21 January 2016

A beginner's tale of getting started in F5J #4

I have been rather busy getting my planes ready for the 2016 F5J season.

During the Christmas holidays, while on a break from work, I managed to complete conversions from F3J to F5J on two planes that have been in the workshop for a month or so.

The first plane to be completed was a Xplorer. I specifically wanted this Xplorer to be my windy weather plane. It is the double carbon version, not exactly light but very strong and it really flies well when it gets windy. I am sure I won't need any ballast to at least 20 kts wind!

The conversion was not that easy. Other that chopping off the nose, installing a firewall and motor, I had to remove servos and install them as far back as possible, changing push-rod lengths after they have been installed is not fun! This way I managed to make space for the ESC and battery and also ensure that the CoG is not too far forward, something that is often a problem with a F3J to F5J conversion.

The power comes from a 3S 1300mah 45-90C battery, the motor is a PowerLine 1025 swinging a RFM 16x8.5 prop.

Here she is before conversion.

I managed to get out early one morning to the GEMS flying field to test her. She needed no ballast to balance at my preferred (at least starting point) CoG. I am happy to report that she flew perfectly from the first flight needing no trim and it seems the CoG is perfect, or at least the way I prefer it.

Ready for the first flight!

Back on the ground after a perfect test flight!

I am really happy with the conversion, now my fleet contains a decent windy weather plane! 

This success has encouraged me to do more F3J to F5J conversions. Next project is a Vladimir Supra conversion!

3 January 2016

A beginner's tale of getting started in F5J #3

Time to make a few updates to this blog, I have been so busy building and flying I have not posted for a while!

The last time I posted I had just completed, and flown, my 2 Mystique electric launch gliders, this was a step in my quest to become a proficient F5J pilot after over 32 years of not flying RC gliders.

Well, the story continues. I decided it was time to step up to a molded plane, not being sure if this rusty pilot could handle it I decided on a plane that was not the most expensive but from reports it seemed like it would be competitive and a quite light.

I ordered an Osprey F5J from Soaring USA, it arrived in less than a week but sadly it was damaged in transit....

The fin was broken, you could clearly see that the container was bumped badly on the one side.

Fortunately Soaring USA offered to send a replacement tail and boom. After looking carefully at the rest of the plane I decided that I really liked the plane so I ordered a second one as a backup!

The second plane, and the replacement boom and tail again arrived in under a week, this time no damage but a missing stab mounting nut on the second plane! This was quite frustrating as these are custom nuts and cannot be found locally.

This is what it looks like.

Soaring USA offered to replace it. It took more than a month but finally arrived via our VERY slow postal service, thanks Soaring USA!

I did manage to find a replacement nut in the UK as well, at huge cost but there was no alternative, at least I now have a spare....

Anyway, I managed to complete the first plane quickly!

The first test flight was a real pleasure, this plane is really a step up from anything I have ever flown! I am glad I purchased the second plane, they will be my primary and backup planes for the 2016 F5J contest season, if all goes well....

Osprey #1 ready for a test flight

And after the fight, one happy pilot!

The Osprey and the now totally outclassed Mystique.

Now the practice starts! I am trying to fly as often as possible, at least twice a week and sometimes more often, I can already see the results, slowly I am starting to "see" the thermals again and my landings have vastly improved!

Till next time,

4 December 2015

A beginner's tale of getting started in F5J #2

In the previous post I describe my "restart" in RC gliding, the story continues....

I have enjoyed the Phoenix glider but I soon realized I would like something a bit more sturdy and larger to continue my "removing all the rust from the pilot" project.

The selection was small from the local shops, lots of foam gliders but very little else. What I did find were 2 E-Flight Mystiques, One full house and the other RES. They are 2.9m sized planes with a fiber glass fuselage and nicely build wooden wings covered with transparent Oracover. I wanted the full house version to continue my training towards a decent F5J plane but I also thought I would like the RES model just for fun flying. The end result was me going home with both planes!

Time to assemble a plane or two!

The kits were complete other than radio equipment and motor/prop. I found 2 EMax outrunners that fitted the nose well and according to their specifications they were similar in size and weight as the recommended E-Flight motors I could not find, just a bit more powerful. The only props I could find locally were E-Flight 14x8's, fortunately they were in the recommended range for the EMax motors so I was hoping for at least reasonable performance.

