Friday, June 29, 2007

This Is A Test, Of The Blogger In Draft Video Upload System.

Here's a quick aerial video of a double glider tow shot from the top of Dick's Telemaster Electro at the recent Billings Flying Mustangs fly in. In this video, we had one of Bob's gliders on top of the plane in the launcher, and Eric's big 100 inch Spirit tagging along behind by a 120 foot tow line. It's an awesome sight to behold, or at least it is if you're into doing different and interesting stuff with model airplanes. I know, the camera angle sucks, but it was the first time that we tried it so give me a break already. Now that the FlyCamOne is available in the United States, there's likely to be a few more of them showing up at the field, which will make multiple camera angles on the same flight possible. Imagine the possibilities!


Sorry I didn't get a lot of video from the Fly In. To be honest, there was just so much interesting stuff going on, that had I filmed it all it would've taken me a month just to edit everything down to a form in which it would've been presentable. Couple that to the fact that it would've required me to watch the whole show on a little 1 1/2 inch screen, and I just wasn't too excited about filming the entire thing. The Fly In was advertised all over the place, on TV and radio and otherwise, so I figured that if anyone wanted to see this stuff they were welcome to stop by and watch for themselves. If you're not from around here, just keep an eye on your local media for a Fly In near you. You can also check the calender of events at the AMA Website.

The Fly In featured some pretty cool demonstrations this year, probably the most popular of which was Clay's rocket plane. Basically, Clay took an Estes Centurion rocket powered glider, rigged it up with a remote igniter for the rocket engine, then we strapped it in the glider launcher on top of Dicks big Telemaster and took it for a ride. Dick would kick the thing loose at altitude, then Clay would glide it around for a bit until it started getting close to the ground. When he was just about out of steam, he'd make a low pass down the runway and fire the rocket, sending the little red bullet back skyward with a trail of rocket exhaust. Clay, being the first class showman that he is, would usually toss in a few vertical rolls as the plane blasted straight up at breakneck speed. I didn't keep track of how many rocket engines they burned up, but considering the number of encore requests that were floating around, I know it was a bunch. I've got some video that I shot during the testing phase a week or two before the fly in, I'll try to find time to post some of it soon.

Another popular demo was the night flying. John had his helicopter all decked out with light wire and night blades, and put on a pretty awesome show in the dark. John night flies his heli every year, and it's always a highlight, well worth the trip out to the Mustang's field. John even managed to talk Brian from Heliproz into taking the sticks for awhile. Brian is a first class heli pilot, and after wowing the crowd with his flight demos in the daylight, didn't disappoint anyone when he got his chance to do it in the dark. Before the night flying got underway, John even took the sticks of my T-Rex a couple of times just to prove to me that it will indeed fly inverted . . . . . . now I just need to practice up until I can get the pucker factor under control.

I did a little night flying with the Mugi Nightfighter, but found that the lighting was insufficient. It's back to the drawing board for me, but I haven't given up by any means. It was flyable, but telling which way was up got a little difficult unless I kept it really close, and really slow, and after two really close calls I decided to put it away before something bad happened. I've got some ideas about how to remedy that problem though so stay tuned. Clay lit up the night sky with his lightwire equipped Abell RC Adrenaline 3D foamy, and Chris put on a pretty good show with his T-Rex 450 heli in night dress as well. I did try to get some video of the night flying, but soon discovered that my video camera just wasn't up to the task. You'll just have to take my word for it, it was awesome.

There were of course many more fun and interesting things going on, but as my sporadic posting of late attests, I simply don't have time to go into all of them. Here's a few pics that I did manage to shoot though. This is just a small sample of what you can expect to see at a typical RC Fly In.

Clay's big Sukhoi gets ready to take to the sky for another awesome 3D demonstration . . . . . complete with the newly installed smoke system adding to the visual effect.

A large scale Staudacher sits on the flightline waiting its turn to get airborne.

Check out the color scheme on this beauty.

Clay poses for the camera with his rocket plane just before the first test flight. The background is pretty empty in this picture, but during the fly in it was full to the gills with cars, trucks, vans, trailers, RV's, and whatever else. The turnout for this year's fly in was phenomenal. Over 50 registered pilots, and countless spectators.

The rocket plane strapped into the launcher and ready for the start of its first powered test flight. Ralpho's Kadet sits on the taxiway in the background ready to fly chase. You can't see it in this picture, but my FlyCamOne is attached to the bottom of Ralpho's plane in an attempt to capture the rocket plane from the air. The amazing thing is, that we almost pulled it off, which is really amazing when one considers that Ralph had no way of knowing what the camera was capturing until after he landed and we downloaded the video for viewing. If you watch closely, you can see the smoke trail, and hear the sound of the rocket motor firing. An inch or two farther forward, and we would've gotten the whole thing. Looks like a good excuse to try again if you ask me!


A typical view along the flightline.

Steve's electric pylon racer. A totally one off design, built entirely from scratch, and man does it haul ass!

Bigger is better, and when Dick gets involved, electric power is sure to be involved. The Axi in the nose of this YAK is as big as my fist, with three 5000 mAh 4 cell lipos providing the electron flow. More juice than a typical lightning storm, and power to spare for awesome flight performance. No need to tear apart your weed whacker for awesome giant scale performance anymore.

Here's the Mugi Mobile from above, shot with the FlyCamOne from Ralpho's Kadet.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Quick Update

Now doesn't that look better?

