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
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".
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
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
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
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!
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!
BREAKTHROUGH! Click here!