get all the foam off of it to easily insert it into the new body.

After getting the plastic insert into the new body, mounting the servo followed by the retract itself was pretty straight forward.

Mounting the servo and retract outside the aircraft is more straight forward than it was taking it out while still inside the tail of the plane.  Route the wires (easier if you have “grabber” like the one you see here) and with a little glue on the contact points with the foam just slide the assembly back in place and we are back in business.  

Reattach the doors and springs (a little bending/adjustment is likely needed) and everything goes back together fairly easily.

Next I reinstalled servos and the control board with it’s associated plywood tray inside the fuselage as well as the connector boards in the wing root.  You’ll want to check your notes or photos on which wires plug into what as the labeling is helpful but not completely obvious.  Once again I ran into a small issue where my notes and pictures were insufficient.

Here is the starboard wing root 

Note the one socket is closest to the trailing edge of the wing.  As you reinstall the matching plate in the body, be conscious of this and note that the port side is opposite…  I just “assumed” that both would be installed similarly and it turns out not to be so.

Most everything else went back in with no issues, though I encourage you to take copious notes and photos if you have to do this for yourself.  It will help immensely to guide you in the rebuild, knowing which screws to use, etc…

As I was assembling for final adjustment of the servo linkages and testing I found one more casualty.  Here are two of the wing screws…

As you can see there was a bit of force exerted when one of the wing tips found the ground.  These bolts are a little bit soft (which worked in my favor in this case!) so I was able to simply use some padding around the bolt in order not to mar the threads and bend it back into shape with pliers.

I made a final “rebuild” step by peeling the custom graphic for my crew chief (my Grandfather) and successfully reapplied it to the the new fuselage.  Welcome home Grandpa! 

While the P-47 was in the shop, a few additions were also made.  With the addition of a telemetry module and associated sensors (GPS, G Force and Voltage sense wire…) I’ll be able to keep a better eye on my battery pack voltage, ground speed and other interesting tidbits.

This last weekend we had a nice event at the club field during which I got in 6 or 7 flights.  After a bit of elevator trim during the first flight, the Bonnie proved she was back in peak form.  Her pilot took another flight or two to get back in the groove…  I did make sure that the battery was securely attached to the battery tray before each flight and I may add additional measures to be sure the whole assemble does not leave the plane prematurely.  For now just being sure the straps on the tray also engage the hook and loop material on the battery seems to be working.

P-47 Bonnie – battle damage

The FMS 1500mm P-47 continues to be my favorite flying War bird that I’ve ever flown.  Because this is true, it has gotten quite a few flights in the past few months.  But now there’s going to have to be some repairs before any more flights occur.

The P-47 flies so well that I tend to push it a bit from time to time and such was the case the other day as I lazily cruised around inverted and enjoyed the inherent stability of the air frame.  When I needed to get back upright I pushed a bit of extra power and pushed a moderately tight outside 1/2 loop…  Unfortunately at that point the battery decided to exit the airplane, in the process pushing off the canopy and of course disconnecting itself from the rest of the aircraft in the process!  Yikes!

After that there was much confusion.  The airplane rolled to upright (which I was trying to do) and stalled nose down at about 250 feet.  At first I thought I had occasional and/or partial control so I continued to do what I tell everyone else to do… “Keep flying the biggest piece!”  The airplane porpoised quite a bit and every time the nose came up I jammed in some down and it righted itself (yes, I know I was merely spectating at the time but I kept trying!).  This continued and the airplane also turned back toward the runway as I intended and actually ended up landing only 10 feet or so off the mowed part of our runway near “show center”.  Unfortunately the last porpoise up and stall was from about 10 feet and it hit moderately hard on the lower part of the cowl.

I can’t be absolutely certain, but my best guess is the battery slipped from the hook and loop straps, leaving the tray in the plane while the battery pushed the hatch off and bailed out!  The tray was laying next to it in the grass. I believe ejected on impact.

 What follows is a photo catalog of the damage incurred and the various disassembly I have done since in preparation for the replacement of the main body.  The impact (I maintain the rule that you can’t call it a landing if you should say impact…) made a couple cracks in the cowl and compressed some foam on the bottom of the nose, as well as splitting and cracking the first 12″ of so along the bottom seam of where the two foam “halves” come together.  The motor box is also a bit more loose now than it used to be.

It is certainly something that could be repaired with just some glue but it would be a bit ugly and I don’t want to go to the effort of a full repaint of the body, which is what it would take to make it look good again.  A new body is available and at ~$85 not out of reason.  As my buddy Kelly says:  “Let me know when this hobby gets cheap.”  I will do quite a bit to avoid painting as I have no talent for it, nor proper equipment or appropriate paint area to do it right.  Disassembly and re-installation is in my wheelhouse however!  So to start, here are some pics of the damage.