The submissions for the logo contest keep pouring in, ~cough, cough, hack hack~, so fast that I don't know how soon I'll be able to judge a winner. So far however, firefly is well in the lead in the logo category, with Wayne uncontested so far as official designer of production facility signage, so keep those submissions coming for your chance to win!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, if you happen to run into me at any RC flying events this summer, be sure to ask me for one of these:

I made them all by my lonesome, because I was sick of having to look for a pen and paper to write down the address for the Mugi site for half a dozen people every time I land one of my Evos. Now I keep a few of these in my wallet, and a big stack of them in the Mugi Mobile for backup.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

So How About A Big J Aviation Logo Design Contest?

Thanks to my good friend Wayne up in Newfoundland for inspiring this one. He was nice enough to take the time to make up this pic for me:

This gives me an idea. Although I'm getting much better than I used to be, I still absolutely suck at graphics design and photo editing. Sure, I can come up with color schemes for airplanes and such, but when it comes to designing logos and putting pictures and text together, I'm just not good enough at it to live up to my own extremely high standards . . . . . . Or something like that. Since I happen to know for a fact that some of my readers, both of you actually, happen to be a hell of a lot better at such things than I am, how about a little design contest?

What I'm looking for is basically what Wayne did all on his own. I want a logo for Big J Aviation, but all of my previous attempts have looked like ass, so here's the deal. Come up with your own ideas of what the Big J Aviation logo should look like, and either drop a link to somewhere the image is hosted, or email the image to me at Feel free to use any images that you'd like, either photos or graphics (preferably graphics actually), steal them from this site, steal them from other sites, I don't care, just somebody please make me a logo. If you need some images to work with, send me an email and I'll either send them to you, or go out and take them myself if need be.

The one that'll catch my eye will be simple, yet effective. Two or three colors would be just fine since it'll be much easier to get made into decals and such that way. An image or two of airplanes, an airplane, a squadron of airplanes, a cartoon airplane, one or two of my own airplanes, a modern airplane, a classic airplane, a big airplane, a small airplane, a civilian airplane, a military airplane, an RC airplane, maybe even a helicopter, hell I don't care, just something to do with something that flies and the text "Big J Aviation" should be part of the design. Maybe just a part of an airplane, a prop, a radial engine, a busted hunk of crash debris for all I care. If I knew what I wanted I'd design the damn thing myself so let your imaginations run wild.

Ultra modern, retro style, cartoonish, I simply don't know what I want, but I know I want a recognizable logo that I can plaster all over the place. Maybe something that would signify a model company, maybe something that would signify a full scale flying service, a backcountry bush flying outfit, an air cargo company, I've thought and thought and I just can't visualize any one thing in particular. I really don't know why I want a logo, since Big J Aviation is just a fictitious company that I dreamed up in this empty head of mine, but Binford Tools was a fictitious company too and look how famous they are. Wanna know why? They may not have had a real tool company, but they had a logo! Well . . . . . . . . . that and that whole Tim Allen TV show thing, but I still think it was the logo.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot . . . . . . . The Prize! Since Big J Aviation's advertising budget is somewhere in the 7 figure range (after the decimal point of course), I really can't offer much other than exclusive bragging rights to the winner. Whenever you see the logo that you designed stuck on the side of a Learjet, or a limo, or an old red Chevy van full of toy airplanes, you can swell with pride knowing that you're the poor sap that wasted so much of your precious free time sitting in front of a computer designing a logo for some freeloading blogger bum that's too damn lazy and non artistic to sit down and design his own stinking logo.

Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it? ;)

Oh hell, maybe I'll mail you a set of stickers if I ever get around to getting them printed up.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

So You Want To Put An Outrunner On A Mugi Evo But Don't Know How To Mount It . . . .

Well never fear, because I'm about to make that task a whole lot easier. The design of the Mugi Evo naturally lends itself to a can type motor, but I've devised a simple method of attaching a brushless outrunner using inexpensive and readily available parts. With only a few simple modifications to a GWS 400 gearbox frame, you too can take advantage of the increased efficiency of brushless power, especially now that there are several inexpensive brushless motors available, many rivaling even brushed motors in the price department. I've been using the Tower Pro 2408-21 myself, and have found the performance to be almost identical to my brushed Speed 400 when running the same props, with half of the current draw of the brushed motor I used to run. This power system, including the mount that we're about to make, also happens to weigh about 1/4 of an ounce less than a brushed Speed 400 that it does a great job of replacing. The TP 2408-21 is readily available, especially on Ebay, for $10 - $15, which is about the same price as a typical brushed 400 motor. As an added bonus, many of the TP motors on Ebay include a grey plastic gearbox mount that will work equally as well as the GWS gearbox frames for an outrunner mount conversion. When one considers the benefits in efficiency and power, then factors price and weight into the mix, there really isn't any reason to settle for the short lifespan and inefficiency of brushed motors.

Ready to go brushless? Here we go.

First thing's first, assemble all of the parts and tools necessary. You'll need a GWS 400 gearbox frame, not the entire gearbox, just the plastic frame. I ordered a box of them from All E RC, they cost $1.25 each. Like I said, this is an inexpensive project. If you happen to have an old GWS gearbox laying around, you can use that too. Just remove the spur gear and shaft, and push the bearings out of the frame. You'll also need a Dremel tool with a cutoff wheel, a short (2 or 3 inches) scrap of .188" carbon fiber tube which just so happens to be the same tubing I use for the wing spars in my Evos, a drill bit the same size as your carbon tube, 3 nylon ties to attach your finished mount to your plane, some thin CA, and a hobby knife or two with different shaped blades.

