My Unexpected



This is as far as I got building model planes back in the good old days.  This was the last U-Control plane I built.  That's me on the right.  I was attending Gunnery Radar School in San Diego, California.
I named this plane "The Admiral"
I was in the Navy and would spend the next three years on the aircraft carrier; USS Hancock  CVA-19.
On April 10th, 2003 I took early retirement at the age of 62.  E-ha!

June 15th, 2003, while on vacation in Washington State, my three children combined forces and surprised me with a Radio Controlled model airplane for my Retirement Present!!!  They gave me the whole ball of wax!  A Duraplane 40 trainer and all the stuff necessary to put it together and get it ready to fly!  Even a four channel transmitter, receiver, and four servos!  I had always wanted to try Radio Control in my younger days but I could never afford it.

Vacation over I arrived back home and finished the assembly of my new plane  Then I started looking around for the closest hobby shop.  I needed to buy some fuel, a starter, and the glow plug igniter.  I discovered the closest hobby shop was either in Willits, Ca., or Ukiah, Ca.!  Only a one hundred miles round trip either way!  Oh well!  Good thing I'm retired!

  One hundred miles and one hundred and fifty dollars later I return home with one gallon of fuel, a twelve volt battery, a starter, a glow plug igniter, and some stick-on decorator tape!  No wonder I never got into Radio Controlled airplanes!

Where will I fly it?

Lolli had a student several years ago who was a retired guy who built and flew radio controlled planes.  Lolli looked up his phone number and I gave him a call.  It turns out that not only is Neil still involved with model planes he is the President of the local flying club, "The Fort Bragg Fog Busters"!  Neil tells me about an upcoming event, the Rogue Valley Flyers 13th annual Lake Selmac Float Fly near Cave Junction, Oregon.  He is going and tells me, "It is a weekend event and there are places to camp".  Perfect.

I drive up, camp in my Vanagon, and check out all the amazing planes.  I also get to meet some of the folks involved in this sport.  There are folks from Oregon, Washington, California, and Nevada.  Huge planes and small.  Single engine and twins!  Floats and seaplanes.  And, beautiful weather.  I met Dick Lucas, another member of the Fort Bragg club, and he agrees to be my instructor when we get back.  I also met Mike Brown from Red Bluff who let me try flying his LazyBee a couple of times.  I learned real quick that it requires a soft touch as Mike snatched back the transmitter several time to save his plane from certain disaster!

Back home I send off for my AMA license (Academy of Model Aeronautics) so I will have liability insurance and I make an appointment with Dick for my first flying lesson on Sunday, July 27th, at the flying field.  The field is closed during the week due to logging trucks using the access road.  Bummer.

Sunday, Dick takes my plane up and checks it out to make sure it flies okay.  After a few adjustments he hands me the transmitter.  Oh oh!  He takes the transmitter back and gets the airplane straight and level.  He hands me the transmitter.  Oh oh!  He takes the transmitter back and gets the plane straightened out again!!  Man o man, this is tougher than I thought!!  After four attempts at flying big lazy circles around the field we call it a day.  We will meet again next Saturday.

During the week the RealFlight G-2 Simulator software I ordered arrives.  Only another two hundred bucks into this new hobby!  I load it into my computer and soon I am flying and crashing just like in real life!!  Man o man, this is harder than I thought!

I spend most of the week practicing with the simulator software.

I meet Dick at the flying field at 9:00 AM Saturday, August 2nd. A beautiful day. No wind. Another club member shows up to fly his new plane. Just the three of us, Dick, myself and Steve. Dick and I get my plane fueled, started, and running good and Dick takes it up. After he gets it flying level and steady he hands the transmitter to me.   I fly some laps doing good on the turns. Then I do a few figure eights. The engine starts to surge and so I hand the transmitter back to Dick and he brings it in for a landing.

I carry it to the bench and we decide I might have too long a fuel line inside the gas tank to the pick-up and it is hanging up. I pull the engine mount and unscrew the fitting, then shorten the hose a quarter inch. We put it back together, fuel up, and Dick puts it up into the air again. Soon he hands the transmitter to me and I fly some more laps and figure eights. Dick says I am doing real good! I have not told him about the blister on my right thumb from flying the simulator all week!!

