Tyler II

, Springfield

, Nebraska

, United States

Posted on
2020-02-13 23:13:47
“I think my story begins when I was four years old. I was born into an Air Force family and my earliest memories include watching aircraft operations on Elmendorf AFB through my bedroom window. I still remember a trip my Dad’s squadron took to Kodiak (he was a piano player in the Air Force band) for some kind of TDY. The squadron members must have been allowed to take their families along. We flew to Kodiak in a C-130, and once we were at cruise the flight crew invited the kids up to the cockpit one at a time to sit in the right seat. I was allowed to hold the yoke and was made to believe I was flying the plane. I was spellbound by the view (no/few windows in the cargo hold from the jump seats.) I remember the pilot showing me how to push on the yoke to pitch down and pull back to pitch up. After that experience I was certain that I was going to be a pilot when I grew up. Not long after that, one morning after breakfast my dad produced a small toy airplane and started turning the propeller around and around with his finger. I remember he did this for quite a long time and then beckoned me outside. He had me stand out in the yard while he stood up on the porch, and released the first rubber-powered model airplane I’d ever seen. I was transfixed. I spent the rest of the day trying to repeat the experience before some bigger kids came along and destroyed it while trying to help. As I grew older and became aware of radio controlled aircraft, my life goals pretty much revolved around doing whatever it took to obtain the necessary funds to obtain the equipment I needed. I was 12 by the time I was building and teaching myself to fly a 2-meter glider. (Carl Goldberg Gentle Lady.) I had also been through several blow-molded line controlled .049 cubic inch methanol fueled planes, so my glider was actually powered by a conglomeration of engine parts scavenged from the wrecked remains of those Cox-branded ARFs…I believe I had sent a Cessna and at least three P-39’s to their demise. The Gentle Lady was equipped with an amplitude modulated Cox/Sanwa 2-channel system. So if I got the engine to run, it would run wide open until it ran out of fuel, at which point I would hopefully have several mistakes worth of altitude to guide her back to the same relative vicinity of the launch point as uneventfully as possible. The glider took me over year to build from balsa wood. The delicate frame was covered with colored transparent Mylar that had a heat-activated adhesive layer. I remember the construction being completed in phases due to moving around (military family) which further complicated things. It did not take long to turn that model into scrap because I had no mentor. However, I did have a subscription to Model Airplane News, and Randy Randolph had graciously published one of his designs in a pullout format; full sized plans for a “Bee-Tween” included in July 1991’s issue. I could get all the wood I needed to build one for about $15 from Sig. I would save up the money, ride my bike to the grocery store with the order form all ready in an envelope, buy a cashier’s check, and drop the whole thing in a mailbox. When the box from Sig arrived a few weeks later, construction commenced. I repeated this exercise a half dozen times with the Bee-Tween over the course of two summers before I could consistently accomplish the mission of my Gentle Lady’s maiden flight; while the engine was running, climb to several mistakes in altitude, then glide it back to a landing somewhere near the launch point. I also remember getting a styrofoam glider from Lanier, it was quite large and resembled a U-2. I think it was called a Condor, and I believe it was intended for use as a “chuck” glider. I gouged out holes in the fuselage and stuffed servos into them, mounting the receiver and battery similarly. Rudder and elevator were fashioned from cardboard and taped on. I cut the nose off flat and epoxied on a piece of plywood to bolt an engine to. This ship was the one that I was able to really get good at flying my mission. It was very stable and slow, and could easily achieve many mistakes in altitude on a three minute engine run. I’m not sure what ever happened to that plane because its last flight was with an unpowered receiver; I tended to keep my onboard electronics switched off while monkeying with the engine so I could save the alkaline batteries, so my final lesson with the Condor was to always wiggle the rudder stick on the transmitter while watching the rudder on the plane for movement before every launch. That cost me an engine and radio equipment and set me back a lot. Even though I had my AMA number, name, address, and phone number written on the craft, I never heard of it being found. Up to this point I was still certain I would be a career pilot. I had just obtained my drivers license and had access to an automobile. Over the next few years, and as I emerged into adulthood, I developed an affinity for a smorgasbord of hallucinogenic and narcotic drugs. By the time I came to my senses, I was well into my twenties and without any prospect for a career at all, much less a career in aviation. As a recovering drug addict, the main practical enemy of my precious and precarious sobriety was boredom. Besides fastidiously nurturing my spirit through my faith in Jesus Christ, I cast about looking for something to engage my mind and hands. A dear friend had given me a rifled-through kit for an Airtronics Olympic II some years prior, and I set about scratch-building what was missing and using that which remained of the kit to produce what turned out to be an instrument of avocation. Also, I gained employment in the automotive repair field, and I found that my years of tinkering with radio controlled airplanes had given me a serious competitive edge. I never knew how much I was learning about electronics, mechanical engineering, and the care and feeding of internal combustion engines. I was found to be quite good at following wiring diagrams, reading repair manuals, and coming up with creative ways to solve problems under stressful circumstances. I truly believe my exposure to model aviation during my childhood laid a very strong foundation for me to be able to be useful to a shop owner even without any initial formal training. These days, goofing around with model airplanes is my main way of interacting with my kids. I don’t think they have the same level of passion and amazement that I did, but it’s really the only thing I have in my arsenal to compete with the video games and the constant stream of mesmerizing digital entertainment that does little to get them to interact with the physical realm. I’m still not particularly good at building or flying, by the way. I still prefer gliders, even though apparently it’s now illegal to fly them as high as the thermals are. I still fly a .40 powered iteration of an “Ugly Stik” that may or may not last all the way through the season. I occasionally buckle to my own inner child and indulge in the electric bind and fly scale model. I even have a couple of little FPV quadcopters (wow!! Fun!! But no point going over treetop level…so why RID?) I have an FPV wing too, but that gets boring before the battery is done. Heck, I still like building and flying rubber powered free flight planes. My mission remains pretty much the same: Get a few mistakes high, correct some mistakes, and please, for the love of all that is good and holy, recover the sUAS somewhere near the launch point. Pursuing this mission has captured the interest of onlookers, many of them children. RC aviation is far more available than it ever has been. Foam board from the Dollar Tree and $35 worth of electronics can yield an airplane with performance, and quite frankly, expendability, far exceeding my Bee-Tweens from decades ago. A kid who wants to reach out and grasp the uniquely human dream of flight, and by so doing, sew seeds that could bear fruits beyond imagination, can do so far more easily than I could ever dream. Unless the FAA RID is implemented as written.”
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