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Here are a few of the projects I've built or worked on over the last 20 or so years, along with some other things I think are kind of neat. Some of the airplane projects were kits, while others are my own designs (which may become plans for sale in the future).

RV-3 and RV-4

In the late 1990s my friend Graeme and I bought a partially-built Van’s Aircraft RV-3 kit, which we worked on for a couple of years.  We got it to the stage of assembling the wings and had the fuselage partly completed – even did a little hangar flying in it (see two pics below).  However, our aircraft of choice was always an RV-4 (because then we could take other people for rides – impossible in the single-seat RV-3), so we eventually got rid of the -3 and bought a partially completed RV-4 (at right).  We worked on this for a year or two, until both of our lives got too busy and priorities changed. 

Styrofoam Twin

Below left is a simple Styrofoam airplane I built (carved with a hot wire, mostly) in 2005.  It is radio- controlled, but has no control surfaces.  Instead, the two electric motors can be throttled together to climb or descend, or separately to turn.  I had acquired a slightly damaged airplane from a store for free (just like the one shown below right, sitting on the hood of a Land Rover Defender), which was built around this radio/battery/powerplant combination, but on fixing the damage I found the original airplane to be really hard to fly – it had much too small of a wingspan for its weight.  So I set about building what you see here, which is more of a powered glider.  It actually flew really well, at the speed of a fast jog, and I had a lot of fun with it on calm evenings.

F-4 Phantom II

Here’s a picture I took of an F-4 Phantom launching at dusk off of Point Mugu sometime in the mid-1970s.  No, not really.  It’s a 1/48 scale plastic model I built in the early 1990s.  For awhile I thought it was neat to put lights into my plastic models; this one had a flashlight bulb in each jetpipe and a bunch of tiny incandescent bulbs serving as nav lights, cockpit lights, and landing lights (these lights really were tiny – about 1/16” in diameter and ran on 1.5 Volts.  Used to be able to get them at Radio Shack).  You can see a wire running from each main gear that connects to a battery off-camera.  The photo was taken with the airplane sitting on the roof of my car, and it really was just luck that the lighting turned out like it did and that the picture is slightly grainy.

Firefox

This is a "drawn-from-memory-sorta-scale" MiG-31 Firefox  (not the real MiG-31; this is from the Clint Eastwood movie "Firefox") that I designed and built in 1993. Cox .049 pusher for power, controls are ailerons for roll and canards for pitch. It was supposed to be a hand-launched aircraft, and as the little Coxes don't have throttles, would fly till the fuel ran out and then glide in for landing. It was airborne twice, both times carried up on a cradle mounted on a Sig Kadet MK II, then released from a couple hundred feet to test its glide. Both times upon release it immediately flipped upside-down and floated down that way, perfectly level, just like it was hanging from a parachute. No control inputs would change its gentle descent. I moved on to other projects before getting to the bottom of the problem (which sounds like a balance issue). The airplane still hangs in my shop. Maybe someday…