First, we need to ream out the gear shaft hole to fit the carbon rod that we're going to use to reinforce the mount and create a third tie down point to make the motor more secure. I don't recommend using a drill to turn the bit since the plastic will melt if you're not extremely careful. I just twist the bit through with a pair of pliers.

When you've finished enlarging the hole, test fit your carbon tube. The fit should be reasonably tight, but if it can wiggle around a bit don't worry. We'll secure the tube in the hole with a dab of CA later.

Next we'll cut off three sides of the stick mount portion of the gearbox frame. Try not to cut into the top portion of the stick mount, leave a nice flat portion on the bottom of the mount as this will be the platform the entire mount sits on when we zip tie it to the Mugi Evo.

This is what it should look like when you're done, no more stick mount, just a nice flat platform. Don't worry if it's a little rough, the sharp edges will just help to keep the mount from sliding around.

Next we need to make a place for the center nylon tie to sit. If you hold one of your nylon ties around the mount, centered on the large section that's designed to hold the motor, you can easily make a little mark on either side of it with the blade of a hobby knife. When properly modified, these little bumps make a keen retainer for our nylon ties.

Then carefully grind out the material between the marks with the Dremel so that the nylon tie will sit flush like this. Try not to cut too deeply, or you may weaken the mount.

Mount the motor to the plastic mount facing rearward, like this. Think about which direction you want your motor wires to face before installing the screws, and don't overtighten the screws or you'll crack the plastic mounting ears.

Now place the carbon tube into the hole that we drilled earlier. Position the carbon tube so that it hangs just a bit onto the rear portion of the motor can. Make sure that it can't rub on the rotor however, or you'll likely let the magic smoke out of your powerplant in very short order.

Cut the carbon tube off flush with the extended front portion of the mount.

This is what your mount should look like at this point with the motor attached and the carbon rod properly positioned.

Drop a little thin CA onto both ends of the carbon tube, allowing it to wick in between the carbon tube and the plastic mount. Use extreme caution not to allow any CA to get into the motor.

If you use a motor like this one with a long, threaded shaft, you'll likely want to cut the shaft off and use a set screw or collet type prop adapter instead of mounting the prop directly. A long shaft like this would likely get bent on the first landing with a Mugi Evo, so cut it off as short as possible while still leaving enough material to mount your prop adapter securely.

Well, here it is, the completed mount. Now let's take a moment or two to blow/wipe off the dust and shavings, then we'll attach our brushless outrunner to our Mugi Evo.

Start by making a small mark on the centerline of the top doubler, approximately where you want the front of your motor mount to be. I prefer to use a pencil since the marks will virtually disappear if you're not looking for them.

Draw a faint line from the center of the rear of the fuselage, to the mark that you just made. This way we'll have a definite centerline with which to align our motor mount.

Using the tip of an Exacto knife, poke a small hole next to the carbon rod at each end of the mount, and next to the large portion of the mount in line with the grooves that we ground earlier. When you're certain that all six holes are where they need to be, poke the holes all the way through the airframe and enlarge them with a small screwdriver just enough so that you can easily pass your nylon ties through.

This is what the pattern of holes should look like when you're done.

Next we'll secure the motor and mount to the plane. I start by threading the rearmost zip tie around the carbon rod of the mount, then through the holes in the coroplast. Don't pull this tie tight yet however, since we want to tighten the front tie first to get the proper thrust angle. If you use a pair of pliers and a screwdriver like this, you can ratchet your zip ties down extremely tight, just be careful that you don't suck them right through the coroplast!

And here's the finished installation. If you look carefully, you can see the third nylon tie peeking out from under the motor. By installing the carbon tube, and using it to secure the mount to the plane, we can now switch motors simply by removing the screws. No zip tie cutting involved. All that's left is to install the 3mm prop adapter and prop and hook up the wiring.

Here's a view from the underside. When properly tightened, the nylon ties shouldn't allow anything to move around, but they shouldn't be threatening to pull through the plastic either.

Here's the latest Mugi Evo to come from the Big J Aviation production facility. Now I'm off to bed as I'm planning on test flying this bad boy tomorrow. If all goes as planned, the next tutorial will be on how to light this sucker up for some kick ass night flying action. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 28, 2007

I Know I've Been A Real Bad Blogger . . . . . Now Who Wants To Spank Me?

I know, I know, I haven't been blogging. To be honest, that's not even the half of it. Actually, I took a bit of a blogger vacation, as in I haven't been blogging, I haven't been reading blogs, I haven't been taking pictures for my blog, I haven't even been thinking about things from a blogger's perspective. That's probably a lot of the reason why I haven't had anything to blog about. I've just been so damn busy with so many different projects, most of which are ridiculously fun, that I haven't had any energy left at the end of the day to sit down and write about them.

It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.

I've also not been dancing around in the street wearing a pink tutu, but that's really not relevant to the subject of this post.

What is relevant to the subject of this post is flying. Lots and lots of flying. As much as possible anyway in between working, and fixing things, and building things, and fixing and building things that fly.

And then there's the Mugi Mobile.