Dick says, "Why not make some passes like you are getting ready to land?" He has me fly down field, make a big turn, and then has me try to line up with the fence in front of the pit area and do a pass parallel to the fence. I give it a try and am quite a ways off. I go around and try it again but this time I am getting too low. It is a better pass but Dick wants me to gain some elevation, go around, and try it again. I get involved with trying to gain elevation, make my turn at the same time, and things start getting hosed up. I over correct and end up even lower and going the wrong way... !!

Well, I live in Northern Californie and we have lots of trees around here. In fact we have redwood trees around here and we have big redwood trees all around our little flying field. My plane disappears behind some big redwood trees. I can still hear it going and I am jerking on the controls but I have no idea what I am doing, where it is going, and it is way too late to hand the transmitter back to Dick. Suddenly we hear a sad sounding crunch and then it becomes very quiet. Steve turns to me and says...

"Welcome to the club!"

Well, Shucks! Damn damn damn! I had really thought I would be the one to learn to fly my Duroplane 40 trainer and never, ever, put a dent in it!

Yeah right!

Dick and I walk across the field and start looking for it. It takes some searching but I finally spot it. It is nestled in the branches of some kind of leafy type tree thirty feet above the blackberries, poison oak, and nettles. Damn!

I go back to my Vanagon and get my roll of nylon string and the hemp rope I use to tie up my hammock. I tie a spark plug socket on the end of the nylon line and try throwing it up over a branch near the plane. I manage to get the socket tangled in a branch and have to cut the line and leave it hanging up there like a Christmas tree ornament!

Next I tie on a 19mm combination wrench. Hey! It's only tools!

Finally I am able to get up over a branch close to the plane and even get the wrench back down on the other side. We tie on the hemp rope and pull it up and over the branch and back down to the ground. We tie the ends together and try pulling and shaking the tree. No go. Alright, time to get serious. Steve has a nylon tow strap and with that attached to the doubled up rope and the other end wrapped around Dick's Toyota pick-up bumper we really start pulling! Finally, the rope breaks! Drat! It is coming up on noon. Dick says he has to get home. Steve has already left but was good enough to leave me his tow strap.

Dick and I leave. I head back to Fort Bragg and then think of my friend Jim. He lives in north Fort Bragg only about six miles from the flying field. I stop by his house to see if he is home. I am in luck. He is home and I am in time for lunch!!

We do lunch and then go out to his work shop. We load a twenty foot extension ladder, an extendable aluminum pole for painting high ceilings with a hook on the end, a good climbing rope, loppers, and a chainsaw into my Vanagon. We are now ready for battle!!

Back to the field. We end up having to pull and break off lower branches that are in our way. Bit by bit we clear the approach to the target. Finally I am all the way to the top of the ladder, Jim is standing on the bottom to help steady it. I get the pole's hook snagged on the prop shaft of the plane and finally nudge it from its resting place. It comes down and lands in the brush.

I got in two flights with my plane the first hour and it took five hours to retrieve it!!

Anyway, not too bad. The right leading edge is rumpled, the landing gear is tweaked and the rubber bands have cut into the wing on the left side.

By five in the evening I have it ready to fly again! Jim's heat gun took the wrinkles out! I used a bench vice and my Crescent wrench to straighten the aluminum landing gear, I removed the glow plug and spun the engine over with the starter to get any possible debris out of the carburetor, and I used some Gorilla Glue to repair the cut in the wing the rubber bands had made.

Life is good!

Dick and I have an appointment for Saturday, the 9th of August.  Meanwhile, it's back to the simulator!

Stay tuned!

August 31. BREAKTHROUGH!  Click here!


Well, maybe the 18 years I spent working at Boeing, in the Wind tunnel Model Shop counts for something.  In this photo I am getting a 767 wing ready for testing in the wind tunnel in at Moffet Field, San Jose, California.

Now I have my very first Radio Controlled airplane!  Yes, it is only a trainer and I have been told to not fall in love with your first plane too much, in fact don't spend too much time decorating it either.
"It won't last long"!!

Well, shucks!   Here I am on a twenty foot ladder with a long pole and a rope trying to retrieve my airplane!!


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