Friday, October 19, 2012

My Dreams of Flight past, present and future

This morning I awoke thinking back over time of all my dreams as far back as a child when I dreamed about flying. I can only remember one bad dream about flying when I was about 4 years old. I had it about when my dad said the day before “ if you don't eat your pancakes your going to dry up and blow away”. That night I dreamed I dried up and blew away flying high above the houses I looked down calling for help. My mom heard me and went and called the fire department that came with there ladder trucks to try to recover me as I was spinning in a swirl of wind around our house. The big ladder trucks put up the ladder but it was already too late I was much too high for them to reach. As my dad on the ground tells my mom “see I told him he was going to dry up and blow away if he didn't eat his pancakes”. The dream ended as strangely as it began with no real ending as I guess most dreams do by some how blending into the next dream that you may never remember or broken from an awakening. I had much better dreams of flying as one I remember I could flap my arms very hard and I could get off the ground about 6 feet or so but soon I would tire and had to land after only 5 seconds. I showed my friends Donald and Steve in my dream look I can fly and I would show them how to do it but they weren't able to fly only I was. And that was the end of that dream as I must have awoke. Later as I grew older the dreams became day dreams when my dad brought an old tube tester home when I was about 10 years old that must have had 1000 knobs and dials and gauges that we could see and turn and touch. So that was it this looked to me like the controls of my new airplane. I got the wheel barrel and put a two by 6 board on top of it that must have been in my dad's wood scraps pile for the wing and set our new control panel (tube tester) on top and set it on the edge of the hill in our yard between the next house next door. Me and a few of my friends Walter and his brother Brad at the time sat and played with the knobs and dreamed of take offs and landings and a few crashes were our plane would fall over. Later as the years went on in high school when I must have been about 15 years old a friend of mine Zackery told me they had started to make hang gliders out of bamboo and plastic sheets and could fly them at the beach by tethering them to ropes and pull them up in the wind like a kite. I later saw some people fly one similar to it in Kailua Hawaii not far from our house from a small 200 foot hill. I climbed up the hill with them on one of there next flights and watched them fly from the top of the hill. I looked at how simple the design was as a very simple Regolo wing and I thought sure I could build one. I told my dad about it and he went out with me one day to this hill were we saw one land and we took down the measurements of each of the tubes in this wing. So that was it I had almost all I needed. I knew not far from our house in the forest of a cluster of bamboo growing. I hiked out to the bamboo field and cut down the raw material needed for the frame of my new glider and dragged it home. I also wanted to use as much of the same material as possible of what I saw them fly at the hill that looked like sail boat sail material (Dacron). So I put up an add on a board at my dad's club at Kaneohe Yacht club for anyone that had some old used sails they could part with. I soon got a call of some member of my dad's club that had lots of old sails they he was glad to give me to use and offered them to me for free. So with that and some steel cables that my dad used on his boat for the mast stays and the bamboo I had collected, me and my dad went and built my first Regolo hang glider. When it was done I took it to a hill near our house in a cow pasture. I attempted several flights with it but Luckily it broke before it ever got airborne. Here's what a regallo wing that built looked like: remind you this is not a picture of the one that I build as mine never got off the ground. but from that failure the dream continued to grow. It took many years after that before I really got into Hang gliding around year 1991. I had taken a few lessons before 1991 but finally went all the way and got a used wills wing harrier II glider for $900 and got certified in Marina beach hang gliding school that was located about 200 miles from where I lived at the time. I later got rated to fly off Kagel Mountain by Joe Greblo that was only 45 minuets from where I was living at the time in Los Angeles. I have now collected about 1000 or more hours of airtime in hang gliders over the 10 years that I flew them. Even before I got into hang gliding I was into remote control gliders as that's what kept me from getting started in Hang Gliding for a time. That started when I was on my way home from work on a road next to the beach not far from where I lived at the time around 1986, where I saw one guy flying a remote controlled glider off the small 20 foot sand dune near the beach. I couldn't believe how it could continue to fly with no motors. I ended up talking to this guy Steve for some time asking all I could about how it worked and were I might get one. I ended up getting a used 2 by 6 foot standard polyhedral glider I found in the news paper for $100 with all the radio servos battery and charger. I soon ran down to the beach and attempted to fly it and broke it in only 4 short attempted flights. So I took it home and fixed it and the next day I took it to the hill where I saw Steve fling at the beach again. With Steves help I was able to glide my new r/c from the dune with no problem and later with Steves help and over time was able learn to keep it over the hill and keep it in the air without crashing. From that I went crazy with remote gliders and later moved to fly from a bigger hill in Redondo beach that had more lift and where I met other people with much faster and better gliders that also flew there. I soon had a faster ridge glider but soon moved up to a smaller even faster better glider that had a 43 inch wing span that I flew for a few years with only small changes mostly in stronger heavier wing construction using fiberglass instead of balsa sheeting. I found a photo of a wing shaped like my old siliwet but not the one I really flew back in the day here: . We would fly at Redondo beach and also later off the cliffs in Palos Verdes that had a perfect shape hill cliff with lots of lift where we would fly 3 pound 53 inch wingspan gliders at close to 100 mph. Another era came with the event of the Zagi flying wing glider. With no fuse and no stabilizers it was