In amongst all of my practically daily wheelings and dealings, I've managed to secure for my aircraft carrying pleasure, one 1986 Chevrolet Astro Van. I know, it's not a Volkswagen Bus, but I haven't exactly had too many people offering to sell me a bus for the song that I got this thing for. Like all cheap/free vehicles that I've acquired in my lifetime, it had a few issues. Actually . . . . it still does have a few issues, but not nearly as many as it did when I got it. I really wish I would've taken the time to snap a few "before" pics of this thing, but since I didn't, you'll just have to take my word for it. While the drivetrain is pretty sound mechanically, and the body isn't too shabby either, the interior could be summed up with one word: "THRASHED".

Luckily I just happen to have a wrecked Chevy S10 pickup taking up space here at the Big J Ranch, that just so happened to have had a really nice set of bucket seats in it. Since this van's days of being a soccer mom taxi are over, there was no need for the utterly destroyed remnants of what were once the back seats, so they got a free ride to the dump. The S10 seats mounted easily on the Astro seat bases, only requiring the drilling of two holes in the base of each seat.

After about two gallons of Armor All, interspersed with a whole lot of air hose blowing and vacuum cleaner sucking, applied with a heavy coating of elbow grease, the interior actually cleaned up pretty good. I've of course equipped the Mugi Mobile with radio communications in the form of a CB radio and K40 base load antenna mounted in the roof, a remote power hookup in the back for running battery chargers and other RC related electronic devices, a pretty damn kick ass stereo system (that isn't done yet. A set of 10" subs and a 200 watt amp are waiting in the wings), and a few other odds and ends like trippy little purple lights stashed here and there with more to come in the future. Can't have a shaggin' wagon without trippy colored lights, but the bean bag chair will have to stay home in order to make room for more airplanes. Groovy red curtains are in the works however.

Other than the interior, I've also replaced all 4 tires (one went BOOM on the way to the tire shop, they were almost as thrashed as the interior), repaired the air conditioner (when it comes to keeping my cool, I need all the help I can get), changed the oil and gave it a complete tune up, replaced the tail lights since one was missing a sizable chunk (don't want any undue attention from the Long Arm Of The Law), and a whole lot of other little odds and ends that are too numerous to list. I've still got to check all four brakes, repaint the wheels and install the center caps and trim rings, finish customizing the interior to suit my purposes (half the fun of owning a van in my opinion, although it's a project that's never truly "done"), inspect and repack the front wheel bearings, then there's the fact that the muffler fell off on the way to the drive in movie last night . . . . . . . I'll have to address that little green monster sooner rather than later.

Hey, whaddya expect for a $300 van?

Anyway, here's some pics.

Here she is at the park on a beautiful sunny morn not long ago. If you look carefully, you can see a big yellow airplane that's really happy to not be stuffed in the back seat of an extended cab pickup.

Here's a shot of the interior. I know, the carpet's faded and the seats are the wrong color. I hear it costs about 25 grand if you want a van with everything all new and color coordinated. I can live with it for the price difference. If you look closely, you can see a big yellow airplane that's really happy to not be stuffed in the back seat of an extended cab pickup.

Here's another shot of the interior. I know, the carpet's faded and the seats don't match, but I hear it costs about 25 grand to get a van with everything all new and color coordinated. I think those vans come with a back bumper that isn't bent too, but for the price difference, I can live with a crooked bumper and off color seats. If you look closely, you can see a big yellow airplane that's really happy to not be stuffed in the back seat of an extended cab pickup.

If you have to replace your taillights anyway, why be boring? These genuine rice rocket wannabe taillights are cheaper than the factory versions, and a damn sight better looking. They fit great with the rest of the van, don't you think? Now all I need is a fart pipe exhaust (which I kind of already have, at least until I make it to the muffler shop), and a big, ugly assed spoiler on the roof and they'll be recruiting me to appear in the next Fast And Furious movie.

I don't call it the Mugi Mobile for nothing, more graphics yet to come. I did these myself, the rest are at the sign shop. The diamond tread aluminum on the left rear door is covering up the big assed hole that was ripped in it by the swing away spare tire carrier that is currently on its way to Korea to be melted down and made into Kias. If you're going to mount a spare tire to the back door of a modern vehicle, add some metal on the inside to back up the bolts. The spare tire now resides underneath where it belongs.

Speaking of Mugis, Morgan is on the verge of releasing yet another new and exciting product, in the form of an excellent followup design to the Mugi Evo. This one will be called the Tea Racer, and is fashioned after a sleek looking 1930's air racer. The plane is of course made of Coroplast, the same 2mm used in the Evo, only this design looks like a conventional aircraft more so than a delta wing. I happen to have in my possession, the plans and build instructions for this little gem, and the Top Secret Skunkworks at Big J Aviation is currently getting tooled up for the prototype build. Expect full buildups, as well as video and flight test results here when the time comes. Don't however, expect free plans for this one. The price will be more than reasonable I'm sure, but Morgan does have to make a living after all. I can assure you all that whatever he decides on for a price, the plane will be worth it. Although I obviously haven't flown one yet since I'm not done building it, I have taken a good look at the design and it seems quite sound, the build looks almost as easy as the Evo, and I expect this plane to rival if not exceed the Evo in speed and performance. Stay tuned here and at the Mugi Site for more information on this exciting new product.

Now on to Chapter 2. Don't you just love catch up blogging?