Step-Up

At right (and below, on the hood of my first car, a ‘62  Pontiac Stratochief) is an Enya .21CX-powered Step-Up from the Model Airplane News plans, which I built sometime in 1990 or 1991. I find its construction interesting, particularly since the floats are built up from balsa wood and then covered in Monokote, as per the plans. This makes for a pair of really lightweight floats. It was my first (and so far, only) floatplane.  It flew well and was a lot of fun until one day when the ailerons jammed at full deflection while doing a roll during a summer family gathering. It's amazing how hard water is at 50-60 mph. Luckily my cousins had a fishing boat handy, so  we were able to salvage all the pieces. Camel This is a very un-airworthy full-scale camel, built for a Christmas event called Bethlehem Live, which our church has  put on for the past few years. The camel has a wooden structure, then a layer of Styrofoam on top of that, carved and sanded to give it a more rounded shape. On top of that is a couple of layers of fiberglass cloth. Paint is latex house paint over a fiberglass-adhering latex primer. The detail painting was done by some very skilled friends. Below is a picture of its left eye. The eyes are 38mm moose eyes from a taxidermist, which look very real and bring the face to life. The camel is between 7 and 8 feet tall (just fits under the rafters in my garage) and probably weighs a good 150 lbs. The front legs are removable, so the body can tilt down and fit through a standard-sized door. All four feet have casters embedded in them. It was a fun project, though I think building a life-sized sheep might be a little less time-consuming. Flying Saucer Shown here is a side-view sketch of a flying saucer (the right half is a cutaway view), sized for a .25 glow engine. I thought this might be able to hover based on Bernoulli's principle – the impeller simply blows air at high velocity over the top surface; the reduced pressure should create some lift, though I haven't done any calculations to see if it would be enough to get the saucer off the ground. Lacking a proper centrifugal impeller, I've never built it to test the theory. Nowadays, I bet it would be easier to use a high- powered electric motor spinning a vacuum cleaner impeller or something similar. Any ideas? Aerobat Here's the first Aerobat, shown sometime in 1993. Power was an Enya .21CX (earlier I'd had this engine in a modified Great Planes Electricub, and then a Sig Kadet Seniorita. It went through a lot and was a good engine). The wings were held on with rubber bands, all control surfaces were hinged with Monokote, and the rear fuselage was built-up instead of sheet. All these items had been revised by the time I built the Aerobat II and then the IIB (plans available on the Products page). The Aerobat IIB also has a differently-shaped fin/rudder and horizontal stab/elevator, though the wing planform, airfoil, and fuselage shape were all retained. The original Aerobat turned out to be my favorite airplane up till that time (of all the RC aircraft I've flown since, the Aerobat IIB is still my favorite), and lived on for nearly 200 flights until, oil- soaked and carrying many repairs and modifications, it was retired, superseded by a newer version. Spacewalker A Sig Spacewalker II, which I custom-built for a local pilot, completed in June 2011 (I did about half the building and all the finishing). It's the ¼ scale version with a wingspan of 7 feet. Power is a Saito 150 4- stroke, and it's covered in Sig Koverall and dope. An interesting note to anyone contemplating building this aircraft: a Great Planes ¼ scale pilot is almost an inch too wide in the shoulders to fit into the rear cockpit, but a Williams Bros pilot fits perfectly. The yellow dope is Sig Supercoat, which went on nicely. The red is Randolph Tennessee Red full-scale aircraft butyrate dope, which is not model-fuel proof (at least the two coats I put on this aircraft aren't). A rag wetted with 10% nitro fuel rubs the red right off, but won't even touch the Sig yellow. Anyway, good thing I checked before the first engine run; a final couple coats of Sig Supercoat clear over the whole thing sealed it all up. As of the date of this writing, the aircraft hasn't flown yet, but it looks like it'd be a real nice flier. Mustang This is a 24" span, Cox .049-powered P-51 Mustang I designed and built. It flies pretty well on just two channels (aileron and elevator), and is certainly easy to transport. DC-3 A DC-3 I built for a friend back in 2003 or so as a static display model from the Top Flite kit. 82" span (if I remember correctly). It has landing and navigation lights, Robart pneumatic retracts, working flaps, and two electric motors driving the props at low RPM. I fiberglassed and painted it instead of using iron-on covering. Extra I built this Extra 3.25 in the late 1990s from the Model Airplane News plans by Rich Uravitch and modified it to include a widened front fuselage and a Webra .40 for power. It flew decently (probably would have been better to use a .25 though, as the .40 made it a little too heavy to be a really nice flier).  Saskatchewan residents should appreciate the color scheme. Spitfire Mk XIV This is a 9.6% scale Spitfire MK XIV I designed and built in about 2000. Power was an OS 25FX. A fifth channel operated a modified servo to raise or lower the gear through a gearbox and linkages. Finish is fiberglass and paint, wingspan about 42". It flew once and crashed about 2 minutes into the flight (ouch). F-18 An .09 pusher-powered F-18 with retractable gear, from my  own plans, about 1993. Wingspan around 2 feet. The gear proved too spindly to take off with, so it was hand- launched for its maiden voyage. Unfortunately, part of the rear fuselage caught on the hand-launcher's hand and it rolled into the ground before I could save it. Oops. Another F-18 This is a radio-controlled, rocket-powered CF-18 Hornet I  designed and built back in about 1996/97.  Scale is 1/28.8 (not sure how I arrived at that ratio), which made it about 23” long with a 16” span.  It was designed to be launched vertically with an Estes D12 rocket engine, and then glide back down.  The only control surfaces were the all-moving stabilators, which were mechanically mixed to move together for pitch control and in opposite directions for roll control.  All-up weight was about 6 oz.  It was glide-tested by carrying it up on a cradle attached to a Sig Kadet, and then releasing it at a few hundred feed of altitude.  The glide angle was similar to that of a Space Shuttle coming in for landing, but it was very controllable.  I launched it once under its own rocket power, and it did a 20-foot-diameter loop so fast I hardly had time to blink before it was back on the ground, engine still burning.  That kind of gave me a scare and I couldn’t think of a good way to modify it to work better, so I never did try it again.

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