much harder to brake even with a hard crash. It used a soft EPP foam on the leading edge that made it bounce off objects and reform to it's original shape without breaking the wing or the objects they hit. This started a new fun sport of airborne flight battles between 2 or sometimes up to 4 or 5 other wings at the same time. The goal was to be the last one still flying. Normally nothing would get broken when you were forced to the ground or worst case we would strip a servo gear that only cost $2 to fix and would happen maybe once per month if you were lucky. I see on youtube a group of people (not me) that still play the aircombat with zagi like aircraft as seen here: . fun as hell I might add. I even tried to get this combat working again with electric wings but it's not at all the same and not as fun with motors. We also when not in battle mode we would try to fly very close to each other at times to the point of a gentle touch of each others wings and also formation flying was fun. When I got into Hang gliding I had mostly left my remote world behind. But a return came when the electric zagi flying wing appeared. With these we could fly our electric zagi after we landed our hang gliders opening a new world of powered electric flight. When I moved to Thailand in the year 2002 I brought one of my remote control receiver transmitter sets with me and one of my old zagi motors and a speed controllers. I left the zagi wing behind as it was to hard to transport to Thailand and I knew I would be able to build one from material I could find in Thailand. I later researched how to build my own zagi like flying wings on the Internet. My first was a close to the same shape and size as my original zagi I had in the states, so that I could use my original zagi electric motor to drive it. My first prototype wing I used an MH45 airfoil that I thought would be a bit faster as it was a bit thiner than the zagi airfoil but that ended up being too unstable in flight so my second prototype I used a standard zagi airfoil that I also found on the Internet, that ended up flying very well. I was able to soar it from the ridge lift of the top of a 17 floor building that I lived in at the time located in Jomtien called the view talay #2 building. I later adapted it with a motor pod with my original motorized zagi motor, batteries and speed controller. With that I was able to fly at the beach. But I only had 3 500mah nicad batteries that even when they were new only provided for a 4 minuet flight at best. Over time they no longer could hold a charge for even a 1 minuet flight. I also couldn't find replacements here in Thailand or at least not in Pattaya for these batteries. so I went for years without flying my planes due to lack of battery power. I did design one smaller version of a zagi made as a glider that was easy to transport but I never found a good hill to fly it from on a regular basis. The years clicked by when one day a guy named Paul appeared on the beach of Pattaya around July 2012 flying some electric planes and one electric flying wing. I hooked up with him and his friend Adam showed me a new hobby shop that had opened near Pattaya that had a whole new world of electric flight parts available the likes I had never seen before including lipo batteries and new improved powerful 3 phase motors and speed controllers and some very good propellers. With these and a few other new parts I could not only get my plane to fly again. I could get them to fly much faster and better at closer to and later including vertical flight was now possible and with even longer flights on a single charge. With these new advancements I designed another slightly modified version of one of my smaller planes that I now call the S2. At present it's my favorite plane that flys at almost 100mph at full speed level flight and has thrust capable of almost unlimited vertical flight. Part of this was also possible with some new material I found in the new hobby shop that included carbon fiber tubing. This enables me to make very light stiff airfoils that can withstand up to 10G forces in flight with only a 530 gram aircraft including a 2200 mah battery. In my absents from the R/C world there have been other new tech items I have recently found on the market that I now have plans to get involved in including FPV (first person view). FPV is so cool as you fly a remote aircraft as if you are riding inside it by a visual view that is sent from the plane over a video transmitter link to a pear of googles that the pilot wears to view what would be seen as if sitting in the cockpit of the aircraft. I plan to design another flying wing suitable for a set of this video transmitter equipment as one of my next projects. It's hard to say were things will go from there as you might see some video's of other peoples amazing video creations shared on youtube.com made from FPV aircraft to get an idea of what is now possible. I have added a few links of these video's to my favorite links article for others to see what I speak of. I hope to share some of my own creations of recorded FPV flights some time in the near future. I also have interest in this new Quad prop vertical flight aircraft. Similar to helicopters but simplified thanks to inexpensive optical gyro chips that are now available to stabilize the flight of this type of vehicle. These new aircraft can also carry FPV and photo equipment to very cool locations to view some really cool things. That would be another step that will require new skill to fly this new aircraft in both FPV and visual mode of flight. I also have ideas of building another plane or flying wing big enough to carry a single person into flight using electric motors and lipo batteries designed for R/C aircraft. The goal is to design a very inexpensive ultralight aircraft that almost anyone can build from easy to obtain inexpensive materials with a total price of material to be around $2000. The first flight at that price will only include batteries to fly for about 10 minuets but will be designed to carry up to 30 to 60 minuets of battery power for future flights if successful. As I have done more research on this project it starts to appear that it might not be feasible without more help from others. But at this point it's just another dream and part of the fun is sometimes just dreaming about it. With time I can only hope that more of my dreams will continue to become realities as they have in the past. As time and technology continues to move on, the list of things that we can see and do continues to grow. Remember all of this started with just a dream. So keep on dreaming. Written by Scott Carlson (c) 2012