Speaking of new and exciting products, I was recently made aware of these little gems. The only problem was, that I couldn't find anybody that would sell me one. As a testament to the importance of good foreign relations, Morgan was nice enough to pick one up from a shop in Spain and ship it to me. It pays to have friends, even if you haven't actually met them in person.

This thing is awesome. The FlyCamOne weighs just under an ounce, and has a pretty small footprint to go with it's lack of burdensome mass. What this means is, that not only can I now shoot aerial video with my larger planes, I can attach this camera to just about anything, even my helicopter. At about $75 US, it's still cheaper than even the phoniest wireless setups, and probably lighter when you figure that it doesn't need a 9 volt battery to run it. The FlyCam charges through the USB port of your computer. It also has provisions for adding an SD memory card for expanded capacity. I've been using the 1 gig SD card from my other digital camcorder and so far, haven't encountered any compatibility issues. I don't know how long the battery will last in it yet, but I do know that neither the battery life, nor the memory capacity with the 1 gig card have become an issue yet. Stay tuned on this subject as well, since I've only just begun to explore the capabilities of this exciting new device.

This is the FlyCamOne.

This is the FlyCamOne with the included mount. This camera is made specifically for RC aircraft use, so it includes this ingenious mounting device complete with a right angle mirror so that the camera can look forward, backward, sideways, ect. without creating excessive drag.

This is the easiest and most secure way I can think of to attach the FlyCam to my Mugi Evo. The camera sits just above the plane's recommended center of gravity, and has only a minimal effect on the aircraft's flight characteristics. A 3mm Depron spacer was needed under the camera to keep the control buttons clear of the airframe, but other than that all I used was two carbon rods and two #64 rubber bands. It doesn't get much easier than this. If you happen to notice, and like the outrunner motor mount, stay tuned. I'll be doing a complete demonstration on how to build one in the near future. Being able to easily mount a brushless outrunner to a Mugi Evo opens up a whole new world of power choices, and these mounts are about as easy and cheap as they get. A couple of easy mods to a GWS gearbox frame is all that's required, and the parts cost nil to nothing. I've been flying mine for several weeks now, and I've had no issues with this motor, or mount. Although I kept the performance similar to my brushed Speed 400 with this particular installation, the power consumption is roughly half, translating into about double the flight time that I was getting previously.

Here's looking at you, kid. The right angle mirror mount works flawlessly, although everything in the resulting video is a mirror image. If you use Windows Movie Maker, it's a piece of cake to add a Mirror Horizontal effect to your video and turn it back the right way. Or, you could just leave it backwards for a whole new perspective on life!

Here's a sample of what a Mugi Evo can do with a FlyCam along for the ride. This was the first time I'd flown an Evo with a passenger aboard, but I have to say that the performance was mostly unaltered. It was definitely evident that something had changed, but the plane still performed quite admirably, and after a few clicks of trim here and there and a little practice, I got quite comfortable with the setup.

Make sure you've got your barf bags at the ready, it's time to turn and burn!

Wanna Go For A Ride Version 2.0
Video sent by raginredneck93

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Well It Flies . . . . . Kind Of

It was indeed a beautiful morning for flying. The Sky Fly, the CAP232, and of course the Mugi Evo bored numerous holes in the sky much to the childlike delight of their pilot. I can't wait until the Mugi Mobile is up and running so I'll have enough room to take the Cub along a little more often.

Dick even brought out his latest Mugi, rendered in stunning blue and yellow coroplast. Power comes from an Align 430L 3550kv brushless motor (the same motor that's in my helicopter) twisting an APC 4.1X4.1 prop. This power combo has been well proven on several local Mugis already, so no one was surprised that the thing honked along at a pretty good clip. The best part was the visibility. Turns out that blue and yellow are an extremely easy to see color combination, which is a good thing when you're piloting a 30 inch wide wedge across the sky at over 100 MPH. I've got a fair supply of colored coroplast myself now thanks to Dick, but I haven't got anything built out of it yet.

Keyword: Yet. Some time in the near future I intend on doing a full build post on a Mugi Evo, complete with pictures and a plethora of hints and tips that I've come up with over the course of building several of these things. Stay tuned.

Shown alongside Dick's newest Mugi, is of course my battered beast. I still haven't had anyone tell me otherwise, so I'm still claiming that it was the first Mugi in Billings, possibly even the first Mugi in the state of Montana. It's still powered by the well worn Multiplex Permax 400 that I originally installed on it, and it's amazingly still kicking in spite of the 3 cell lithium polymer battery that I power it with. This is a 6 volt brushed motor, being powered by a 11.1 volt battery. Brushed Speed 400's, especially 6 volt brushed Speed 400's, aren't supposed to run on 3 cell li-po's, but this one is still kicking ass although I expect it to make a really cool smoke trail any day now. The brushes are getting mighty worn. The new servos and linkages performed flawlessly by the way. Rock solid control, better than it's ever been, and no control surface flutter even at the highest speeds I was able to attain by doing some mad high altitude dives to near ground level. For the first time since I built it, it was actually capable of sustained inverted flight as well. I finally got to make a few relatively low altitude inverted passes without stuffing it in the dirt. A welcome change indeed.

Now for the skinny on the heli.

As I mentioned before, the first flights were mostly for tuning purposes. When you build an RC heli from a kit, actually putting it together is the easy part. After it's assembled, then the real fun begins. First thing is to set up the head. All of those nifty little linkages need to be synchronized to each other for everything to work properly, and all of the links need to move freely but without any slop. First you level the swashplate, then level each set of arms all the way up the head, finishing by adjusting the blades to neutral, or 0 degrees pitch in other words, when the throttle/collective stick is centered on a linear pitch curve.