Here are the cracks in the plastic cowl piece.  Looks fairly fixable since there isn’t any compression… glue, clamp and go I’m hoping.

This shows the side of the cowl.  As you can tell, as the cowl pushed back at the bottom, the top pulled down and forward which ripped some of the mounting points loose.

This is the bottom of the nose where you can see the split seam and cracks and compression radiating out from the impact zone.

You can really see the compression and re-expansion here.

As you see here, lots of compression further back as well.

Back edge of the canopy… more compression?  Or maybe from impact when it touched down.

Time to start disassembly.

Remove this cover to get to the tail wheel steering servo…

Steering servo to the right, retract left… screws holding retracts already removed.

Remove the springs from the landing gear doors before removing the doors.

If you flex the doors, the pins can be popped out of the loops without damage to either.

Removal of the Horizontal stabs is a simple matter of removing 4 screws.

 Remove these two screws in the rudder to remove the rudder horn.  Pictures on line seem to indicate this part may come with the new body but just in case…

Here’s the distribution board that drives all the in-wing electronics.  The two white connectors feed the wing root connectors.   Port side connector feeds to Starboard wing and visa-versa.  4 screws hold it to the mounting plate.

Here are the servo wire connections to the mixer board for reference.

The distribution board screws through these three layers of plywood.  Notch out portions to the rear.  The lowest one is glued but can be pried up with some effort.

This is the magnet that holds the rear of the canopy on (except when a 2lb battery slides out with the help of a couple/few G’s of force and pushes it off!).

While you are there remove the servos and the linkages by unscrewing the clevises at the elevator and rudder and pulling them out from the servo end.

This is the wing root connector.  Held in with 4 small screws.  Wires fish through without to much effort… re-fishing them through looks easy enough.

Aside from that, removal of the motor and speed controller is pretty straight forward.  The speed controller is very easy to remove if you fail to properly secure the battery and do some negative G maneuvers!!!  (To soon?)

Reassembly to come… I hope!

P-47 Bonnie gets some flights

Last weekend I managed to get out and put some flights on the 1500mm FMS P-47 Bonnie…  The short version is “very nice”!  Here “we” are after a couple of flights.

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the mighty Jug for a couple of reasons.  The P-47 is a workman like craft.  She’s big and heavy, not the sexiest but she is powerful, deadly and protects her pilot.  P-47s were built in two places and one of them was the plant in Evansville, IN where my grandfather (mother’s side of the family) helped to build them!  There are family photos from the plant (which later became a Whirlpool plant that created lots of consumer appliances) showing gun testing going on in the middle of the night using tracers!   This was a 24×7 operation so darkness could not halt the process.  I can’t imagine living nearby and listening to those 8 .50 caliber machine guns going off at 2AM!  Just another hardship of war I suppose.  Most of those families probably had folks working in the plant and so understood well what was at stake.   In honor of grandpa, I added one customer graphic, making him the crew chief on my P-47.  His name was Jesse A. Lane.

With Grandpa taking care of the mechanicals, I got in a total of 5 flights that day and the plane performed well.  She has a wide flight envelope from nice and slow to fairly impressive high speed passes.  She kept up with an EDF that happened to be in the air during one of the flights and at the same time slowed down nicely with medium flap settings.  Gentle/slow landings combined with the ability to fly the plane fast enough to be convincing (a fighter should not spend a lot of time just floating along should it?).  This is a somewhat rare and welcome for a war bird and gives me hope that I will fly this more than “once in a while” as it makes the plane actually enjoyable to fly versus flying like a kite or white knuckle landings being the norm.

I still have some tuning to do… need to adjust the elevator to flap mixing and adjust my throws and expo settings to my liking.  Also need to double check that motor box “flexibility” that I noted in my first post on this airplane.  I may have imagined it, or it may just be a result of the down thrust built into the airplane, but it seemed as if the plane would push downward with application of full throttle.  Not a drastic issue and perhaps if I can firm up that motor box this would go away??  We shall see.

Overall, I am very happy with the flight characteristics and overall performance of this airplane.  It is the first war bird I’ve bought that I am looking forward to flying frequently in the near future.

From a non-flying perspective I did my usual cut outs from a styrofoam cooler and created a cradle and I purchased some wing bags to protect the soft foam, guns, etc…  That works well as long as you actually tie the cradle down in the trailer! 

The soft foam continues to be a concern so continued care is necessary but so far I’ve managed to keep bumps and bruises to a minimum.  Also, the wing connectors are holding up so far but I only have a dozen connects and disconnects on them so far so will have to watch those as well.  It’s also worth mentioning that the retracts have performed flawlessly up to now.  I attribute part of that to the fact that she lands pretty easily so they aren’t getting the abuse that a heavier bird would put on them.

Overall I am very happy with this aircraft.  FMS seems to have done a great job and I recommend you get one for yourself if you are so inclined.