The radio choice was easy as I had a brand new Taranis X9D Plus that I really wanted to try.

I assembled the RES model first, thinking that it would be the easiest one to fly. Assembly did not take long and soon I was standing at GEMS early in the morning ready for the test flight. A few hand-launches proved all was well (yes, it was windy again!) so I armed the motor and launched,

What an exciting ride! The rudder was a bit sensitive but the surprising thing was the power, the plane was climbing very fast! After shutdown I played around with the trim a bit before attempting to land the plane, I ended up way to high, this plane glided a LOT better than the Phoenix so a few more turns were needed even with the spoilers deployed.

The only thing I needed to do was to add some up elevator compensation when deploying the spoilers as the plane really dived with full spoiler.

A few more flights proved that the plane thermals well (compared to the Phoenix) but that I was really missing ailerons in the windy and turbulent conditions. The moment I got home I started getting the second plane ready to fly.

Once completed the flap/aileron model turned out to be really fun to fly, solid in the air and easy to core a thermal with. I did have a slight technical problem on the first flight when an aileron servo came loose but I managed to get the plane down in once piece.

Ready to fly!

The Taranis X9D Plus really worked out well, it is so flexible and really more powerful than most other radios out there. Initially I was worried about the quality, In the past I mostly flew Futaba and I never had any issues. When I first got it I pulled it apart and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the sticks and the soldering on the PCB's. I think my (new) Futaba T14SG will remain in the Phoenix....

I have since managed to get a bit of practice in with the Mystiques, to the point where I am feeling comfortable flying again. I am also slowly getting better at the landings, practice makes perfect. The efficient crow setup on the Mystique also helps a lot with energy management once I got used to it. The next thing I need to practice is getting the landing time right. I have a voice F5J count-down on the Taranis, it includes the launch announcements and the time every minute during the flight with a countdown of the last minute, ideal for some F5J practice!

Now my mind is turning to a better, molded, plane. Do I buy locally if I can find something or do I import? The search for local planes started.......

While searching for a new plane I also looked around some stuff I stored a long time ago, I came across two old F3B planes (1981/82 vintage) that I forgot about. The one was a RES model and the other one has ailerons and spoilers. They are still in a good condition other than the covering that has become really brittle. The planes are own designs (called "Photon"), the tails are similar to a Sagitta 900 but the rest is different with sheeted wings including carbon spars and kevlar reinforcement. They are both 3m wingspan.

I am not sure what I should do with them, recover them and fly them from the winch for a bit of nostalgia or convert to F5J/ALES planes? Time will tell!

The two old ladies.

In the next post I will talk about planes I found on the local market.

3 December 2015

A beginner's tale of getting started in F5J #1

After an absence of nearly 33 years I have decided to return to RC gliding!

I last flew RC gliders in 1982, In those days I flew competitive Thermal Duration and F3B, I remembered how much fun competitions were so I wanted to get competitive again.

Before I committed myself I did a lot of reading and decided I would like to concentrate on competitive F5J flying as it seemed that it would allow me to practice on my own when I have spare time with no need for a clumsy winch or bungee.

The first thing I had to do was to find out if I could still fly or if I had to start from scratch! I had a look around and the quickest way to get into the air was with a Hobby King Phoenix 2600 foam glider. This is a 2.6m full house glider, maybe not the best way to start as it would be more difficult to fly than a RES plane but it was available.

The Phoenix 2600 ready for it's first flight.

I must admit that I was rather worried about the first flight so I went out early one morning to a local field so that I would have no spectators! As it turned out I had a few issues when I arrived with one aileron servo that did not work, the problem was a bad extension cable that I could sort out at the field.

A few hand launches showed that the controls were centered and that the CoG was close. The next flight I switched on the motor and climbed to about 50m to check the plane. It was a bit slow in responding but flying well. The best news after the first landing was that I realized I could still fly and that flying towards myself presented no problems! I was REALLY happy!

The next flight turned out even better, from about 50m I managed to find a thermal and had a 45 minute flight, I was hooked!

Over the next few weekends I flew the Phoenix as often as I could, I also made a few mods like taping the leading edges with fiber re-enforced tape. The wing tips were painted a different color as well as the bottom of the plane to help with visibility issues. I was having fun!