After everything is centered and leveled and moving like it's supposed to, then it's time to program the radio.

The first step in this daunting task is to get all of the servos moving in the right direction. If you move the cyclic forward, you don't want your heli to pitch backwards, and if you move the rudder stick to the left, you don't want your heli to yaw to the right. There's several parameters that need to be adjusted in order to make that happen, and all of them take time and trial and more time and more trial. A modern computer controlled radio transmitter is a complicated little bit of technology, and while programming one is usually pretty straightforward after a little experience, the first few times you do it it's a real head scratcher from time to time. I've programmed several for airplanes, but this was my first venture into the world of rotorwing aircraft.

Not only does everything need to move in the right directions, it all needs to move the proper amount. Too little travel and you may not have enough control authority to keep the heli under control if a gust of wind catches it or you need to turn suddenly to avoid an obstacle. Too much and the heli might be too touchy and near impossible to hold steady, or worse, something could bottom out in its travel and hit something else or bind. This situation can result in a torched servo, or a bent or broken linkage, and likely a crashed heli. Obviously, none of these are a desirable situation so all of the throws need to be tried and tested prior to powering up the rotor.

Now it's time to learn about curves. No, not those kind of curves pervert, although I really like those kind too. I try not to think about them when I'm flying though, it's too distracting.

On a fixed wing aircraft, moving the left stick on the transmitter up and down controls only the throttle, and it does so in a completely linear fashion. Down is low throttle or idle on a glow or gas engine/motor off on an electric plane, and up is wide open, with an infinite number of points in between. Pretty much just like the gas pedal on your car. On a heli however, the left stick also controls the pitch of the main rotor blades, and the throttle is not linear since it needs to ramp up faster as rotor pitch is added in order to keep the rotor at a nearly constant speed. Too much throttle and not enough pitch and you can overspeed the head and send parts flying, then send even more parts flying when what's left of your heli hits terra firma. Too little throttle and too much pitch and you'll bog down the motor and lose your head speed making your heli fly about as good as a meteor. Although head speed can be recovered if you've got enough altitude and quit ham fisting the rotor pitch, do it at the wrong time and it's curtains for your helicopter. It's pretty much always the wrong time to lose head speed, so it's a good idea to do some testing and make sure that your pitch and throttle curves are compatible with each other before doing any serious flying.

Most people program at least two sets of curves into their radio, one called normal or hover mode, and another called stunt mode or idle up which is used for aerobatics. In hover mode, the throttle starts at 0 so that the rotor can be spooled up gently without spinning the heli on the ground, and then ramps up sharply at the point in the stick's travel where the heli starts to lift off the ground so that the motor will be spinning plenty fast enough when the pitch starts to really come on. A typical hover mode pitch curve starts out with a nearly flat rotor, I run 2 degrees of negative pitch at the bottom on mine, then it ramps up slowly to positive 10 degrees or so by the time full throttle is reached. Full pitch/throttle is rarely used in hover mode, but it's nice to know it's there in case a rapid getaway is needed.

In stunt mode, the pitch is absolutely linear. It starts out at negative 10 or 11 degrees, and gradually moves up to positive 10 or 11 degrees at the top of the stick's travel. The throttle curve in idle up is a little different though. Since 0 pitch is at the center of the stick's travel, and full pitch is at the ends in both directions, we run full power at low stick, full power at high stick, with a slight dip in the middle to 80 or 90 percent so that the throttle curve looks like a "V". That way no matter which side of the pitch scale the heli is on, it'll have at or near full power at all times for aerobatics, but won't overspeed the head when the pitch flattens out in the middle and the rotor unloads. The lower half of the stick is used for inverted flight, the upper half is used when the shiny side is up.

This brings us to the other reason for the rapid ramp up of the throttle in normal mode. When flying an RC helicopter, you start with everything stopped, then gradually add throttle to slowly spool up the rotor. At some point after lift off, the pilot can then switch to idle up, but never before the heli is airborne. Switch to idle up on the ground or at too low of a head speed and your heli will spin like a top, likely tipping over and sending chunks flying. For that reason, we ramp up the throttle pretty quickly in normal mode so that the point where the heli is hovering on the throttle stick in normal, will be about the same in both throttle and pitch as it will be in idle up. That way the heli isn't as likely to pivot or jump when the flight mode is switched.

Simple right? Actually it is, but it's still damn time consuming programming all of those curves into a radio and taking measurements and reprogramming all of those curves into the radio, only to take more measurements and start all over once again until it's right. OK fine, it really isn't all that easy, but for people like me that like to tinker with things, it's a blast.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the gyro.

As most of you probably already know, a helicopter has a tail rotor to counteract the torque of the main rotor. Without the tail rotor, the heli would spin like mad in the opposite direction of the main rotor as soon as it left the ground. Since the torque of the main rotor is constantly changing whenever the throttle or pitch changes, we use a device called a gyro to make the heli more controllable by automatically controlling the tail rotor pitch in order to hold the heli on a constant heading. Moving the rudder stick will override the gyro and cause the heli to pivot when desired, but leaving the stick centered will once again let the gyro take over and hold the tail steady.

Before gyros, the pilot had to manually counteract main rotor torque with the rudder stick just like the pilot of a full scale helicopter would do with the yaw pedals. Early RC helis were difficult at best, and downright impossible for all but the most skilled RC flyers to manage. Counteracting the tiniest nuances of torque and yaw while sitting in a pilot seat looking forward and flying right side up is one thing. Doing it while standing on the ground and attempting to perform aerobatics is another altogether.

Did I mention that gyros don't adjust themselves either? Neither do the linkages that connect the tail rotor itself to the servo that controls it, and all of them take their orders from the almighty gyro, which has plenty of little settings and adjustments of its own.

Today was the day to find out if all of those things were going to come together and do what they were supposed to.

They did . . . . kind of.

The first couple of times that I lifted the heli off of the ground, it immediately wanted to pivot left. Obviously, a gyro issue. I began making adjustments and all was getting better, but about the time I got things to start to really steady out, there was a loud pop and chunks of the tail rotor servo went sailing across the yard. Luckily the heli was close to the ground or things could've gotten really ugly. Turns out that contrary to the advice given to me by someone that I figured should know a lot more about helis than myself, a Hitec HS50 isn't enough servo for the tail of a T-Rex. Lesson learned.

After recharging the battery and replacing the tail servo with a larger one, still not the optimum but at least big enough to handle the task, I started over trying to set up the gyro and actually managed get the heli hovering about 5 feet off of the ground for several minutes.


The tail was still pretty lively, but at least I could hold it steady with a little rudder input. I'll have to get someone with a little more experience to help me iron out the finer details after I secure a proper tail servo lest I invest a whole lot of time and still never get it right. Someone that knows their way around gyros can likely get it set up in a jiffy. I could tweak around on it for months and likely still never get it right, quite likely damaging the heli seriously in the process.

Then it seems that my good luck ran out. Right about the time the battery started to die, I thought I heard another pop, only this time from the area of the motor/gear train but immediately afterward the speed control went into throttle cut and I was forced to land. I went inside, replaced the battery, and went outside to fly again only to discover the source of the pop that I thought I'd heard.

I started to spool up, all seemed to be well, but a few seconds after the heli lifted off I heard the pop again, followed by the sound of the motor winding up as if it had no load and the rotor blades were gradually losing speed. Just as the copter settled back to earth, there was a LOUD pop, the whole heli jumped to the side, and the rotor began to spool up again only with a loud clicking noise every time that it rotated. Turns out that the one way bearing must've started slipping, allowing the main gear to spin up with the motor since it was disconnected from the rotor shaft. When the one way finally grabbed and forcefully hooked everything back together, the rotor had lost a good bit of speed, the motor had gained a good bit of the same, and the whole thing went BANG, effectively shaving a good section of teeth off of my main gear. Sort of like sitting at a stoplight, revving your engine to the max, and then jamming your car into gear without ever pushing in the clutch. Ouch.

Seems that I need some more pieces before I can do any more whirly bird flying, like a new main gear and a new one way bearing.

So the short answer to "i am cheap" aka "Closet Flyer's" question left in the comments of my previous post is both yes, and no. Yes, the T-Rex flew, for the better part of a battery pack actually. Yes, it's broken. And no, I didn't crash it and it won't be hard to fix. I even did my first autorotation today, two of them actually, even if they were only from two feet off of the ground.

Sorry I didn't get the video that I wanted, but about the time I got stuff ironed out and got the heli off of the ground, the battery went dead in the camera. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all it seems. There wasn't much to see anyway, just a pathetic helicopter noob doing a not too terrible but not all that good job of hovering a helicopter and thanking all things kind and good in the world that he had the good sense to install training gear (sticks with ping pong balls on the ends attached to the landing skids to help keep the heli from tipping over and sending chunks flying - My wife calls them training balls and thinks it's really funny) before attempting the task.

Special thanks to "finless" Bob White over at for his outrageously thorough and well made, and absolutely free for the downloading instructional video series on the T-Rex 450. I'd never have made it this far without some serious help from my heli flying friends without all of the knowledge that I've gained from his videos. He has loads of instructional videos on the building, tuning, and flying of several other RC helis posted as well, and all can be found in the Helifreak forums.

As far as the vehicle situation? Do you actually think that I had time to fix the car with all that helicopter tinkering going on? It's OK, I took her out to dinner just to make sure that she won't mind driving the Ford for another week or accidentally set the refrigerator on top of my T-Rex.

As for the rest of my evening? I don't know, maybe I'll work on this.

It started out as a toy free flight plane, but it'll be a full blown micro scale RC kinda sorta Piper Cub when I'm done with it. It's about half way there now, with only a few more minor details to iron out and parts to install before flight testing. The control surfaces have been hinged, the motor and speed control installed and taxi tested, and check out my made from scratch ultra strong and uber lightweight custom carbon fiber landing gear. This one's only a three channel, with rudder, elevator, and throttle control, but if it works the next one's going to have full four channel control, or at least ailerons instead of rudder. Maybe I'll convert one of these for the ultimate in micro scale cool factor.

Projects like this give me something to do while I'm waiting for helicopter parts. Projects like this also serve to confirm everyone's strong suspicions that I'm certifiably bat shit crazy.

You wouldn't want me any other way.

Oh What A Beautiful Morning . . . . . Oh What A Beautiful Day . . . . . . .

I've got a Krispy Kreme doooooonut,

And I really don't care what I weigh.

OK, I cribbed that one from my sister, but I don't care who ya are, that's funny right there.