During this time I also joined two local gliding clubs, Silverton Gliding club (SGC) and GEMS. I was really surprised to see a few names I knew at SGC from way back, guys like Gordon Browne and Jan Sime whom I flew with in the late 70's and early 80's.

The Phoenix with a bit of color added ready for flight at SGC

My first visit to SGC was really great, lots of friendly faces and even a few I knew. Flying with other like minded people does make it more fun and there is always something to learn. 

When I first visited GEMS the experience was also great, I did not know anyone but guys like Wolf made me feel right at home and I was soon enjoying the stunning GEMS flying field. My flying pattern became Saturday afternoons at GEMS and Sunday mornings at SGC. The only little problem was the wind, for some reason the first few months after I returned to gliding the wind was mostly very strong and the poor foamy suffered!

At least I have managed to keep it in once piece so far.

It is time to upgrade the plane.....

28 May 2014

2014 South African Gliding Nationals

It has been a while since my last post.
Briefly, we had round 2 at Silverton Gliding Club. I enjoy the venue as it is quite challenging with a lot of trees all around the field. Should you miss the trees, there is also a huge dam to land in.
Round 2 saw only 2m gliders entering and that made for some good competition.
Congratulations to Bryan Paxton, a newcomer to F5J, who showed us all how it should be done. Herman posted the results on the MGA blog.

Round 3 was scheduled to take place at Snoopy's airfield in Randfontein on the 18th of May but was cancelled due to extremely poor weather conditions. Hopefully we can re-visit Snoopy's at a later event.

The 2014 Glider nationals are due to take place on the 14th to 16th of June at Africa Lawns near Delmas. Google co-ordinates are: 26°08'08.4"S 28°37'52.9"E Entry forms available for download  here: http://1drv.ms/1k1pgly
This year's event is going to be great. Please make an effort to enter.

26 January 2014

F5J Round 1 - 2 Feb 2014

Can you believe we are one week from February? I nearly missed our first event!
We will be hosting the competition at GEMS.
Everyone is welcome to attend. If you would like to participate in the competition, please forward your name and SAMAA number to me so I can process your entry. (You can leave a comment below this post)  If you would like to know what F5J is all about, bring a camp chair, some snacks and enjoy the day's flying from the sidelines.

The normal will apply:
  • We will fly provisional F5J rules
  • You will need an altitude limiting device
  • Entries close Thursday afternoon 31 January
  • Arrive at 8, pilots briefing at 8:30, start comp no later than 9:00
  • Entry fee R50.00
Now all I need to do is repair all the damaged gliders, see you there!

28 October 2013

F5J 2013 Summary

We have just completed the 5th and final round of the F5J competition meetings.

I know that most pilots enjoyed the events and will probably be back for more in 2014. As the competitions were very informal I'm not going to concentrate on who won or lost, rather I would like to focus on the fun side of the events. To take the last event on Saturday 26 October as an example, we started the event at 09:00 and we all done by 12:00. To be fair, the windy conditions made it difficult to achieve full 10 min working time flights all the time. Add an hour for good flying conditions. We were still in time to have a braai and watch the rugby at home. Clearing the field took no longer than 10 minutes. No clumsy lines, winches, turnaround stakes or car batteries to lug around.

Some of the other disciplines I have attended, like F3B or F3K, places a lot of stress on an average pilot like myself. I am constantly amazed at the level of skill and expertise of the South Africans. For such a small model flying community we fare extremely well at most of the gliding world championships.

The point I'm getting at is that F5J, because of its provisional status, is very attractive to new and less skilled glider pilots. This may change as soon as it gains proper FAI status. At the moment it does not attract the crème de la crème of the local glider pilots as the other disciplines do.

F5J in Europe has a huge following, and I think for much the same reason. The Model Club of Trnava (MCT), in Slovakia has taken the initiative and have organized the F5J Inter Tour competition. It describes the procedures for allowing countries to stage and or enter the competition. More on the subject at their web site: http://www.trnavaf3j.sk/.

To make a long story short, I believe F5J to be the future of competitive model thermal duration flying. We are right here at the beginning of it all. Next year (2014) we should have more informal "practice" days and tighten up on the competition days.

If this recipe works well in Gauteng, I see no reason for other regions not to jump on the bandwagon. It would be wonderful to see a multitude of new faces at the 2014 Nationals.