It's early, I'm awake, the birds are chirping, the Billings airport METAR reports a wind of 8 knots out of the West/Southwest which isn't too ridiculous, and I've got flying things ready to load in the old Ford and head out to the park. Sorry, no insurance on the Mugi Mobile yet. Must have patience young grasshopper, must have patience. You're gonna love the Mugi Mobile. No . . . . . It's not a VW Bus unfortunately, but it's damn sure not bad for what I payed for it. It's not 4 wheel drive though . . . . . . . Nuts.

Mostly I'm just having a really hard time deciding which one of my beloved pick up trucks I'm going to drop the insurance on. I'm already paying for insurance on three outfits, and that's enough. I really like the big diesel Ford, but my old blue GMC just has too much sentimental value. Maybe I should drop the insurance on the car since it seems to be making a particularly bad nuisance of itself lately, and give the Ford to the Mrs. That way I could keep both of the trucks, and the Mugi Mobile. Since I'll once again be spending the afternoon with wrench in hand underneath the wife's family truckster, I'll have a little better idea as to which one gets the axe by this evening.

The old Cavalier has been a great car, I've gotten 10 good years out of it, but it's getting to the point where I really want to say "enough is enough". On the bright side however, about 75% of the expendable parts of the car are under lifetime warranty, with more soon to come, so if I keep this up I'll have a Rolls Royce before long. If the damn thing "fails to proceed" about one more time however, I'm likely to have a really cool bonfire out in my yard when I douse it with gasoline and toss in a match. Oh well, the old piece of shit could've busted in two 5 years ago, and it still wouldn't have owed me a dime so I guess I should quit complaining.

Before the wrench twisting proceedings commence however, there's a little something that's way overdue to leave the ground under its own power. Since there's a whole lot of folks around here that want to bear witness to the first tuning flights, the test flight will be delayed until after I return from the park. This one will be tested right here at the Big J Enterprises World Headquarters, and I intend on getting video of the occasion . . . . . . . Win, lose, or crash. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

So I Still Haven't Taken Pictures Of All Of The Airplane Projects . . . . .

You know how it is. Work, Life, Easter holiday, goofing off flying RC airplanes, you know, important stuff.

The helicopter is getting really close to being done, or at least I think it is. If simplicity and instant gratification are your thing, do yourself a favor and stay away from RC helicopters. If you like figuring out mechanical problems and tinkering with itty bitty little parts, then helis are for you my friend. Did you know that Murphy's law counts double for whirly birds?

There's currently 6, yes count 'em, 6 Mugis in various stages of assembly and 3 of them just happen to be made of the coveted transparent coroplast. I'm converting a little bitty tiny free flight toy Piper Cub to radio control and it's almost done. I've scored some really cheap and cool motors and speed controls off of ebay lately that are already slated for various other projects including a few of the aforementioned Mugi Evos.

My Fokker Mugi had an unfortunate high speed encounter with terra firma a couple weeks ago and is still awaiting repair, which is yet another testament to the durability of Morgan's design. This thing drilled pavement at about 90 MPH, AND IT'S REPAIRABLE! Find me another RC model that could do that. I never did get a definite top speed rating on the thing, partly thanks to a finicky speed control that just couldn't handle the mad RPMs of my top secret Mugi race motor. Unfortunately/fortunately however, the speed control didn't survive the crash and will therefore be replaced with one that's hopefully a little more up to the task. Bench testing of this speed control with my motor shows favorable results. Flight tests will commence shortly.

My other Mugi was recently the recipient of new servos as well as the new and improved Big J Aviation Slop Free Mugi Elevon Linkage System which will hopefully alleviate the dreadful control surface flutter that took the servos out in the first place. Flight testing to commence as soon as the weather is appropriate and work schedule allows. This was the first Mugi that I built, and I can't say that it was my best effort. More of an experiment than anything, and the fit and finish on the control linkages have always left a little to be desired. They don't anymore.

My IFO is now the beneficiary of brushless power since a GWS IPS motor can't seem to handle a 3 cell li-poly battery for more than about 5 minutes without making a really cool smoke trail across the sky. What's an IFO you ask? Here's a picture, or better yet, ask these guys.

An IFO looks like a big pair of flying panties, but they're about as much fun as a guy can have without actually sending a pair of panties flying, especially if he doesn't have a lot of room to fly . . . . . . . airplanes that is, not panties. I don't think you'd want to try flying one of these in your bedroom, unless you have a really big bedroom. I built this bad boy for the days when I don't have time to go to the park. I fly it right in my front yard. Loads of fun looping around all the power lines, which will be a whole lot more fun I'm sure now that it has about 3 times the thrust that it used to. All that excess power should translate into an insane rate of climb, provided that the airframe can handle it. At any rate, I shouldn't have to worry about being able to climb enough to clear my shop after launching it off of my deck anymore, it should be able to go vertical as far as I want it to with this motor.

I do have pictures of the "been finished for freakin' weeks" driveway!

No more mud in the front driveway!

No more mud in the back driveway!

Even a good skid steer operator needs a supervisor sometimes.

I am not a good skid steer operator.

Well that's all I have time for today folks. I had a short night last night and therefore have a couple hours of free time on my hands. I've already burned up a good part of it blogging, now I'm off to try to make something airworthy before the weekend. I'll take pictures of the planes soon, I promise. Besides, you definitely don't want to miss the blog debut of the Mugi Mobile. ;)